Monthly Newsletter

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.

Fertilizing

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.

Furnace Filter

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.

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 9:07 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: Market Update, Monthly Newsletter, North King County, South Snohomish County, The More you Know

Pumpkin Patch Guide 2018

 

 

Nothing feels more like fall than pumpkin picking, hay rides and corn mazes. Get your latte in hand and head out to any one of these great, local farms to have some harvest fun and find that perfect jack-o-lantern to light up your porch.

Times, dates & activities may change, please use the links provided for details.

KING COUNTY

Baxter Barn
31929 SE 44th St, Fall City
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides, fresh eggs, gift shop, pony rides, picnic area, farm animals

Carpinito Brothers
1148 Central Ave N, Kent
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, farm fun yard, hay rides, produce stand, concessions

Fall City Farms
3636 Neal Road, Fall City
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides, fresh honey, pre-picked produce, farm animals, snacks and refreshments.

Fox Hollow Family Farm
12031 Issaquah Hobart Rd SE, Issaquah
Pumpkins for sale, hay bale maze, bouncy house, face painting, haunted house, pony rides, petting zoo, farm animals, concessions

Jubilee Farm
229 W Snoqualmie River Rd NE, Carnation
Pumpkins, horse-drawn covered wagon rides, hay rides, hay bale maze

Oxbow Farm
10819 Carnation-Duvall Rd NE, Carnation
Pumpkins, produce, picnic area, playground

Mosby Farm Pumpkin Patch
12747-b South East Green Valley Rd, Auburn
Pumpkin patch, corn maze,  tractor-pulled hay rides, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area

The Nursery at Mt Si
42328 SE 108th St, North Bend
Pumpkin patch, tractor-pulled hay rides

Remlinger Farms
32610 NE 32nd St, Carnation
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, animal barnyard, pony rides, steam train, hay jump

Serres Farm
20306 NE 50th St, Redmond
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, duck races, animal train

Thomasson Family Farm
38223 236th Ave SE, Enumclaw
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, kids korral, tractor train rides, pumpkin sling shot

Tonnemaker Valley Farm, Woodinville Farm Stand
16215 140th Pl NE, Woodinville
You-pick pumpkin patch, you-pick flowers, produce stand, on-site pepper roasting on Saturdays

SNOHOMISH COUNTY

Biringer’s Black Crow Pumpkins & Corn Maze
2431 Highway 530 NE, Arlington
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, straw or hay bale maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, farm market, picnic area

Bob’s Corn & Pumpkin Farm
10917 Elliott Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, bonfire & picnic area, hay rides, pony rides, playground, concessions

Carleton Farm
630 Sunnyside Blvd SE, Lake Stevens
Pumpkin patch, train rides, corn maze, haunted corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, farm animals, farm market

Craven Farm
13817 Short School Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, face painting, farm animals, snacks & refreshment stand

The Farm at Swans Trail
7301 Rivershore Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, pick your own apples, pig & duck races, petting zoo, putt-putt golf and more

Fairbank Animal Farm & Pumpkin Patch
15308 52nd Ave W, Edmonds
Pumpkins, petting zoo, farm animals, picnic area

Fosters Pumpkin Farm
5818 State Route 530 NE, Arlington
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay bale maze, corn cannon, pre-picked produce, face painting, farm animals, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area

Stocker Farms
8705 Marsh Rd, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, haunted corn maze, tractor-pulled hay rides, jumping pillow and more

Thomas Family Farm
9010 Marsh Road, Snohomish
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, monster truck rides, haunted house, gem mining, Zombie Safari Paintball Hayride, beer garden, putt-putt golf and more

 

PIERCE COUNTY

Double R Farms
5820 44th St E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay rides, farm animals, pumpkin sling shot

Maris Farms
25001 Sumner-Buckley Hwy, Buckley
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, haunted woods, farm animals, hay ride, trout fishing, play ground

Picha’s Farm
6502 52nd St E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay ride, pumpkin sling shot, concessions

Scholz Farm
12920 162nd Ave E, Orting
Pumpkin patch, corn maze, play area

Spooner Farms
9622 SR 162 E, Puyallup
Pumpkin patch, farm animals, face painting, pumpkin sling shot, concessions

 

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 6:54 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

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.

