Local Market Update – November 2018

Increased inventory, slower sales and more price reductions all point to a balancing market—welcome news for price-shocked buyers. Sales prices are up from last October and down from the all-time high reached this spring. Despite the slowdown, it’s important to point out that we’re only moving back toward what a normal market looks like. King and Snohomish counties each have over two months of available inventory. While that is double the inventory of a year ago, it’s far short of the four to six months supply that is considered a balanced market. Sellers looking to list their home now can be sure there remains plenty of interest among home buyers.

Eastside

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The median home on the Eastside sold for $890,000 in October, up 5 percent from a year ago and unchanged from the previous month.  While year-over-year price increases were in the single digits for the Eastside overall, several areas, including Kirkland, Woodinville and Mercer Island, experienced double-digit price gains.  Buyers are still having to pay a premium for desirable Eastside properties. However, with more choices and less buyer urgency, sellers need to price their home correctly to maximize their chances of getting the best possible return.

King County

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Inventory in King County for all homes, both single-family and condominium, soared 102 percent over last October.  The increase was due to an influx of new listings and the fact that homes are now taking longer to sell than at the peak of the market this spring. While buyers now have more breathing room to make their decisions, the 2.4 months of inventory in King County is still far from a balanced market. The median price of a single-family home in October was $670,999, an increase of 7 percent from the same time last year, and virtually unchanged from August and September.  South King County showed larger increases, with prices rising more than 10 percent from a year ago in Auburn, Kent and Renton.

Seattle

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In October, the median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $750,000, up 2 percent from last October and down slightly from last month. While inventory doubled over a year ago, Seattle falls behind most areas of King County in supply with just under two months of inventory available.  Demand is predicted to stay high, with Seattle’s population projected to grow at twice the national rate next year. That said, buyers are in the position to be able to negotiate.  A recent analysis named Seattle as one of the top markets in the country where it makes the most sense to buy this winter.

Snohomish County

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Inventory in Snohomish County soared 65 percent in October as compared to a year ago. The area now has 2.4 months of inventory, about the same relative supply as King County. As with most of the Puget Sound area, the increase in inventory was due to a higher number of sellers listing their homes and fewer sales. Year-over-year, the median price of a single-family home sold in October in Snohomish County grew 8 percent to $473,000.  The median price in September was $485,000.

The Gardner Report – Third Quarter 2018

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere Agent. 

Economic Overview

Washington State continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the nation and there is little to suggest that there will be any marked slowdown in the foreseeable future. Over the past year, the state has added 105,900 new jobs, representing an annual growth rate of 3.2%. This remains well above the national rate of 1.65%. Private sector employment gains continue to be robust, increasing at an annual rate of 3.7%. The strongest growth sectors were Construction (+7.4%), Information (+6.2%), and Professional & Business Services (+6.1%). The state’s unemployment rate was 4.5%, down from 4.8% a year ago.

All year I’ve been predicting that Washington State’s annual job growth would outperform the nation as a whole, and we now know with certainty that this is going to be the case. Furthermore, I am now able to predict that statewide job growth in 2019 will be equally strong, with an expected increase of 2.6%.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 22,310 home sales during the third quarter of 2018. This is a significant drop of 12.7% compared to the third quarter of 2017.

  • The number of homes for sale last quarter was up 14.5% compared to the third quarter of 2017, continuing a trend that started earlier in the year. However, the increase in listings was only in Seattle’s tri-county area (King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties) while listing activity was down across the balance of the region.

  • Only two counties had a year-over-year increase in home sales, while the rest of Western Washington saw sales decrease.

  • The region has reached an inflection point. With the increase in the number of homes for sale, buyers now have more choices and time to make​ a decision about what home to buy.

Home Prices

  • As inventory levels start to rise, some of the heat has been taken off the market, which caused home prices in the Western Washington region to go up by a relatively modest 6.2% over last year to $503,039. Notably, prices are down by 4.4% when compared to the second quarter of this year.

  • Home prices, although higher than a year ago, continue to slow due to the significant increase in the number of homes for sale. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing.​​

  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Lewis County, where home prices were up 15.3%. Six other counties experienced double-digit price increases.

  • Slowing price growth was inevitable; we simply could not sustain the increases we’ve experienced in recent years. Lower rates of appreciation will continue until wage growth catches up.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by four days compared to the same quarter of 2017.

  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 39 days to sell a home in the third quarter of this year. This is down from 43 days in the third quarter of 2017 and down 2 days when compared to the second quarter of 2018.​
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 19 days to sell. Every county in the region other than Skagit and King — which both saw the time on the market rise by 2 days — saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop when compared to the same period a year ago.

