Western Washington Real Estate Market Update – First Quarter 2018

 

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The Washington State economy added 96,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9%—still solidly above the national rate of 1.5%. Most of the employment gains were in the private sector, which rose by 3.4%. The public sector saw a more modest increase of 1.6%.

The strongest growth was in the Education & Health Services and Retail sectors, which added 17,300 and 16,700 jobs, respectively. The Construction sector added 10,900 new positions over the past 12 months.

Even with solid increases in jobs, the state unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%—a figure that has not moved since September of last year.

I expect the Washington State economy to continue adding jobs in 2018, but not at the same rate as last year given that we are nearing full employment. That said, we will still outperform the nation as a whole when it comes to job creation.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 14,961 home sales during the first quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 5.4% over the same period in 2017.
  • Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the first quarter of 2017, with an increase of 16.5%. In most of the other markets, the lack of available homes for sale slowed the number of closings during this period.
  • Listing inventory in the quarter was down by 17.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017, but pending home sales rose by 2.6% over the same period, suggesting that closings in the second quarter should be fairly robust.
  • The takeaway from this data is that the lack of supply continues to put a damper on sales. I also believe that the rise in interest rates in the finalquarter of 2017 likely pulled sales forward, leading to a drop in sales in the first quarter of 2018.

 

HOME PRICES

  • With ongoing limited inventory, it’s not surprising that the growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.4% to $468,312.
  • Economic vitality in the region is leading to robust housing demand that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of new construction homes— something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. As a result, home prices will continue to rise at above-average rates in the coming year.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County at 27.5%. Ten additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • Mortgage rates continued to rise during first quarter, and are expected to increase modestly in the coming months. By the end of the year, interest rates will likely land around 4.9%, which should take some of the steam out of price growth. This is actually a good thing and should help address the challenges we face with housing affordability—especially in markets near the major job centers.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days when compared to the same quarter of 2017.
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 24 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain essentially static relative to the same period a year ago.
  • In looking at the entire region, it took an average of 61 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year. This is down from 68 days in the firstquarter of 2017 but up by eleven days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • Anyone expecting to see a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale in 2018 will likely be disappointed. New construction permit activity—a leading indicator—remains well below historic levels and this will continue to put increasing pressure on the resale home market.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle at the same point as fourth quarter of last year. Price growth remains strong even as sales activity slowed. All things being equal, 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for sellers but, unfortunately, not for buyers who will still see stiff competition for the limited number of available homes for sale.

 

 

Mr. Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on April 25, 2018 at 1:22 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Matthew Gardner Economic Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

North King County Quarterly Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 55% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was followed by a 41% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 106%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.6 months of inventory based on pending sales. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 14% year-over-year.

North King County real estate has a very high premium due to close-in commute times and desirable neighborhoods. In fact, the median price in March was $808,000, up 4% from the month prior! Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in north King County; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:28 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

South Snohomish County Quarterly Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 47% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was matched by a 48% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 103%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.5 months of inventory – the lowest level yet. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 15% year-over-year.

South Snohomish County real estate has been a hot spot due to reasonable commute times and overall affordability compared to “in-city” real estate. In fact, the median price in March was 47% higher in Seattle Metro. Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in south Snohomish County; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:26 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

North Snohomish County Quarterly Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 54% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was matched by a 50% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio was 100%, and average days on market was 35 days. We ended the quarter with 0.7 months of inventory – the lowest level yet. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 12% year-over-year.

North Snohomish County is one of the most affordable markets in the area. In fact, the median price in March was 28% higher in south Snohomish County. Buyers are migrating to the area, especially if they don’t have to commute into the city. Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in north Snohomish County; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:25 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , , ,

Seattle Metro Quarterly Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 69% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was followed by a 48% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 105%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.6 months of inventory based on pending sales. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 16% year-over-year.

Seattle Metro real estate has a very high premium due to close-in commute times and vibrant neighborhoods. In fact, the median price in March was $800,000, up 5% from the month prior! Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in the Seattle Metro area; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:22 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , ,

Eastside Quarterly Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 54% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was topped by a 58% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 103%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.7 months of inventory – the lowest level yet. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 14% year-over-year.

Eastside real estate has a very high premium due to close-in commute times and desirable neighborhoods. In fact, the median price in March was $927,000! Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends on the Eastside area; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:21 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , , , ,

South King County Market Trends

It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 47% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was matched by a 48% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to-sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 101%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.7 months of inventory – the lowest level yet. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 12% year-over-year.

