A Love Letter to Buyers

 

Hopefully your Valentine’s Day was a sweet one, but it got us thinking. We often share the advantages of this market for home sellers, which is unbelievably positive. With that said, 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.

 

 

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 3:57 pm
Windermere Real Estate North | Category: Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Reasons why we are NOT Headed Towards Another Bubble

 

real estate bubble

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

real estate bubble mortgage credit availabilityAs this graph shows, lending requirements are much more stringent now than what they were prior to the fall of the housing market.

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.

 

real estate bubble equity by state
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.

 

 

Posted on August 23, 2017 at 5:05 pm
Windermere Real Estate North | Category: Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Buyers: Keep Your Head Down, This May be Your Time

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.

 

Interest Rates: 
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.

 

Posted on June 28, 2017 at 3:12 pm
Windermere Real Estate North | Category: Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Does it Make More Sense to Rent… or Own?

break-even horizon seattle

*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 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.

 

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 10:32 am
Windermere Real Estate North | Category: Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , ,

Many Factors to Consider When Choosing to Rent vs. Own

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

There has been a lot of talk lately about the cost of living in the Greater Seattle area. Whether it has to do with home prices or rental rates the story is the same: it is becoming more and more expensive by the month. With rising rental rates, historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying vs. renting has become clear for folks that have a down payment saved, good debt to income ratios and strong credit. In fact, Seattle is now the 10th most expensive city to rent in the country according to a new study from Zumper.com. The average monthly rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle is $1,740! Snohomish County has seen an increase in apartment growth and rising rental rates as well. Currently, the breakeven horizon in the Greater Seattle area (the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision versus renting) is 1.6 years according to Zillow research. 

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 3.5%. 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. Did you know that American homeowners’ net worth is 36 times the amount of renters? The long term benefits of owning are abundant. These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially the younger folks that are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market and competitive wages.

Where folks are having to compromise most due to affordability is commute times and settling in less urban neighborhoods. 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 your questions answered to help you make an informed decision.

 

Posted on July 26, 2016 at 4:49 pm
Windermere Real Estate North | Category: Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,