Competitive housing market nearly impossible for first-time buyers

Posted at 7:11 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 19:50:48-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — 2020 brought Rebecca Randolph and her husband lots of excitement. They both became parents and figured it was time to buy a home for their growing family.

“We’ve been pre-approved. We have the downpayment,” said Randolph.

But her excitement was halted by the unexpected. Low inventory.

“This isn’t as fun as we thought it was gonna be. There’s nothing out there!” she said.

Inventory in Lehigh Acres, where she wants to go is pretty low. There were only 229 new listing as of last month, according to the Royal Palm Coast Realtor Association (RPCRA). Randolph said the options aren’t ideal for a first-time buyer.

“Really old, or just kind of out of our budget. And like, if we buy this house, and something happens to it, we’re kind of screwed, because we just put all of our money into this house,” she said.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, home prices are rising at three times the rate of income growth. And those prices keep rising. Data from RPCRA shows the average cost for a Lee County home grew by $100,000 from 2019 to 2020.

Adrian Waring with Priceless Realty in Cape Coral said a healthy market for the Cape has 1,800 homes for sale. The last two years he saw about 1,200. As of Wednesday, he said there’s only 325 and that number keeps dropping.

“I’ve never been so frustrated in all my life with the current real estate market,” he said.

He’s been in the business for 20 years and said he’s never been this overwhelmed trying to match clients with homes.

“Right now if I take everything in Fort Myers, Lehigh, and Cape, combine them, combine them together, that’s still not as many houses that should be for sale in just Cape Coral,” he said.

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist with the National Association of Realtors says the booming market could have long-term effects for newcomers like Randolph and other millennials, as well as blue-collar workers who just can’t compete with cash offers from experienced buyers.

Yun says first-time buyers have a couple options in this market. Buy that fixer-upper and sell it later. Or if they’re not the fixer-upper type, like Randolph and her husband, wait a few years for more inventory and less competition.