Hurting for housing: Family searches for new home in competitive market

Over the last five years, the purchase price of homes has climbed as the number of homes on the market has dropped.
Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 10:45 PM EDT
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SAGINAW TWP., Mich. (WNEM) - On a warm spring night, mowing the lawn and playing outside is extra sweet for the Garchow family.

These moments are something they couldn’t have imagined weeks ago.

“I am more at peace than I have been in probably two months,” Sarah Garchow said.

Back in February, Sarah and Garrett decided to make the move from Mt. Pleasant to Saginaw Township.

“We know the market’s good, so let’s just sell,” Sarah said.

“A blessing and a curse at the same time,” Garrett said.

The blessing was their former home sold in just days, but that excitement didn’t last.

Their realtor, Matt Smith of Modern Realty, worked the phone for weeks.

“We’d send him so many day after day, probably at least three or four and we would go see at least six or seven a week,” Sarah said.

Dozens of homes and four offers later, they kept getting out-bid.

“We were like $20,000 over, we were going to waive inspections, we were going to do all of this stuff and then he would call us and be like, ‘Nope,’” Sarah said.

“Everyone’s paying 30 to 50 grand over asking,” Garrett said. “It’s just silly.”

“There was a lot of emotion, there was a lot of late-night phone calls,” Smith said. “Just really trying to emotionally stay in the game and keep the spirits high.”

As time raced away, they feared they may never find a home.

“It got to the point where I was like, I can’t do this. We’re just gonna have to either, you know, give the cats away and live in an apartment or just tell the people that bought our house like, ‘Look, we can’t, sorry.’ And then have them be heartbroken,” Sarah said.

In a market like this, those tough conversations aren’t unusual.

There are simply too few available homes for the number of people who want them.

“I listed a house in Midland last week and we had 140 showing requests for one house,” Smith said.

Demand far outweighs supply.

Over the last five years, the purchase price of homes has climbed as the number of homes on the market has dropped.

And it’s not just buyers having trouble.

Renters are also being squeezed out of a competitive market, with Rent.com reporting Michigan saw a roughly 18.5 percent increase in average rent between 2020 and 2021.

“This housing crisis is real and has to be addressed and that’s what we’re working on with our federal dollars,” Sen. Ken Horn said.

Sen. Horn is on the Housing Michigan Coalition which is a bipartisan group working with local officials and organizations.

“When you get business and labor and republicans and democrats all working together to solve the same problem, eventually that problem is going to get solved,” Horn said.

Some of the coalition’s top priorities include working on zoning, knocking down some regulations, getting a tax credit for builders and ensuring there’s housing for the workforce. Two of his big items are growing the state’s population and attracting skilled workers.

“There’s always a solution,” Horn said. “We just have to get enough minds together to fix it.”

The solution to Sarah and Garrett’s home search was Smith helping them find a home before it even hit the market and then offering almost $20,000 more than asking.

Sarah recalled the moment Smith gave them the good news, “He called me, he’s like, ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I was like, ‘No, do you want me to?’ And he was like, ‘Yes.’ And so I sat down at my desk and he was like, ‘We did it! We did it!’”

As the whole family begins to settle in, they’re excited and relieved to write this next chapter.

“This was where we were supposed to be,” Sarah said. “All the other ones I have now come to terms with, like, we lost for a reason and that this is the one we were supposed to be in.”

Now the only thing they’re racing against is bedtime.

As far as this current market goes, Smith said the craziest offer he’s seen included a one-year subscription to MeowBox to entice the cat-loving sellers.

With the hot spring and summer selling season heating up amid rising interest rates, Smith told TV5 he expects demand to stay strong. However, he believes prices are plateauing. Smith adds the market may soften, but it’s not expected to be a crash like that of 2008.