Unless Gary MacDonald’s cellphone is powered off, it likely has an incoming call, unread text or new email lighting up his screen. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to keep the phone on,” MacDonald says as it rings during a late March video call with the NNBW. “Let me text them and tell them I’ll call them back.” MacDonald, a Realtor at Dickson Realty and president of the Reno/Sparks Association of Realtors, just listed a new home for sale in Reno that morning. “I have three showing requests already, and that’s within 30 minutes,” MacDonald said. “We have had a real shortage of available products for sale, and because of that, it has forced an upward push on pricing, and quicker periods of time where people are seeing offers.”
He’s not kidding. In March, the median sales price for an existing single-family home in the Reno market (which includes North Valleys) swelled to $515,000, setting another all-time record, according to the RSAR’s most recent monthly report. Meanwhile, the median price for the Sparks market (including Spanish Springs) ballooned to a record-high $446,718 in March, with the region as a whole seeing a never-before-recorded monthly median price of $485,000. Moreover, homes hitting the market are going into contract within an average of only 19 days, a 10-day drop compared to the previous month. Though the pace of home price gains has been eye-popping, it’s easy to see what is driving the demand. Mortgage rates sit near historic lows. Millions of millennials are aging into their prime homebuying years. And, of course, the pandemic has propelled new demand. Some buyers want more space to work from home while other remote workers are moving to places like Northern Nevada for a better quality of life. Supply, meanwhile, has never been tighter. “COVID, I think, has really cut down on our available inventory,” MacDonald said. “People who can live and work anywhere they want are choosing to live here.” ‘CASH IS KING’ As a result, bidding wars are common, and more cash is being used than ever. Of the 459 homes sold in the Reno market in March, 265 sold for more than their listed price, and 125 were paid for in cash, according to an analysis report compiled by Dickson Realty Realtor Amy Shocket. “Cash is king,” said Dickson Realty CEO Nancy Fennell, who provided the report to the NNBW. “Cash has really been a factor for (the past) four years — anytime inventory gets this tight. But, it has certainly increased (recently). Paying in cash and homes going for more than the list price, I think, is a big trend.”
Those aren’t the only trends that have developed over the past year as home prices surge in Northern Nevada and beyond. Darrell Plummer, broker and owner of Sierra Nevada Properties, said many buyers are doing whatever they can to make their offers more competitive, including waving inspections, appraisals and repairs. “Buyers are coming in now saying, ‘I will assume responsibility of homeownership,’” Plummer said. “And if and when I have something that needs to be repaired, I’ll pay for it, I’m not going to ask you to start repairing the house during escrow. So, repairs at zero (dollars) is almost a must right now for a buyer to win.” Not only that, with listing agents being flooded with offers, gone are the days of counteroffers. Home seekers now have to give their “highest and best” offer right off the bat, Plummer said.
“They’re not going to counter, they’ve got enough offers to just pick one,” Plummer said of sellers. To that end, Fennell said a fellow Dickson Realty agent recently did 60 showings of a property listed in the $450,000 range during a two-week span. “The sellers said they were going to review all offers on a Thursday, which says to a buyer, ‘you have one shot — give me your highest and best,’” Fennell said. ‘REALTORS ARE EXHAUSTED’
Consequently, many people making offers on the few homes available in the region are falling short. Fennell estimates that a Realtor who’s working with a buyer is writing an average of seven offers to get people into homes. “Realtors are exhausted,” she said. “The have to constantly be looking at MLS (Multiple Listing Network) hourly. They’re dropping everything and they’re running out as soon as something comes on the market, and videotaping if the person’s out of the area. “And they’re telling their buyers, ‘look, if I call you, you need to drop everything and meet me immediately so that we can look at the property before it’s gone.’” In the greater Carson City-Sierra region — which consists of Carson, Douglas, Lyon and Churchill counties — properties are getting scooped up especially quick. In March, available homes lasted an average of seven days on the market, according to Sierra Nevada Realtors. “More homes are coming onto the market, but they’re selling just as quickly because demand is so high,” said Robert Bartshe, a RE/MAX Realtor and president of SNR. “There’s no stall of buyer activity. And it’s truly all inventory driven. Many new home developments have waiting lists that are sold out.”
More inventory could come on the market this spring, which is typically the busiest season for home sales, real-estate agents say. But there are likely to be enough listings to cool the market. Realtors who spoke with the NNBW said supply in both the Reno-Sparks and Sierra region is hovering around two to three weeks, the lowest any of them have ever seen. MacDonald, for one, said he hopes that more people getting vaccinated will lead to less fear from sellers hesitant to list their home during a pandemic. “My hope — it’s not a sure thing — is that when COVID starts to settle, we will start seeing a return to more homes on the market,” MacDonald said. “But, we’ll see.”