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 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.
We often share the advantages of this market for home sellers, which is unbelievably positive. However we thought it was 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.
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 we’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 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. 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 us. It is our pleasure to take the time to educate, devise a plan, and help buyers find success in a challenging, yet advantageous market.
It is the time of year when we 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 what neighborhood you are interested in learning about, in either King or Snohomish County, we are happy to provide a 2017 re-cap of that market. We 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.
Here’s to a successful 2018!
Price growth was particularly strong in 2017! Median was up 13% and average price up 12% over 2016. Median price in 2017 landed at $405,000 and the average at $440,000. The average amount of days it took to sell a house in 2017 was 30 days which is 9% faster than 2016. The average list-to-sale price ratio over the last year was 100%, with the spring months as high as 102%! In 2017, inventory growth continued to be a challenge, with a 7% decrease in new listings compared to 2016. Even with inventory limitations there were 2% more sales! This phenomenon illustrates strong buyer demand and a need for more listings.
South King County real estate has seen a steady stream of buyers come our way due to affordability, reasonable commute times and quality of life. In fact, the median price in 2017 was 75% higher in Seattle Metro. 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 south King County; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.
Price growth was particularly strong in 2017! Median was up 15% and average price up 16% over 2016. Median price in 2017 landed at $865,000 and the average at $1,049,000. The average amount of days it took to sell a house in 2017 was 24 days, which is 17% faster than 2016. The average list-to-sale price ratio over the last year was 101%, with the spring months as high as 103%! 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 of sales! This phenomenon illustrates strong buyer demand and a need for more listings.
Demand for Eastside real estate has grown due to close proximity to job centers, great schools and quality of life. Over the last year, the Eastside was 70% more expensive than south Snohomish County and 22% over Seattle Metro. 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 on the Eastside area; 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.
The first five months of 2017 have been a grind for buyers in our area. Inventory has been quite limited and demand has been off the charts. However, in the month of May we started to see things loosen up, with the highest rate of new listings coming to market in some time. Below are two market samplings from the Greater Seattle area: north King County and south Snohomish County which are reflective of our entire market.
South Snohomish County:
In May we saw just over 1,000 new listings come to market in south Snohomish County; the highest inventory push in one given month in over five years! In fact, it was a 46% increase over the previous month, and a 17% increase from the same month a year ago. This is good news for buyers, finally! One should note, however, that pending sales nearly mirrored the number of new listings, illustrating that demand is still very strong.
I think we will see that opportunities have loosened up for buyers in the list-to-sale price ratios that will post in June closings (May pendings). My prediction is that they will have tempered a bit from the 103% posting in May, purely based on buyers having more selection.
Demand surely met the new surge of inventory, but from what I am observing in the market, not all homes are getting multiple offers. When there are multiple offers, smaller groups of buyers may be vying for one house. We have even seen more price reductions in May with overzealous sellers not paying close attention these slight shifts in the market.
Don’t get me wrong, the good houses that are well-priced and looking good are seeing great price escalation and competition, but some are simply selling with a one-buyer audience. There are just more opportunities when there is more inventory, and this is good news for all of us as tempered price growth is needed after a 51% increase in median price over the last four years.
North King County:
In May, we saw just over 800 new listings come to market in north King County; the highest inventory push in one given month in over three years! In fact, it was a 33% increase over the previous month and a 9% increase from the same month a year ago. Pending sales also met demand here, but more buyers were able to land a home, which is good news. List-to-sale price ratios recorded at an average of 107% in this area, so definitely a needed tempering as we head into June.
When you are closer to jobs centers demand is higher, so the in-city market will continue to present a hustle for buyers, but more listings will equal a better chance of landing a house close to work. Prices in this area have increased 60% over the last four years.
Currently, interest rates are a buyer’s dream come true! We started the year at 4.25%, bumped up to 4.375% in early spring, and we have inched down to 4% most recently. This reduction in rate is saving buyers thousands of dollars over the course of their mortgage on their monthly payments, somewhat offsetting the increase in prices since the first of the year. This is something to pay attention to, and could not come at a better time as it is coupled with more inventory. Inventory in June and July should continue to be strong as the long winter delayed folks getting to market, and many sellers are taking advantage of the prices.
If you have thought about making a move or even your first purchase, now may be the time to not just dip your toe in the pool, but to jump in. It is summer and who doesn’t like a nice swim? Especially if that pool has more homes than we’ve seen in some time and cheap money. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about our market please contact one of our agents, as it is our goal to keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions.
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 (click to view larger) above provide a 10-year history of the odds of selling in the month of October for both King and Snohomish Counties. As you can see, the odds of selling are at a 10-year high, hitting 86% in King and 85% in Snohomish. These are quite favorable odds for sellers and indicate what one might expect moving toward 2017.
Buyer demand remains very strong! In fact, pending sales reached peak levels in May of this year and continued with steady momentum throughout the summer and fall. Every month this year recorded a higher pending level than the same month the previous year. This illustrates strong buyer demand and is coupled with lower inventory levels than the year before. This combination has created very low months of available inventory, and we anticipate this continuing as we complete 2016 and head into 2017. For a potential seller, this means the market is in your favor, and waiting until the tulips bloom in April might have you lined up against more competition. Historically, we see inventory peak April through June, however pending sales have closely matched supply all throughout the year. With that said, one might consider bringing their home to market in the first quarter of the year versus the second, because they will have less competition, but still enjoy an engaged buyer audience.
Most recently we have seen interest rates bump up a bit, and this has created more urgency in the market. While still historically low, buyers are smart enough to know that cheap money is a huge long-term savings. Paying attention to all of these market factors will empower one to make the best real estate decisions. Please reach out if you are considering a move over the next year, and I’d be happy to apply this research and weigh in on your options.