Economist to talk about 2020 job, housing markets at free forum



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 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.

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Posted on January 15, 2020 at 3:24 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: Community, Housing Trends, News, Press Releases | Tagged , , , , ,

You, too, can go ‘Green at the Beach’ — for $1.45 million

Now on the real estate market, this Warm Beach waterfront home is eco-friendly from top to bottom.

By | Saturday, May 11, 2019 1:30am


It hit Dave Porter back in 2004 that he was a hypocrite.

After giving a speech to home builders and real estate agents about the importance of green design and building, Porter realized he didn’t practice what he preached.

“We had a decadent car and a house that was too big for our needs,” said Porter, a certified green building speaker who has toured the nation in the name of eco-friendly design. “It was time for a do-over.”

In 2005, Porter and his wife, Anna, sold their too-big house and, in 2007, started rebuilding a 100-year-old beachfront home in Warm Beach. They were determined to make it green from top to bottom — capable of meeting even the strictest green-home guidelines.

Their coastal-inspired, two-story home featuring a lighthouse cupola was named the 2008 Custom Home of the Year by the National Association of Home Builders and was given a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, among other national awards and designations.

Now it’s on the market for $1.45 million.

“It’s not only a fun and beautiful house, but it’s got this incredible background of green building when green building was just getting to be known,” said Linda Evans, the listing real estate agent for the property. “I don’t know of any other house that has this depth.”

Evans, who works for Windermere Real Estate Stanwood and Camano Island, said the 3,147-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bath home is unique for having carefully chosen materials, such as insulation made from recycled blue jeans, formaldehyde-free doors and recycled glass countertops.

Snohomish County values the home at $744,900 for property tax assessments.

The Porters meticulously researched every piece of the house, keeping several questions in mind: Is it an earth-friendly product? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Does it help reduce their carbon footprint?

Not ones to waste anything, they salvaged more than 80 percent of their building materials from the original home, built in 1907, to keep it from going to the landfill.

The patio, walkway, parking pad and road easement are paved with pervious concrete, which drains water into the ground rather than flushing it into Port Susan nearby. They also have a rainwater catchment system, solar panels and a geothermal heat pump.

The couple, who are moving to Ashland, Oregon, to be closer to family, said they hope the next owners appreciate all the work that went into the house.

“It’s probably been the best experience we’ve ever had,” said Dave Porter, a sales manager for loanDepot. “It’s the longest we’ve ever lived in a home.”

The Porters wanted their experience to be educational for others, so they documented their rebuild, including every material used in the house, on their Going Green at the Beach website.

They’ve also opened their doors to about 5,000 people — including architects, realtors and elementary school students —for educational tours.

The green building materials are a big part of the price tag, Evans said, but not the only justification. The house has a number of other features, including a 1,100-bottle wine cellar, a detached guest retreat and lighthouse-themed cupola, which is a small dome on top of a roof.

But even the cupola, which has 360-degree views of the surrounding area and Port Susan, was designed to be green. The house doesn’t have mechanical air conditioning; open the windows in the cupola and fresh air funnels down to the rest of the house.

All of the green-home details still boggle Evans’ mind.

“Every time I go there, I learn something new,” she said.

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Posted on May 11, 2019 at 9:01 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

What Paine Field means for county’s real estate

Connections to West Coast cities will allow easy travel for our residents and bring tourists here.

Monday, May 6, 2019

It’s finally time to go after that second “dream home” you’ve been longing for since your 30s. You’ve earned it after a career of hard work, buckling down, and saving your pennies. When retirement or empty nesting occurs, many of us seek a home-away-from-home that offers a way to slow down, relax, and enjoy life. So now that the time’s right and you’re ready to make a move, what considerations should you take into account when looking for a second home?

Many soon-to-be retirees in our region have spent years in the grind of Seattle traffic that has only gotten worse, in a region that is one of the fastest growing in our nation. While many of us look to “get away from it all” as we retire, seeking privacy and immersion in natural beauty, we also want to preserve access to the luxuries and conveniences of city living. Access to things like travel as well as the simple but finer things in life like coffee shops, dining options, and even Amazon delivery can make all the difference when choosing a place to call “second home.” The reality is that most of us do enjoy many aspects of city living and we’re not completely ready to give up as we sail into the sunset.

There is no bigger “city” convenience than access to travel, and a strong regional airport in particular. Air travel allows us to enjoy the epic summers in the Pacific Northwest, yet get away to Maui or Palm Springs in the winter, or to the snow of the rugged West for some time on the ski hills.

Insert Everett’s new Paine Field Passenger Terminal, a regional transportation development that has the potential to change how retirees think about that dreamy second home, and in particular, how they look at options like Camano Island which is just 20 minutes northwest of Everett. Paine Field has recently begun buzzing with commercial airlines, bringing the world closer to Camano Island and the rest of Snohomish County than ever before. Alaska Airlines and United Airlines will connect Everett to a host of U.S. cities including Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

Whether you’re the retired parents of a Seattle tech worker looking for your second home near grandchildren, or you’re moving here to escape Seattle or San Francisco, there’s now a fantastic local airport at your doorstep, allowing you to avoid the arduous drive to Sea-Tac.

