Price growth was particularly strong in 2017! Median and average prices were up 14% over 2016. Median price in 2017 landed at $715,000 and the average at $787,000. The average amount of days it took to sell a house in 2017 was 17 days, which is 19% faster than 2016. The average list-to-sale price ratio over the last year was 104%, with the spring months as high as 107%! In 2017, inventory growth continued to be a challenge, with a 4% decrease in new listings compared to 2016. Even with inventory limitations there were a near equal amount sales! This phenomenon illustrates strong buyer demand and a need for more listings.
Demand for north King County real estate has grown due to close proximity to job centers while maintaining a neighborhood feel. Over the last year, north King County was 41% more expensive than south Snohomish County and 77% 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 north King County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.
At Windermere, we have the privilege of working with esteemed economist, Matthew Gardner. Throughout the year, I have shared his quarterly Gardner Reports which delineate out all the different housing markets in Western Washington and reports on price appreciation and sales data. Below is a recent article he wrote about predictions for the 2018 real estate market; which was picked up by several news sources, including Inman News.
As a bonus, I recently had the opportunity to chat with him and get some specific insights on the Greater Seattle real estate market for 2018 and have included those at the end of this article. 2018 looks to be another strong year in real estate. If you are curious about how the market might affect your bottom line, please contact me. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed, empower strong decisions and create exceptional results. Here’s to a very happy New Year!
What Can We Expect From the 2018 Housing Market?
by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate
Millennial Home Buyers
Last year, I predicted that the big story for 2017 would be millennial home buyers and it appears I was a little too bullish. To date, first-time buyers have made up 34% of all home purchases this year – still below the 40% that is expected in a normalized market. Although they are buying, it is not across all regions of the country, but rather in less expensive markets such as North Dakota, Ohio, and Maryland.
For the coming year, I believe the number of millennial buyers will expand further and be one of the biggest influencers in the U.S. housing market. I also believe that they will begin buying in more expensive markets. That’s because millennials are getting older and further into their careers, enabling them to save more money and raise their credit profiles.
Existing Home Sales
As far as existing home sales are concerned, in 2018 we should expect a reasonable increase of 3.7% – or 5.62 million housing units. In many areas, demand will continue to exceed supply, but a slight increase in inventory will help take some heat off the market. Because of this, home prices are likely to rise but by a more modest 4.4%.
New Home Sales
New home sales in 2018 should rise by around 8% to 655,000 units, with prices increasing by 4.1%. While housing starts – and therefore sales – will rise next year, they will still remain well below the long-term average due to escalating land, labor, materials, and regulatory costs. I do hold out hope that home builders will be able to help meet the high demand we’re expecting from first-time buyers, but in many markets it’s very difficult for them to do so due to rising construction costs.
Interest rates continue to baffle forecasters. The anticipated rise that many of us have been predicting for several years has yet to materialize. As it stands right now, my forecast for 2018 is for interest rates to rise modestly to an average of 4.4% for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage – still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.
There are changes to the income tax structure that could potentially have a significant impact on homeowners and the housing market. The first is the mortgage interest rate deduction which will be capped at $750,000 – down from $1,000,000. In theory this can be considered a tax on wealthy households, but there have been nearly 100,000 home sales this year where the mortgage loan was over $750,000 (almost 4% of total sales), so the effect will be felt more broadly.
That said, this change will disproportionately affect high-cost markets in California, New York, and Hawaii, and to a somewhat lesser degree, it will also be felt in Seattle, and parts of Colorado and Arizona. The capping of the deduction for state and local property taxes (SALT) at $10,000 will also negatively impact states with high property taxes, such as California, New York, and New Hampshire.
The final tax bill also eliminates the deduction for interest on home equity loans which is currently allowed on loans up to $100,000. This is significant because it will largely affect the growing number of homeowners who are choosing to remodel their home rather than try to find a new home in supply-starved markets like Seattle.
While these measures will likely have a dampening effect on housing, I do not believe they will lead to a substantial drop in home values. However, there is a concern that it will lead to fewer home sales, as households choose to stay put so they can continue to take advantage of the current mortgage interest deduction. The result could be fewer listings, which could actually cause home prices to rise at above-average rates for a longer period of time.
