Two Graphs That Scream List Your House Today

The spring and summer months have always been known as a very popular time for homebuyers to start the search for their dream home. This year is no different! We all learned in school that when selling anything, you will get the most money if the demand for that item is high and the inventory of that item is low. It is the well-known Theory of Supply & Demand. If you are thinking of selling your home, here are two graphs that strongly suggest that the time is now. Here is why…

DEMAND

According to research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer activity this year has far outpaced the same months in 2014. Purchasers who are ready, willing and able to buy are in the market at great numbers.

According to NAR, “Foot Traffic has a strong correlation with future contracts and home sales, so it can be viewed as a peek ahead at sales trends two to three months into the future.”

SUPPLY

The most recent Existing Home Sales Report from NAR revealed that the current supply of housing inventory is at a 5.1 month supply, which remains below the 6-months necessary for a normal market.

Buyer demand is far outpacing the supply of homes available for sale.

Bottom Line

Listing your house for sale when demand is high and supply is low will guarantee the offers made will truly reflect the true value of your property. Call your Windermere Realtor today!

Keeping Current Matters

Mortgage Rates Just Jumped Over 4%. Now What?

Last week, mortgage interest rates jumped over the 4% mark for the first time this year according to Freddie Mac’s Mortgage Market Survey.

In an article in Housing Wire, a Bankrate analyst explained:

“Mortgage rates rocketed higher following a stronger than expected monthly employment report. The good news on the job front further solidifies the notion that the Federal Reserve will likely begin raising interest rates soon, perhaps in the third quarter of this year.”

This is the same type of commentary we heard back in the spring of 2013 when the talk of the Fed possibly raising rates caused mortgage interest rates to surge by a full percentage point from the end of April through the end of June of that year.

Will We See that Same Surge in 2015?

No one knows for sure. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors are each calling for rates to continue their upswing over the next six quarters.

Here is a chart comparing 2013 to this year:

Bottom Line

Though no one can definitely say where rates will be six months from now, most experts believe they will be higher. If you are thinking of buying your first home or are considering a move up to the house of your family’s dreams, now may be the best time to do it. Click here to contact a Windermere Realtor and find out which opportunities can be yours.

Existing-Home Sales Lose Momentum in April

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released the results of their Existing Home Sales Report. Despite the fact that properties are selling faster than they have at any other time since July of 2013, existing home sales declined 3.3% from March. NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explained the main reason for the slow:

“April’s setback is the result of lagging supply relative to demand and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices.”

One major news organization actually used this headline about the decline:

Existing home sales crater in April, falling 3.3%

They certainly haven’t cratered! April marked the second month in a row that the annual sales pace remained above the five million mark (5.04 million). Year-over-year sales have increased for seven consecutive months and are still 6.1% above a year ago. Every month, SentriLock, LLC provides NAR Research with data on the number of homes shown to potential buyers. This data is referred to as ‘Foot Traffic’ and is a great predictor of future sales and buyer demand. In April, buyer demand remained at the same level experienced in March.

So why did sales go down?

Buyers who are ready and willing to make a purchase are entering a market where their dream house may not have been listed yet. They can’t find it! Or if they find it, it happens to catch the eye of other buyers and an ‘auction like environment’ begins.

“Housing inventory declined from last year and supply in many markets is very tight, which in turn is leading to bidding wars, faster price growth and properties selling at a quicker pace,” says Yun. “To put it in perspective, roughly 40 percent of properties sold last month went at or above asking price, the highest since NAR began tracking this monthly data in December 2012.” (emphasis added)

The median home price of existing homes sold in April was $219,400, which is 8.9% higher than last year, and marks the 38th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Bottom Line

So how do you make sense of everything that’s going on in the housing market when there are so many conflicting headlines on the same report? John Burns, real estate expert and CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting gives this advice:

“The bottom line is this: don’t make decisions based on newspaper articles. Read the actual press release, including the methodology, and make sure the results jive with other data points and qualitative feedback you receive.”

If you are one of the many homeowners out there realizing that now may be the time to list your home for sale, or one of the many renters debating a purchase, sitting with a Windermere Realtor, who takes the time to find out what’s really going on in the market, should be your first step!

Keeping Current Matters

The Truth About Rising Prices & Family Wealth

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently released a report revealing that the growing wealth gap in this country has been impacted by the recent increases in real estate values coupled with the drop in homeownership rates. The report discloses:

“Over 90 percent of metro areas have experienced declining homeownership rates at a time when home values have risen and incomes have remained flat.”

Increasing home values in many regions of the country have helped homeowners build housing wealth in recent years. However, the continued decline in homeownership means this increase in wealth is shared by fewer people and likely leading to worsening inequality in the U.S.

