The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
Employment numbers in Western Washington continue to improve following the massive decline caused by COVID-19. For perspective, the area shed more than 373,000 jobs between February and April. However, the recovery has been fairly robust: almost 210,000 of those jobs have returned. Unemployment levels remain elevated; the current rate is 8.2%. That said, it is down from 16.6% in April. The rate, of course, varies across Western Washington counties, with a current low of 7.2% in King County and a high of 11.2% in Grays Harbor County. The economy is healing, but the pace of improvement has slowed somewhat, which is to be expected. That said, I anticipate that jobs
will continue to return as long as we do not see another spike in new infections[…]
Image Source: Canva
Ask a homeowner which room they would most like to improve, and most will point to the kitchen – the starting point for every meal and the heart of the home.
Ask those same people why they don’t move forward with a kitchen remodel, and many will say the project seems so overwhelming they don’t know where to start. If your kitchen needs an upgrade, here are some step-by-step suggestions to get you started.
Gather your thoughts
The steps that follow will all progress much easier if you take time beforehand to form a strong opinion about the desired look and layout of your new kitchen.
Start by reviewing kitchen magazines and photo-heavy kitchen remodeling guides and/or websites. Compiling clippings and printouts in a notebook helps you refine your vision. Clip or print the photos that capture your imagination, add notes, and draw circles and arrows around the things you like most.
Once you have a clearer vision of what you want, search online for better examples and new solutions, if necessary. If you live with a significant other, share your ideas with them and don’t allow yourself to become too committed before getting buy-in from them. Contractors and sales associates will expect a unified front.
Focus on the flow
Another major factor you’ll want to consider is how your new kitchen will be used, and by whom:
- Do you want to cook with others?
- Do you want family and guests to gather in the space while you cook?
- Do you want to serve meals in the kitchen?
- Do you want to display your dishware?
- Where would you like things stored for maximum efficiency?
Imagine yourself happily cooking and entertaining in your new kitchen, then note the key elements necessary to make those dreams a reality. Having a list of your desired kitchen features and storage needs will help ensure your plan meets your vision.
Determine your budget
According to the annual Remodeling Magazine survey of costs, a “midrange,” “minor” kitchen remodel will cost homeowners living on the West Coast about $23,000. Those same folks can expect to pay about $70,000 for a midrange “major” kitchen remodel. Determine what you can afford before you start work to ensure that your vision is within reach, or to help prioritize what’s most critical.
What to do with the cabinets
Replacing the cabinets is one of the most expensive improvements you can make in a kitchen remodel (typically consuming 20 to 40 percent of the overall budget, according to Architectural Digest).
Consider refacing instead. This can include one of the following: 1) Installing completely new cabinet doors and drawer fronts or 2) installing new wood or laminate veneer over the existing cabinet and drawer fronts or 3) simply refinishing the existing cabinet and drawer fronts.
Shopping for contractors
The contractor you choose will determine much of the cost, the pace of your project, the amount of disruption, the final results, and your level of satisfaction. So be thorough in your search:
- Ask friends and family for referrals and advice.
- Interview at least three of the leading prospects in-person.
- Ask to see samples of past work.
- Look for someone who complements your operating style (similar personality and communication style).
- Once you’ve narrowed your choice to one or two, ask to speak with a few past clients.
You’ll be tempted to latch onto the first contractor who gets rave reviews from a friend or family member. But remember: You and your project are unique, and it’s worth the time and effort to be rigorous in your search.
If you’re planning to replace appliances, here are three factors you’ll want to consider:
Finish – Stainless steel is still the most popular option, but beware: smudges, fingerprints, water spots, and streaks will be obvious. Black stainless steel has a warmer feel and is better at hiding spots.
Extended warranty – According to Consumer Reports, extended warranties are hardly ever worth it because today’s appliances are so reliable. And if something does fail, it’s often less expensive to just pay for the repair.
Unbiased testing and reviews – Before making an appliance purchase, use the information resources available through Consumer Reports.
A final note
Moving walls and extending your home’s foundation are both very expensive options. If your kitchen plans call for these architectural renovations, perhaps you’ve outgrown your home and need something larger (with an already-improved kitchen).
This post originally appeared on Windermere.com
The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.
Employment in Washington State continues to soften; it is currently at an annual growth rate of 1.7%. I believe that is a temporary slowdown and we will see the pace of employment growth improve as we move further into the new year. It’s clear that businesses are continuing to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. This is, of course, in addition to the issues that Boeing currently faces regarding the 737 MAX.
