Last week Windermere hosted 16 members of the China Alliance of Real Estate Agencies (CAREA) during a daylong tour of Seattle and Bellevue, WA. CAREA is a coalition of the largest regional and national real estate companies in China, representing over 60 percent of all Chinese real estate sales. Their stop in Seattle was a part of a four-city tour that also included Chicago, New York, and Dallas. The cities were identified because of their popularity amongst Chinese investors/buyers, and the CAREA member’s desire to better understand the residential real estate markets in those areas.
The group’s interest in Seattle stems from the growing number of Chinese foreign national buyers in the area, especially in neighborhoods like West Bellevue where real estate brokers say buyers are drawn to the newer homes, top-performing schools, and proximity to high-end restaurants and shopping. This year, Seattle surpassed San Francisco as the second place in the world where Chinese millionaires want to purchase property (according to Shanghai-based Hurun Research).
Windermere took the group on a tour of three luxury homes in West Bellevue that are on the market for between $5 and $10 million. The tour started with a new construction home priced at $6.8 million in Clyde Hill, represented by Windermere broker Shawna Ader. The second stop was a more traditional home in Medina for $5.3 million, listed by Windermere broker Wendy Paisley. The last home was the show stopper, an incredible manse priced at just under $10 million on Yarrow Point, represented by Windermere broker Anna Riley.
Along for the ride were also several members of the media who were drawn to the story about Chinese interest in the Seattle-area housing market. KING 5 News, KOMO 4 News, Q13 News, and the Seattle Times all spent time touring the homes and interviewing representatives from CAREA and Windermere about the reasons why Seattle is an increasingly popular location for international buyers.
Following the luxury home tour, the Chinese guests and Windermere executives gathered for lunch and a presentation by Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, who provided an overview of the greater Seattle area housing market and economy. The day was then capped off with a seaplane tour of Seattle by Kenmore Air. As CAREA vice president Yi Lui stated after the tour, “A float plane is the way to sell Seattle.”
Prices in our area have now been rising faster than anywhere in the country for twelve months. Sellers seem to be getting the message that now is a good time to put their home on the market. There was an increase in new inventory in October, but with homes selling rapidly, there still aren’t enough properties to meet demand. As a result, counties throughout the Puget Sound area saw year-over-year price increases in the double digits.
The median price for a single-family home on the Eastside rose 10 percent from a year ago to $845,000. Homes in West Bellevue hit a new record median price of $2.6 million. Despite soaring prices, demand has remained strong in this desirable area. And the continued robust economy makes it unlikely that home prices here will cool any time soon.
The number of new listings in King County increased at the highest rate in more than a year. But, they were grabbed up quickly, with most homes selling in well under 30 days. The shortage of homes for sale propelled prices up, with the median home price in King County jumping 15 percent over the same time last year to $630,000.
Seattle remains the hottest real estate market in the country, with prices rising here at more than double the national rate. Rents in Seattle are also rising faster than almost anywhere else in the country, pushing more people into the home buying market. High demand and slim supply helped boost the median price of a single-family home nearly 18 percent to $735,000.
The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County in October was $440,000, an increase of 14 percent over the prior year. The market here may be moderating slightly. Brokers note that while multiple offers are continuing, listings are experiencing longer market times and fewer above-list price offers.
The Washington State economy added 79,600 new jobs over the past 12 months—an impressive growth rate of 2.4%, and well above the national growth rate of 1.2%. However, as we anticipated in last quarter’s report, we continue to see a modest slowdown in the growth rate as the state grows closer to full employment. Growth has been broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than Aerospace (a function of a slowdown at Boeing). Given the current rate of expansion, I am raising my employment forecast and now predict that Washington will add 81,000 new jobs in 2017.
Given the robust job market, it is unsurprising that the state unemployment rate continues to fall. The current unemployment rate in Washington State is 4.6% and we are essentially at full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report reported either a drop or stability in their unemployment rate from a year ago. I maintain my belief that the Washington State economy will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole. Given such a strong expansion, we should also expect solid income growth across Western Washington.
Home Sales Activity
There were 25,312 home sales during the third quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.6% over the same period in 2016.
Clallam County maintains its number one position for sales growth over the past 12 months. Only four other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. This demonstrates continuing issues with the low supply of listings. There were modest declines in sales activity in six counties.
The market remains remarkably tight with listing inventory down by 14.2% when compared to the third quarter of 2016. But inventory is up a significant 32% compared to the second quarter of this year. Pending sales rose by 5.2% over the same quarter a year ago, which suggests that closings in Q4 will still be robust.
The key takeaway from this data is that inventory is still very low, and the situation is unlikely to improve through the balance of the year.
Given tight supply levels, it is unsurprising to see very solid price growth across the Western Washington counties. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12.3% to $474,184. This is 0.9% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
With demand far exceeding supply, price growth in Western Washington continues to trend well above the longterm average. As I do not expect to see the new home market expand at any significant pace, there will be continued pressure on the resale market, which will cause home prices to continue to rise at above-average rates.
When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Grays Harbor County where sale prices were 20.1% higher than the third quarter of 2016. Nine additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
Mortgage rates in the quarter continue to test the lows of 2017, and this is unlikely to change in the near-term. This will allow home prices to escalate further but I expect we will see rates start to rise fairly modestly in 2018, which could slow price growth.
Days on Market
The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by eight days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
King County continues to be the tightest market, with homes taking an average of 17 days to sell. Every county except San Juan saw the days on market drop from the same period a year ago.
This quarter, it took an average of 43 days to sell a home. This is down from the 51 days it took in the second quarter of 2016 and down by 8 days from the second quarter of this year.
At some point, inventory will start to grow and this will lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. However, I do not expect that to happen at any time soon. So we remain in a seller’s market.
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 third quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as the second quarter. Though price growth remains robust, sales activity has slowed very slightly and listings jumped relative to the second quarter. That said, the market is very strong and buyers will continue to find significant competition for accurately priced and well-located homes.
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 more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
All of us at Windermere are very excited to be in the midst of the second season of our partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, and continuing our campaign to help #tacklehomelessness. For every home game tackle made by the Seahawks, the Windermere Foundation is donating $100 to YouthCare, a non-profit that provides critical services to homeless youth throughout the Puget Sound area.
As proud as we are of our #tacklehomelessness campaign and the money we’re raising, we know we can do more. That’s why we’re hosting another Windermere “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive to benefit YouthCare. Each night in the greater Seattle area, nearly 1,000 young people are homeless. And with the winter months quickly approaching, YouthCare is in dire need of survival supplies to keep homeless youth warm and dry during the long, wet winter.
Here’s what we are collecting:
*New items only please
From October 16 through November 10, you can drop off donations to participating Windermere offices in King and Snohomish Counties**. Our friends at Gentle Giant Moving Company are generously donating their time and trucks to pick up all of the donations from our offices. Donations can also be dropped off directly to YouthCare, Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm, at 2500 NE 54th St, Seattle, WA 98105.
We hope you will consider making a donation to our “We’ve Got You Covered” winter drive. Feel free to contact your Windermere agent or local office for more information, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.