The Gardner Report – Second Quarter 2017

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy has been expanding at a rapid pace but we are seeing a slowdown as the state grows closer to full employment. Given the solid growth, I would expect to see income growth move markedly higher, though this has yet to materialize. I anticipate that we will see faster income growth in the second half of the year. I still believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017.

Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continue to see unemployment fall. The latest state-wide report now shows a rate of 4.5%—the lowest rate since data started to be collected in 1976.

I believe that growth in the state will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole and, with such robust expansion, I would not be surprised to see more people relocate here as they see Washington as a market that offers substantial opportunity.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 23,349 home sales during the second quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 1.1% from the same period in 2016.
  • Clallam County maintains its position as number one for sales growth over the past 12 months. Double-digit gains in sales were seen in just three other counties, which is a sharp drop from prior reports. I attribute this to inventory constraints rather than any tangible drop in demand. The only modest decline in sales last quarter was seen in Grays Harbor County.
  • The number of homes for sale, unfortunately, showed no improvement, with an average of just 9,279 listings in the quarter, a decline of 20.4% from the second quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 3.6% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that it is unlikely we will see a significant increase in the number of homes for sale for the rest of 2017.

Home Prices

  • Along with the expanding economy, home prices continue to rise at very robust rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.9%. The region’s average sales price is now $470,187.
  • Price growth in Western Washington continues to impress as competition for the limited number of homes for sale remains very strong. With little easing in supply, we anticipate that prices will continue to rise at above long-term averages.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County where sale prices were 29.2% higher than second quarter of 2016. Eight additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • The specter of rising interest rates failed to materialize last quarter, but this actually functioned to get more would-be buyers off the fence and into the market. This led to even more demand which translated into rising home prices.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by 18 days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County remains the tightest market; homes, on average, sold in a remarkable 15 days. Every county in this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop from the same period a year ago.
  • Last quarter, it took an average of 48 days to sell a home. This is down from the 66 days it took in the second quarter of 2016.
  • Given the marked lack of inventory, I would not be surprised to see the length of time it takes to sell a home drop further before the end of the year.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. To define the Western Washington market as “tight” is somewhat of an understatement.

Inventory is short and buyers are plentiful.

Something must give, but unless we see builders delivering substantially more units than they have been, it will remain staunchly a sellers’ market for the balance of the year.

Furthermore, increasing mortgage rates have failed to materialize and, with employment and income growth on the rise, the regional housing market will continue to be very robust.

 

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 article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Local Market Update – July 2017

It was another month of record-setting home prices in June as the area yet again took the prize for the hottest real estate market in the country. In a bright spot for buyers, the number of new listings added in June was the highest total for any single month since May 2008. While inventory is still low, the pace of sales is slowing and the number of multiple offers are down, suggesting that we may soon see a slight reprieve from the last year of rapid-fire growth.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside soared 19 percent from a year ago to a new record-high of $885,000. Despite that increase, multiple offers—while down—are still common. With most buyers presenting offers on multiple properties before purchasing a home, working with a broker to create a strong strategic plan, clear negotiating parameters, and a streamlined offer are critical for success.

King County

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The median price of a single-family home in King County climbed 14 percent over a year ago to a new record of $653,000. Inventory remains extremely tight, and homes are selling very quickly. According to a broker analysis, 80-to-90 percent of sellers in the Puget Sound area are accepting offers on their homes within 30 days of listing. In hot neighborhoods, that number can be just a few days.

Seattle

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Seattle home prices are rising at the fastest rate in nation. U.S. Census data shows Seattle is gaining about 1,100 residents week. With supply unable to keep up with soaring demand, prices just keep climbing. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle jumped 13 percent over a year ago to $750,000. The increase in the number of $1 million-plus homes in the city was among the highest in the country.

Snohomish County

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Buyers looking to get more home for their dollar continue to make the move north to Snohomish County. Demand is so high that new construction homes are selling before they’re built, with many new homes not even hitting the market. The median price of a single-family home sold in June increased 14 percent over the same time last year to $450,000, unchanged from last month’s record high.

Local Market Update – June 2017

The hottest real estate market in the country just keeps getting hotter. Despite a large number of new listings, home prices in the Puget Sound area continued to set records in May. According to a Seattle Times article, “For the first time since the 2007 housing bubble, every county in the central Puget Sound region has set a new median home price record.” Brokers hope this news will help entice more sellers to put their homes on the market.

Eastside

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While down just slightly from its record high last month, the median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up 15 percent from a year ago to $875,000. With just three weeks of inventory, those looking to buy a home can continue to count on a highly competitive market. It is key for buyers to work with a broker on a buying strategy, and to be willing to act quickly to make an offer.

King County

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King County is starved for inventory. The number of homes for sale in the county dropped 20 percent from a year ago. The good news: The number of new listings year-over-year grew for the first time in 2017. The bad news: They’re getting snapped up as soon as they come on the market. The median price of a single-family home in King County jumped 13 percent over a year ago to a new record of $632,000.

Seattle

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Seattle is the fastest growing city in the country, and that demand is driving prices ever higher. That demand combined with razor-thin inventory has resulted in Seattle topping the nation in bidding wars. As a result, it’s no surprise that home prices here set yet another record in May. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle soared 14 percent over a year ago to $729,000.

Snohomish County

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A steady stream of buyers being priced out of King County have set their sights north in hopes of finding a more affordable house payment. While home prices here are indeed less, that gap has been slowly closing. The median price of a single-family home jumped 15 percent over the same time last year to $450,000, an all-time record.

Local Market Update – May 2017

The local real estate market—already the hottest in the country—set yet another price record in April. The number of homes for sale dropped 27 percent compared to a year ago, the lowest amount of inventory ever recorded for a spring month. The historically low supply of homes is making competition among buyers fierce. Sellers are in the enviable position of being able to structure sales agreements to include concessions such as rent-backs and longer closing time so they can take the time to find their next home.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside reached an all-time high of $880,000 in April, a 21 percent jump over last April. That represents an increase of $150,000 over a year ago, the largest dollar increase on record. With our strong economy and growing population, brokers are not predicting a slowdown any time soon.

King County

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Inventory in King County just keeps getting tighter. There are just 1,900 homes on the market here. That compares to nearly 8,000 in April 2011. As buyers bid up existing homes, prices have escalated sharply. The median price of a single-family home jumped 16 percent from the same time last year to $625,000.

Seattle

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Seattle set a record for home prices for the third straight month. The median price of a single-family home rose 13 percent over the same time last year to $722,250. Like the rest of King County, lack of inventory was the driver. In one of the city’s hottest markets, Ballard, there are just 19 single-family homes on the market.

Snohomish County

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Home prices in Snohomish County are rising at their fastest pace in four years. The median price of a single-family home soared 17 percent from a year ago to $440,000. While that increase is substantial, prices here are still 30 percent less than in King County.