South King County real estate has been a hot spot due to reasonable commute times and overall affordability compared to “in-city” real estate. In fact, the median price in March was 78% higher in Seattle Metro. Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in south King County; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

Posted on April 19, 2018 at 3:19 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , , , , ,

A Love Letter to Buyers

I hope your Valentine’s Day was a sweet one, but it got me thinking. I am often sharing with you the advantages of this market for home sellers, which is unbelievably positive. With that said, I thought I’d take some time to give the potential buyers in our marketplace some love, hope, and of course, data!

Dear Greater Seattle Home Buyer,

Let’s just be up front: buying a home in today’s market is not easy. Quite frankly, it can be a wild roller coaster ride with twists and turns; but remember, folks pay a lot of money and stand in long lines for roller coaster rides. Imagine the excited pit in your stomach as the cart clicks up to the highest point before you plunge down a steep drop, and the thrill of raising your hands up because you trust that you are going to be okay. These emotions also accurately reflect the feelings of today’s home buyer – it can be a wild ride! Let’s also note that many roller coaster riders return to the back of the line right after getting off. Home ownership is also a good exercise to repeat and is often the investment that leads to the most built wealth in one’s life.

So how does one ensure that they are not the Nervous Nelly who stands in line for over an hour, finally makes it to the front to be strapped in to the cart, but who then chooses to bow out? The one that sits on the sidelines watching others throw up their hands with a thrill in their eye; the one with that tinge of regret as their friends rejoin them back on hallowed ground to recount their adventure. Wow, this is getting dramatic! Here are a few tips to follow that will ensure that one can find success securing a home in today’s market and get on the equity building train.

Waiting is Even More Expensive
In 2017, the year-over-year median price gains across our region were strong. In fact, here is a little break down.

North Snohomish County: $371,000 up 13%
South Snohomish County: $508,000 up 14%
North King County: $715,000 up 14%
Seattle Metro: $710,000 up 15%
South King County: $405,000 up 13%
Eastside: $865,000 up 15%
The appreciation is for real and as each month ticks by, prices are going up. That is why it is incredibly important to have a plan and realistic expectations. In referring to the chart above, it is plain to see the affordability of each area. Buyers have had to get creative and honest with themselves regarding the city or neighborhood in which they land. Commute times are one of the biggest indicators of home cost. It is paramount to line your budget up with a realistic commute time and then dig in. Too often I’ve seen buyers tightly grip to the idea of an in-city commute, only to have it end up being a more suburban choice in the end. The months wasted trying to perform in a market that didn’t match their budget ended up costing them at least 1% a month, based on last year’s appreciation. Getting real saves time, money, and heartache.Interest Rates are a’Rising
This aspect is actually one to pay very close attention to. We have been amazingly spoiled with historically low interest rates over the last five years. In fact, there is an entire generation of buyers who only know rates that have hovered from 3.5 – 4.5% – that is close to 3 points under the 30-year average! A good rule of thumb regarding interest rates, is that for each 1-point increase a buyer loses 10% of their buying power. That means that if you have a $500,000 budget and the rate goes up by a point, that you are now shopping for a $450,000 house if you want the same payment. Note, that shift does not take appreciation into consideration. Today’s rates have helped buyers bear the home prices in our area. It is predicted that rates will rise in 2018 by .5 to 1%.Rents are High and Don’t Build Wealth
Seattle is now the 5th most expensive city to rent in the country according to the US Census Bureau. With rising rental rates, still historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying versus renting has become clear for folks who have a down payment saved, good debt-to-income ratios and strong credit. Currently, the breakeven horizon (the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision vs. renting) in the Greater Seattle area is 1.6 years according to Zillow research.

Partner with a Broker Who Will Get the Job Done
A broker that has a process is key! It starts with an initial buyer consultation. I liken the buyer consultation to the seat belt you would wear on the roller coaster ride. When you go to the Dr. they start with your intake, check your vitals, ask questions, etc. The buyer consultation aims to unearth a buyer’s goals, research the areas they are interested in, address financing, and illustrate the challenges of the environment, so one can be successful. Time is money, and this consultation brings clarity, efficiency and trust. This upfront education coupled with a high level of communication and availability is paramount. The depth of the relationship will lead to success, and is the ingredient that enables a buyer to throw up their hands and take the thrilling plunge. It is hard to do that without a seat belt!

