Buyers Who Are Also Sellers Are Enjoying More Comfortable Moves Due to Contingent Offers Being Accepted
With a healthy increase in inventory since May, the need for buyers to have all their down payment funds immediately available, and a willingness to make offers with no contingencies has passed in most cases. It has been quite a relief, and is providing opportunities for many folks that have wanted to cash in on their well-developed equity levels, and either move up to a bigger home or down size (right size) to a home that better fits their current lifestyle.
For the first time in years we are starting to see an increase in contingent offers that are turning into pending transactions. A contingent sale is one where a buyer makes an offer to purchase their next home contingent on the sale of their current home. In some cases, the buyer’s current home may be already on the market, or in other cases they still need to launch their home to the market. Many buyers in this situation wait to find a home/seller that is willing to accept their contingent offer, and then they immediately launch their home onto the market.
The goal is a sale within 30-45 days, which will then provide the buyer with their down payment funds, and then close both properties within days of each other, making a smooth transition from one house to the next. We have not seen inventory levels the way they are now since late 2014, so the opportunity for successfully executing a contingent offer has not been an option for 4 years! It is a great time to seize this opportunity. With that said, let’s look at some statistics which highlight some of the gains there are to be had.
First and foremost, let’s look at year-over-year price appreciation. Over the last 12 months, we have seen an 11% increase in prices in both King and Snohomish Counties. Last year, the year-over-year price appreciation was 14% for both counties. This illustrates that price appreciation is slowing, or softening, if you will, due to the increase in inventory levels. This is a welcome trend as we move away from unsustainable appreciation levels, which is helping to stabilize affordability. Bear in mind that a historically-normal appreciation rate is 3-5%, so we are still a ways away from reaching that baseline.
The current market environment for both counties is still a seller’s market, sitting at 2.6 months of inventory based on pending sales for King, and 2.3 for Snohomish. A balanced market is representative of 3-6 months on inventory; we are currently just under that, but well above the extreme 0.5-0.8 months that we experienced over the last year or so. This has created more selection, which has minimized multiple offers and given buyers the opportunity to write offers with more comfortable terms, such as a home sale contingency.
Lastly, let’s talk interest rates! Currently, they are hovering around 5%. Yes, this is up from the 4.5% we saw earlier this year, but still well below the 30-year historical average of 6.7%. Money is still relatively cheap to borrow, and this should be taken advantage of as experts predict interest rates to rise as we head into 2019 and beyond. Your interest rate is typically fixed for the life of your loan, so rate plays into the long-term savings you can have on your asset if locked in at today’s levels.
If you have thought about making a move to a home that is a better fit for your current lifestyle, but have been stalled because you weren’t sure how to do it, now is the time to consider your options. Please reach out if you’d like a review of the current market conditions and how they relate to your goals. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.
Choosing a color palette for your home can be a complex process. Whether you are refreshing the interior or exterior, identifying colors that you relate to and that are on trend can be a challenge. Check out this article from House Beautiful on the most popular color palettes for 2019 based on your color personality. I think there is a lot of fun to be had here, and remember – a couple coats of paint can be the most inexpensive way to refresh your home. If you need a painter or any other contractor, remember that I can be a resource, as I have a preferred contractors list that I can pull from.
Every play matters in the fight against homelessness! Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for helping us raise $4,600 to #TackleHomelessness in their last home game against Los Angeles. That brings our season total to $9,200 and our cumulative money raised to $76,000! Good luck to the Hawks this weekend against the Chargers!
With the sharpest increase of available homes for sale in years, more opportunities are now available for buyers, including first-timers. Many first-time home buyers have sat on the sidelines and remained renters due to the constriction of inventory, which put major pressure on price affordability. Not only has affordability been an issue, but the terms required to prevail in a multiple-offer situation were often not within reach for someone entering the market for the first time.
For example, over the last 12 months in the Seattle Metro area we have seen a 66% increase in the selection of homes for buyers to choose from. There is currently 1.8 months of available inventory based on pending sales versus 0.8 months that was available the same month last year. This is still a seller’s market (0-3 months), but it is providing more than twice as much selection than a year ago. This loosening up of the market has helped to temper price growth by reducing the amount of price escalations and the need to have super aggressive financing terms in order to secure a home.
