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

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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 , , , , ,

Quarterly Report – Seattle Metro

Price growth was particularly strong in 2017! Median was up 15% and average price up 14% over 2016. Median price in 2017 landed at $710,000 and the average at $801,000. The average amount of days it took to sell a house in 2017 was 18 days, which is 10% faster than 2016. The average list-to-sale price ratio over the last year was 103%, with the spring months as high as 106%! In 2017, inventory growth continued to be a challenge, with a 3% decrease in new listings compared to 2016. Even with inventory limitations there were 4% more sales! This phenomenon illustrates strong buyer demand and a need for more listings.

Median Price up 15%, Average Price up 14% Year-Over-Year

Demand for Seattle Metro area real estate has grown due to close proximity to job centers. Over the last year, Seattle Metro was 40% more expensive than south Snohomish County and 75% over south King County. Historically low interest rates continue to drive the market as well, they have helped offset the increase in prices. Sellers are enjoying great returns due to this phenomenon and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service.

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 January 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Market Trends and Statistics | Tagged , ,

The Gardner Report – Windermere Real Estate


The Washington State economy added 104,600 new jobs over the past 12 months. This impressive growth rate of 3.1% is well above the national rate of 1.4%. Interestingly, the slowdown we saw through most of the second half of the year reversed in the fall, and we actually saw more robust employment growth.

Growth continues to be broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than aerospace due to a slowdown at Boeing.

With job creation, the state unemployment rate stands at 4.5%, essentially indicating that the state is close to full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report show unemployment rates below where they were a year ago.

I expect continued economic expansion in Washington State in 2018; however, we are likely to see a modest slowdown, which is to be expected at this stage in the business cycle.



  • There were 22,325 home sales during the final quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.7% over the same period in 2016.
  • Jefferson County saw sales rise the fastest relative to fourth quarter of 2016, with an impressive increase of 22.8%. Six other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. A lack of listings impacted King and Skagit Counties, where sales fell.
  • Housing inventory was down by 16.2% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, and down by 17.3% from last quarter. This isn’t terribly surprising since we typically see a slowdown as we enter the winter months. Pending home sales rose by 4.1% over the third quarter of 2017, suggesting that closings in the first quarter of 2018 should be robust.
  • The takeaway from this data is that listings remain at very low levels and, unfortunately, I don’t expect to see substantial increases in 2018. The region is likely to remain somewhat starved for inventory for the foreseeable future.




  • Because of low inventory in the fall of 2017, price growth was well above long-term averages across Western Washington. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12% to $466,726.
  • Economic vitality in the region is leading to a demand for housing that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of newly constructed homes—something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. This means home prices will rise at above-average rates in 2018.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County, where home prices were 18.8% higher than a year ago. Eleven additional counties experienced double-digit price growth as well.
  • Mortgage rates in the fourth quarter rose very modestly, but remained below the four percent barrier. Although I anticipate rates will rise in 2018, the pace will be modest. My current forecast predicts an average 30-year rate of 4.4% in 2018—still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.




  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by eight days, compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 21 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain static relative to the same period a year ago.
  •  Last quarter, it took an average of 50 days to sell a home. This is down from 58 days in the fourth quarter of 2016, but up by 7 days from the third quarter of 2017.
  • As mentioned earlier in this report, I expect inventory levels to rise modestly, which should lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. That said, with homes selling in less than two months on average, the market is nowhere near balanced.




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 fourth quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as third quarter. Price growth remains robust even as sales activity slowed. 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for housing.



Matthew 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 January 29, 2018 at 11:52 am
Cori Whitaker | Category: Matthew Gardner Economic Reports | 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:

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

The Gardner Report – Third Quarter 2017

As a member of Windermere Real Estate, the leading real estate company in the Western U.S., I have access to a vast array of resources and services that are designed to help you make well-informed decisions regarding your real estate needs. This includes access to the most relevant housing and economic data from Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner.

Matthew has been a real estate economist for more than 25 years in both the U.S. and U.K. He specializes in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. His study and interpretation of this economic data and its impact on the real estate market, gives us unique insights into short-term and long-term housing trends that are important to consider when buying or selling a home.

Every quarter Matthew compiles a detailed report that analyzes the Western Washington real estate market.  Read the full Third Quarter Gardner Report here.  If this is something you’d like to personally receive every quarter, please contact me and I will add you to my distribution list. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed, empower strong decisions and create exceptional results.


