Twin Cities home sellers stuck between present, future houses

  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 30, 2013 - 11:44 PM

With buyers scooping up listings, sellers worry over scramble to find a new house.

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Shannon and Nick Arnold at a showing in Prior Lake. They moved into a rental after their home sold quickly.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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Yearning for a yard with more room to roam, Nick and Shannon Arnold decided to sell their Shakopee house they lovingly remodeled, never expecting they would close a deal fast.

Five days after the couple listed, they had a good offer in hand, which forced them to move out before they found a new home to buy.

Six months later, the Arnolds are still searching for that dream house with the big yard — stuck in a small townhouse rental, most of their belongings sitting in storage.

“It’s not how we wanted things to happen,” said Shannon Arnold, lamenting that she has to set aside her excitement about decorating her baby’s nursery. “As a mom, I’d like to get into a place so I could feel like our baby is a little more settled.”

With for-sale listings declining, homeowners are finding themselves in the kind of limbo that seemed unthinkable just a year ago: They’ve sold their house, often for the price they want, but can’t find another to buy.

As a result, many local agents say, some homeowners are thinking twice about selling what they have.

“We could sell their house in 30 days, but they don’t want to be homeless,” said Tammy Chevalier, an agent with Keller Williams.

While the competition for listings is triggering multiple offers and boosting prices, it’s creating headaches for agents. Tammy Chevalier spent much of Friday going door-to-door, trying to drum up listings in a neighborhood where a couple wants to buy. They are ready to sell, but won’t list the house until they have a strong prospect to pursue.

“Sellers are terrified,” Chevalier said.

Across the metro area, the number of homes for sale is now at a 10-year low, falling more than 30 percent compared with last year, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

At the current sales pace, the number of houses currently listed on the market would last only three months.

“We’ve even had sellers turn down offers close to the list price because they came in too quickly,” said Kate Beckman, a sales manager with Coldwell Banker Burnet. “They just weren’t prepared.”

Last fall, Jennfier Olson and her husband listed their East Bethel house when they found the “perfect” one, but quickly pulled their house off the market after getting outbid.

The Olsons don’t want to take any chances. Jennifer Olson says the family has specific needs and don’t want to be forced to settle because they were forced to buy quickly. They are shopping for a four-bedroom house on or near a golf course that’s within their children’s school district in northern Anoka County.

“Timing has always been precarious,” said agent Sarah Kinney. “Most people have to sell before they can buy a new house.”

Rentals squeezed, too

The rental market has proven tough for people who have sold their homes without knowing what they will buy next.

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