I continue to be concerned about housing affordability. Home prices have been rising across much of the country at unsustainable rates, and although I still contend that we are not in “bubble” territory, it does represent a substantial impediment to the long-term health of the housing market. But if home price growth begins to taper, as I predict it will in 2018, that should provide some relief in many markets where there are concerns about a housing bubble.
In summary, along with slowing home price growth, there should be a modest improvement in the number of homes for sale in 2018, and the total home sales will be higher than 2017. First-time buyers will continue to play a substantial role in the nation’s housing market, but their influence may be limited depending on where the government lands on tax reform.
Gardner, Matthew. “What Can We Expect From The 2018 Housing Market?” Windermere Real Estate. Windermere.com, 8 December 2017. Web. 27 December 2017.
A Conversation with Matthew
It is always a pleasure to talk with Matthew. We recently discussed his thoughts on the Greater Seattle real estate market and what he sees shaping up for 2018.
Millennial homebuyers were more of an influence in the Greater Seattle market in 2017 because of the robust hiring that corporations such as Amazon have made. He thinks that this will continue to grow in 2018, because the cost of rent continues to rise at a rapid pace and in many cases owning makes superior financial sense. For example, it is not unheard of to pay $3,000 a month in rent for a unit in South Lake Union. While this eliminates a commute, it is an incredibly costly payment that goes entirely towards the landlord’s investment. If one is willing and able to pay that much in rent, it is important to look at the fact that that number is equivalent to a mortgage payment on a $550,000 home! He predicts that we will see more millennial homebuyers move out to the more traditional suburbs to start building their wealth in real estate. Ideally, Millennials would love to live in “ex-urban” areas that are still close to their places of work; however, listings are slim and prices very high for this type of product.Therefore, he expects to see Millennials having to look at the suburbs when deciding where to buy.
In 2017, net in-migration totaled 50,000 in the Greater Seattle area. Matthew predicts that we will see the same in 2018 due to our robust job market and Californians continuing to move to the area. Employment in the region will continue to expand, but at lower rates than seen in 2017. That said, he sees more wage growth than job growth in 2018 as companies have done so much hiring over the last 3 years, and now they are focused on maintaining their employee base. Amazon has signed on to occupy 5 million additional square feet of space over and above the 8+ million square feet that they currently occupy, so we will continue to see job growth there. The unemployment rate will stay below 4% in 2018.
Matthew believes we will see a slight increase in inventory taking our market to hot from boiling. Some new construction will help this increase and he does expect to see some Baby Boomers deciding to either cash-out and leave the area, or downsize. This inventory growth should temper price growth and increase sales by 6%. In 2017, we saw a year-over-year price appreciation rate of 13% in the Greater Seattle area, and he predicts 8-8.5% for 2018. This is still well above the normal rate of 5.5%, but certainly much more sustainable than 13%!
Lastly, Matthew is adamant that we are not headed toward another bubble. The average down payment in the Greater Seattle area is now over $100,000 and home owners have great equity positions, which is a critical ingredient to a non-bubble market. Additionally, credit is still very tight and buyers are very highly qualified, and the rampant speculation that is the key sign of a bubble is not being seen locally. His biggest concern is affordability, and that we need to continue to find ways to create more housing through zoning changes and decreasing the cost of regulation for builders. This density would create more affordable housing.
Are we headed for another housing collapse?
We get asked this question often, and we can understand why. With the 2008 Great Recession not too far back in our rear-view mirror it is understandable that folks don’t want history to repeat itself, as that was a very painful time for many. Also, price appreciation has been rapid across the country, but especially in our region. The large price gains might seem familiar to the gains of the previous up market of 2004-2007, but the environment is much different. Here are three reasons why we are not headed towards (or in) another real estate bubble:
1. Lending Requirements
Previous lending practices allowed people to get into homes with risky debt-to-income ratios, low credit scores and undocumented incomes. They called this sub-prime lending. A large part of why the housing bubble burst 10 years ago was due to people getting into mortgages they were not equipped to handle, which lend to the eventual fall of sub-prime lending. Currently, the average credit score of secured mortgages over the last 12 months according to Ellie Mae was 724. During the days of sub-prime lending people 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 very easy to just walk away.