Posted on November 1, 2017 at 9:00 am
Cori Whitaker | Category: Matthew Gardner Economic Reports | Tagged , , , , , ,

Rent vs. Own

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

With Seattle’s robust job market and high housing costs there has been a lot of talk lately about the cost of living in the Greater Seattle area. In fact, Seattle is now the 5th most expensive city to rent in the country according to a new study from The average monthly rental price for a one bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle is $1,790 according to, up 8.5% year-over-year; and a two bedroom is $2,470, up 6% year-over-year!

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 2.4 years according to Zillow research. For every month thereafter your nest egg is building in value.

An additional study by outlines the monthly rental costs for a single person or a family of four, as well as the yearly income required. In Seattle, it costs the average single person $1,288.76 a month to rent, which requires an annual income of $53,328.00. The average family of four costs $2,665.34 for monthly rent, and an annual income of $101,186.48. That is a lot of money one would be paying towards someone else’s investment.

Your Bottom Line
There are several factors to consider that will lead you to make the best decision for your lifestyle and your 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 4.25%. That is amazingly and historically low, making the advantage of securing a mortgage huge. What is nice about having a mortgage is that the payment stays the same over the term of the loan. Rents can be increased at any time, and you are paying down someone else’s asset, not your own.

The long-term benefits of owning are abundant, including the stability of not being asked to move. Owning gives the homeowner control over their overhead while getting to make their house their home.  These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially younger folks who are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market.

Drive to Affordability
Where folks are having to compromise 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 46% less than Seattle Metro – that is a huge savings! Some people, mainly millennials, have not been willing to give up living in the more core urban neighborhoods that have high walk scores and shorter commute times. That should trend toward a change as rents are rising fastest in those areas. 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 to help them make an informed decision.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 12:15 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Monthly Newsletter | Tagged , , , , ,

3 Places That Mountlake Terrace Dog Owners Need to Know About

Whether you’re looking for a city that welcomes you and your furry best friend, or you already live in the Mountlake Terrace area and want to start exploring, you’re in luck! The Mountlake Terrace area has some excellent dog parks and other amenities for dog owners and their canine companions to enjoy, all while getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors!

If you’re a dog owner in Mountlake Terrace, here are 3 places you need to know about:

MLT Dog Park

Mountlake Terrace Off-Leash Dog Park

The Mountlake Terrace Off-Leash Dog Park is located just northeast of the MLT Recreation Pavilion. Offering just under an acre of space in the shaded woods of Terrace Creek Park, this fenced area is a haven for dogs!

“We love to take our dog Dash for walks and let him run off leash in the park!” shares Shelly Katzer. Dogs can run and play within the double-gate system, and owners are welcome to relax on benches (or run and play, too!). Learn more about the park and read rules for visiting the dog park here.

Marina Beach Off-Leash Park

While this park technically isn’t in Mountlake Terrace, it is in the neighboring city of Edmonds (498 Admiral Way Edmonds WA 98020) and well worth the short 10-20 minute drive from MLT. As part of the larger Marina Beach Park on the Edmonds waterfront, this park offers a long list of amenities in addition to the off-leash area. A loop trail, playground, restroom, picnic tables, barbecue area, and much more set the scene.

As for the dog park portion, furry friends can frolic in the sand, splash in the surf, and stretch their legs as they meet other dogs in the cool ocean breeze. Click here to learn more about this Edmonds off-leash area.

Pet Adventure Store

Photo courtesy of the Pet Adventure Facebook page

Pet Adventure Shop

Located in the Cedar Plaza Shopping Center (22803 44th Ave. West Suite E-5 Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043), Pet Adventure Shop is a must-visit destination for local pet owners! Established in 2010 and owned and operated by locals, Pet Adventure Shop stocks its shelves with a huge range of food and supplies. Even the pickiest of pets are bound to find something delicious here—check out a list of the brands of cat and dog foods Pet Adventure Shop carries here.

In addition to supplies for cats and dogs, they also carry an eclectic variety of products for other animals including hamsters, birds, bunnies, fish, chickens, and horses.

Posted on March 7, 2017 at 4:07 pm
Cori Whitaker | Category: Mountlake Terrace, Neighborhood Profiles | Tagged , , , , , ,