While Camano Island’s desirability is now matched with much-improved access to other well-traveled destinations, many view the island as a destination in its own right. Boasting stunning sandy beaches, abundant wildlife, and relaxed small-town charm, Camano Island is a haven for crabbers, water-skiers, and beach-lovers.

Rich in history and culture, Camano Island is home to a vibrant arts community as well as an array of local restaurants, shops, markets, events and festivals. The enduring appeal of Camano Island is that it offers an idyllic, island experience that feels away from it all, without actually being away from it all.

With no ferries and an always-open bridge, you can find yourself ensconced in a diverse community of families, retirees, artists and locals who value culture and the finer things in life, which now includes easy access to travel. Of course, the beauty of the Paine Field opening goes both ways. Visitors can hop a quick flight and visit you easier than ever before.

So check your frequent-flyer miles and come explore. You won’t be disappointed.


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Posted on May 6, 2019 at 2:30 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

Warm Beach home with lighthouse rotunda asks $1.45 million


A beach house with nautical details is one thing, but a built-in lighthouse is another. This home in Warm Beach—along semi-sandy Port Susan waterfront, facing Camano Island—goes above and beyond with waterfront whimsy. It was built in 2007 with all the trappings of a high-priced waterfront home, like big view windows, a wine cellar, and a network of outdoor decks and patios, has a lot of fun with the style.

The most obvious feature is the lighthouse-styled rotunda protruding from the roof, complete with a light, built for 180-degree water views. The builders added some other offbeat touches, though: a secret office through a bookcase door, a light-up “tide pool” countertop with beachcombed goods under glass, and driftwood fencing on the beach-facing side. Playful design aside, with three bedrooms and four baths, two fireplaces, and a hot tub, it also functions as a luxurious, waterfront home.

19126 Soundview Drive is listed for $1.45 million via Windermere.


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Posted on May 1, 2019 at 2:22 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

Warm Beach’s iconic eco-friendly home for sale

The award-winning house featured on TV and in magazines.



One of the area’s most iconic homes is for sale.

Easily identified along the Warm Beach waterfront by its lighthouse-inspired cupola, this ultra-green house is most famous for its sustainability.

“The goal was to build this as environmentally friendly as possible,” said Anna Porter, who owns it with her husband, Dave, who works in mortgage lending. “But a lot of the green building techniques we know today didn’t exist in 2007. We were developing and learning as we went. We made it into a public project so anyone could learn along with us.”

The effort paid off in the end.

The 2,700-square-foot, three-story house earned the “2008 Custom Home of the Year” award by the National Association of Home Builders. It also earned numerous additional design certifications, including: “LEED Gold” from the U.S. Green Building Council; ‘American Lung Association Health House;” Master Builders of King & Snohomish Counties, “Built Green 5 Star”; “Energy Star;” and “Environments for Living.”

The couple worked with a variety of local companies in 2007 to pioneer green additions for residential use.

“We were all learning as we went,” said Porter, who works in program development and project management.

At the time, the three-bedroom, four-bath home attracted widespread attention from media, the building industry and the public. By January 2013, more than 38,000 unique visitors browsed the project website, more than 3,000 people toured the home, and the project was featured in more than a dozen publications, including Natural Home, Smart HomeOwner and Environmental Design + Construction. It also appeared on the TV show “Renovation Nation.”

Among the sustainable features: geothermal heat; sustainably chosen construction materials; recycled wood and stone; and Forest Stewardship Council-certified flooring. Smaller details include opting for chemical-free cabinets and countertops made from recycled agriculture products instead of MDF fiberboard.

But in 2011, Porter suffered a stroke, leaving her right leg and foot with limited use.

“Getting around is tedious — actually, it’s dangerous,” she said. “We’re ready to move to something smaller and closer to grandchildren.”

The home is listed at $1.45 million. It’s a price tag that’s becoming less uncommon around Stanwood and Camano Island.

In 2017, there were nine homes in the area that sold for more than $1 million. In 2018, that ballooned to 21.

And the Porter’s home may be the most unique one to hit the market.

“I can’t think of anything similar,” said Linda Evans, the listing agent with Windermere Stanwood Camano. “There are green houses that have some features, but this has all the features.”

In addition to a rock fireplace made from stones gathered from the beach in front of the house and recycled glass accents throughout, there’s a temperature-controlled 1,100-bottle wine cellar situated three stories below the landmark cupola. The wine racks — like a handful of other features in the house — were made from parts of the 1907 cabin that previously sat on the 0.37-acre lot.

“It’s bittersweet selling this home, it’s been such a great story,” Porter said. “But it’s time for a plot twist.”

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Posted on April 29, 2019 at 2:40 pm
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

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 and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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

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.



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

This quirky century-old schoolhouse is yours for $695,000

The two-acre property on the Stillaguamish River in Silvana includes a replica Old West town.

SILVANA — The old schoolhouse here and the quirky property it sits on, complete with a Wild West-style town in the back yard, is up for sale.

The asking price is $695,000.

