Latest NWMLS News for the Northwest

Homebuyers Resuming Search Amid Improving Inventory, Attractive Terms

Latest Press Release from Northwest Multiple Listing Service

KIRKLAND, Washington (February 2019) – Homebuyers around Washington state are making their way back to the market, hoping to take advantage of improving inventory, attractive interest rates, and more approachable sellers, according to officials with Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Northwest MLS statistics for January show year-over-year improvement in the volume of new listings and total inventory, along with moderating selling prices. Although fewer pending sales (mutually accepted offers) were reported than a year ago (down about 3.3 percent), January was the smallest year-over-year decline since May 2018 when the drop was about 2.7 percent.

Commenting on the MLS statistics summarizing last month’s activity, broker Gary O’Leyar said January’s post-holiday real estate activity doesn’t normally pick up until later in the month, but this year the uptick began early. “January started as a bit of a surprise. Open house activity was very robust, and we saw multiple offers in numerous instances again,” reported O’Leyar, the owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties in Seattle.

Brokers tallied 7,564 pending sales during January, a decline from a year-ago when they recorded 7,820 transactions.

Seven counties had increases in pending sales of single family homes and condos compared with 12 months ago, including King (up nearly 7.5 percent) and Snohomish (up 3.8 percent).

James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, commented on pending sales. The mixed results, including “healthy growth” in King and Snohomish counties, “corresponds well to upward movement in mortgage applications late in December, a leading indicator for the month to follow,” he noted, adding, “One should expect to see increased sales activity in the coming months throughout the region if mortgage applications continue to stabilize or increase.”

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said buyers “came out of the woodwork” after the holidays, eager to take advantage of better housing conditions. “Areas close to the job centers are seeing improved affordability from spring 2018,” he said, attributing it to lower interest rates, strong job growth, and adjusted pricing.

Scott said buyers are also attracted by expanded inventory resulting from the addition of new listings and a higher number of unsold inventory, although he noted “inventory levels are still considered a shortage.”

Prospective buyers who sat out the second half of 2018 or were pushed to the sidelines during last year’s heated market are finding better buying conditions, agreed Robb Wasser, branch manager at Windermere Real Estate/East. “Interest rates are near a nine month low and buyers have a stronger platform for negotiating, which have helped drive a 9 percent increase in pending sales of single family homes in King County,” Wasser stated.

MLS members added 7,090 new listings of single family homes and condos during January, up from the year-ago figure of 6,805 and nearly doubling December’s total of 3,631. At month end there were 11,687 active listings in the database, up more than 45 percent from the year-ago total of 8,037. Listing inventory more than doubled in both King and Snohomish counties.

Sixteen counties, including all four in the Puget Sound region, reported more inventory than a year ago. Even with sizable gains, supply is still tight at 2.4 months system-wide. (In general, four to six months typically indicates a balanced market.)

“The rise in inventory is largely due to investors who are selling because they believe the market has peaked and they want to unload their properties before interest rates rise too far,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate.

“New listing inventory in King County is bringing more homebuyers to the market. We are enjoying increased open house traffic, including during the Super Bowl weekend,” remarked Dean Rebhuhn, owner of Village Homes and Properties in Woodinville. He also commented on the early arrival of the spring market, crediting jobs and immigration as factors. “Properly priced homes are selling!” he exclaimed.

Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, expects activity to pick up heading into spring, as is customary. “I have absolutely no concerns about 2019 being a strong year, with prices rising 4-to-6 percent and units up 10-to-12 percent. There is no reason for sellers not to move on with their lives and list their homes,” he remarked.

Northwest MLS figures show an area-wide price gain of just over 5 percent on January’s 4,865 closed sales of single family homes and condos. Only six of the 23 counties in the report had year-over-year price drops. Among them was King County where prices slipped about one percentage point, from $571,250 to $565,000.

Prices on single family homes (excluding condos) rose 5.4 percent from the same month a year ago. In the four-county Puget Sound region, prices increased in Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties, but decreased about 2.9 percent in King County, dropping from $628,388 to $610,000. Prices for single family homes in Kitsap County, where there is only about 1.7 months of supply, surged nearly 14.7 percent when compared to a year ago.

