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

Cost vs Value for Home Improvements

I am commonly asked which improvements sellers should make to get the greatest return on their home sale. Every year The Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) compiles all the information and analyzes the estimated percentage return on home improvements in each region. Getting a home prepared for market requires a keen eye and great resources. To access the entire Cost vs. Value report please visit www.costvsvalue.com and follow the steps to locate the Seattle area report.
Also, I have a great list of reputable contractors from HVAC to plumbing to roofing who are licensed and bonded in the State of Washington. Please call on me whenever you need a solid recommendation. I am happy to help whether you are getting your home ready for market or just want to find a good window washer now that the sun is starting to shine a little more.
Complete data from the Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com
© Hanley Wood Media Inc.

Posted on March 4, 2018 at 10:57 pm
Kristine Stevens | Category: The More you Know