It’s not just you — the Johnson County real estate market is crazy right now

Johnson County real estate

Ashynn Waterman and Jared Urquhart recently purchased a home in Prairie Village, after unsuccessfully putting town five previous offers on other homes in the area. During the buying process, they said they offered over asking price and waived appraisals and inspections in order to make more competitive bids. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

Forget vaccines, the real competition this spring is Johnson County real estate.

What’s happening: A combination of factors — from low interest rates to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — have aligned to drive down inventory and ratchet up prices to historic levels.

In the first quarter of 2021, homes on the market in Johnson County, on average, sold for $412,000.

The median sales price in the first quarter was $350,000, up nearly 13% over the same time last year and a 75% increase over the past decade.

The phenomenon is not unique to Johnson County, of course. KCTV reporter Nathan Vickers encapsulated the general mood by retweeting this much-watched TikTok:

Unprecedented: Veteran realtors in the Kansas City area say they can’t remember a market this competitive.

“Inventory is so low, but we’re actually on track to sell more homes than we ever have,” said Tony Conant, president of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors. “What we have on the market is just getting absorbed so quickly.”

That’s reflected in this graphic from KCRAR. The number of homes for sale is down 64% from last year. At the same time, the number of closed sales overall is actually up.


Via the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors website.

Sellers market: That’s left buyers like Ashlynn Waterman and Jared Urquhart resorting to exceptional tactics to try to get the home they want.

The young married couple moved to the Kansas City area from New Mexico last year and began their house search last fall.

They had made five offers unsuccessfully on other homes in recent weeks before finally locking up a house in Prairie Village near Belinder Elementary.

“We learned we were going to have to go all in, and we were getting scared we were going to get priced out of Prairie Village,” Waterman said.

What it takes: Their realtor Lindsey Pryor told them to be prepared to offer over asking.

Look for homes $50,000 below their budget, she advised, so they had room to offer that much more than the listed price.

Pryor also told them to be prepared to take the unusual step of waiving appraisals and inspections, essentially buying the house as-is.

“I mean, that’s something I would normally never recommend,” Pryor said. “But when we weren’t doing those things in this market, they weren’t getting the houses.”

Ultimately, after doing all that and agreeing to give the sellers some flexibility on their move-out date, Waterman and Urquhart did get an offer accepted and plan to move in soon.

“We’re moving in to start a family and had been looking for several months,” she said. “It was stressful at times, but feels amazing now.”

The bigger picture: Johnson County is the tightest, and most expensive housing market in the Kansas City metro, according to data from both KCRAR and United Community Services of Johnson County.

Inventory is lower here than in other counties around the region on both sides of state line, and that’s contributing to higher overall prices.

The below graphic from UCS shows that Johnson County outpaces all other metro counties in median monthly housing costs at slightly more than $1,200 a month.

Image via United Community Services of Johnson County.

Affordability concerns: That has policymakers worried that the current housing bubble could make living here unsustainable for some people long term.

Overland Park city councilmember Logan Heley himself recently closed on a townhome with his partner near downtown Overland Park.

That came after they made 13 unsuccessful offers, mostly on single-family homes.

“We feel super lucky,” he said. “But we were very challenged in this market. I’d like to think representing this area [on the council] and having grown up here, that there would be starter homes available for younger people. I’m worried those options are running out.”

Overland Park city councilmember Logan Heley outside his new townhome. Photo credit Kyle Palmer.

No room: Low inventory is having an impact across the housing spectrum, Heley said, a contention backed up by a recent UCS housing study.

The tight market is keeping older homeowners in their homes longer because they’re worried they won’t be able to find an affordable alternative once they’ve sold their property, Heley said, which leaves fewer options for younger buyers like him who are trying to enter the market.

At the same time, there remains a dearth of affordable options for low-income families, either buying or renting.

“This just underscores that housing affordability in Johnson County is a serious challenge that our community needs to confront,” he said.

Pandemic effects: Conant with the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors says some of the current market conditions could fade once the world readjusts after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health concerns and worries over spreading the disease have made some sellers skittish, he surmised, leading to fewer homes on the market.

At the same time, buyers are eager to find their dream home, since they’ve become conditioned to living and working from home.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who want more square space, things like home gyms, home offices, pools,” Conant said. “We don’t know how long [the pandemic] is going to go on, so people want to get their homes just right.”