“The minor decline in King County home prices in January doesn’t mean the housing market is tanking; it’s primarily because of the significant increase in the number of homes for sale,” suggested Jacobi. “We may see prices take minor dips periodically in the coming year, but for the most part they are expected to continue rising, just at a far more modest rate than in recent years,” he added.

“Median prices on closed sales continue to remain stable in January with continued strong upward growth in outlying counties,” stated Young. “Pierce, Kitsap, and Thurston counties outpaced King and Snohomish counties in price growth, consistent with the past few months. This trend indicates that many first-time buyers and middle-income families are continuing to look to the outer regions of the area for value. Strong price growth in Lewis and Whatcom counties also support this general trend of outward migration along the I-5 corridor,” he added.

Mike Larson, president/designated broker at ALLEN Realtors in Lakewood (Pierce County) concurred, describing the slowdown in activity during the second half of 2018 as a “much-needed correction.” Sellers in King and Snohomish counties “got caught up in the craziness so many buyers turned to Pierce County for their affordability solution,” something he expects will continue this year.

Condo prices rose slightly, about 1.6 percent, as inventory more than doubled from a year ago. The median price for the 645 condos that closed last month area-wide was $325,000. In King County, where more than half the sales occurred, the median price was $383,500, up slightly from the year-ago figure of $380,000.

Several brokers expressed optimism for a busy spring.

“Buyers are signaling a more aggressive spring market with an uptick in search activity and high application rates with mortgage companies,” said George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties. He also noted would-be owners are commenting on having more options to consider and “are feeling the real estate market is less volatile.” He also reported sellers are similarly encouraged by having more options, “and not having to race around with the fear of making a housing mistake.”

“We’ve clearly been in a transitioning market, but given the ongoing demand for real estate in the Greater Seattle area, we may have adjusted to a ‘new market reality’ wherein inventory is up and prices have re-aligned, but there is still strong demand for housing. I would expect to see a robust regional real estate market going forward into spring,” stated O’Leyar.

The director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research was more guarded in his expectations. “Increasing inventory and moderate price growth in urban counties (and growth in outer regions of the Puget Sound) point to several problems relating to how potential homebuyers see things moving forward,” said James Young. He referenced figures from the National Association of Homebuilders National Trends Report indicating a shrinking pool of buyers.

“The picture for first-time buyer affordability in the longer term for the region is not bright for potential homeowners unless changes in the housing supply framework throughout the area are addressed soon.”

Larson also expressed concerns around affordability, “particularly for entry-level buyers as well as move-down buyers who also want to sell. The middle rungs on the housing ladder are slowly disappearing,” he remarked. Options like condos could help fill that void, he suggested, but believes they won’t be built “until the state legislature reforms the condo liability laws.”

Affordability is a “crucial issue” for 72 percent of millennial renters, according to a survey by Apartment List.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of around 2,200 member offices includes more than 29,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.

Source, Northwest Multiple Listing Service

Posted on February 16, 2019 at 7:00 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Uncategorized

Home Warranties Provide Buyers and Sellers With A Peace Of Mind

 

If you are a homeowner, you probably know all-too-well how costly home repairs can be. And, thanks to Murphy’s Law, appliance break-downs seem to happen at the worst possible time—like when you are selling your home. For this reason, it is in the best interest of all home sellers to consider purchasing a home warranty.

A home warranty offers many advantages to the home seller, the least of which is a peace of mind that your major home appliances are covered in the event of a break down. Most home warranties cover both parts and labor of your home’s most vital systems and major appliances. This protects the home seller from potentially large, unexpected repair bills and also allows the buyer to purchase the home with more confidence. Additionally, a home warranty is usually for the term of at least one year, so any unforeseen repairs/replacements are also covered well after the home has been sold. A home warranty also provides a competitive edge over those homes without warranties because it communicates confidence to buyers. This can add up to a faster selling period, resulting in a more convenient process for all involved.

A home is probably the single largest investment you’ll ever make, so the last thing you want as a home seller or buyer, are unexpected home repairs/replacements. Major appliance replacement can cost you several thousand dollars, and during the process of a home sale/purchase, your budget doesn’t often allow for costly expenses. A home warranty is designed to protect you from these types of expenditures. Furthermore, it is convenient for home sellers because a home warranty offers after-sale liability. While an inspection may find many faults that are covered by a home warranty, it cannot account for latent problems that are beyond an inspection’s scope, or problems that occur down the road. In most cases, a home warranty will cover these expenses, alleviating potential financial burdens for the seller once they have sold the home.