You see, over the last 3-4 years we have experienced double-digit price appreciation (10-14%) year-over-year, each year. A normal rate of appreciation is 3-5%. Minimal amounts of available inventory, low interest rates, and rapid job growth lead to this increase in prices. Now that more homes are coming to market and job growth has stabilized a bit (still growing, but not as fast), price growth has slowed. This is good news for sustainability and affordability. Here’s the deal though – we are still experiencing growth in values, making home ownership a sound investment over renting.
According to the most recent survey from rentcafe.com, the average rent for an apartment in Seattle is $1,906 with an average square footage of 736 sq. ft. That is quite a bit of money for not a ton of space. Further, that monthly expenditure does not create any wealth for the renter, only for the landlord. With renting, rates can be increased at any time, and you are paying down someone else’s asset, not your own. Also, owning gives the homeowner control of their overhead, while getting to make their house their home by adding improvements such as painting.
There are several factors to consider that will lead a person to make the best decision for their lifestyle and their financial bottom line. One of the biggest factors is interest rates! Currently, the rate for a 30-year fixed, conventional, conforming loan is hovering around 4.88%. Up from earlier this year and predicted to rise, but still historically low over the course of the last 30 years. These rates need to be considered the greatest opportunity of them all! With prices tempering and rates still under the 30-year average of 6.65%, buyers are able to secure a sound investment with very low debt service.
With interest rates predicted to rise over the next year, a good rule of thumb to remember is that for every one-point increase in rate, a buyer loses 10% of their buying power. For example, if the rate jumps from 4.75% to 5.75% and one wants to keep the same monthly payment, they must adjust their price point down by 10%. So, a $450,000 budget becomes a $405,000 budget, and that isn’t taking appreciation into consideration. If you assume an average appreciation rate of 4% year-over-year, today’s $450,000 house will be $468,000 next year. What side of the equity growth do you want to be on? As an owner now, or a buyer a year from now, when prices are higher and interest rates are most likely higher as well?
Once you secure a mortgage, the payment stays the same over the term of the entire loan. The long-term benefits of owning are abundant, including the stability of not being asked to move. These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially millennials, who are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market. One myth to address is the common belief that you must have a 20% down payment in order to buy a home. That is simply not true. There are loan programs as low as 3% down, decreasing the need to have a large sum of money saved up before being able to buy.
Where folks are having to compromise the most due to affordability is commute times, and settling in less-urban neighborhoods. Worth pointing out, is the average home price in south Snohomish County is 34% less than Seattle Metro – that is a huge savings! Further, south King County is 74% more affordable than Seattle. Some people, mainly millennials, have not been willing to give up living in the core urban neighborhoods that have high walk scores and shorter commute times. That should be apt to change with more selection available in the purchase market, coupled with low interest rates. The advantages of moving out a little further and securing a home will start people on the track of building long-term wealth. If you or anyone you know is currently renting and is considering a change, please let me know, as I would be happy to get their questions answered and help them make an informed decision.
Don’t Wait for a Disaster to Build Your Emergency Kit
Two Weeks Ready: Be Prepared. Build Kits. Help Each Other.
The first few days after a disaster are often the most critical. Government and essential services may not be available right away, depending on the circumstances. It is imperative to have a plan in place for such a time, and be ready to act on your own.
Washington’s biggest disaster threat is from earthquakes. Washington State’s Emergency Management Division advises that we take precautions to be on our own for at least 2 weeks. Take a look at their Two Week Ready Brochure (PDF) that outlines the basics necessary for your emergency kit. While it is important to get ready, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. The list of necessities is long, so take a look at the agency’s year-long prep plan. You will also find information on pet preparedness, as well as the agency’s Drop, Cover, and Hold Earthquake Scenario map.
During last weekend’s win against Dallas, the Seattle Seahawks had 46 defensive tackles, raising another $4,600 for Windermere’s #TackleHomelessness campaign. Combined with what we’ve raised over the past two seasons, this brings our to-date grand total to $71,400! All season long we’ll be partnering with the Seahawks to raise money for YouthCare in support of homeless youth.
Keeping Price Growth in Perspective,
Opportunities Abound for Both Buyers and Sellers
“How’s the Market?” is a question I am asked all the time. It is a common segue in casual conversation over the neighbor’s fence, at a cocktail party or family gathering. Now more than ever, the answer to this question is critical, yet fascinating. You see, our market is experiencing a long-awaited correction, a tempering of price appreciation. This is providing great opportunities for both buyers and sellers.
