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The Effects of an Extreme Seller’s Market

We are well into the last two months of 2021 and by all accounts, it’s been a year to remember. The Central Iowa real estate market is predicted to sell 18,000 homes this year. At the height of the home buying season this past May, only 1,600 homes were for sale. To give perspective, one year ago May, there were 3,200 homes on the market. How did we go from losing half of our for-sale inventory during the past year and not have a seriously compromised real estate market?

We all know that since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the value of owning a home became paramount. Both from the monetary worth of home ownership AND the beneficial worth by having that safe place to call home. This month we will look at where the market was most active, including the number of sales as well as how pricing and days on market.

New Purchase Strategies Employed by Homebuyers In 2021

Unless you were living under a rock, you most probably heard about some of the crazy actions going on with listings this past summer. At the height of the market activity, it was common to see a home hit the market in the morning and be under contract by that same afternoon. Some Realtors arranged for extended showing periods to allow more homebuyers through the front door over the period of a couple of days. That would often result in multiple offers at or above the listed price. Something fairly new to our market was the use of escalation clauses. This buying strategy allowed a homebuyer to include contract language that automatically increased their offer over competing offers up to a specified maximum purchase price. Coupled with record low mortgage interest rates, this was the catalyst for homeowners that allowed them to sell their homes well above the listing price. It also proved to be a double-edged sword however as many potential homeowners decided to stay put because of the fear of not being able to find the next home with all the buyer competition.

Most Active Areas in the Metro

Of the Single-Family Resale homes that sold at or above list price during the first 10 months of this year, the area called Des Moines Northwest (think Beaverdale & Merle Hay neighborhoods) recorded 587 sales with Ankeny following close behind at 579, then rounding out the top 5 were Des Moines Northeast, West Des Moines, and Urbandale.

Metro Days on Market

At the height of the buying frenzy, Days on Market could have been described as hours in many cases. Year-to-date numbers showed an average of 6 days on the market for homes selling at or above list price compared to 40 days market time for homes selling below the listed price. This is certainly where the argument could be made for proper pricing in such an active market.


This category is a little harder to analyze because different areas of the market each drive a different price point. Cumming Iowa for example is almost always going to lead the way in average sale price just because it offers homes with larger lots and a more rural setting and is highly driven by new construction. The data used in this month’s analytics are based primarily off of Single-Family Resale properties and I have purposely removed new construction and condo/townhomes from the mix.

The Covid pandemic allowed so many people to work from home. And with less commuting required and social distancing so important, the perceived value of homes rose. As a result, the farther away you got from the core of the city of Des Moines, the higher the average sale prices were regardless of whether a home sold above or below list price.

Areas like Polk City with its close proximity to Saylorville Lake and Clive with its great walking nature trails offered a way for people to social distance yet be able to enjoy outdoor activities. In fact, except for Des Moines’ Northwest area the bulk of the actual Des Moines areas came in at the lowest average sale price in both categories of homes sold above and homes sold below list price. People were willing and able to pay higher home prices to live in the suburbs surrounding Des Moines.

A Followup To Last Month

I spent a lot of time making my guesstimates about the way that 2021 was going to end up and one of those predictions was number of homes that would be for sale by the end of the year. It looks like this may be one of the areas that I will be off by a pretty good amount. The number of homes for sale had been on a growth path but as we entered into late October and into November, potential home sellers pulled back from listing. Perhaps it is because we are getting back to some normalcy in our everyday lives and people are focusing more on the the holidays and family get togethers.. if that’s the case, I’m extremely happy to have been wrong! It appears that we are going to be doing well to even hit 2,300 homes for sale by years end instead of the 2,700 I had predicted.

This Month’s Graphics

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~Les Sulgrove, Vice President

If you are interested in selling your home or purchasing a home, give me a call! I will help you determine your best strategy based on your local market data.

About Les Sulgrove

Les is an Iowa native born in Des Moines and raised in the southwest Iowa town of Bridgewater. He has been a resident of Des Moines since 1982 and has been married to his wife Linda for over 35 years. Together they have 3 grown children, 7 grandchildren and make their home on Des Moines south side. He has been a licensed REALTOR® since 1990 and is Vice President at VIA Group, REALTORS®. Les is the 2011 Past President of the Des Moines Area Association of REALTORS® (DMAAR) and received the award of Salesperson of the Year by DMAAR in 2007 for his involvement and service to the Association. Additionally, he is active at the Iowa Association of REALTORS® and serves on local, state and national committees. He also owns and operates the national technology networking group CyberProfessionals. This group of real estate professionals meets twice annually across the United States to learn from each other and share new marketing ideas with heavy emphasis on current and future technologies and their use in the real estate business. Les’ hobbies include golf, photography and sarcastic humor. He and Linda spend many Saturday mornings from Spring to Fall at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. He enjoys spoiling his grandchildren at every opportunity.

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