The Gardner Report – Fourth 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

The Washington State economy continues to add jobs at an above-average rate, though the pace of growth is starting to slow as the business cycle matures. Over the past 12 months, the state added 96,600 new jobs, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9% — well above the national rate of 1.7%. Private sector employment gains continue to be quite strong, increasing at an annual rate of 3.6%. Public sector employment was down 0.3%. The strongest growth sectors were Real Estate Brokerage and Leasing (+11.4%), Employment Services (+10.3%), and Residential Construction (+10.2%). During fourth quarter, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.3%, down from 4.7% a year ago.

My latest economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will still be positive but is expected to slow. We should see an additional 83,480 new jobs, which would be a year-over-year increase of 2.4%.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 17,353 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2018. Year-over-year sales growth started to slow in the third quarter and this trend continued through the end of the year. Sales were down 16% compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • The slowdown in home sales was mainly a function of increasing listing activity, which was up 38.8% compared to the fourth quarter of 2017 (continuing a trend that started earlier in the year). Almost all of the increases in listings were in King and Snohomish Counties. There were more modest increases in Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap, Skagit, and Island Counties. Listing activity was down across the balance of the region.
  • Only two counties—Mason and Lewis—saw sales rise compared to the fourth quarter of 2017, with the balance of the region seeing lower levels of sales activity.​
  • We saw the traditional drop in listings in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, but I fully anticipate that we will see another jump in listings when the spring market hits. The big question will be to what degree listings will rise.

Home Prices

  • With greater choice, home price growth in Western Washington continued to slow in fourth quarter, with a year-over-year increase of 5% to $486,667. Notably, prices were down 3.3% compared to the third quarter of 2018.

  • Home prices, although higher than a year ago, continue to slow. As mentioned earlier, we have seen significant increases in inventory and this will slow down price gains. I maintain my belief that this is a good thing, as the pace at which home prices were rising was unsustainable.

  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Skagit County, where home prices were up 13.7%. Three other counties experienced double-digit price increases.

  • Price growth has been moderating for the past two quarters and I believe that we have reached a price ceiling in many markets. I would not be surprised to see further drops in prices across the region in the first half of 2019, but they should start to resume their upward trend in the second half of the year.

Days on Market

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

  • Thurston County joined King County as the tightest markets in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 35 days to sell. There were eight counties that saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in five counties and was unchanged in two.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 51 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter of 2018. This is down from 54 days in the fourth quarter of 2017 but up by 12 days when compared to the third quarter of 2018.

  • I suggested in the third quarter Gardner Report that we should be prepared for days on market to increase, and that has proven to be accurate. I expect this trend will continue, but this is typical of a regional market that is moving back to becoming balanced.​

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 am continuing to move the needle toward buyers as price growth moderates and listing inventory continues to rise.

2019 will be the year that we get closer to having a more balanced housing market. Buyer and seller psychology will continue to be significant factors as home sellers remain optimistic about the value of their home, while buyers feel significantly less pressure to buy. Look for the first half of 2019 to be fairly slow as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for price stability, but then I do expect to see a more buoyant second half of the year.

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the Unversity of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

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.

What You Need to Know About the US Luxury Housing Market

Posted in Luxury by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate 

Photo courtesy of West Bellevue Partners | MLS # 1324889

Luxury homes sales across the U.S. continue to perform strongly, but I’m noticing some headwinds starting to appear that are worthy of a closer look.

It’s often thought that luxury real estate runs totally independent of the overall market, and while this is true in some respects, there are definitely correlations between high-end housing and the rest of the market.

The first similarity is that the luxury market has suffered from some the same inventory constraints that are almost endemic across all price points in the U.S. But, similar to the overall market, we are starting to see a rise in inventory, which should be good news for real estate agents and luxury home buyers alike.

Impact of rising inventory 

This increase in the number of luxury homes for sale has started to have a tapering effect on price growth, which again, is similar to what we’re seeing in the rest of the market. But as real estate professionals, we know full well that all housing is local and some markets are performing far better than others.

For example, luxury markets in Maui, Northern California, Colorado, and Sarasota, Florida, are all experiencing substantial price growth, while there are noticeable slowdowns in many parts of New York and New Jersey. Even Queens and Jersey City, which have continued to benefit from high demand, have seen price growth stall recently, indicating that those markets could be losing some steam.

Why the slowdown? 

The slowing of luxury sales in certain areas around the country piqued my interest, so I decided to explore why this is happening. The first thing I noticed is that cities with high property taxes are fairly prevalent on the list of slowing markets; this includes cities like Boston, Austin, New York City, and Chicago. It is likely that the federal tax changes limiting the deductibility of property taxes are the culprit for such slowdowns in these areas.

Something else that has undoubtedly impacted luxury home sales in markets, such as New York City and Seattle, is the significant decline in foreign buyers from countries like China and Canada. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of purchases by international buyers fell by 21 percent between 2017 and 2018, amounting to a drop of $32 billion – the largest decline on record.  Foreign buyers spent $121 billion on 266,754 properties, making up 8 percent of the buyers of existing (previously lived in) homes.

My research tells me that foreign home buyers are pulling back amid political uncertainty in the U.S. Ongoing concerns about a potential trade war, combined with rhetoric against foreigners, have done their part to dampen some of the enthusiasm to invest in U.S. housing. Also playing a role in this slowdown is the Chinese Central Government which has started placing tighter controls on the ability to spend money outside of mainland China. And finally, rising home prices and a strong U.S. dollar are likely two other key factors behind the tumbling interest in luxury real estate from overseas buyers.

So how do I see the luxury market performing in 2019?

Luxury real estate sales in markets like Boston, Clearwater, Austin, and Alexandria, Virginia will continue to slow down for the reasons stated earlier, but in other parts of the country, home buyers will provide the demand needed to keep the market plugging along at a healthy pace.

The changes affecting mortgage interest deductions and property taxes will also continue to impact the luxury market in certain areas, but this will, to a degree, be offset by other tax changes that favor high-income households and increase their disposable income. Something else that will help keep the luxury real estate market afloat in the coming year is jumbo mortgage interest rates which remain remarkably competitive compared to historic standards.

On a whole, high-end real estate sales have been strong over the past few years. While I am predicting somewhat of a slowdown next year given the headwinds discussed earlier, 2019 will be remembered as a year where balance started to return to the luxury housing market.

Mr. 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 Blog.

How Windermere Wins with Chinese Buyers

Chinese buyers continue to strongly influence our local market. 

According to a report by Chinese website Juwai, the Seattle/Eastside area is the #3 most popular choice in the U.S. for Chinese buyers behind Los Angeles and New York City.

Windermere specifically targets this lucrative market. 

  • Windermere properties are listed on the Chinese real estate website, Juwai, which has 2.6 million unique views per month from Chinese consumers who are searching purely for western properties.
  • Windermere properties are listed with Luxury Portfolio International, a prestigious real estate site with a fully-translated Mandarin language portal.
  • Windermere will have a prominent presence at the Luxury Property Show in Beijing, an invitation-only event hosting over 6,000 highly-targeted luxury home buyers in China.
  • Windermere targets local Chinese nationals and their families and colleagues through marketing in the Seattle Chinese Times. \

Windermere agents sell more luxury homes to Chinese buyers. 

Source: Sales in 2017 to Chinese buyers of residential homes in King County priced at $3 million or more. Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, public records, and information from brokers. Information are estimates. Information was not verified or published by NWMLS.