The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Quick Takes: Market Trends, Lack of Labor

Much has been written about the importance of Hispanics to the housing market. But the ownership rate among Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders is even greater, according to the most detailed breakdown ever from the Census Bureau.

The homeownership rate among this group, collectively called AAPI, is 55.6 percent -- the second-highest in the country, behind non-Hispanic whites at 71.9 percent. By contrast, the ownership rate is 47 percent for Hispanics and 41.3 percent for African-Americans.

According to a report from the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), people in the AAPI group tend to have, on average, high credit scores, incomes and levels of educations. The group is projected to grow by 1.8 million households by 2024, and will buy 33 percent more houses than non-Hispanic whites.

Until last year, the U.S. Census lumped Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders together in the “other” category, along with Native Americans, Alaskans, Native Hawaiians and people who claimed two or more races. The addition of the AAPI category will allow for more accurate and useful demographic research in the future.

Of all the key market indicators, few are more useful for sellers than the number of times their house has been shown to would-be buyers over the preceding two weeks. If no one’s come a-calling, there’s something terribly wrong.

The number of viewings will always vary, based on market conditions, the season, price range and proximity to the center of the region’s market. For example, you can’t expect as many visitors in a slow market, but you should expect lots in places where there is little inventory to compete against.

All things considered, Virginia broker David Rathgeber’s rule of thumb is two weeks: “If no one came to see your home in the last two weeks, you are in trouble,” he says.

Typically, it means that the house has been priced poorly. “No matter what the market conditions are, homes that are priced well, and show well, will sell,” says Beth Atalay, broker-owner of Florida’s Cam Realty. “No gimmicks needed -- you don’t need to offer bonuses to selling agents, don’t need to use marketing techniques that don’t work for all. If you need your home to sell, do not overprice it!”

Rathgeber suggests taking a hard look at the houses that have sold recently in your market. If houses all around yours are selling, and you’ve had no bites in the last couple weeks, it’s time to consider a price reduction.

Otherwise, look for the answer to your woes somewhere in the MLS printout of your listing. There could be a mistake in there somewhere, so check it carefully. Does it list the wrong address, wrong directions, wrong square footage, wrong price? Check everything.

“There is no magic in selling a home,” says Rathgeber. “This is not rocket science, just attention to detail, and knowing which details need attention.”

Here’s a sobering point for anyone considering buying a brand-new house: It is highly likely it won’t be finished on time, and it possibly could contain a high number of defects.

The reason: Builders everywhere are saying that finding experienced construction workers is difficult at best.

The lack of labor is always at the top of the list of problems published by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). And a recent NAHB survey found that nearly 2 out of 3 builders say their biggest worry right now is labor.

The reason: Few young people want to be carpenters, plumbers or electricians, according to a poll of 18- to 25-year-olds by trade mag Builder.

The survey found that 4 out of 5 respondents know what field they want a career in, and it isn’t construction. Just 3 percent have an interest in the trades. Even if they could earn between $75,000 and $100,000 a year, 43 percent said “no dice” -- there is no amount of money that would make them give the trades a second thought.

With few desirable homes on the market in many places, it’s no secret that would-be buyers are bidding against each other, driving the selling price above what the seller originally asked.

But the lack of inventory also means houses are selling faster. In March, according to the Redfin brokerage chain, nearly 1 in every 5 houses sold went to contract within 14 days. In addition, more than 1 in 5 sold for more than the list price.