In the fourth quarter of 2019 the state unemployment rate was 4.4%, marginally lower than the 4.5% level of a year ago. My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2020 will rise 2.2%, with a total of 76,300 new jobs created.
- There were 18,322 home sales registered during the final quarter of 2019, representing an impressive increase of 4.7% from the same period in 2018.
- Readers may remember that listing activity spiked in the summer of 2018 but could not be sustained, with the average number of listings continuing to fall. Year-over-year, the number of homes for sale in Western Washington dropped 31.7%.
- Compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, sales rose in nine counties and dropped in six. The greatest growth was in Whatcom County. San Juan County had significant declines, but this is a very small market which makes it prone to extreme swings.
- Pending home sales — a barometer for future closings — dropped 31% between the third and fourth quarters of 2019, suggesting that we may well see a dip in the number of closed sales in the first quarter of 2020.
- Home price growth in Western Washington spiked during fourth quarter, with average prices 8.3% higher than a year ago. The average sale price in Western Washington was $526,564, 0.7% higher than in the third quarter of 2019.
- It’s worth noting that above-average price growth is happening in markets some distance from the primary job centers. I strongly feel this is due to affordability issues, which are forcing buyers farther out.
- Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in San Juan County, where home prices were up 41.7%. Six additional counties also saw double-digit price increases.
- Home prices were higher in every county contained in this report. I expect this trend to continue in 2020, but we may see a softening in the pace of growth in some of the more expensive urban areas.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped four days compared to the third quarter of 2019.
- For the second quarter in a row, Thurston County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 29 days to sell. In nine counties, the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in four counties and two were unchanged.
- Across the entire region, it took an average of 47 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter. This was up nine days over the third quarter of this year.
- Market time remains below the long-term average across the region, a trend that will likely continue until we see more inventory come to market — possibly as we move through the spring.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
The housing market ended the year on a high note, with transactions and prices picking up steam. I believe the uncertainty of 2018 (when we saw significant inventory enter the market) has passed and home buyers are back in the market. Unfortunately, buyers’ desire for more inventory is not being met and I do not see any significant increase in listing activity on the horizon. As such, I have moved the needle more in favor of home sellers.
ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER
As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.
By Evan Caldwell | Jan. 29, 2019
Stanwood, Wash. – Economic growth doesn’t come without some burden.
“We are suffering from our own successes,” said economist Matthew Gardner. “We have a robust economy, and that means growing pains.”
The solid economy equates to more jobs — and more people — moving to the region, putting continued pressure on infrastructure and housing markets, he said. Gardner spoke about the national, state and local economic past, present and future to about 250 people at an economic forum Friday, Jan. 24, at the Camano Center.
“If you want a job, you can certainly find a job,” said Gardner, citing Snohomish County’s low 2.5% unemployment rate. “And jobs and income growth should increase this year.”
Snohomish County continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. By 2025, an estimated 250,000 people are predicted to join the 800,000 already living in the county, according to estimates by the state Office of Financial Management.
However, finding affordable places to live is the current challenge, said Gardner,
Gardner is the chief economist for Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate and also sits on the Washington Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. He chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington and is an advisory board member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at UW, where he also lectures in real estate economics.
“People are coming, that’s for sure, you can see it in the housing demand,” he said. “We need to be building more homes.”
In the Stanwood and Camano ZIP codes of 98292 and 98292, the number of new listings per month continued a steady downward trend in 2019, according to Northwest MLS data. In December 2019, there were 129 homes for sale in the area, down from 148 in December 2018.
Prices have climbed. The average median price for a home in Stanwood increased to $443,000 in 2019 from $430,000 in 2018 and $389,995 in 2017, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data. On Camano Island, the median cost of a home rose to $434,000 in 2019 from $410,000 in 2018 and $394,975 in 2017.
“Because inventory is so tight, housing prices will continue to rise in 2020 .. and it could be a very tight market for a very long time,” Gardner said. “So, why aren’t there more homes for sale? They’re living in them longer and moving less frequently for jobs.”
Americans nowadays are staying in their homes for about eight years before moving – up from four years from 2000-09, according to Attom Data Solutions, a real-estate data firm.
In addition to newcomers, millennials are starting to enter the housing market, adding increased pressure in the first-time homebuyer category, Gardner said. Even the few hundred new homes and about 150 new apartment units planned to be built in Stanwood in the next few years are insufficient to meet demand, Gardner said.