  • More choice in the market would normally suggest that the length of time it takes to sell a home should rise, but the data has yet to show that. That said, compared to last quarter, we are seeing some marked increases in days on market in several counties, which will be reflected in future reports.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. I started to move the needle toward buyers last quarter and have moved it even further this quarter. Price growth continues to slow, but more significant is the rise in listings, which I expect to continue as we move toward the quieter winter period.

I believe that psychology will start to play a part in the housing market going forward. It has been more than 15 years since we’ve experienced a “balanced” market, so many home buyers and sellers have a hard time remembering what one looks like. Concerns over price drops are overrated and the length of time it’s taking to sell a home is simply trending back to where it used to be in the early 2000s.

 

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.

 

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

Local Market Update – October 2018

It appears that balance is slowly returning to the local housing market. Home price growth slowed in September. Inventory continued to climb, but is still far short of the four to six months that indicate a normal market. Homes are staying on the market longer, giving buyers the breathing room to make the right choice for their situation.  With our region’s healthy job growth, and demand still exceeding supply, it’s likely to take some time to move to a fully balanced market.

Eastside

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Home price increases moderated into the single-digits in September. The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up 4 percent from the same time last year to $890,0000 but down from a median price of $935,000 in August. Inventory increased significantly and price drops jumped. While the market is softening, the recent expanded presence of Google and Facebook on the Eastside means demand should stay strong.  In addition, the area’s excellent school system continues to be a large draw for buyers both locally and internationally.

King County

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Inventory was up 68 percent year-over-year in King County due to a higher number of sellers listing their homes and fewer sales.  There is now more than two months of inventory in the county, a number we haven’t seen in nearly four years. Despite the increase, there is a long way to go to reach the four to six months of inventory that is considered balanced.  In September, the median price of a single-family home was $668,000; an increase of 7 percent from the same time last year and virtually unchanged from August.

Seattle

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Inventory in Seattle surged in September from a year ago. Only San Jose, CA saw the number of homes for sale rise faster than Seattle last month. The median home price in September was $775,000. Up slightly from the $760,000 median price in August and a 7 percent increase from last year. The double-digit price growth of past years appear to be waning and overzealous sellers who listed their homes at unrealistically high prices have been forced to reduce them. Bidding wars have declined and the typical well-priced house is now selling right at asking price.

Snohomish County

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While not nearly as dramatic as the case in King County, inventory in Snohomish County was up 40 percent. The area has just over two months of inventory with home prices moderating. The median price of a single-family home increased 8 percent over a year ago to $485,000. That’s down from the $492,000 median reached in August and $26,000 less than the peak of the market reached in spring.

How to Acquire the Right Appraisal for Your Home

Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

Appraised value vs. market value

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.

They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out
  • The home’s layout and features
  • Home updates
  • Overall quality of construction
  • Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

What if the appraisal is too low?

If your appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually, the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

  • What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
  • Any personal property that is included
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays and get the information you need quickly and satisfactorily!

This post originally appeared on the Windermere blog.

Local Market Update – September 2018

The number of homes for sale in August increased dramatically over the same time a year ago. This is the result of a moderate increase in new listings and a much slower pace of sales. Homes are staying on the market longer, giving buyers more choices and more time to make an informed decision.  While home prices are up compared to a year ago, the rate of increase was in the single digits rather than the double-digit surges of past months. It’s still a seller’s market, but sellers need to have realistic expectations about pricing their homes as the market softens.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up nearly 10 percent from the same time last year to $935,000. Home prices have declined each month from the all-time high of $977,759 set in June. Inventory increased 73 percent over last August. With supply soaring and home prices moderating, sellers need to work with their broker to price their home to meet the current market conditions. A year ago 47 percent of the homes on the Eastside sold for over list price. This August that number was down to 29 percent.

King County

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King County experienced yet another flood of inventory with the number of homes for sale jumping 65 percent over the previous year. Despite the growth, the county has just 1.9 months of inventory and remains a seller-oriented market. The market has slowed but it remains fast-paced, with 62 percent of the properties here selling in fewer than 15 days.  While home prices were up 3 percent from a year ago, the median price of $669,000 represented the third straight month of declines from the record-high of $726,275 reached in May.

Seattle

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After leading the nation in home price growth for nearly two years, Seattle is finally cooling off.  The median home price in August was $760,000, up just 4 percent from last year and down from the record $830,000 reached in May.  Inventory soared in August, but the city still has just two months of supply, far short of the four to six months that is considered balanced.  Bidding wars are becoming less common and price drops more common. Sellers must adjust their expectations to what appears to be a long waited moderating of the market.

Snohomish County

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Mirroring the market slowdown in King County, Snohomish County also experienced a cooling off in August. The median price of a single-family home was $492,000, up 8 percent from a year ago but down from the record high of $511,000 two months prior. Inventory increased nearly 30 percent, but at just 1.6 months of supply the market remains very tight and sales are brisk. Sixty percent of homes here sold within 15 days.