Have you had dreams of owning a home or know someone that does? Jumping into the market as a first-time home buyer can be intimidating, especially within the wild ride of the Greater Seattle market; but there is hope! In an effort to illustrate the reality for first-time buyers in today’s market, our office got together and identified several sets of buyers who recently found success in today’s market and asked them to share their stories. We think this is timely because it is the time of year that we see a surge in inventory, which gives buyers more selection and opportunity. We have two stories to share below, but before we dive into those let’s defy some first-time home buyer myths.
First, many people think it is necessary to have a 20% down payment saved in order to make their first purchase. That is simply not true. While a 20% down payment can help make you more competitive and naturally lowers your monthly payment, it is not the only option. There are loan programs with down payments as low as 3%. Nationally, in March the average down payment for all loans was 10%. For first-timers it was 6% and repeat buyers it was 14%.
Second, expectations around credit scores can use some clarification as well. In March, the average credit score for all loans was 722. For Conventional loans it was 742 and for FHA it was 677. If your credit needs some work, contact me and I can put you in touch with one of my preferred lenders that can help with credit repair. There is hope, as these numbers are just the average. You’d be surprised that you don’t have to have perfect credit to get the process started.
Lastly, the cost to be a renter is high, and the return on your investment is nothing. Recently, Rent.com did a survey of landlords and 88% said they planned to raise their rents in the next 12 months. In the same survey, 53% said they’d rather place a new tenant with a higher rent versus renegotiate and renew with a current tenant. This sounds expensive and unstable. Owning leads to building wealth and putting down permanent roots.
Now that we’ve gained some clarity on what it takes to qualify in today’s market, let’s jump into these two honest, yet heartwarming local first-time home buyer stories.
Three Teenagers, One Bathroom, No More
A happy family of five just moved in to this house in mid-May. Two hard working parents, Brandy and Juan, with three teenagers were renting a 3-bedroom, 1-bath rambler in Edmonds and needed more space. It was time to make a move, and they had saved up a 3% down payment for a new home. Their budget was $400,000.
The first step in the home buying process was sitting down with their agent for the initial buyer consultation. This is where they discussed market conditions, desired features such as bedrooms, bathrooms and garage, and their budget. This lead them to explore which locations had the inventory that met their needs in order to stay within their budget. They had to marry these three key points – we like to call this the Triangle of Buyer Clarity. They then identified a few workable locations that had inventory which supported their desired features and their budget and went for it. This upfront research and partnership with their agent lead to Brandy and Juan finding success rather quickly, saving them money in an appreciating market, and a whole lot of strife.
They did this and ultimately bought a great house in Marysville which fit their budget, afforded them the features they desired, and still provided a manageable commute into Lynnwood. Their mortgage payment is higher than their rental rate, but is relative to the size of their new home and their investment. Not to mention, they are now on the equity-building train and don’t have to worry about a landlord displacing them. Their monthly mortgage payment is fixed with an awesome low interest rate, and they are super happy to have more than one bathroom for their teenagers.
From North Seattle to West Seattle
First, how cool is this house? Super cool! That’s just how Paul and Ange feel about their newly purchased home in the Highland Park neighborhood of West Seattle. They just closed in early April and have already attended two neighborhood BBQ’s, received gifts from their new neighbors, discovered new parks and restaurants and, wait for it…shortened their commute.
Paul described his new neighborhood, Highland Park, as “magical.” Previously, Paul and Ange were renting in Wedgwood for six years and loved it there. So much that they could not imagine living anywhere else. When they started their home search in late 2017, they kept to strict search criteria of North Seattle because that is what they knew and it was comfortable. After making two offers and not prevailing because they were getting beat out on price, their agent suggested West Seattle as a more affordable option. The ‘price’ corner of the Triangle of Buyer Clarity was making itself known as a challenge in North Seattle, so it was time to reconvene. They sat down with their agent and evaluated the market conditions in West Seattle compared to North Seattle and applied them to their feature list and budget, and : West Seattle was calling their names. You see, they wanted a more turn-key home, and the homes they were encountering in their price range in North Seattle needed a lot of work.
They went out on a limb and traveled over the bridge to start looking at homes. They quickly saw the difference – the homes they were interested in were not, as Paul said, “scary”! The anticipated repairs they would have to make to the homes they were able to afford in North Seattle were daunting and unexciting. They felt much more at ease with the features that the West Seattle homes provided within their price range. They just needed to get comfortable with the idea of moving to a different community.
When they found the house featured above, the leap of faith to West Seattle started to take shape. They prepped a strong offer, did their due diligence, and believe it or not, secured the home in a multiple-offer situation at $805,000 – which was not the highest price offered! They listened to their agent and wrote an offer with very strong terms as well as a very well-researched price. Their agent kept in close contact with the listing agent and the Sellers chose their offer due to all of these factors.
Since moving in almost two months ago, they find themselves in a state of excitement and discovery every day. The community has been welcoming and conversations with neighbors and the random stranger at the grocery store come easily. Paul has observed a strong sense of curiosity within his new community as people are new to the area and are encouraged to build relationships and make discoveries.
In the end, Paul and Ange remained within their price range, bought a home with all the features they wanted, but made what seemed to be at the time, a compromise on location. That compromise ended up being, as they put it, magical! They have never looked back to Wegdwood with regret, only excitement over what their new neighborhood might bring.
The point of these two stories is to debunk the sentiment we hear from time to time, that first-time home buyers cannot find success in our market. With a well-laid-out plan strategically constructed by the agent and client, we are seeing many happy stories for first-timers. The end result is putting these new homeowners on the path to building wealth, growing thriving communities, and making their house their home.
If you or someone you know has dreamed about buying their first home, please reach out. It is our goal to help identify the opportunities that are available, the strategies that find success, and to educate along the way.
*The amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision.
With rising rental rates, historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying vs. renting is becoming clearer each month.
In fact, Seattle has seen some of the sharpest rent hikes in the country over the last year! Snohomish County has seen a huge increase in apartment growth and rising rental rates as well. There are several factors to consider that will lead you to make the best decision for your lifestyle and your financial bottom line. Zillow Research has determined the break-even point for renting vs. buying in our metro area. In other words, the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision. Currently in Seattle the break-even point is 1.6 years – that is quick! What is so great about every month that ticks away thereafter is that your nest egg is building in value.
We are happy to help you or someone you know assess your options; please contact us anytime.
These assumptions are based on a home buyer purchasing a home with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and a 20 percent down payment; and a renter earning five percent annually on investments in the stock market.
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.
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.
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.
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.