“To better compete, we need to create housing people can afford to live in — the teachers, the firefighters,” he said. “And certainly cities will need to address infrastructure needs, and governments will need to work on mass transit options.”
However, several factors can stymie new home construction, such as cost of land and materials, permitting constraints and an expensive construction workforce. In Snohomish County in 2019, there were 2,221 permits to build new single-family homes, down from 5,719 permits in 2005. On Camano in 2018, there were 375 permits for new home construction, down from a high of 752 in 2005.
Gardner said the U.S. economy is due for a minor recession in the coming years. The U.S. was last in recession from 2007-09.
“We might have a recession in 2021 in some segment of the economy, but it’ll be OK; it’ll be modest,” Gardner predicted, citing data showing major companies slowing the pace of hiring in the run up to the presidential election. “What do companies do when they’re worried? Nothing. Like a deer in headlights, they freeze, they’re being cautious.”
This article was originally published on goskagit.com.
By Evan Caldwell | Jan. 15, 2019
Stanwood, Wash. – Matthew Gardner returns with his crystal ball to peek at what 2020 holds for the local economy and housing market.
Gardner, the chief economist for Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate, is the keynote speaker for the 2020 Economic and Housing Forecast community forum 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, at the Camano Center, 606 Arrowhead Rd. on Camano Island. The forum will take a macro and micro look at the economy, the economic forecast and housing.
“In 2020, I expect payrolls to continue growing, but the rate of growth will slow as the country adds fewer than 1.7 million new jobs,” Gardner wrote in his 2020 forecast last month. “Due to this hiring slow down, the unemployment rate will start to rise, but still end the year at a very respectable 4.1%.”
Gardner, who spoke to a packed house at last year’s event, wrote “many economists, including me, spent much of 2019 worried about the specter of a looming recession in 2020. Thankfully, such fears have started to wane.”
The forum is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Call 360-387-4663 or visit windermerestanwoodcamano.com/2020-forecast. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a cocktail and appetizer hour, followed by Gardner’s presentation and then a question-answer session with the audience.
This article was originally published on goskagit.com.
Originally published March 6, 2019 at 4:22 pm Seattletimes.com
For months, there’s been one question in Seattle-area real estate: How low can prices go? We may have found our answer.
King County home prices had dropped $116,000 since last spring, falling to a two-year low in January.
But in February, home prices bounced back as the median sale rose by $45,000 from the month prior, according to new data released Wednesday. It was the first time in eight months that prices actually went up, on a month-over-month basis.
And it was no small increase, either: In dollar terms, it’s the biggest one-month jump since records have been kept.
One month of data does not necessarily guarantee a new trend. But there’s evidence the market could be picking up speed as buyers start slowly coming out of the woodwork: Sales increased 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, a small amount but nevertheless the first increase since April 2018, back when Seattle was still the hottest market in the country. Brokers and buyers are reporting more traffic in open houses and the slow return of bidding wars.
And while prices usually grow in February coming out of the winter doldrums, this year’s bump was triple the average increase from the previous five years. It’s an ominous sign for buyers, given that prices almost always rise the most in spring, which is just around the corner.
King County’s median single-family house sold for $655,000 in February, up 7.4 percent from a month prior but still comfortably below record highs reached last spring, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
“Everything has picked back up,” said Grant Burton, a Seattle-based Redfin agent. He’s working on two buyer offers right now, and has four pending sales — all featuring bidding wars, which had all-but disappeared in the second half of last year.
“When we noticed the cool-down last spring, buyers were fatigued, they were burnt out on the crazy market and not having enough time to do their due diligence,” Burton said. But then things went in the opposite direction — homes sitting unsold longer, prices being negotiated down — for long enough that buyers have started to feel comfortable enough to come back.
“It helps that there’s more inventory, and having more time (to decide on a house) has been a little bit easier for buyers to digest. And I think maybe people were trying to take advantage of not as many buyers to compete with,” he said.
Still not red hot
The market isn’t back to red-hot by any means. On a year-over-year basis, prices rose a bit less than 1 percent. And the number of homes sitting unsold still doubled in that span. Brokers say instead of bidding wars with 10 buyers driving up prices way above the list price — which was common for years — now there might be two or three bidders on sought-after homes, willing to go slightly above list price.
House Sales by Sub-market
Paul Lundin and his wife are closing on a $1.5 million Ballard home now after losing three previous bidding wars. They wound up having to go $80,000 over list price and waive all their contingencies — such as the clause that allows buyers to back out of a home purchase if an inspection turns up new problems — to beat out other bidders.
