Why So Many Americans Are Either Upsizing or Downsizing

According to two recent surveys that took industry watchers by surprise, many family homeowners are putting frugality aside and upsizing to new houses that average as large as 2,480 square feet (an increase of as much as 13 percent from the year before), and sometimes exceed 3,500 square feet in size.

Meanwhile, millions of baby boomer homeowners are rushing to downsize—with some 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 saying they’re planning to make a move within the next five years.

It’s a tale of two very different segments of the population making dramatic shifts in their living accommodations to find the housing solutions that best suit their needs: one upsizing while the other downsizes.

With so many baby boomers now nearing retirement age (8,000 Americans turn 65 every day), it should come as no surprise that the number of prospective “downsizers” exceed the number of “upsizers” by three to one. With their children gone, these aging homeowners are interested in reducing the amount of house they need to care for, and are eager to bulk up their retirement savings with any home-sale profits.

As for why many families are choosing to upsize so substantially after years of downsizing or staying put, experts point to the extremely low interest rates and discounted home prices available today, and theorize that many families now feel confident enough about the economy to move out of homes they outgrew years ago.

If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, here are some facts to consider:

 

How such a move can impact your life

The most common benefits of downsizing:

  • Lower mortgage payments
  • Lower tax bills
  • Lower utility bills
  • Less maintenance (and lower maintenance expenses)
  • More time/money for travel, hobbies, etc.
  • More money to put toward retirement, debts, etc. (the profits from selling your current home)

 

The most common benefits of upsizing

  • More living space
  • More storage space
  • More yard/garden space
  • More room for entertaining/hosting friends and family

 

Negative impacts:

  • Upsizing will likely increase your living expenses, so it’s important to factor into any financial forecasts
  • Downsizing will require that you make some hard choices about what belongings will need to be stored or sold

 

Other impacts to consider:

  • The loss of good neighbors
  • Lifestyle changes (walking, neighborhood shopping, etc.)
  • The effect on your work commute
  • Public transit options

 

Buy first, or sell first?

Homeowners considering this transition almost always have the same initial question: “Should I buy the new home now, or wait and sell my current place first?” The answer is dependent on your personal circumstances. However, experts generally recommend selling first.

Selling your current home before buying a new one could mean you have to move to temporary quarters for some period of time—or rush to buy a new home. That could prove stressful and upsetting. However, if you instead buy first, you could be stuck with two mortgages, plus double property tax and insurance payments, which could quickly add up to lasting financial troubles.

If you need to sell in order to qualify for a loan, there’s no choice: You’ll have to sell first.

 

Another option:

You could make the purchase of the new house contingent on selling your current home. However, this approach can put you in a weak bargaining position with the seller (if you can even find a seller willing to seriously consider a contingency offer). Plus, you may be forced to accept a low-ball offer for your current house in order to sell it in time to meet the contingency agreement timing.

The truth is, most home sales tend to take longer than the owners imagine, so it’s almost always best to finalize the sale, and do whatever is necessary to reap the biggest profit, before embarking on the purchase of your new home.

 

When to make the transition

Ideally, when you’re selling your home, you want to wait until the demand from potential buyers is high (to maximize your selling price). But in this case, because you’re also buying, you’ll also want to take advantage of any discounted interest rates and reduced home prices (both of which will fade away as the demand for homes grows).

How will you know when the timing is right to both sell and buy? Ask an industry expert: your real estate agent. As someone who has their finger on the pulse of the housing market every day, they can help you evaluate the current market and try to predict what changes could be coming in the near future.

Even if you’ve been through it before, the act of upsizing or downsizing can be complex. For tips, as well as answers to any questions, contact a Windermere agent any time.

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Local Market Update – August 2016

Home prices are still on the rise compared to a year ago, but there is some indication that prices are moderating. Combine that with an increase in inventory and we may be seeing some relief for buyers. Time will tell whether this is a momentary breather, or if we’re slowly moving to a more balanced market.

Eastside

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Click image for full report.

Home to the highest concentration of luxury homes in the state, the Eastside continues to be the highest priced region of King County. Median home prices here were up 10 percent over last July to $750,400. That is down from the May peak of $760,000, and virtually unchanged from June. Buyers looking in this desirable market may be seeing the start of easing home prices.

King County

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Click image for full report.

After five months in a row of record-setting prices, King County saw the median price of a single-family home drop slightly from the high of $570,500 in June to $555,000 in July. However, July’s median price was up 14 percent over a year ago. An increase in inventory, accompanied by a slight slowdown in sales, may indicate that the market is settling down from the frenzied pace we’ve experienced so far this year.

Seattle

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Click image for full report.

Seattle also saw a small decrease in home prices, with the median price of a single-family home dropping from its record $666,500 in June to $650,000 in July. The July number still represents a hefty 13 percent increase year-over-year. Some buyers are looking to the areas of North King County that include Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and Kenmore for a more affordable alternative. Prices there soared 18 percent over last year, but the median price of $505,000 is significantly less than Seattle.

Snohomish County

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Click image for full report.