The graph above shows the percentage of homes in our state with significant equity (20% or more) according to CoreLogic. Today many homeowners, especially in our region are making large down payments to begin with. Believe me, when competing with multiple offers on a house, the size of down payment matters – hence many buyers landing homes today are making large down payments. Unlike the market prior to the crash, when people have high equity levels they are not likely to abandon their home or miss payments.
2. Inventory Levels & 3. Our Job Market
The biggest challenge in our market has been low inventory levels and high housing demand. It’s simply the concept of supply and demand. Our thriving job market has afforded folks already in our area the ability to make moves, and it is bringing people into our area from other parts of the country. Washington State’s net in-migration is 43% higher than it was 10 years ago. This has created increased demand, especially for homes closer to job centers resulting is 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 should slow down as inventory increases. As inventory increases we anticipate a leveling out of appreciation rates to historical norms of 3-4% annually, but not decreasing home values like the 2008-2010 crash.
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. According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist and nationally sought after expert on all things real estate, buyers should not wait this market out, due to future price appreciation and today’s historically low interest rates. Check out his latest vlog that addresses this topic.
As always, it is our goal to help keep the community 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.
Homeowners across our region are enjoying very healthy equity levels due to an upswing in the real estate market over the last five years. In fact, the median price in King County is up 50% over the last five years and up 47% in Snohomish County. This growth in equity has given homeowners the exciting option to sell their home for a high price and move on to their next chapter, such as a move-up, down-size or second home. This price growth is great news and provides many opportunities, however we have also faced some challenges in how to make these transitions.
Our biggest challenge in the marketplace right now is inventory levels; sometimes requiring a buyer to compete in multiple offers for their next home. Currently King County sits at 0.7 months of inventory and 0.8 in Snohomish. Historically, buyers that are also sellers would commonly secure a new home contingent on the sale of their current home. Meaning the seller of the new home they are buying would give them a month or so to get their current house sold in order to buy theirs. Well in this market, that is only rarely an option. So, the million-dollar question is this: how does one who has gained so much equity, now itching to get that bigger house, different location, or perfect rambler for settling into retirement, make this transition without having to move twice? We need to get creative and have a strategy. Two options that have recently proved to be successful, are negotiating a rent-back for sellers or using the Windermere Bridge Loan program.
First, negotiating a rent-back has become a great option for someone who needs to first sell their current home in order to buy. The way it works is we put their home on the market, price it competitively to create demand, and ask for a rent-back as one of the preferred terms. If this rent-back is successfully negotiated, then the seller closes on their home and collects their funds, but gets to stay in the house anywhere from 30-60 days. This enables the seller, who is now a buyer, to have their cash in-hand, time to find a new house, get it under contract and close the sale when their rent-back is ending. This eliminates the need to move twice. There is a bit of calculated risk in this plan, but we’ve seen it work several times, always with a plan B ready just in case. Rarely has plan B needed to be executed, and often times we’ve even been able to pay little to no rent during this time.
The second option is the Windermere Bridge Loan program. This is an amazing tool for homeowners that own their homes free and clear, or have paid down their debt quite a bit. This is a low-cost alternative to pull the equity out of one’s house prior to selling it in order to make a non-contingent offer. The way it works is we take the market value of the house the homeowner current lives in, established by a comparative market analysis completed by your Windermere agent and signed off by the Broker. We then take 65% of that value and subtract any debt owed, and that is the maximum amount the homeowner can borrow for their next down payment. They can then make a non-contingent offer on a new home. What is really great about this, is that it doesn’t require an appraisal (like a HELOC does), and these can easily be turned around in 3-5 business days. This tool provides the opportunity to quickly and inexpensively pull your equity out, be competitive, and eliminates the double move.
