Double-digit price appreciation has taken place for over 3 years now, so prices are up. Way up. In fact, in just the last year we have seen prices rise 14% year-over-year. When talking with people about our real estate market, the conversation often involves the question, “are we headed toward a bubble?” We get asked this question often, and it is understandable. With the Great Recession not too far back in our rear-view mirror, the fear that surrounds the bottom dropping out in our home values is real. The large price gains might seem familiar to the gains of the previous up market of 2004-2007, but the environment is much different, and that is why we are not headed toward a housing collapse.
Lending Requirements & Down Payments
Previous lending practices allowed people to get into homes with high debt-to-income ratios, low credit scores, risky loan programs, and undocumented incomes. They called this sub-prime lending. This led to the housing bubble bursting 10 years ago – because people received mortgages they were not equipped to handle. Borrowers were not properly qualified for their monthly payments, and with minimal down payments they had no skin in the game. There were also a ton of adjustable rate mortgages and interest-only loans, which created negative equity positions. In July 2007, the sub-prime loan products disappeared and literally became history overnight. This eliminated a large part of the buyer pool creating over supply, not to mention the foreclosures that followed due to these ill-equipped homeowners walking away. The combination of these two factors caused prices to plummet.
Conversely, in March of this year, the average credit score for an approved conventional loan according to Ellie Mae was 752. Banks are scrutinizing their borrowers much more thoroughly than in the past. Credit scores are only the start; solid documentation of employment, assets, and debt are all passed through strict underwriting standards before closing. During the days of sub-prime lending, banks were funding loans with scores as low as 560! This, coupled with many zero-down loan programs and the risky terms mentioned above, left many new homeowners with little to no equity. When you have little or no equity it is very easy to bail.
In addition to heartier credit scores, down payments have increased significantly. According to Attom Data Solutions the average down payment is 18%. To put this in perspective, the median price in Seattle Metro in the first quarter of 2018 was $775,000. 18% of that is $139,500! There is a marked difference in the connection to one’s investment with such a large amount on the line versus the common 0% down loans of the sub-prime era. When people have high equity levels they are not likely to abandon their home or miss payments.
Our Thriving Local Economy, Job Creation & Californians
According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, it is forecasted that there will be 46,000 more jobs in the Seattle Metro area in 2018. This has created high numbers of residual migration into our area from other states. In 2016 there were 50,000 people that moved here, and 47,000 in 2017. Many of these new Washingtonians are former Californians, specifically from the Bay Area. Unbelievably, our prices are attractive to this group, as they can take a similar tech job here and make the same income with a lower cost of living. If untethered and up for a move, it’s a no-brainer.
The most influential factor that has led the run on prices has been low inventory levels coupled with high housing demand. It’s simply the concept of supply and demand. The growth of companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook in our area has created increased demand, especially for homes closer to job centers resulting in shorter commutes. When you have increased demand and not enough homes to absorb the buyers, prices go up. Over the last three years we have easily seen a 10%+ increase in prices year-over-year. That is above the norm, and will slow down once inventory increases. That slowdown will be welcomed and it will not be a collapse in values or a bubble bursting.
Interest rates are increasing, and it is predicted they will reach close to 4.95% by the end of the year. This will naturally curtail price growth because it will not be as cheap to borrow money, which will cause buyers to temper their pricing ceilings. Bear in mind, that an interest rate of 4.95% is still historically low, we’ve just been incredibly fortunate to be able to secure long term loans with minimal debt service. The average interest rate over the last 30 years is 7%.
We understand that the recent increase in home prices has been big and that it might remind you of the previous up market before the crash. Hopefully digging into the topics above has shed some light on how it is different. We always welcome the opportunity to have conversations about these hot topics and discern how they relate to you. As always, it is our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions. Please let us know if we can answer any questions or help you or anyone you know with their real estate needs.
Price Appreciation Case Studies in South Snohomish & North King Counties
Since 2014, home values have grown by over 10% each year, resulting in a resounding 35% or more return in pricing. Below are some examples of actual homes sold in late 2017 to early 2018 that also sold in 2014, and that were not remodeled or significantly improved in between sales. These examples show the growth in home values that we have experienced over the last three years due to our thriving local economy. I pulled these examples to show you actual pound-for-pound market data versus the statistical percentages I often quote in these market updates. I thought these examples were pretty telling and quite exciting.
4 bedroom, 2,917 sq.ft. Shoreline Home:
Sold in November 2014: $560,000
Sold in January 2018: $800,000
$240,000 INCREASE IN HOME VALUE: 42.85%
This phenomenon has been driven by a lack of available housing inventory and super high demand due to the robust job market in our area influenced by companies like Amazon. In 2017, there were 1,000 people moving into our area each week! According to census data, that trend is supposed to continue.
The large price gains might seem familiar to the gains of the previous up market of 2004-2007 that resulted in a bubble, but this environment is much different, which is why we are not headed toward a housing collapse. Previous lending practices allowed people to get into homes with risky debt-to-income ratios, low credit scores, and undocumented incomes. A large part of why the housing bubble burst 10 years ago was due to people getting into mortgages they were not equipped to handle, which lend to the eventual fall of sub-prime lending and the bubble bursting. Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist speaks to this topic in this video.
It is supply and demand that is creating these huge gains in prices. An increase in inventory would be healthy and would temper price growth. Many folks who have been waiting for their current home values to return in order to make big moves involving their retirement, upgrading homes, investing, or even buying a second home are well poised to enter the market. If you are one of those people, I hope these examples provide insight on the increase in home values and how they might pertain to your goals.
Potential buyers might shy away from the market due to affordability. While it is expensive to buy a home in the Greater Seattle area, the people that have become homeowners over the last three years have built some amazing wealth. Interest rates remain low, helping to absorb the cost of a home in our area. Last month, I wrote a Love Letter to Buyers which helped layout the advantages of participating in today’s market and how to be successful. If you or any one you know is considering making a purchase, it is worth the read.
As we head into the active spring and summer months, if you’d like a complimentary Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) on your home, so you have a better understanding of your home’s value, any of our agents would be happy to do that. This would be an important component in charting your 2018 financial goals, and what a great time of year to gather that information! It is our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions.
3 bedroom, 1,305 sq.ft. Lynnwood Home:
Sold in September 2014: $315,000
Sold in July 2017: $540,000
$135,000 INCREASE IN HOME VALUE: 42.85%