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 6:49 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

Windermere and the Seahawks are Back for Another Season to #TackleHomelessness!

All of us at Windermere are very excited to kick off our third season as the Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks!

Once again, our #tacklehomelessness campaign is front-and-center, with the Windermere Foundation donating $100 for every Seahawks home-game tackle during the 2018 season to YouthCare, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that has been providing services and support to homeless youth for more than 40 years. Over the last two years, the Seahawks helped us raise over $66,000 through our #tacklehomelessness campaign, and this year we are looking forward to raising even more money – and awareness – for this important cause.

Our partnership with the Seahawks and YouthCare fits perfectly with the mission of the Windermere Foundation which is to support low-income and homeless families in the communities where we have offices. Through the #tacklehomelessness campaign, we hope to be able to do even more.

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 6:41 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

Windermere Foundation Update

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents, staff, franchise owners, and the community, the Windermere Foundation has proudly donated a total of $920,351 so far this year to non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families. This brings the total amount of money that the Windermere Foundation has raised since 1989 to over $36 million. We could not accomplish these numbers without the unwavering loyalty and support of clients like you – thank you!

Each Windermere office has its own Foundation fund account that we use to help organizations in our own local community. This past year, my office had the privilege to: provide 26 foster boys a plentiful Christmas morning; give full holiday dinners plus additional groceries to families receiving aid from Pioneer Human Services; spend a full day helping the Snohomish Garden Club plant thousands of pounds of fresh produce for local food banks; and send 40 kids to YMCA Camps Orkila and Colman who would not have otherwise had the opportunity.

Thank you for choosing Windermere and making all of this possible. Your impact is meaningful, and together we are changing lives.

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 6:36 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

Back to School Basics

The first day of school sneaks up so fast… summer is here and then gone in a flash! Use these helpful tips to start getting settled into a new routine for fall, before life gets hectic.

Start talking about it. New teacher, new classmates, new schedules can all create some anxieties with kids. Start talking about school a few weeks before the first day. Talk about practical things like what the new schedule will be like, but also make sure to address their feelings and concerns about the upcoming year.

Go back to school shopping early. The store aisles are currently packed with school supplies. Take advantage of your summer schedule to shop while the store isn’t as busy and the supplies haven’t been picked through. Don’t forget to buy extras for homework time or the winter re-stock that inevitably happens in January.

Determine how your child will get to and from school and practice the route.

Ease back into the scheduled days. When you and your kids are used to lazy mornings and staying up late, it can be incredibly difficult to shift to the early morning school bus rush. To ease the transition, start 7-10 days before school starts, and shift bedtimes and wake-up times gradually. Every day, start their bedtime routine 10-15 minutes earlier and wake them up 10-15 minutes earlier until they’re back on track. And don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedules, too!

Re-set eating habits. When school starts, your student’s eating patterns need to maintain a high level of energy throughout the day. Implementing a routine for breakfast, lunch and snacks is just as important as their sleeping patterns. Begin this transition 7-10 days before school starts as well.

Sync your calendars. Add the school calendar to your personal/family calendar, so important dates like parent-teacher night aren’t missed.

Set rules for after school. After-school time and activities such as TV, video games, play time, and the completion of homework should be well-thought out in advance. Talk about the rules (and consequences) for these before school starts.

Posted on August 14, 2018 at 12:03 am
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

July Monthly Newsletter

August 8th-10th will be an exciting time in Seattle. Pearl Jam, Seattle’s own original grunge band will be hosting two shows at Safeco Field on August 8th and 10th, and the Seattle Seahawks kick off their preseason schedule at Century Link on August 9th. Besides providing great entertainment for music and football fans, both of these events will give back to the community.

The two Pearl Jam shows have been coined The Home Shows as Seattle is Pearl Jam’s home town; but more importantly, proceeds from both shows will be donated to organizations such as Mary’s Place, the YMCA and The Mockingbird Society to help fight homelessness. These organizations have programs in place that are helping to improve the homeless crisis in our city. The Windermere Foundation has partnered with Pearl Jam and their Vitalogy Foundation and joined other organizations such as Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, Tom Douglas, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help sponsor these two benefit shows.

