By: Janice Francis-Smith The Journal Record
Taylor Pettyjohn said she was “super excited” on Friday afternoon, just hours after she and her husband closed on their first house. The young couple are expecting their first child in October, and as soon as they had the keys in hand they headed to the new place to start preparing things for their move.
“It was super easy, and we were super blessed,” said Pettyjohn of their first homebuying experience, despite the fact that it occurred during a global
pandemic and a time of economic upheaval. The current situation may even provide a boost for first-time homebuyers, said Mindy Turner, the Realtor who helped the Pettyjohns and several other young couples like them find homes in recent weeks.
Many are taking advantage of low interest rates and state incentives that allow people with limited means an entrance into Oklahoma’s homeowners’ market.
“It’s such a weird time, but it just kind of laid itself out to us,” said Pettyjohn.
The couple knew what they wanted. After a few days looking at the home online, they scheduled a tour and made an offer on it that night. Current low interest rates and down-payment assistance available made it all work out better than they had even expected.
“Unbelievable but yes, our mortgage is cheaper than our rent for a one-bedroom apartment, and we are moving into a three-bedroom house with a huge backyard,” said Pettyjohn. “It’s the perfect home for us.”
“My business did not slow down at all during the pandemic,” said Turner. “My buyers weren’t afraid and they really wanted to buy a house and the rates were low, so we took the necessary precautions but we still got out and looked at houses.
“I would say that the majority of my buyers are millennials under 30 and this is the first house that they’re buying,” said Turner. “Every single house I show goes under contract in the first 12 hours and has multiple offers, every single time. That’s for the buyers that are looking at around $150,000 or below. The higher-priced homes aren’t going so fast.”
The competition is fierce for the limited amount of affordably priced homes on the market right now, said Turner. “If we don’t know the very first day it hits the market we don’t have a chance to even put an offer in,” she said.
The current low interest rates are allowing buyers to get a more house for their money, said Turner. Plus, the state of Oklahoma is also providing first-time home buyers with down-payment assistance through the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority, and that has proved a powerful incentive for buyers.
Those with a limited income – which is true for many in the 35-and-under age range – and a credit score of 650 can get a home with almost no money down. Motivated sellers might also throw in closing costs, said Turner.
“I had a closing last Friday and they had to bring $900 to closing, and today at a closing I did they had to bring $2,400 and that’s everything,” said Turner.
Using census data, home improvement website Improvenet recently published a report that ranked Oklahoma City 21st in the nation on its list of cities with the highest percentage of millennial-age homeowners. Nationwide, the under-35 age group accounts for about 11% of homeowners in cities with populations exceeding 150,000, but in Oklahoma City the age group accounts for 14.6% of homeowners. Clarksville, Tennessee topped the list at 23%, while Huntington Beach, California came in last with 4.9%.
Millennial homeowners in Oklahoma are most likely to be families, not single people who own a home. Oklahoma City came in ninth on the list of cities with the most millennial families living in their own homes, at 9.3%, while no city in Oklahoma appeared on the list of single homeowners in the 35-and-under age range.
Oklahoma City ranked 47th on Realtor.com’s list of cities that have experienced a large decline in new listings as of June 4. New listings in Oklahoma City are down 16.1% year over year. The median listing price is $267,000, which is a 3.8% increase over the median price a year ago, and the median number of days a house spends on the market is 49.
Some sellers might be waiting until later in the summer to put their homes on the market, concerned about conducting showings during the pandemic, said Turner. Local Realtors have had some success with virtual showings, video walk-throughs and “no touch” showings wherein the homeowner leaves all the lights on and closet doors open so prospective buyers don’t need to touch anything, she said.
SmartAsset, a New York-based financial technology company, ranked Oklahoma City at No. 32 and Tulsa at No. 49 on its recent list of the 50 housing markets with the most stable growth. The report found that home prices in Oklahoma City have increased 132% since 1995, while home prices in Tulsa have 113% and the odds of a home losing 5% of its value over a decade was 0% for both cities.