When considering a home warranty, it’s important to ask the right questions. Warranties vary from one company to the next and there are also many different types of coverages available. Your Realtor should be able to help you with this process. First and foremost, you should identify which components of the home will be covered by the warranty. It’s also important to attain annual costs and the charge for service calls. You will want to ask what the total dollar limit is on the warranty and what the limits are for the individual items that are covered. Many home sellers purchase home warranties, which are then passed along to the homebuyer when they move into the home. As a homebuyer, you may want to look into whether or not the coverage can be renewed once the warranty has expired.

According to American Home Shield, one of the largest home warranty companies in the nation, the average home warranty customer uses their warranty plan 2.3 times. Furthermore, the number of home warranties is increasing with every year because homeowners are becoming more informed of their benefits. Eventually home warranties will become commonplace, as buyers and sellers realize the advantages they offer. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that a home warranty is a very simple, cost-effective way to purchase a peace of mind for both homebuyers and sellers alike.

Posted on February 10, 2019 at 9:00 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Buying, Living

The Easy Drive-On Island

Moving to an island can be challenging. To live on many islands in the Pacific Northwest you have to account for ferry schedules, as well as being far away from major shopping centers. Even things you don’t normally think about, like having a few different options for gas stations, or being able to quickly drive to the nearest recycling center, may be out of reach. For some people, island living is worth the drawbacks. Sure, you may not be able to visit the mall, but you get to settle down in a literal vacation destination.

When you live on Camano Island, you don’t have to choose.

We like to say that Camano Island is the “easy drive-on Island” where there are no finicky ferry schedules, and no waiting in a crowded parking lot for hours at a time. Take a few minutes out of your day to cross a few hundred yards of bridge, and you’re on Camano Island! The island is close to several major urban centers: twenty minutes from Marysville or Burlington via I5, and only forty-five minutes from Bellingham or Shoreline.

Another great thing about living on Camano Island is getting away from rush-hour traffic. Typically, once you go north of Marysville, traffic eases up. When you want to go shopping in Burlington, for example, you don’t need to worry about planning your whole day around the trip! Hop across the bridge, cruise through Stanwood, and head north on I5 for an easy twenty-minute drive.

Living on an island doesn’t have to mean giving up access to the rest of the world! On Camano Island, we like to think we have the best of both worlds: island paradise, with abundant convenience.

Posted on January 30, 2019 at 10:01 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Community, Living

Island Amenities

There are many reasons to move to Camano Island: the relaxed island atmosphere, friendly neighbors, and beautiful scenery right in your backyard. If you’ve dreamed of living on an island, you should definitely consider Camano Island.

We understand that not everyone is excited about moving to an island. There are often drawbacks to living in a beautiful place far away from the business of everyday life. This is why Camano Island is so special. We have beaches, state parks, a golf course, and a winery. Your neighbors go boating in the summers and fresh crab is an island staple. While other islands can boast similar things, we can proudly say that we’re also twenty minutes away from the urban centers of Smokey Point, Mount Vernon, and Burlington. If you’re ready to go out after a long, sleepy day on the beach, look no further than the bustling I5 corridor directly accessible via highway 532. The Seattle gridlock often ends in Marysville, so feel free to head out for a day of shopping at any time! Plan your day around you, not around rush-hour.

If you don’t feel like driving for twenty minutes to pick up a few groceries, that’s ok! Camano Island and Stanwood have several options for home necessities, including QFC, Mod Pizza, Starbucks, Rite Aid Pharmacy and more!

Looking for a place to grab a drink with a friend? Check out either of our two craft breweries or any one of our three artisanal coffee shops. If hiking and adventuring is more your style, look no further than Cama Beach State Park, or Camano Island State Park; located less than twenty minutes from anywhere on the island.

There’s also no need to worry about finding a gas station, either. In Stanwood and on Camano Island, take your pick of the six (competing!) fueling locations available.