The fees associated with this program are a 1% loan fee on the equity that is pulled, a title report, and interest that is incurred between the loan funding and being paid off once the subject home is sold. That interest is conveniently wrapped up in the closing costs when they close the sale of their home, eliminating the need to make monthly interest payments. In a strategy that is somewhat mind blowing- we can sometimes use these bridge loans and never have to actually fund them. For example, if we secure a property non-contingent with the bridge loan and immediately get the subject home on the market, we can often secure a sale with a simultaneous closing, and never have to fund the loan. This eliminates the loan fee, interest, and the need to carry two mortgages.
If you are excited about equity levels and today’s low interest rates and have thought about making that move you’ve been waiting for, but have been fearful of how to do it all – we can help. These two options, along with great attention to detail, hand-holding, and careful planning have helped many people make these exciting transitions. It is our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions. Please contact any one of our agents if you would like further information on how this might work for you or someone you know.
These graphs illustrate the brass tacks of affordability between King and Snohomish Counties, measured by the average monthly payment. Most recently in September, the average monthly payment was 35% higher in King County compared to Snohomish County. What is fascinating, though, is comparing today’s average monthly payment to peak monthly payments back in 2007! In King County, monthly payments are currently 21% less than during the peak, and in Snohomish County, 36% less. That is a lot of saved monthly overhead. Note that this has everything to do with today’s historical interest rates, as average prices are higher now than in 2007. When one buys or refinances a house, they are not only securing the property, but securing the rate for the life of the loan.
Close proximity to the work place and affordability is often near the top of a buyer’s list of preferred features. 2016 has continued to be a year when commute times to major job centers widened the price divide between key market areas in the greater Seattle area. Over the last 12 months, the average sales price for a single-family residential home in the Seattle Metro area was $696,000! In south Snohomish County (Everett to the King County line), the average sales price for a single-family residential home was $471,000 – 48% less than Seattle Metro. Further, if you jump across Lake Washington to the Eastside, the average sales price for a single-family residential home was $881,000 – 27% more than Seattle Metro!
The “drive to qualify” mentality has been proven by the pending sales rate in south Snohomish County over the last 12 months. Pending sales are up 7% complete year-over-year, whereas in Seattle Metro pending sales are down 1%, and down 2% on the Eastside. We believe this is a result of affordability, more inventory choices in south Snohomish County, new construction options, lower taxes, strong school district choices, and manageable commute times. Newer transit centers and telecommuting have also opened up doors to King County’s little brother to the north as well. If you are curious about possible commute times, you can search for properties on our website based on commutes times, which is a feature provided by INRIX Drive Time. Also, we track the market in several ways, so if the graphs here are interesting to you, any of our agents would be happy to provide additional information relative to your specific neighborhood. Please contact us anytime, as it is our goal to help keep you informed and empower you to make strong real estate decisions.
As we finish up the 2015 summer selling market and head into fall it is a good time to take a look at where we are at regarding appreciation. The two maps below are from CoreLogic, a global real estate data analytic company. According to the top map, Washington has seen 8.9% in appreciation over the last 12 months. When I pull those same numbers for King county the appreciation rate is 8.5% and Snohomish county is 9.2%. Appreciation has continued to be strong, but it has tempered a bit compared to the previous year, which is a good thing. The biggest driver of the strong appreciation rates is high demand and low inventory. Our robust local economy has provided a lot of opportunity for buyers, and they are out there with force. Inventory levels continue to not provide enough selection to support the amount of buyers in the market. If you look at the map on the bottom you will see how today's price levels relate to peak prices from 2006/2007. Washington State is 3.1% from the peak, which means that many folks are at healthy equity levels. Surprisingly, not everyone knows this, and I think that is why we may not be seeing the amount of inventory that would better support the demand in the market and would slow appreciation levels to more traditional (and sustainable) rates of 3-5% a year.In fact, according to a Fannie Mae survey 23% thought they were in negative equity positions when only 9% where. Further, only 37% surveyed thought they had less than 20% equity when 69% actually did! Those are big discrepancies that could be crippling to a productive decision on what to do with your real estate. If you or someone you know is ever curious about your equity position please do not hesitate to contact us to get a clear picture. Any of our agents would be happy to do a comparative market analysis (CMA) for you to help keep you informed on your biggest asset, your home.