Here is a chart showing the aforementioned increasing gap between renters and homeowners in regard to family wealth:

Bottom Line

If the experts are correct, and a homeowner really will have an average of 40 times the wealth of a renter by the end of this year, doesn’t it make sense to evaluate if a purchase could be in your future? Meet with a Windermere Real Estate professional to find out how you can start building your family’s wealth.

Keeping Current Matters

We Need You(r House)!!

Though the real estate market has improved, we still have one item holding it back from a full recovery – a robust supply of homes for sale. Demand has increased dramatically. At the same time, housing inventory is decreasing especially at the lower price points. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently revealed that there is a pent-up seller demand caused by the uncertainty created by the housing crisis of the last decade.

What does that mean to you?

Houses listed today sell quickly. With prices still below peak values of 2007 in many parts of the country and mortgage interest rates at historic lows, this may be the perfect time for your family to make the move to the dream house you always wanted – whether that’s a larger home or that vacation/retirement home you have been looking at.

What does that mean to the economy?

Housing has always been an essential part of the U.S. economy. As reported before, real estate not only provides housing for families. It is often the greatest source of wealth and savings for many. The recent increase in real estate sales has led to an increase in real estate prices. This has increased the value of everyone’s’ home, whether they are selling or not. This leads to an increase in consumer confidence which in turn leads to an increase in consumer spending. Plus, each home sale automatically puts money into the economy. NAR compiled data from research conducted by the Bureau of Economic Analysis & Macroeconomic Advisors on the economic impact of a home purchase. After reviewing the data, they concluded that the total economic impact of a typical home sale in the United States is an astonishing $52,205. The more homes that sell, the better the economy.

Bottom Line

In order for the U.S. economy to get better, we need to sell more homes. Perhaps, it makes sense for one of those homes to be yours. If you have considered selling but are still a little nervous, now might be the time to sit down with a Windermere Real Estate professional familiar with your market and see what your options truly are.

Keeping Current Matters

The Price is Right

Selling Your House? Price it Right Up Front

In today’s market, where demand is outpacing supply in many regions of the country, pricing a house is one of the biggest challenges real estate professionals face. Sellers often want to price their home higher than recommended, and many agents go along with the idea to keep their clients happy. However, the best agents realize that telling the homeowner the truth is more important than getting the seller to like them.

There is no “later.”

Sellers sometimes think, “If the home doesn’t sell for this price, I can always lower it later.” However, research proves that homes that experience a listing price reduction sit on the market longer, ultimately selling for less than similar homes.

John Knight, recipient of the University Distinguished Faculty Award from the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific, actually did research on the cost (in both time and money) to a seller who priced high at the beginning and then lowered the their price. In his article, Listing Price, Time on Market and Ultimate Selling Price published in Real Estate Economics revealed: “Homes that underwent a price revision sold for less, and the greater the revision, the lower the selling price. Also, the longer the home remains on the market, the lower its ultimate selling price.”

Additionally, the “I’ll lower the price later” approach can paint a negative image in buyers’ minds. Each time a price reduction occurs, buyers can naturally think, “Something must be wrong with that house.” Then when a buyer does make an offer, they low-ball the price because they see the seller as “highly motivated.” Pricing it right from the start eliminates these challenges.

Don’t build “negotiation room” into the price.

Many sellers say that they want to price their home high in order to have “negotiation room.” But, what this actually does is lower the number of potential buyers that see the house. And we know that limiting demand like this will negatively impact the sales price of the house.

Not sure about this? Think of it this way: when a buyer is looking for a home online (as they are doing more and more often), they put in their desired price range. If your seller is looking to sell their house for $400,000, but lists it at $425,000 to build in “negotiation room,” any potential buyers that search in the $350k-$400k range won’t even know your listing is available, let alone come see it!

A better strategy would be to price it properly from the beginning and bring in multiple offers. This forces these buyers to compete against each other for the “right” to purchase your house. Look at it this way: if you only receive one offer, you are set up in an adversarial position against the prospective buyer. If, however, you have multiple offers, you have two or more buyers fighting to please you. Which will result in a better selling situation?

Great pricing comes down to truly understanding the real estate dynamics in your neighborhood. Look for a Windermere Real Estate agent that will take the time to simply and effectively explain what is happening in the housing market and how it applies to your home. You need an agent that will tell you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear. This will put you in the best possible position.

Don’t Let Your “Luck” Run Out

The 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate is currently still below 4%. Many buyers may be on the fence as to whether to act now and purchase a new home, or wait until next year, believing they still have time to lock in a low rate.

If you look at what the experts are predicting over the course of the next 12 months, it may make the decision for you.

Predictions for 2016 2Q:

Even an increase of half a percentage point can put a dent in your family’s net worth.