Camano Island gives you the opportunity to experience life on vacation while still enjoying the convenience of living near a major urban center. Take a walk on the beach in the morning, then take a five-minute drive to Stanwood to do your afternoon shopping. Living “away from it all” doesn’t mean having to give up your access to civilization! Own a home on the beach and get your Starbucks fix every morning. Watch beautiful sunrises, and visit local boutiques and department stores.

When you live on Camano Island, we believe you can have it all.

Posted on January 30, 2019 at 9:47 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Community, Living

Local economy finding ‘balance’

Economist Matthew Gardner motioned his outstretched hand horizontally through the air. “Balance,” he said. “That’s what we’re trending back to.”

Gardner was addressing some 250 people during an economic forum Friday, Jan. 26, at the Camano Center.

After nearly 20 years of volatility in the housing market — the early 2000s boom, the Great Recession and the ensuing recovery — the economy should return to that of one resembling the 1990s with slow and steady growth, he said.

After huge leaps in home prices during the past few years in the Stanwood-Camano area, price increases should slow to about 5 percent this year, Gardner projects.

“It’s not bad — a move back to balance — it’s just that most people don’t remember what a balanced market looks like,” said Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “Many people have only known volatility.”

Prices for homes increased about 10 percent in Stanwood, rising from an average median price of $389,995 in 2017 to $430,000 in 2018, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data. On Camano Island, the cost of a home rose 3.7 percent, increasing from $394,975 to $410,000.

The biggest change last year was the drop in the number of homes for sale in spring, which drove up prices because what few homes were for sale didn’t stay long on the market. Local housing inventory spent the rest of the year steadily rebounding from some of its lowest points ever in spring.

Further complicating inventory levels is a smattering of interesting trends: People choosing to live in their homes longer; constraints for homebuilders, such as a shortage of workers and costly regulations; people increasingly opting not to pull up roots and move for a new job; and people working longer instead of retiring.

Meanwhile, millennials are starting to search for homes, which is keeping demand high.

“Millennials are doing everything we did, just about five years later in life than we did,” Gardner said.

One of that generation’s largest impediments to buying a home has been the lack of wage increases in the past few years — a trend Gardner sees as reversing this year.

“Companies are having a really hard time finding workers,” he said. “To get them, you’ve got to pay them. And I think that will kick in this year.”

However, Gardner warned that the U.S. economy also is prime for a recession.

“Quite frankly, we’re due … we’re in the second longest economic expansion in U.S. history,” he said. “But it will look nothing like the Great Recession.”

He predicted a recession similar to that of 1991 where the economy posted a few quarters of negative economic growth.

Several factors could cause the recession — a trade war, the Federal Reserve raising rates too quickly, over-leveraged companies. With the U.S.’s gross domestic product growth slowing, it may take just one economic event to send growth below zero.

“There’s always an outside shock that causes a recession,” Gardner said. “But this one will not be caused by housing.”

During the Great Recession’s housing crisis, home values decreased — the only time that happened during a modern recession.

“Overall, we’re positioned well here,” he said. “I don’t see anyone here more exposed than elsewhere.”

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

Read the full article

Posted on January 30, 2019 at 8:43 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

Year End Market Stats 2018

Every month, Windermere Stanwood-Camano publishes a snapshot of the local real estate market. Our Brokers use this data to help determine listing prices, realistic offers, and tailored advice for their clients. We also like to make this information public, to help you with your real estate journey. Here are Marla Heagle’s key takeaways from December 2018.


Are Camano Island and Stanwood

Heading for a Balanced Housing Market?

 

How do we determine if we are in a seller’s, buyer’s, or balanced housing market? It comes down to something called Months Supply of Inventory (MSI). MSI quantifies how many months it would take the market in its current condition to absorb all the active listings. So, we’re easily able to see if the market is favoring buyers or sellers. Generally, a balanced market will have somewhere between four and six months of supply. If supply is less than four months, sellers have gained asking power. If it’s above six months, buyers have gained negotiating power.

MSI is calculated by dividing the current month’s inventory figure by a rolling 12-month calculation of pending sales.

Here’s a glimpse at our local MSI.

 

At the end of December 2018:

  • Camano Island had 2.6 MSI, which is a seller’s market.
  • Stanwood had 3.7 MSI, which is a seller’s market heading towards a balanced market.

