With mortgage rates rising and inventory low, the real estate market is an incredibly difficult area to manage right now in many states like Florida. However, that hasn’t stopped real estate agent Ruth Edwards from tirelessly working with buyers — many of them first-timers — from finding a property that fits their needs.
Purchasing a home can be one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences an adult can have. Looking at a property and knowing it’s yours is a feeling of pure proudness and content. Unfortunately, that feeling is harder to come by these days in states such as Florida, where a housing crisis has taken potential homebuyers and renters for a ride.
In Sunshine State counties like Palm Beach and Orange, rent prices have risen up anywhere from 21% to 37%, while the median price for a home in South Florida stands over $475,000, around $450,000 more than the average salary wage. For real estate agents like Coldwell Banker Next Generation Realty’s Ruth Edwards, it’s a tricky situation that, while it has the makings of getting better, continues to frustrate those seeking any kind of affordable housing.
“It’s crazy here in Citrus County. We’re lucky if properties stay on the market [for] two or three weeks. Usually they sell in about a week [or] week-and-a-half. I’m beginning to see more inventory, so we don’t have an inventory shortage as bad as we did. But prices are still going up,” Edwards said.
One of the more frustrating trends agents are experiencing is the uphill battle of finding a home for first-time buyers. Due to mortgage rates across the country surging to towering numbers over 5% — with the occasional but brief relief every few weeks — affordability is becoming more and more of a rarity in the market.
“First-time home buyers, there’s just nothing out there for them. The investors come in and just snatch up anything that’s affordable for a first-time home buyer. And that puts them at a disadvantage because they can’t get into a home, and then rents are rising, so they can’t afford to rent, so what do they do?”
“I’ve been working with a single mother for over a year now, trying to get her into something. We tried to get her into a house, a mobile home, something unadjusted. It just could not happen. It’s tough.”
Unfortunately, the dynamic shift in house hunting has forced Edwards to be more blunt in her advisories when working with first-time buyers. “I advise them that if you don’t have cash and are ready to make an offer immediately, you’re probably not going to get the property. It’s a tight market here, and we’re still having bidding wars.”
Noting the research she’s been reading by Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist and Senior Vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors, Edwards estimated that while prices will continue to remain high as they inch closer to the peak, they could drop by 10% as more inventory opens up.
“I don’t foresee us having the crash that we did back in 2008, I think things are going to level off. Where we are in Florida, there’s a lot of building going on [and] a lot of new developments going in to meet the demands for homes.”
“When the pandemic first started, housing prices were reasonable. But by the end of 2020, the market just shot up. More people were moving down, and home values just skyrocketed.”
If you talked to Edwards, you would be given a plethora of positive impressions and reminders. One of the latter is that no matter what stage of life you’re at, you’re never bound to a certain role. Making a career change can revitalize you while opening up new opportunities, connections, purposes, and learning experiences that can go a long way towards cultivating you as both a professional and a person.
For her, that kind of adjustment — while never being in the back of her mind — was exactly what she needed after decades of work in the medical field serving as emergency medical technician and paramedic.
Of course, while she has put that life of intense, fast-paced work days behind her, Edwards and other Realtors are still susceptible to the stress and undeserved backlash that has amplified due to the tense state of real estate. “I had to hang up on somebody because he was so verbally abusive. I just couldn’t listen to it. People just don’t understand, ‘Why can’t I get that [house]? I made the highest bid.’ Sorry, but it goes to somebody else.”
Those aggressions from buyers have only become more frequent due to the influx of people moving to Texas and Florida from more populated areas. From July 2020 to 2021, Florida added 211,196 residents, increasing its overall population by 1%. Meanwhile, Texas topped that total by 98,983 in the same period, marking the highest population growth of any state.
Edwards explained this boom is due to a variety of reasons, from impacts of COVID-19 to the price of living. “I think it’s the pandemic, the politics, the Northeast is getting so expensive that people can’t live there. [It’s] the combination of many [factors] that are driving people to Florida.” That flood of movers is also contributing to the stagnating market occurring now.
While all of the buyer struggles added up would certainly make it a seller’s market, Edwards noted that “getting listings is very difficult.” Still, there are positive signs that show some flexibility could be on the way. “I am seeing more properties come on the market, so inventory is beginning to go up. It’s better than it was, say, six months ago.”
“Even here in Florida, I didn’t have a big sphere. I knew the people that my parents knew, so it was difficult getting started, but now I’m starting to build a clientele and a following, which I think has really helped me to blossom.”
As with any change in a work environment, there will be new challenges awaiting Edwards in Texas, where she plans on not only moving in the future, but also obtaining a real estate license. One of those potential obstacles will be the need to form connections and networks.
Of course, she’s more than familiar with that kind of requirement, which bodes well for her to be able to hit the ground running. “It might be a slow start in Texas, but I am anticipating that I’m going to do really, really well out there.”
What won’t change is the hot market. Like Florida, Texas is struggling with inventory. Along with its high taxes, it’s left potential home buyers — including Edwards and her husband — wondering where to go next. “We’ve talked about buying, we’ve talked about building.” Still, Edwards showed her persistent self and emphasized settling is not an option, a possible viewpoint that could serve many well during such a polarizing time in real estate.
Thanks to her experience working with first-time home buyers, Edwards has plenty of advice for potential buyers to ensure they’re making the right financial decision while not missing anything crucial in the process. “I try to sit them down and go through the whole process from start to finish. You walk in the door, you introduce yourself, and say you want to buy a house.”
“Then, I start with my questions. ‘Well, how are you going to pay for the house? Are you getting a mortgage? What kind of a loan do you want?'” Using that information, plus personal preferences — such as how far the buyer wants to be from their work — Edwards goes to work with the preapproval.
Near the end of the buying process, Edwards stressed that a second look of the home is crucial. “If you really like it, go back and this time, focus on the material things. [Look at] the bathrooms, do you see any problems? Walk through and look at the ceilings, are there water stains on the ceiling? Go out and look at the roof, really look at it well the second time, and then make your offer.”
“Times are tough. If you lose your job, you’re going to have to be able to pay your mortgage. You don’t want to lose the house. So I recommend that they put money into savings. You might need a new air conditioner, you might need a new roof. There’s so many things that could happen that you need that little cushion for.”
Edwards cautions buyers to be extremely meticulous with what purchases they make during the house-buying timeframe. “I try to lay out the timeline as to how everything works. It’s got to be understood how long this process takes. Don’t buy a car, don’t quit your job, don’t do any of that until after you close on the house.”
“That’s a hard one for people, because [they’ll say], ‘Oh, we’re getting the house, I want to go out and buy furniture,’ and they spend $10,000 on furniture and now they don’t have the money to pay the mortgage.”
While the medical field and real estate industry may seem like two vastly different areas of expertise, Edwards explained there are essential skills she’s been able to apply to both in order to excel. “You have to be flexible. As a realtor, you have to be an advocate for your principal, your client,” she said.
However, perhaps the most important is having compassion for others, and having the passion to help them in times of difficulty and need. “I’m able to use a lot of my experiences as a paramedic with being a Realtor, like how to talk to people. The ability to listen — not just hear, but listen and hear what they’re saying — [is important]. You have to disseminate what’s going on behind their words. You have to be intuitive.”
“I joke that EMS is a lot of handholding, counseling, [and] people throwing up on your shoes. And real estate is handholding and counseling.” Thankfully, Edwards’ shoes haven’t had to experience any throw up in realty just yet.
To learn more about Edwards, view her listings, or to contact her, you can visit her website by clicking here.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.