For so long, inventory has been so limited that prices have had nowhere else to go but up, and up fast! In May, we saw the largest jump in new listings in a decade, which created a slowdown in month-over-month price appreciation. This was especially exacerbated due to the scarcity of inventory in the first quarter of the year when many jobs were being filled by big companies in the area, skyrocketing demand. The graphs above illustrate the price growth in both King and Snohomish Counties. If you average out the last 12 months and compare to the previous 12 months, prices are up 14% in King County and 13% in Snohomish County. Due to a large increase in inventory and other factors, we have seen prices start to balance out since May.
Additional factors that play into this healthy adjustment on the run-up of prices are interest rates, affordability, and Seattle summertime. First, interest rates have been dancing. They have climbed over a half a point from a year ago, which has been coupled with double-digit price growth, forcing many buyers to take a step back. Bear in mind that interest rates are still under 5% and well below the 30-year average of 6.61%. This must be taken to heart!
Affordability has been a huge factor that played into the reduction of absorption rate once the increase in new listings hit this Spring. This was especially true in King County. Prices peaked so far this year at $725,000 in April, whereas they peaked in Snohomish County at $510,000 in June. This is simple supply and demand, as buyers have had more selection. Further, many buyers turned their heads north to find a more affordable option while still sustaining a manageable commute.
The bottom line is that it just got too expensive for some to make King County their home, even Snohomish County for that matter. Combine that with an influx of selection, and you find the top of the market so far in 2018. This is not a bad thing! We must keep the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation in perspective, and trust that the market factors which led to prices balancing out are healthy. A typical appreciation rate is 3-5%. Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, predicts that we will finish out 2018 with 7-8% appreciation over 2017, which is well above the norm of 3-5%. Sustainable growth is important to the overall health of our economy and culture; this provides opportunity.
Buyers take heed. As we come out of the Seattle summertime seasonal slowdown, we anticipate a little run on new listings in September and October. Note on the graph above that we seasonally see prices peak in the late spring and early summer, due to many folks taking time to enjoy the summer months traveling and relaxing a bit. If you have been a sidelined buyer or have been thinking about making a move, the remainder of 2018 may be your time to enjoy more selection, still-low interest rates, and the chance to secure the best home for your lifestyle.
Interest rates are still attractive (historically attractive) and are predicted to rise. Plus, selection has increased, making negotiations not as intense. Multiple offers are not always the norm these days, which provides some breathing room for luxuries like inspections and relying on the bank’s appraisal to confirm value. Also, if you are a buyer that needs to sell a home first in order to purchase, this environment is much more forgiving. Believe it or not, we have even started to see contingent offers make a comeback.
This was one reason why we saw such a limit on inventory, because folks were not able to make fluid moves, so they just uncomfortably stayed put. It was the many baby boomers who came to market this spring and summer who relocated out of the area that loosened this up, paving the way for the local first-time, move-up, or move-down buyer to have some opportunity to transition.
So what does all this mean for potential sellers? Well, a lot! The word of the day is perspective. You must keep a close connection to the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation we have seen over the last three years, and come to terms with today’s balancing out. Great equity gains are behind every homeowner who has owned their home since 2012. If that equity has been cared for, there are large profits to turn, even though you might not get multiple offers. All it takes is one good buyer for a successful sale!
It is all about what is motivating you. If a move seems interesting or imminent, chances are you can take that equity and turn it into something that better matches your current lifestyle. This is where a detailed assessment of the features of your home, along with an analysis of market conditions can be developed into a winning strategy. This does not come easy and requires in-depth research, close attention to condition and comparable homes, and outstanding marketing and merchandising.
Where I have seen the most opportunity is when sellers partner up and listen to the professional assessment of all of these factors. It often leads to satisfying results with one buyer, or believe it or not, the occasional multiple offer. Our market is exciting, but it takes skill to set level expectations, which leads to positive results.
If you or someone you know is curious about “How’s the Market?”, please reach out. Education and explanation are key to awareness, which leads to clarity. I love what I do and look forward to the opportunity to serve during this changing time. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.
