Want to buy a house? Take a number

Remember when real estate was so hot there were lotteries, bidding wars and desperate people making offers sight unseen? In some markets, they're back.

By Marilyn Lewis May 24, 2013 10:29AM

Shaking hands with Realtor © Design Pics/Don Hammond/Getty ImagesPerhaps you, like me, thought we'd never again see the kind of madcap competition to buy homes that was common in the housing boom. I'm thinking of lotteries, not to win a home but just a chance to buy one. I'm remembering bidding wars and home shoppers so desperate to buy that they'd camp overnight outside new subdivisions to be first in the door the next day.


Never say never.


In some parts of the country, this kind of red-hot competition for homes, especially new homes, is back. Boom-era responses like camping in line overnight, homebuilder lotteries and buying homes sight unseen are making a reappearance.


That's how intensely demand is rising in some cities. If a picture speaks a thousand words, these nine spellbinding maps of U.S. home-price appreciation (a map for each year from 2005 through to today) tell the story of housing in the last crazy decade: from boom to bust to a second dizzying acceleration.


Lotteries fairer

So far, this the new run-up in prices is confined to a handful of cities and regions, particularly coastal California markets, Phoenix and Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Portland,  the Washington, D.C. metro and several Florida markets.


Authors of the CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index say prices rose nationally 7.3% in 2012 and could jump an additional 3% this year.


In Silicon Valley, few jaws drop anymore when a nice-but-nothing-special 986-square foot Palo Alto cottage like this one, listed at $1.25 million, inspires 20 offers and sells for $1.73 million.


Nearby, in the only slightly less-expensive town of Sunnyvale, 50 or so eager, prequalified home shoppers began camping out overnight for a chance to buy newly completed units in a 228-unit condo development.


To inject more fairness -- and less discomfort-- into the buying process, builder O'Brien Homes revived the boom-era practice of holding lotteries that gave winners the chance to buy. The two-, three- and four-bedroom condos initially sold for $420,000 to $620,000. But by the time the development sold out in April, demand had pushed prices up 32%, to $555,000 to $815,000, CNN Money reports.


Says CNN:

The participants were already pre-qualified for a mortgage and had their down payment in place. After being assigned a number, they crossed their fingers and waited for each bingo ball to be plucked from the tumbler.

Backup winners were also drawn, in case the first winners backed out. 

Even with the price hikes, buyers kept returning. O'Brien started issuing returnees an extra bingo ball. If they lost for four straight months, they would get five chances the next time.

In other Bay Area towns, Livermore and San Ramon, Calif., other builders are also resorting to lotteries to manage competition for their product. Such buyer demand is not confined to the Bay Area. Homebuyer lotteries also are cropping up in northern Virginia and in parts of Florida.


Tales of homebuying exuberance

Does these buyer frenzies add up to a new era of irrational real estate exuberance? Some say yes, others no. But, bubble or not, demand can get pretty intense as investors and buyers fall over each other to snatch up the few homes available for sale.


In San Diego, "major builders are requiring prospective clients to sign up on lists for a chance to buy a home," writes The San Diego Union-Tribune.


In the Portland suburb of Beaverton, Ore., this sweet but ordinary two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath home was shown 48 times in 48 hours.


"Another listing in the same area got four offers in its first four hours on the market," Redfin told Forbes. The 1,681-square-foot 12-year-old house sold March 28 for $295,000. It was listed Feb. 22 for $298,900, according to Redfin. The last time it was on the market, it was listed for $292,500 in June 2011 and sold in August for $10,000 less.


Forbes recently compiled examples of extreme buyer behavior gleaned from Redfin agents around the country. Among the wildest:

Month-to-month markups: Agent Brad Le got a $520,000 offer on a San Jose condo even though a unit with an identical floor-plan sold for $470,000 the week before. Nearly all of the nine offers on the Redfin listing waived inspection and financing contingencies.
Instant flips: A buyer for this Bowie, Maryland home beat out 15 other offers by paying $22,000 above the asking price, only to get an email from investors the next day asking if the buyer would like to sell at a profit the property he'd just got under contract.

 More from MSN Money:















May 24, 2013 2:30PM

and we start housing bubble again. and put us back into great recession or great depression again....

half of the houes in US will be underwater again.

DOW crash back to 6000

and tax payer will bail out bank again....


i guess we never learn....

May 24, 2013 4:54PM
Supply and demand - it's funny how successfully the free market works, without any involvement from the Fed or the gov.  If people want to get into a bidding war over some real estate and pay 20% over asking, let them do it.  But we should also be prepared to let them fail if their "investment" goes south.
May 24, 2013 1:38PM
I just sold a house in Orlando , Florida. Had 12 written offers in 48 hours. Sold for 18k above asking..... supposedly this is happening because there is a housing shortage, yet I still see lots of foreclosures not on the market that have been sitting empty for a year+.... go figure.
May 24, 2013 3:56PM

The big difference this time is that buyers have to have skin in the game.  None of this "stated income" jazz or 0% down.  Buyers see the prices rise in the areas they are looking in and realize that it is going higher as they sit back and watch.  Panic starts to set in and they dive in paying more than the asking price because, they figure that if they wait any longer, it'll only go up even higher.