Let’s look at it this way…

The monthly payment (principal & interest only) on a $250,000 home today, with the current 3.86% interest rate would be $1,173.

If we take that same home a year later, the Home Price Expectation Survey projects that prices will rise about 4.4% making that home cost $11,000 more at $261,000.

If we take Freddie Mac’s rate projection of 4.7%, the monthly mortgage payment climbs to $1,354.

Some buyers might not think that an extra $181 a month is that bad. But over the course of 30-year mortgage you have spent an additional $65,160 by waiting a year.

Why You Should Sell Your House Now!

School is back in session, the holidays are right around the corner, you might not think that now is the best time to sell your house. But with inventory below historic numbers and demand still strong, you could be missing out on a great opportunity for your family.

1. Demand is Strong

Foot traffic refers to the number of people out actually physically looking at home right now. The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any other time in the last twelve months which includes the latest spring buyers’ market. These buyers are ready, willing and able to buy…and are in the market right now!

As we get later into the year, many people have other things (weather, holidays, etc.) that distract them from searching for a home. Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing supply is still under the historical number of 6 months’ supply. This means that, in many markets, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.

There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future.

Also, new construction of single-family homes is again beginning to increase. A recent study by Harris Poll revealed that 41% of buyers would prefer to buy a new home while only 21% prefer an existing home (38% had no preference).

The choices buyers have will continue to increase over the next few months. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

One of the biggest challenges of the 2014 housing market has been the length of time it takes from contract to closing. Banks are requiring more and more paperwork before approving a mortgage. Any delay in the process is always prolonged during the winter holiday season. Getting your house sold and closed before those delays begin will lend itself to a smoother transaction.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by over 19% from now to 2018. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30 year housing expense with an interest rate in the low 4’s right now. Rates are projected to be over 5% by this time next year.

5. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take back control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps, the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Western Washington I 2014 Second Quarter Market Update

Windermere Real Estate is proud to partner with Gardner Economics on this analysis of the Western Washington real estate market. This report is designed to offer insight into the realities of the housing market. Numbers alone do not always give an accurate picture of local economic conditions; therefore our goal is to provide an explanation of what the statistics mean and how they impact the Western Washington housing economy. We hope that this information may assist you with making an informed real estate decision. For further information about the real estate market in your area, please contact your Windermere agent.
Regional Economics

The post-recession job recovery continues unabated in Western Washington, with all of the counties contained within this report either exceeding their pre-recession peak or approaching it. Washington State added just shy of 84,700 jobs over the past 12-month period, representing a very respectable annual growth rate of 2.8 percent. In total, all of the counties covered added 64,190 jobs (also a 2.8 percent increase over a year ago). If there was a spring bump, it certainly came in the second quarter, with the area adding 52,180 jobs.

The tri-county area of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties still dominates in terms of total growth, adding 42,400 jobs in second quarter—an increase of 60,300 jobs compared to a year ago. King County employment is now four percent higher than its pre-recession peak; Snohomish is one percent higher, and Pierce County now matches its 2008 peak employment numbers.

Looking more closely at the county figures, King County (+4.0%) maintains its top position in terms of employment growth; this is followed by Pierce County (+3.5%), and Cowlitz County which continues to outperform with the addition of 800 jobs (+2.2%).

In Western Washington, losses were seen only in Grays Harbor County which shed 180 jobs over the past year. That said, this county added 720 jobs in second quarter indicating a quite substantial turnaround. Employment in Jefferson and Kitsap Counties matched that seen a year ago but, again, both counties added jobs in the quarter.

Turning our attention to unemployment rates in the region, I am not surprised to see all counties showing improvement in total unemployment. This is particularly important because the labor force grew over the past year, albeit modestly. What this means is that the drop in the unemployment rate is a function of job creation and not a slowdown in people looking for work.

When compared to June of 2013, the greatest declines in the unemployment rate were in Cowlitz County where the rate dropped by 3.4 percent to 7.1 percent. This was followed by Grays Harbor County where the rate dropped from 11.8 to 8.5 percent. Unemployment dropped by 3.2 percent in Mason and Lewis Counties. The unemployment rate in counties throughout Western Washington also improved when compared to last quarter.

Thus far in 2014, employment growth has exceeded my expectations; however, the growth is still bifurcated with very solid expansion in the core central Puget Sound area, but not necessarily across the entire state. Because of this, I am maintaining the “B+” grade that I have given the employment situation for the past year.

Regional Real Estate

In my first quarter report, I suggested that I was disappointed with the number of homes for sale and hoped that we would see improvement in inventory levels as we moved further into the spring selling season. Well, I am happy to report that my hopes were met, with a 33 percent increase in housing inventory compared to last quarter—and a 7.7 percent increase over a year ago.