The school was built around 1907, part of the Silvana School District that eventually was absorbed into the Arlington School District.

A larger, two-story school was constructed later. Lessons were moved there, and the older schoolhouse became a gymnasium.

The 1907 school outlasted its newer neighbor, which has been torn down. The building off Pioneer Highway — with white walls and a red roof — has been a private residence for at least two decades.

Michael Berg, 71, bought the school and property in 1997 for $80,000. He estimates he’s put upward of $400,000 into improvements. He lives there and uses it as an art studio, mainly for metal and bead work.

A European style fountain, multiple outbuildings and lawn sculptures dot the landscape of the old Silvana Schoolhouse. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A European style fountain, multiple outbuildings and lawn sculptures dot the landscape of the old Silvana Schoolhouse. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The building has been raised on a foundation above the 100-year flood level. A new bell tower sits on top. A little white chapel, saloon, restrooms, changing rooms, clubhouse, fire pit, fountains and greenhouse are among the features out back. The large yard has been the site of weddings, family reunions and memorials.

A photo album shows the building two decades ago, a shell. It’s still not finished inside, but there is electricity, plumbing and telephone line, along with the new foundation, windows and other improvements.

The replica Old West town out back was purchased around 1998 from a man in Lake Stevens and moved to Silvana. Behind the yard, a field spreads out, and then there’s the Stillaguamish River. Trains sound their whistles as they rumble over nearby tracks.

The view from the back porch of old Silvana Schoolhouse (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The view from the back porch of old Silvana Schoolhouse (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Berg plans to move to Arizona, where he has family. He’d like to sell to someone who will improve and enjoy the property.

“I really love it,” he said. “I think whoever buys it will really love it, too.”

Molly Alumbaugh, a Realtor with the Windermere offices in Stanwood and Camano Island, said the property is definitely one of the more interesting ones she’s worked on.

The building is about 3,300 square feet, including unfinished areas. The property includes about two acres.

The Silvana School and its pupils in 1908. (Courtesy of Robin Monson Sather. Published in “Early Stillaguamish Valley Schools” by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society)

The Silvana School and its pupils in 1908. (Courtesy of Robin Monson Sather. Published in “Early Stillaguamish Valley Schools” by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society)

Most of the people Alumbaugh has heard from so far are interested in the schoolhouse and yard as an event venue, she said. They like its history and character.

“With rustic farmhouse and Western weddings all the rage, someone could really go to town with this,” she said.

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Posted on August 31, 2018 at 11:50 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

Letter: Thanks to neighborhood, Camano’s National Night Out was a success

Dear Editor: Camano neighbors gathered Aug. 7 at the Utsalady Ladies Aid Building for a giant block party to celebrate a night out against crime. Along with food and fun, information was available from local resource groups for making the community and neighborhoods on Camano Island safer places.

Participating groups were: Camano Island Fire and Rescue, Island County Sheriff Mark Brown and Sheriff’s Citizens Patrol, Camano Law Enforcement and support foundation, Island County Animal Patrol, Stanwood/Camano Amateur Radio Club & Amateur Radio Emergency Service, Camano Preparedness Group, American Legion, Camano Community Center, Island County Transit, Island County Chamber of Commerce, Windermere Real Estate and Utsalady Ladies Aid.

The Utsalady Ladies Aid members and I want to thank the neighborhood residents, the local law enforcement agencies and others for participating in this event and bringing to us important information about crime prevention and preparedness.

Thanks to everyone involved in making this first National Night Out celebration on Camano Island so successful.

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Posted on August 20, 2018 at 10:21 am
Windermere Stanwood Camano | Category: News

Curbed Seattle

1906 schoolhouse—plus a saloon and a chapel—listed for $695K

Like your own little old-timey town!

View the Listing Details

Whether you’re looking to open an event venue or just for some unique digs, here’s something for you: a two-acre property in Silvana, a Snohomish County town with a population of 90 or so people, featuring a collection of vintage buildings, from a chapel to a saloon. But the centerpiece is really the stately 1906 schoolhouse.

The exterior of the building maintains much of the original character, with white brick and French doors. Inside, it’s very visibly mid-remodel although that means the place comes with a brand-new foundation above the flood plain and all new windows, adding a little longevity to the building. Some decorative elements are already taken care of, too, including vintage lights salvaged from an Ellensburg theater.

Much of the schoolhouse is still intact, though, including the bell tower.

The grounds are full of extra surprises and explorable places, including a saloon, an old shed (currently storing the schoolhouse’s original windows), an adorable chapel, and several other outbuildings, all wood-paneled and evoking kind of an Old West feel.

In a best-of-both-worlds situation, all the buildings feature underground wiring and power.

Outdoor space has been cultivated, too, including a fire pit area, picnic tables, a fountain, and a patio surrounding a stilted house.

New landscape elements can get their start in a greenhouse—also vintage, built in 1920—on the grounds. Its design evokes the schoolhouse, with an ornamental peak that nods to the bell tower.


View the Listing Details

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Posted on August 17, 2018 at 11:37 am
Marla Heagle | Category: Buying, News, Selling