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.
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 Nested.com. The average monthly rental price for a one bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle is $1,790 according to Zumper.com, 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.
An additional study by Nested.com 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.
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. With renting, rates can be increased at any time, and you are paying down someone else’s asset, not your own. Owning gives the homeowner control over their overhead while getting to make their house their home. What is also so great about owning, is that once you have hit the breakeven horizon, every month that ticks away thereafter is building your nest egg in value. The long-term benefits of owning are abundant, including the stability of not being asked to move. These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially the younger folks who are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market.
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 be apt to 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 us know as we would be happy to get their questions answered to help them make an informed decision.
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.
Wow, just wow! The interest rate levels that we have experienced in 2016 are seriously unbelievable. Currently we are hanging around 3.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage, almost a half a point down from a year ago. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point increase in interest rate a buyer loses ten percent in buyer power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate increases by a point during their search, in order to keep the same monthly payment the buyer would need to decrease their purchase price to $450,000. Conversely, for every decrease in interest rate, a buyer can increase their purchase price and keep the same monthly mortgage payment.
Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! If you take the scenario I just described and apply it to the graph on the right, you can see that the folks who jumped into the market this year enjoyed an interest cost savings when securing their mortgage. This cost savings is doubly important because we are in a price appreciating market. In fact, the median price in King County has increased by 13% complete year-over-year and 10% in Snohomish County. Interest rates are helping to keep payments more manageable in our appreciating market. Most recently we have started to see a slight increase in inventory compared to the spring/summer market, which is a plus for buyers and something to be taken advantage of.
Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! The graph above provided by Freddie Mac shows a prediction for rates to start rising. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 7.65%, increases are increases, and securing these rates could be downright historical. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Another factor to consider is that it is an election year, and rates historically remain level during these times. What 2017 and beyond hold for rates will likely not mirror these historical lows under 4%. Note the 30-year average – one must think that rates closer to that must be in our future at some point.
So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge plus in helping make that transition more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.
If you would like additional information on how today’s historical interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact any of our agents. We would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is our goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.