The greatest growth in listings year-over-year was seen in Snohomish County, registering a 36 percent increase in homes for sale. This was followed by Thurston County where the total number of homes for sale was 25 percent higher than a year ago, and Pierce County rounded out the top three with a 21 percent increase. Only three counties reported an annual decrease in listing activity during second quarter. The largest decline was seen in Jefferson County (-13%), while Island and Lewis Counties both dropped by 10 percent.

When comparing first and second quarters of this year, every county reported more homes for sale. The greatest increase was seen in Kittitas County where inventory levels grew by 50 percent. This was followed by Whatcom (+44%), King (+41%), and Thurston (+40%) Counties. The smallest increase was seen in Lewis County at a still respectable 14 percent increase over first quarter of this year.

When we look at sales activity, 29,885 homes sold in the first half of 2014—a modest increase of 1.3 percent over the first half of 2013. However, during second quarter, sales growth followed the rise in listings, reporting a substantial 51.8 percent increase compared to first quarter. In the second quarter, there were over 18,000 home sales—compared to 11,870 last quarter.

Year-to-date, home sales grew the fastest in San Juan County (+69.7%), possibly suggesting that the vacation home market may have recovered. This was followed by Grays Harbor County (+34.5%) and Mason County (+28.1%).

There were four counties where home sales fell compared to the first half of 2013: Clallam County (-2.7%), Whatcom County (-2.4%), King County (-2.3%), and Skagit County (-1.5%). I believe these numbers to be due to the low inventory levels.

As mentioned earlier, when compared to the first quarter of 2014, home sales were solidly higher. This growth was most pronounced in San Juan County where sales were up by a substantial 85 percent. This was followed by King County (+61%), Skagit County (+58%), and Mason County (+54%). The slowest sales growth was seen in Grays Harbor County (+9%).

The average home price in Western Washington in the first half of 2014 was $355,335—up by 4.6 percent over the first half of 2013. As is seen in the chart to the right, all but four counties saw average sales prices rise compared to a year ago. Price growth has been tapering over the past year, but remains generally positive.

When we look at individual counties, the strongest annual gains were in Lewis County where prices rose by 9.7 percent. There were also significant gains seen in Snohomish County (+7.9%), Island County (+7.3%), King County (+7.2%), and Clallam County (+7%).

Compared to the first quarter of 2014, home prices were also higher in all but one county. The greatest growth was seen in Jefferson County (+14.7%), followed by Mason County (+13.8%) and Cowlitz County (+12%). There were an additional three counties that saw double-digit gains in sale prices. Home prices fell in just one county, and this was the always-volatile San Juan County, where prices for the quarter were down by 3.9 percent.

Even though rising home prices slowed in the second quarter, I am very pleased to see the growth in listing activity. As such, it’s time to up the grade for the housing market to a “B+” from the “B” grade given last quarter.

Conclusions

The economy in our region continues to improve. The ongoing low-interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve has helped fuel a turnaround in the housing market. Even with the increases in mortgage rates last summer, financing costs remain well below historical averages, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging 4.2 percent in the second quarter of this year. Rates have dropped through the quarter and I do not expect to see any form of rapid rise through the summer months. That said, I do anticipate that interest rates will start to climb modestly through the balance of this year and into 2015.

Shifting to the new construction housing market, I have a cautiously optimistic view for economic growth in the next few years. With the exception of multifamily rentals, the new home sector remains well below potential, and will likely persist in that state for a couple of years, but continue to doggedly improve. Interestingly, the lack of new home construction bodes well for the resale market, as I expect that we will start to see additional demand coming from new households moving out of rental housing and into homeownership. This will lead to additional demand for single-family homes.

The housing market is starting to get more balanced, thanks to slowing price growth combined with somewhat greater choices for buyers. That said, we still have a long way to go. To give you some perspective, there were 33,258 homes for sale in Western Washington in June of 2009, and in June of 2014, there were just 20,670!

I expect that the summer will continue to be good to us with higher levels of inventory leading to further increases in sales activity. Mortgage lending has started, at long last, to become modestly easier, which will also do its part to add to the continued improvement of the housing market and the overall economy.

About Matthew Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a land use economist and principal with Gardner Economics and is considered by many to be one of the foremost real estate analysts in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to managing his consulting practice, Mr. Gardner chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; sits on the Urban Land Institutes Technical Assistance Panel; is an Advisory Board Member for the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington; and is the Editor of the Washington State University’s Central Puget Sound Real Estate Research Report.

He is also the retained economist for the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties. He has twenty-five years of professional experience in the U.K. and U.S.

He has appeared on CNN, NBC and NPR news services to discuss real estate issues, and is regularly cited in the Wall Street Journal and all local media.