Get Your Finances in Order
Aligning with a trusted real estate professional is key, but so is aligning with a reputable and responsive mortgage lender. Getting pre-approved is the minimum, but getting pre-underwritten is a game changer. Finding a lender that is willing to put in the work up-front to vet credit, income, savings, debt, and all other financial indicators will lead to being pre-underwritten, which listing agents and sellers appreciate! Also, be aware that you do not always need to have a huge down payment to make a purchase work. Employment, assets, credit, and what you have saved all work into your ability to acquire a loan. I have seen plenty of people secure a home with 3-5% down. Education and awareness create clarity, and investing into understanding your financial footing equals empowered and more efficient decisions. Note that I mentioned “responsive”. This is a 24/7 market, and lenders who don’t work evenings and weekends can get in the way of a buyer securing a home. If you need a short list of lenders that fit this description, please contact me.

‘Tis the Season – Inventory is Coming
Have hope! This is the time of year where we see inventory climb month over month. There will be more selection, but bear in mind it is also the time of year that the appreciation push happens. If you are feeling 75-80% in love with a home, it is one to act on. You’re never going to “get it all”, so a willingness to focus on priorities will pay off, because waiting will have an expense.

If you or someone you know is considering a purchase in today’s market, please contact me. It is my pleasure to take the time to educate, devise a plan, and help buyers find success in a challenging, yet advantageous market.

Posted on February 21, 2018 at 4:11 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics, Monthly Newsletter | Tagged , , ,

Commute Times, Price Premiums: The Value of Location, Location, Location

Flickr Photo/SounderBruce (CC BY SA 2.0)/http://flic.kr/p/MzGznr

Commute Times, Price Premiums: The Value of Location, Location, Location

It is the time of year when I like to re-cap the price premiums in our area based on commute times. The price divide continued in 2017 between key market areas in the Greater Seattle area based on proximity to major job centers. These pricing premiums have cemented the drive-to-qualify market. Seattle proper has always been more expensive than its neighboring suburbs, but the most current prices illustrate the extreme value of a shorter commute.

In 2017, the average sales price for a single-family residential home in the Seattle Metro area was $801,000, up 14% from the year prior! In south Snohomish County (Everett to the King County line) the average sales price for a single-family residential home in 2017 was $543,000, up 12% from the year prior, however 48% less expensive than Seattle Metro.

Further, if you jump across Lake Washington to the Eastside, the average sales price in 2017 for a single-family residential home was $1,049,000, up 16% from the year prior and 31% more expensive than Seattle Metro! The Eastside has the infrastructure to support their own job centers, making it a second “Seattle”, with the benefit of newer and larger housing stock, which reflects the pricing. Many folks are living and working on the Eastside, or using the 520 toll bridge to jump over to Seattle.

In 2017, closed transactions were up 4% in south Snohomish County despite fewer new listings coming to market, which I think was driven by its affordability compared to Seattle and the Eastside. Snohomish County offers lower prices, larger houses and yards, new construction, lower taxes, strong school district options and longer, yet manageable commute times. Newer transit centers and telecommuting have also opened up doors to King County’s little brother to the north.

Another hot button that has continued to influence pricing is the future expansion of Light Rail and the locations of the planned stations. We have seen home values in these areas sell at a premium as consumers anticipate the shorter commute times the rail will bring. These neighborhoods are experiencing zoning changes now and the additional expansion is being phased in over the course of the next 15 years. There will be more multi-family and commercial development in these areas, creating more density to serve the public using these commuting services. This has created great appeal for homeowners that want to get in on the ease of nearby public transportation, and developers eager to be part of the infrastructure growth. Stations at Northgate, 145th & 185th in Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood are all slated to open over the next 3-6 years.

No matter which neighborhood you are interested in learning about, in either King or Snohomish County, I am happy to provide a 2017 re-cap of that market. I work in both counties and understand each of their nuances. 2017 was another eventful year in real estate and we are looking for that to continue in 2018. With these strong market prices, we hope to see an increase in inventory levels, providing more options for buyers and allowing price growth to temper to sustainable levels. Check out the article below that touches on Matthew Gardner’s, Windermere’s Chief Economist, 2018 predictions for the national housing market. I attended his local forecast this week and if you’d like a copy of his presentation, outlining what he thinks is in store for our area, please email me. I’d be happy to forward it along and explain his findings. Here’s to a successful 2018!

Posted on February 1, 2018 at 2:24 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Monthly Newsletter | Tagged , , , , ,

Matthew Gardner’s 2018 Housing Forecast

In a nutshell, here is Matthew Gardner’s 2018 Housing Forecast. If you want to read his forecast in more detail, click here: http://bit.ly/2Cx1oSG

Posted on January 10, 2018 at 12:36 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Matthew Gardner Economic Reports, Monthly Newsletter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,