Flippers then see the waiting lists and bidding wars and realize that if they can get a property, they would be able to sell it for a profit even before the ink dries on the purchase contract.

Greed sets in and then everyone starts thinking about those stories of instant profits and "free money."      The lemmings start running again.

May 25, 2013 1:34AM
May 24, 2013 8:28PM
Wow. Housing boom in Vegas. Here we go again. Nevada Power just stated there are 43K homes without power in the valley(mostly bank owned). Assumed vacant. And we are doing lotteries for new homes (true story by the way)? The banks are withholding many many homes (possibly trickling them in a attempt to control the market), and when they decide to dump them. Bubble Burst time. The builders (horton, kb, ect.) know this right now and are trying to get a much built, sold, and as much money as they can before it happens. Bad moon a risen'. Full moon tonight. Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone.
May 24, 2013 3:13PM
Funny how people never learn.  Greed always seems to get in the way.  Pathetic behavior  from all involved.  Let's hope the end result will be the same as the last.  This time though hopefully no one will get bailed out.
May 24, 2013 9:05PM
People with great credit are buying homes now, guessing that the low interest rate might start to go up soon. And other people are buying short sales and foreclosures for half the price for cash and renting it out is a great investment for the future because housing market might start to rise.
May 24, 2013 11:27AM

If you flip a house in a hot housing market (often after not doing anything at all to the home), and you make a profit of $20,000 or $30,000, you're called a savvy businessman.


However, if you flip a concert or sports event ticket, in many states you're called a scalper and arrested.


Why can only the big guys, who can afford an outlay of thousands of dollars for a home, make a profit?  I thought capitalism was for everyone.


Write to your lawmakers and ask them why ticket flippers can't make a profit, albeit a smaller one, too.

May 27, 2013 3:08AM
ARRRR, first time buyers are going crazy again?  Banks are again being required to give loans to families that don't deserve to own a home?  OOOPSS!  Just like the first time the people creating the housing bubble are rich investors trying to make a fast buck and banks backing them.  NOT the average people that want a home to call their own.  
May 27, 2013 7:24AM
Buying a home is still precieved as an investment, if so, it is about as lousy of one can have. Over the 30 years you own, you will pay 3 time the purchase price in down payment, interest and principle. Add to it the repairs, new roof, furance, AC etc, property tax, school tax(yea in NY we have that), insurance, etc. Granted you do get a small tax break, which is not guarenteed to be here much longer, and in the end you will find that you gave up mobility and tons of money for a place to live.
May 24, 2013 3:59PM
Stock market, real estate, precious metals, collectables, fine art, commercial buildings, shopping centers, shopping malls, etc.  Pick your poison.
May 24, 2013 11:22PM
Demotion is hard to face: US is becoming a poor nation .. The Great REcession - or El Gran Colapso - woudl not have started if we lived within our means. Borrowing into the future is lethal. My  $375,000 home is still under the water in Tucson, the epicenter of mortgage tsunami. I am still in post mortgage tsunami shock - and don't care what happens. The booms and boomlets are deceptive. Get used to the fact that we are poorer. do not sell your gold and silver.
May 24, 2013 4:03PM
The last two years the banksters and mutual funds forced to chase yield were accumulating houses by the thousands all over the country, fixing them and now renting them for the next four years thus putting a solid floor under and leaving  future buyers chasing price on biding wars will only push price higher.

Looks like 2006 all over again.

Remember the old saying buy when everyone one hates them and sell when,  you know..................
May 24, 2013 7:29PM
I live in a desirable area close to downtown Baton Rouge. Vacant lots are at a premium. An investor/builder bought three lots together, built three houses and before they were finished, all three were sold. There are a number of older houses for sale but it looks like new is a hot item these days.
May 27, 2013 8:34AM
May 26, 2013 3:57PM
And stocks bought on margin are back to record  crisis 2007 levels.Indeed,ChickenCross,the sheeple never learn.Here we go again!
May 24, 2013 4:31PM
I'm buying a housse in Wellington, Florida.  The 4/3 house with a large screened in patio and pool listed for $296k.  We got under contract for $285k.  The next day, the owner got verbal offers at over asking, sight unseen.  Talk about timing.
May 27, 2013 3:28AM
Billionaire investor John Paulson who made billions betting against housing back before the bubble popped is now betting that housing will recover...hmm I think I'll trust John sorry MSN.
source cnbc .com/id/100741673  

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