memphis area homebuyers on housing market and challenges they faced
In the first few months of 2022, Virginia resident Jordan Romel-Eaton had unsuccessfully bid on more than a dozen homes in the Memphis-area. She anxiously awaited for the moment of an accepted bid.
The homebuying process began after Romel-Eaton’s husband, who is the Navy, received his deployment orders to the navel base in Millington from Portsmouth, Virginia.
A day after she had returned from a 15-hour drive to Michigan from burying her late grandfather, Romel-Eaton, 33, received the call from her Realtor that at times she didn’t think would come.
“She said, ‘are you sitting down?’” Romel-Eaton, 33, recalls. “No why we just got home. I’m unloading everything and she goes, ‘you just got a house,’ and like, what are you kidding? Like it was the best feeling ever.”
The past two-plus years in the Memphis housing market has seen a lot of potential homebuyers compete for – until recently – declining inventory resulting in higher prices.
But there is one data point that indicates the market is slowly shifting. There were 2,380 local active listings reported as of June 2022, according to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors latest report. That’s an increase of 189 from May’s 2,191 reported active listings. Inventory now is slightly higher compared to June 2021’s total of 2,242.
Finding a home in the Memphis-area
There were several other challenges Romel-Eaton faced during her homebuying search.
She only communicated with her husband via email since he was deployed. This was also the first time Romel-Eaton undertook the responsibility of buying (and selling) a home.
She also could not travel to the Memphis-area. That meant Romel-Eaton relied heavily on her Memphis Realtor Carmen Prince and her virtual guidance through photos and videos.
“She went above and beyond,” Romel-Eaton said. “I mean, she showed me everything she possibly could. If I found a house that was up for sale, I’d send her the address and she would go and look at it.”
While Romel-Eaton sold her house in Virginia this past January, she rented it back from the new homebuyers until the situation was resolved. Emotions ran high for her as experienced stress throughout the search, she said.
“I looked into renting as well,” she said. “Renting is sky-high, and my mortgage would be lower than my rent. I just … I had to go back and forth and there was many a night that I was crying.”
Romel-Eaton bid on “13 or 14 homes” and her Relator looked at least 25-30 potential homes. In May, she and her family finally moved in and saw their new Bartlett home for the first time.
“It was absolutely amazing once we got in here and just, I mean the area is so cool,” she said.
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The past six weeks have seen her family paint the new home, unpack 237 boxes and getting acclimated to her new home and community. Romel-Eaton said she’s glad the timing worked out in her favor.
“You know, I think we got really lucky that we bought this house at the time that we did because I’ve seen the interest rates are already going up,” she said.
A full circle Memphis homebuying tale
Memphian Latonya Hall remembers driving around a Cordova neighborhood on numerous occasions to see what it would be like to live in one of those homes someday.
“It just looks so far-fetched me at the time,” Hall said. “It was kind of like a mansion to me.”
A native New Yorker who moved to Memphis about a decade ago, Hall had always lived in apartments because she said New Yorkers never envisioned themselves living in a home. Over time, she shifted her stance toward the possibility of becoming a homebuyer for the first time.
“I got sick and tired of the apartment life,” she said. “I’ve had three floods. I’ve had a break-in. I’ve had so many things happen … Really after that break-in, something about your sense of piece, it’s shattered. That really pushed me to start my process all over again.”
Hall heard the numerous horror stories about people in a similar position as her, but she didn’t experience any of that to her surprise. She credited that to strong relationships with her Realtor and the bank and completing her paperwork on time.
She narrowed her choices to three areas: Bartlett, Cordova and Olive Branch. Hall first bid on a home in Cordova, the same area where she drove to see what it would be like to live there.
That was the only bid she had to make. A process she said took about 60 days.
“It was not on purpose that I lived in that same neighborhood that I always dreamed of,” Hall said. “It just fell in my lap.”
She took possession of the home a few weeks ago and her move is ongoing.
Hall advised other first-time homebuyers to be patient and mindful of other fees during the process.
“I know things are crazy now with the interest rate and stuff,” Hall said. “Don’t just jump into it. Take your time. Be patient and trust me something will come up. Make sure you have everything in order. Your finances are a huge thing to have in order. Even though you got approved for a home there’s still fees associated with it like closing costs and inspections things that I didn’t know about the inspection part. I had to pay for like pest control. Fees to go along with that. Make sure that you have put to the side for these things.”
Omer Yusuf covers the Ford project in Haywood County, residential real estate, tourism and banking for The Commercial Appeal. He can be reached via email Omer.Yusuf@commercialappeal.com or followed on Twitter @OmerAYusuf.