The Windermere Foundation has always been rooted in working towards overcoming homelessness and helping families and children get back on their feet. The Home Shows aligned with the Windermere Foundation’s mission, making it a natural fit for this partnership. Check out this video of Mike McCready, Pearl Jam’s guitarist serenading Windermere for our partnership.

On August 9th, the Seattle Seahawks kick off their pre-season schedule which also kicks off the Windermere Foundation’s third year of partnering with the Seattle Seahawks to Tackle Homelessness. For every defensive tackle that takes place at a regular season home game, the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 towards Youth Care, an organization that helps youth struggling with homelessness or transitional living.

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents, staff, franchise owners, and the community, the Windermere Foundation has proudly donated a total of $920,351 so far this year to non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families. This brings the total amount of money that the Windermere Foundation has raised since 1989 to over $36 million.

Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their local communities. Our office recently sent 24 low-income children to YMCA’s Camp Orkila and Camp Colman with funds that we raised. These kids will enjoy a life changing week of summer camp, meeting new friends and experiencing the outdoors. These experiences would not be possible without the support of our clients. For each transaction that Windermere closes, the Windermere agent involved makes a donation to the Windermere Foundation. Thank you for your support of my business, it helps make the Windermere Foundation possible!

The first day of school sneaks up so fast… summer is here and then gone in a flash! Use these helpful tips to start getting settled into a new routine for fall, before life gets hectic.
Start talking about it. New teacher, new classmates, new schedules can all create some anxieties with kids. Start talking about school a few weeks before the first day. Talk about practical things like what the new schedule will be like, but also make sure to address their feelings and concerns about the upcoming year.
Go back to school shopping early. The store aisles are currently packed with school supplies. Take advantage of your summer schedule to shop while the store isn’t as busy and the supplies haven’t been picked through. Don’t forget to buy extras for homework time or the winter re-stock that inevitably happens in January.
Determine how your child will get to and from school and practice the route.
Ease back into the scheduled days. When you and your kids are used to lazy mornings and staying up late, shifting to the early morning school bus rush can be incredibly difficult. To ease the transition, start 7-10 days before school starts, and shift bedtimes and wake-up times gradually. Every day, start their bedtime routine 10-15 minutes earlier and wake them up 10-15 minutes earlier until they’re back on track. And don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedules, too!
Re-set eating habits. When school starts, your student’s eating patterns need to maintain a high level of energy throughout the day. Implementing a routine for breakfast, lunch and snacks is just as important as their sleeping patterns. Begin this transition 7-10 days before school starts as well.
Sync your calendars. Add the school calendar to your personal/family calendar, so important dates like parent-teacher night aren’t missed.
Set rules for after school. After-school time and activities such as TV, video games, play time, and the completion of homework should be well-thought out in advance. Talk about the rules (and consequences) for these before school starts.

 

Posted on August 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: Monthly Newsletter, The More you Know

What’s in your Toolbx to Navigate the Changing Market?

 

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.

Posted on June 29, 2018 at 4:54 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: Lynnwood, Market Update, Monthly Newsletter, North King County, Seattle Metro, Shoreline, South Snohomish County, The More you Know

Does it make sense to Rent vs Own?

The current break-even horizon* in the Seattle metro area is 1.6 years!

*The amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision.

With rising rental rates, historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying vs. renting is becoming clearer each month.

In fact, Seattle has seen some of the sharpest rent hikes in the country over the last year! Snohomish County has seen a huge increase in apartment growth and rising rental rates as well. There are several factors to consider that will lead you to make the best decision for your lifestyle and your financial bottom line. Zillow Research has determined the break-even point for renting vs. buying in our metro area. In other words, the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision. Currently in Seattle the break-even point is 1.6 years – that is quick! What is so great about every month that ticks away thereafter is that your nest egg is building in value.

I am happy to help you or someone you know assess your options; please contact me anytime.

These assumptions are based on a home buyer purchasing a home with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and a 20 percent down payment; and a renter earning five percent annually on investments in the stock market.

Posted on May 13, 2018 at 12:41 am
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know

Why We Are Not Headed for Another Housing Bubble

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
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.

Posted on May 1, 2018 at 10:16 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: Market Update, The More you Know