 

Let’s look at the difference 10 years ago, at the end of December 2008:

  • Camano Island had 29.1 MSI, which was a buyer’s market.
  • Stanwood had 10.9 MSI, which was also a buyer’s market.

 

If new homes stop entering the market today, MSI equals how many months would it take to sell all the homes currently available for sale. It would take 2.6 months on Camano Island today but would have taken 29.1 months 10 years ago. Times have changed.

 

The chart below shows the Stanwood/Camano Island combined MSI over the past 10 years.

 

Steve Harney, Founder of Keeping Current Matters, said this in a recent blog post:

“Returning to a normal market is a good thing. However, after the zaniness of the last eleven years, it might feel strange. If you are going 85 miles per hour on a road with a 60 MPH speed limit and you see a police car ahead, you’re going to slow down quickly. But, after going 85 MPH, 60 MPH will feel like you’re crawling. It is the normal speed limit, yet, it will feel strange.

That’s what is about to happen in real estate. The housing market is not falling apart. We are just returning to a more normal market which, in the long run, will be much healthier for you whether you are a buyer or a seller.”

 

To read in-depth statistics from last month, click on the links below.

View Full Stats – Camano Island  View Full Stats – Stanwood

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on January 29, 2019 at 11:29 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Buying, Selling

10 Steps to Get Your Home Clean and Ready for Spring

 

Warmer months are ahead, so now is the time to plan for spring cleaning and maintenance. A clean home offers a fresh start for the year, and a checklist of tasks guides your efforts towards efficiency. For many homeowners, spring cleaning can be a personal challenge. It can also be one accomplished with the help of the rest of the family or other residents. In some occasions, however, professional assistance may be advised, or even necessary. Regardless, regular home maintenance not only increases your home’s value, but it can also make your home more comfortable and enjoyable.

 

Indoors

Check Your Attic

Once summer arrives, it can be too hot in many regions to comfortably perform an inspection. Use late winter and early spring to ensure the following: there’s ample insulation (10 to 14 inches), there are no signs of mice or rats (droppings, strong odor, nests), there are no bugs (flying, crawling, or otherwise), and there are no signs of roof leaks (water stains, etc.).

Schedule HVAC Maintenance

Annual tune-ups on your heating/cooling equipment will reduce your energy bill and help ensure you can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Fix the Window Screens

It won’t be long before you’ll want to throw open the windows for fresh air, or relief on a warm afternoon. Take time now to ensure your window screens are ready for the challenge. Many traditional neighborhood hardware stores still offer re-screening services. Contractors also specialize in this service and are available for house calls.

Clean the Ceiling Fans

During the warm weather and the cold, ceiling fans can help moderate the temperature and better distribute the air. But your fans will be far more efficient if you give them a good cleaning a couple times each year. For fans mounted up to 10 feet in the air, you can use a ladder to access the tops of the fan blades. For those mounted on vaulted ceilings, use a long-handled duster.

Apply Weather Stripping

Many homeowners think of weather stripping as a cold-weather commodity, but it’s just as important during summer. To keep the cool air in and the hot air out, use any of the many filler materials available to seal gaps around windows, doors, exhaust fans, and any other point where you can see light peeking through.

 

Outdoors

Look for Damaged Roof Shingles

Use binoculars (with your feet safely planted on the ground) to scan for roof shingles that are curling, broken, or missing. If anything seems compromised, have a roofing company perform an inspection and provide a bid. If you or any members of your family are enterprising drone users, a camera-affixed drone can also be a useful aid in this reconnaissance effort.

Wash the Exterior

An easy way to extend the life of your exterior paint – and make your house look better than ever – is to give the siding a good washing. Use mostly water (to avoid harming any plants) and a stiff pole brush.

Search Out Rotten Wood

While you’re washing the exterior, keep an eye out for areas where there may be rot. Use a screwdriver to gently but firmly press on any siding or trim where you see black mold, missing paint, or exposed gray wood. If the area you’re probing feels mushy or bone-dry, contact a contractor to assess and stabilize the situation.