The median home price in Snohomish County topped $400,000 for the first time, setting a record for the third straight month. Prices were up nearly 12 percent over the same time a year ago to $405,000. With prices here about 25 percent less than King County, buyers looking for lower housing costs continue to fuel an environment where multiple offers are common.

The Gardner Report – Second Quarter 2016

Economic Overview

Washington State continues to see strong employment growth, outpacing national numbers with an annual rate of more than 3%. Interestingly enough, despite these substantial job gains, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 5.8%. However, I’m not overly concerned about this because it’s largely due to a growing labor force rather than a declining job market. This means that those who are unemployed who had previously stopped looking for work are now resurrecting their job searches because they have confidence in the economy.

I expect to see a modest drop in the unemployment rate through the balance of the year, and believe we will continue to outperform the nation as a whole with above-average job gains.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 22,721 home sales during the second quarter of 2016, up by 4.4% from the same period in 2015. We finally saw a much-needed increase in listings, which rose by 30.1% between first and second quarter. This increase in the number of homes for sale led to an increase in sales, which rose by 4.4% when compared to the same period in 2015.
  • Island County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with sales up by 22.1%. This is a small county which is subject to wild swings, so I take the data at face value. That said, the larger Thurston County saw sales up by an equally impressive 19.7%. Most interesting is that King County saw sales fall modestly compared to the same time period in 2015. Price—and supply—are clearly an issue in the most populous county in our state.
  • Overall listing activity was down by 21.8% compared to the second quarter of 2015, but the good news is that the supply side deficit is actually getting a little less than we have seen over the past few years. The total number of homes for sale was 30.1% higher than seen at the end of the first quarter. While much of this can be attributed to seasonality, it is still nice to see!
  • The region is experiencing positive job growth, and with it, migration to Washington State is running at a very brisk pace. Given these factors—in addition to our lack of new home construction—it is not surprising to see demand substantially usurping supply. As I look forward, I believe inventory levels will continue to rise modestly, but it will remain a solidly seller’s market for the rest of the year.

Home Prices

  • With demand still exceeding supply, we should not be surprised to see average sale prices continuing to rise, as is certainly the case in our region. Home prices rose by 8.1% between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of this year. This is down from the annual rate of 10.1% that we showed in our last report, but the rate is still far higher than the historic average of 4%.
  • Regular readers of this report will remember that there were several counties where average sale prices in the first quarter were actually lower than seen a year before. I suggested that seasonality was to blame and that was indeed the case, with all counties in this report now showing annualized price gains.
  • When compared to the second quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County and, in total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%.
  • The prevailing supply/demand imbalance continues to push prices higher, and persistently low interest rates are just adding fuel to the flames. If rates stay at current levels, it is unlikely that we will see much in the way of slowing appreciation for the rest of the year.

 

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by 17 days when compared to the second quarter of 2015.
  • It took an average of 67 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year—down from both the 86 days it took to sell a home in the first quarter of this year, and from the 84 days that it took to sell a home in the second quarter of 2015.
  • The only market where the length of time it took to sell a home rose was in the notoriously fickle San Juan County, where it rose by 30 days to 196 days. In the rest of the region, the average decrease in the time it took to sell a home between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016 was 20 days.
  • Snohomish County has joined King County as a market that takes less than a month to sell a home. At 18 days, King County is unarguably the hottest market in the region, but sales are slowing due to the lack of inventory. This imbalance is unsustainable over the long term.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the second quarter of 2016, I am leaving the needle in the same position as last quarter. Inventory levels have improved, albeit modestly, and price growth has slowed very slightly. However, this is offset by a jump in pending sales, a slightly higher number of closed sales, and a drop in interest rates. As such, the region remains staunchly a seller’s market.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

This blog post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Mortgage Interest Rates Near Record Low

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One fallout of Brexit has been a bonus for homeowners and homebuyers. Mortgage rates have fallen to near historic lows.

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Whether you’re a first-time buyer or thinking about trading up or downsizing, rates this low could be a great incentive to start searching for a home.

Are you ready to start looking for a home? Get in touch with a Windermere Eastside broker to answer any questions you have, and walk you through the entire process.

Seattle Seahawks and Windermere Real Estate Announce New Partnership

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To say that Windermere has a lot of Seahawks fans would be an understatement. That’s why we are so excited to announce that we are now the “Official Real Estate Company of the Seattle Seahawks”!

At the center of this partnership with the Seahawks is a new #tacklehomelessness campaign in which the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 for every Seahawks tackle at home during the 2016 season. On the receiving end of these donations is YouthCare, a Seattle-based non-profit organization that has been providing services and support to homeless youth from across Puget Sound for more than 40 years. Since 1989, the Windermere Foundation has donated over $30 million to non-profits that support low-income and homeless families, so partnering with YouthCare and the Seahawks on the #tacklehomelessness campaign is a perfect fit for us.

“We are proud to partner with Windermere, an iconic and locally-based company with a deep commitment to this community,” said Seahawks Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Amy Sprangers. “Windermere’s brand and values align perfectly with our commitment to this region. It is wonderful that this partnership will make a positive impact on homeless youth throughout the Seattle area.”

If you’re not already excited about the upcoming Seahawks season, this video should do it.

Now say it with us . . . Go Hawks!

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.