We are so fortunate here at Windermere to have Matthew Gardner help keep us informed on our economy and the real estate market. Each quarter Matthew compiles in-depth research on counties from across Western Washington. Click here to download Matthew’s full Q2 report.
Summer is quickly coming to a close, and it’s time to think about prepping your yard for fall. Here are a few quick tips to get you started, and a full article here.
All summer long, plants and grass are using up nutrients in the soil. After months of growing, your soil’s reserves become depleted, which is why a fall fertilizer is great to restore nutrients and give your grass, shrubs, and perennials a boost to help them make it through winter. It is recommended to fertilize once every season.
Stop Pruning and Watering
Late summer and fall might seem like a good time to prune dead flowers and branches, but several experts recommend waiting until spring to prune anything. Pruning stimulates new growth, but with the frost coming, chances are this new growth won’t survive. Pruning also interferes with the plant when it is going dormant.
In late September, you should also stop watering your plants to help them go dormant as well.
Okay, this isn’t really a yard tip but it’s still important, and after all this smoke – critical! It’s recommended that you change your furnace filter at least every three months, if not more often. Having a clean furnace filter will make the air circulating through your house cleaner, and will put less stress on your heating and air systems.
The late spring market brought about some welcomed change to our local real estate markets. In May, we experienced the largest increase in inventory in a decade! North King County and South Snohomish County are two examples of what is happening in all the markets across the Puget Sound as we head into the second half of 2018. Below is a breakdown of the current environment; further is an explanation of what it all means.
North King County (Ship Canal to Snohomish County Line):
- 38% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
- 16% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
- Overall 5% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
- Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 104% from 105% in May 2018
- Median Price up 15% complete year over year, but down 1% vs. the previous month, landing at $815K.
South Snohomish County (Snohomish County Line to Everett):
- 27% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
- 10% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
- Overall 2% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
- Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 102% from 103% in May 2018
- Median price up 12% complete year over year, but equal with the previous month, landing at $500K.
This increase in inventory is awesome! It is providing more selection for buyers and is helping temper price growth, which was increasing at an unsustainable level. It is still a Seller’s market by all means, which is defined by having three or less months of available inventory. Both market areas are still just under one month of inventory based on pending sales, but not as low as the two-week mark they were experiencing in March.
The increase in inventory is the result of pent up seller demand. From 1985-2008 the average amount of time a homeowner stayed in their home was 6 years. From 2008-2017 it grew to 9 years. With a resounding amount of equity under their belts, many homeowners are now deciding to make moves. Some are moving up to the next best thing and others are cashing out and leaving the area for a new beginning or retirement. This is providing buyers with the selection they have been waiting for after a very tenuous, inventory-starved start to 2018. The buyers that have stayed on the forefront of the market are now being rewarded with choices. These choices are best accompanied with keen discernment in order to craft the best negotiations – the broker they choose to align with is key.
The price analysis above indicates strong equity positions for sellers, but also a leveling off in price growth. Over the first quarter we saw prices increase month-over-month quite handily; now that more inventory is appearing and demand is being absorbed, price growth is not as extreme. This has highlighted the importance of having a strategic pricing and marketing plan for sellers wanting the highest price and shortest market time. The broker they choose to align with is key.
The importance of both buyers and sellers aligning with a knowledgeable, well-researched and responsive broker is paramount. One might think that it is “easy” to sell a house in this market, but the pricing research, home preparation, market exposure, varied marketing mediums, close management of all the communication, and how negotiations are handled can make or break a seller’s net return on the sale. With market times increasing, having a broker with a tight grasp on the changing environment will help create an efficient market time, resulting in the best price and terms for a successful closing. It is important that sellers do not overshoot this market, and it takes a broker with a keen gut sense rooted in in-depth research to help get them their desired results.
If you’re a buyer, it is overwhelmingly important that you are aligned with a broker that knows how to win in this market. The increase in selection has left some room for contemplation in some cases. Considering possible terms and price based on thorough market research as you head into negotiations are what set a highly capable selling broker apart and are required to prevail. With more selection coming to market, buyers have more to consider, and having a broker alongside them to help craft a strategy of negotiations will ensure they don’t overpay.
If you have any curiosities or questions regarding the value of your current home or purchase opportunities in today’s market, please contact us. It is our goal to help keep you informed and empower strong decisions.