Local realtors describe home shortage

‘It's just been insane this year. It really has’

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 8/5/21

A shortage of homes locally and nationally has had local realtors working around the clock in recent months. Rochelle homes are selling in days instead of months for at or just below asking price.

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Local realtors describe home shortage

‘It's just been insane this year. It really has’


ROCHELLE — RE/MAX Associate Jennie McLaughlin recently put a duplex home on the market. It sold four hours later.

A shortage of homes locally and nationally has had local realtors working around the clock in recent months. Rochelle homes are selling in days instead of months for at or just below asking price. 

Local realtors like McLaughlin say there are multiple reasons for the shift in the market. Interest rates are low. New homes are being built less often due to increased building material prices brought on by COVID-19. That same pandemic has homeowners looking for a change of scenery after spending so much time at home. 

“Everybody was at home thinking about what they wanted to do and thought, 'Maybe I need a bigger house,”” McLaughlin said. “The main difference is the lack of inventory. It's really hard. Sometimes whenever you go to show a house there ends up being sometimes six offers. The other day I had seven offers. You have to make your highest and best offer. Otherwise, you don't have a chance.”

Weichert Realtors Broker Cathie Dame has sold four homes this year on the same day as they were put on the market. She used to tell clients to lower their price if their house went two months without an offer. Now she gives the same advice after 10 days without an offer. 

Dame has had her real estate license for 35 years. She’s online at least once every hour checking to see if an available home has come up. She’s called past clients to see if they want to sell. And most don’t want to, because they’d have to find something else of their own for the new higher prices. 

“Buyers are just anxious to find a house,” Dame said. “I probably have five buyers right now and we can't find a thing. There's just nothing out there that they want that fits their needs. It's just been insane this year. It really has.”

John Bearrows of Bearrows Real Estate & Auction Co. said the biggest comment he hears from prospective buyers is the lack of available homes. When he does find a house to sell, he finds some discouraged buyers that have been knocked out of home deals several times. 

He advises people who want to buy to “hang in there” and stick with someone they can trust and hope they can find them a house. 

Bearrows said the market shift has been seen for the past several months. Things like homes and cars that are purchased with disposable income are all in a shortage right now due to ‘everyone’ coming out of the pandemic looking to buy after an abnormal year. 

“I think we've seen a peak in this or we're at a peak,” Bearrows said. “I think we could see another 3-4 months of active market. Should the interest rates change, that could affect it. 3-5 percent now is really tolerable. I paid nine percent for my first house. We haven't seen bad rates for a while."

McLaughlin said she was worried when the pandemic started that there wouldn’t be demand for homes. She thought the market would be in trouble, but was pleasantly surprised when she found the demand was still there.

She believes sellers are “happy and smiling” because their prices are up. Buyers feel hurried by the competitive market. 

"You just have to make sure everyone is ready,” McLaughlin said. “If you get a good seller, their house has to be ready. The buyer wants to get the best for their money when they know they're going to be paying higher. I've had somebody bid $10,000 over."

Despite the upped workload, Dame called the year “fun” and said she hopes the trend continues. She believes prices may stay where they are, but the speed of sales may slow down. 

Dame believes Rochelle’s market lags behind larger communities in other areas and can be predicted by what happens elsewhere. 

“Right now, you just don't know,” Dame said. “Everything is different since COVID-19 hit. We've got a new president and new administration, there's a lot of different factors playing out. But you always look at other places before Rochelle. Rochelle, even in 2008 when everything crashed, it didn't hit us until later. Watch what's going on everywhere else. I've looked, and they're still crazy busy."

Bearrows, who also serves as Rochelle’s Mayor, said the city needs more homes built to combat the home shortage and improve its economy.

He said the city is working with groups looking to build affordable homes in the $170,000-200,000 range when lumber prices come down. He believes the Rochelle area has “plenty” of more expensive homes. 

“We need some working class homes that somebody can buy brand new for those prices,” Bearrows said. “I think that's doable. But we have to get the lumber prices back in line. I'd like to see another development project in Rochelle. We need homes. We don't have any duplexes to speak of. I want an area with a whole street of them.”

McLaughlin voiced the importance of buyers and sellers being prepared if they plan to get into the market. 

"Sellers just have to be ready to move,” McLaughlin said. “I think if they have everything in order and ready to go, they should expect to find a new place to live because their house is going to sell. Just have your house prepared. The buyer, you have to be ready with your bank and everything you want.”

Dame believes now is the time to buy or sell a home, despite there not being much available out there. Her advice to keep watching the market online or find an agent to do it for you. Buyers should contact their lender and be prepared before approaching the purchase of a home. 

Like McLaughlin, Dame thought the real estate market was going to slow down when COVID-19 hit. 

“And it did the total opposite. I knew there was COVID-19, but my business didn't know there was COVID-19. 

“Every time I think it’s starting to slow down, it picks right back up again.”