Clean the Gutters

All it takes is a handful of leaves to clog a gutter downspout and cause overflow and flooding. Hire a professional to give the gutters a thorough cleaning and you’ll avoid the very real dangers of working from a ladder. If you live in an area with lots of trees, consider getting quotes for some of the leaf-less gutter systems.

Prepare Your Lawn to Grow

The winter sets impediments for your lawn, and it takes preparation to help it shine. Rake away any dead grass and aerate the whole lawn to allow nutrients to access the roots. Reseed bare spots and apply a spring fertilizer to ensure your lawn has the fuel it needs to grow strong and beautiful.

Posted on January 21, 2019 at 3:17 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: DIY, Living

Investing In a Green Home Will Pay Dividends In 2019

As we step forward into 2019, eco-friendly “green homes” are more popular than ever. Upgrading your home’s sustainability improves quality of life for those residing in it, but it is also a savvy long-term investment. As green homes become more popular, properties boasting sustainable features have become increasingly desirable targets for homebuyers. Whether designing a new home from scratch or preparing your current home for sale, accentuating a house with environmentally-friendly features can pay big dividends for everyone.

While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star, or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.

There are dozens of eco-friendly features that can provide extra value for you as a seller. To name a few:

 

Cool roof

Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.

 

Fuel cells

Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.

For many years, fuel cells have been far too expensive or unreliable. But as technology has improved, so too has reliability. Companies like Home Power Solutions and Redbox Power Systems have increased the reliability of these fuel sources while reducing their size. Much like we’ve seen computers and cell phones shrink in size while improving reliability and power, fuel cells continue to be refined.

 

Wind turbine

A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.

But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.

 

Green roof

Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious homeowners are very attracted to the concept.

 

Hybrid heating

Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.

Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.

 

Geothermal heating

Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.

 

Solar power

Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. Similarly to wind turbines, your geographical location may determine the feasibility of these installments. Even on cloudy days, however, solar panels typically produce 10-25% of their maximum energy output. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.

In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But as of December 2018, the average cost after tax credits for solar panel installation was just $13,188! Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).

 

Solar water heaters

Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.

 

Tax credits/rebates

Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.Gov

Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses. Just as importantly, they will also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.

Posted on January 3, 2019 at 3:07 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Buying, Housing Trends, Selling

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

 

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing. Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

 

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market. In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017. In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling. We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

 

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating. In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to hear more about the market forecast join us and Matthew Gardner Jan. 25 at 6 PM at the Camano Center on Camano Island. Space is limited, reserve your seat here!

Posted on December 30, 2018 at 12:08 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Buying, Community, Housing Trends, News, Selling

Guaranteed to Please: Holiday Gift Ideas for the Home

Every holiday gift list has at least one person who is tough to shop for. Wavering between a risky guess at clothing that might not fit and just throwing in the towel and buying a gift card can be frustrating. But there’s one thing you can be sure of: everyone on your list probably loves to have their home looking stylish. If you’re hoping to score a big win with the pickiest of people of on your list, here are some of our favorite holiday gift ideas for the home.

 

Inviting Lanterns

 

Candles are a time-honored “safe” gift that usually deliver a positive response and are useful in any home. Take that one step further by gifting a stylish lantern to hold those candles. This gift is typically small, simple, and cost-effective, meaning that it’s pretty much the perfect gift idea for even the trickiest of people.

 

International Inspiration

 

Maps and globes instill a home with a sense of adventure, and never have there been more décor options for those struck with a bit of wanderlust. One option is an interactive scratch-off map that allows tracking of travel. If wall space is limited, consider a cork globe with push pins that can be used to mark travel destinations.

 

Sweet Displays

 

Everyone has a guilty sugary pleasure of some sort, so why not encourage those desserts to be showcased with pride? A dessert display isn’t necessarily something you’d buy for yourself, but it’s a gift that is almost guaranteed to please. Glass is classic, but marble or wood-based displays can blend easily into just about any kitchen design while adding a little extra touch of style.

 

Keep It Simple, Keep It Smart

 

If all else fails, you can be assured that everyone on your list this holiday season loves music, podcasts, audiobooks, or some other audio form of media. Thanks to the increasing prevalence and affordability of smart speakers, giving a versatile, high-tech gift has never been easier. For under $30 you can now choose between several options, including the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini.

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 9:20 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Living