“We ended up overpaying or at least paying more than we wanted to,” Lundin said. “I certainly would have liked to land something in December (before the market picked up), but it just is what it is.”
Lundin said it’s clear the competition among buyers has increased compared to when they started looking around last fall.
“It was going pretty fast, very contentious,” he said. “If you go to open houses on a weekend, there are people streaming out all day.”
A closer look at the numbers
Also helping nudge buyers back into the market: mortgage interest rates, which had grown last fall, have fallen back down in the last few months.
Despite a shift in single-family home values, condo prices continue to fall — down 8.4 percent from a year ago across King County, the biggest decline in seven years. The median condo across the county sold for $380,000, down from a record high of $466,000 last spring. The number of condos sitting unsold more than tripled in the past year while sales continued to decline.
The cool-down also continues in Snohomish County, where the cost of the median single-family house fell 2.1 percent from a year prior — the county’s first annual drop since 2012. The median Snohomish house sold for $475,000, down from last spring’s peak of $511,000.
Pierce and Kitsap counties, which have been mostly immune from the recent slowdown as buyers seek out cheaper alternatives, continue to see prices grow.
In Pierce, the median house sold for $355,000 — up 9.2 percent in the past year, and matching the record highs reached last spring. In Kitsap, prices grew 3.7 percent, to $341,000.
Source, Seattle Times Newspaper March 6th, 2019
From Tacoma to Spokane, the housing market is hottest where homes are the cheapest,
and downright cool in expensive areas like Seattle and Bellevue. (Source Seattle Times Newspaper February 26th, 2019).
As the Seattle-area real estate market has slowed over the past year, it’s clear things have gotten better for buyers of the region’s priciest homes. But people looking for anything resembling affordable housing haven’t had the same luck.
The monthly Case-Shiller home price index, released Tuesday, showed prices fell another 0.6 percent on a month-over-month basis in the Seattle metro area in December, although for the first time in five months it did not lead the country in declines. San Francisco did so with a 1.4 percent drop.
On a year-over-year basis, prices in Greater Seattle grew 5.1 percent, the smallest since prices were bottoming out in 2012, and similar to the national average.
But those numbers for the full metro area – which spans Tacoma to Everett – mask significant differences in the market depending on whether you’re looking at a Bellevue estate or a Puyallup starter home.
The report divides the metro area evenly into three price ranges: roughly those homes under $390,000, those over $620,000 and ones in between.
The most expensive homes, which are generally found in Seattle, the Eastside and upscale homes in farther-out communities, have seen their prices increase 3 percent in the past year, or roughly the same as inflation.
But prices grew 9 percent in that span for the cheapest group of homes, mainly in Pierce County, northern Snohomish County and some smaller homes in more close-in areas.
As for the middle price group — which includes plenty of homes in South King County and southern Snohomish County — home values grew 5 percent.
Demand has grown fastest for cheaper houses because they have become so rare in the region, which is now one of the most expensive places in the country to buy a home.
Six years ago, the cost of a median house in Seattle was roughly equivalent to today’s cost of the typical house in Tacoma. Those priced out of more expensive parts of the region have increasingly moved further north and south, driving up prices in the outer parts of the region.
The current median price of a single-family house is $610,000 in King County, $455,000 in Snohomish County and $330,000 in Pierce County. Compared to a year ago, prices are down slightly in King County, flat in Snohomish County and up in Pierce County.
The number of homes sitting unsold has roughly doubled in the past year in expensive areas like Seattle and the Eastside and has grown only slightly in the lowest cost parts of the region. The priciest parts of the metro area have had the highest share of price cuts and the biggest drop in overall home sales.
Homes are now even selling quicker in Spokane than in Seattle, for the first time in six years. That’s at least partially, again, because of people being priced out of the Emerald City; the biggest group of out-of-town home shoppers looking in Spokane are from Seattle. That median home price in Spokane? $205,000.
The federal government on Tuesday released its quarterly home price report, which includes 245 metro areas, not just big ones. Spokane had the fourth-biggest price gain in the country, with prices growing 13 percent in the past year. Yakima was sixth, Olympia-Lacey was 15th and Kennewick-Richland was 19th, all with prices growing more than 10 percent a year. Bremerton was 24th and Bellingham 30th.
Source, Seattle Times Newspaper February 26th, 2019
Homebuyers Resuming Search Amid Improving Inventory, Attractive Terms
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
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!