As we round out a very strong 2015 in the real estate market, it is time to look towards 2016 and what it may bring. After two straight years of inventory challenges, multiple offer madness and steep price appreciation, will things start to temper? Below is a list of my predictions for what 2016 might hold for the real estate market. These are fun, educated guesses based on studying the market and paying attention to important indicators. I hope you enjoy and I welcome your questions or discussions.
1. Interest Rates: They have been saying for a few years now that interest rates are going to go up, and they really haven't. Since 2012 they have ebbed as low as 3.375% and as high as 4.25%, and are currently leveled out at 4% on a 30-year fixed conventional loan. By the end of 2016, I predict that they will be just under 5%. As the economy continues to improve and consumer confidence grows, an increase in rates will be important for the health of our overall economy and the public should be able to handle this rise. Plus, we must not lose sight that the average interest rate over the last 30 years has been 6.959% and we are still WAY below that.
2. Listing Inventory: Inventory has been the biggest challenge this year, with King County hovering between one and two months of inventory and Snohomish Country hovering between two and three months of inventory in 2015. That is LOW!! There are two reasons it has been that way; we have had 21% less homes come to market in King County year-over-year, and 15% less in Snohomish County. There have also been more buyers in the market, causing demand to heavily outweigh supply. In 2016 I think we will see more homes come to market, due to the fact that as prices have appreciated, homeowners have gained much more favorable equity positions, giving them options to make the moves they've been dreaming of and waiting for. Folks are ready to upgrade their lifestyle, whether that means buying a bigger home or transitioning to a "right" size home due to retirement. Pent up seller demand due to these equity and lifestyle factors will lead to an increase in homes coming to market.
3. Buyer Demand: Buyer demand will remain strong! This is largely related to our booming job market and the expanding tech sector. Our unemployment rate is 4%, meaning jobs are more abundant than they have been in years, and wages are growing in every county. Couple this with low interest rates, and it equals a more-than-plentiful pool of buyers. One factor to look out for as we head into 2016, is if the strong buyer demand we have will quickly absorb any increase in inventory, keeping months of inventory basically the same as 2015. This will be a fun one to watch.
4. Prices: We will indeed continue to see price appreciation due to the factors above. Year-to-date, median price appreciation in King County is up 8% complete year-over-year and up 9% in Snohomish County. A year from now I anticipate price appreciation to slow to 6% in King and 5% in Snohomish, due to a bit more inventory, and meet peak levels. This is still higher than the normal 3-4% year-over-year appreciation, but it is below the double-digit appreciation we saw in 2013 and 2014, thank goodness! As we have dug out of the Great Recession's hole and regained equity levels after the fall of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco it is important to retreat back to more sustainable appreciation levels.
5. First-Time Home Buyers: The big talk of 2015 was the Millennial generation, and when they would jump into the housing market. They have started to make their play as they are getting some of those great tech sector jobs, but many are limited in purchasing due to high student loan debt. We are starting to see FICO scores loosen up a bit for this reason. Interestingly enough, the average FICO score for a denied borrower for a conventional loan was 700, and 754 for an approved borrower. Average FICO score for a FHA borrower who was denied was 635, and 687 for an approved borrower. These are important factors to pay attention to along with debt-to-income ratios. Also important to note is that rents are extremely high in the Greater Seattle area, so the cost of owning over the long term is more favorable. Once the Millennials decide that they are ready to settle down, what they are willing to have their commute look like and pay down some of that debt they will be ready to start building household wealth by buying vs. renting.
If you or anyone you know has any questions about real estate, please don't hesitate to contact any one of our agents. We are here to help!