What Can We Expect From The 2018 Housing Market?

This article was originally written by Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner on the Windermere.com blog.

It’s the time of the year when I look deep into my crystal ball to see what’s on the horizon for the upcoming year. As we are all aware, 2017 has been a stellar year for housing across the country, but can we expect that to continue in 2018?

Here are my thoughts:

Millennial Home Buyers

Last year, I predicted that the big story for 2017 would be millennial home buyers and it appears I was a little too bullish. To date, first-time buyers have made up 34% of all home purchases this year – still below the 40% that is expected in a normalized market.  Although they are buying, it is not across all regions of the country, but rather in less expensive markets such as North Dakota, Ohio, and Maryland.

For the coming year, I believe the number of millennial buyers will expand further and be one of the biggest influencers in the U.S. housing market. I also believe that they will begin buying in more expensive markets. That’s because millennials are getting older and further into their careers, enabling them to save more money and raise their credit profiles.

Existing Home Sales

As far as existing home sales are concerned, in 2018 we should expect a reasonable increase of 3.7% – or 5.62 million housing units. In many areas, demand will continue to exceed supply, but a slight increase in inventory will help take some heat off the market. Because of this, home prices are likely to rise but by a more modest 4.4%.

New Home Sales

New home sales in 2018 should rise by around 8% to 655,000 units, with prices increasing by 4.1%. While housing starts – and therefore sales – will rise next year, they will still remain well below the long-term average due to escalating land, labor, materials, and regulatory costs. I do hold out hope that home builders will be able to help meet the high demand we’re expecting from first-time buyers, but in many markets it’s very difficult for them to do so due to rising construction costs.

Interest Rates

Interest rates continue to baffle forecasters. The anticipated rise that many of us have been predicting for several years has yet to materialize. As it stands right now, my forecast for 2018 is for interest rates to rise modestly to an average of 4.4% for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage – still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.

Tax Reform

Something that has the potential to have a major impact on housing are the current proposals relative to tax reform. As I write this, we know that both the House and Senate propose doubling the standard deduction, and the House plans to lower the mortgage interest deduction from $1,000,000 to $500,000. If passed, the mortgage deduction would no longer have value for home owners who would likely opt to take the standard deduction.

If either of the current proposals is adopted into law, the potential reduction in mortgage-related tax savings means the after-tax cost of home ownership will increase for most home owners. Additionally, both the House and Senate bills also end tax benefits for interest on second homes, and this could have a devastating effect in areas with higher concentrations of second homes.

The capping of the deduction for state and local property taxes (SALT) at $10,000 will also negatively impact states with high property taxes, such as California, Connecticut, and New York. Furthermore, proposed changes to the capital gains exemption on profits from the sale of a home (requiring five years of continuous residence as compared to the current two) could impact approximately 750,000 home sellers a year and slow the growth of home ownership.

Something else to consider is that all of the aforementioned changes will only affect new home purchases, which I fear might become a deterrent for current home owners to sell. Given the severe shortage of homes for sale in a number of markets across the country, this could serve to exacerbate an already-persistent problem.

Housing Bubble

I continue to be concerned about housing affordability. Home prices have been rising across much of the country at unsustainable rates, and although I still contend that we are not in “bubble” territory, it does represent a substantial impediment to the long-term health of the housing market. But if home price growth begins to taper, as I predict it will in 2018, that should provide some relief in many markets where there are concerns about a housing bubble.

In summary, along with slowing home price growth, there should be a modest improvement in the number of homes for sale in 2018, and the total home sales will be higher than 2017. First-time buyers will continue to play a substantial role in the nation’s housing market, but their influence may be limited depending on where the government lands on tax reform.

2017 Windermere Eastside Kick-off

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Last week, over 500 brokers from offices across the Eastside (and even Chelan!) gathered at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue for the annual Windermere Eastside Kick-off event to prepare and get motivated for the 2017 housing market. Speakers shared their insights and predictions for the year ahead so our brokers can be better prepared to serve their clients.

Opportunity – Synergy – Endurance

eastsidekickoff-144Kicking off the event was Matt Deasy, owner of Windermere Real Estate/East, Inc., to share three takeaway values and reminders as we prepare to take on the red-hot Seattle real estate market.

Windermere brokers provide value to our clients in three different ways: opportunity, synergy, and endurance. In the greater Seattle area, we are uniquely poised to take advantage of the strong economy and educate our customers on our housing market.

Top Producer Broker Panel

eastsidekickoff-158Next up was a broker panel with some of the Eastside’s top producing brokers moderated by Mike Connolly, owner of Windermere Real Estate/Central, Inc. The broker panel included Nicole Mangina (Bellevue Commons), Jay Agoado (Mercer Island), Ruth Harle (East, Inc.), Clive Egdes (Kirkland – Central), and Tony Butz (East, Inc.). These brokers shared tips, ideas, and personal anecdotes about what has improved and made a positive impact on their businesses.

Technology Update

eastsidekickoff-227Shawn Prutsman, Vice President of Technology with Windermere Services, also spoke on some of the technological updates we can expect this year.

Windermere’s leading tech services help our brokers and customers. Through our innovative tools, we are able to provide outstanding marketing and technological support to help our clients sell their homes quicker, and to help buyers with the selling process.

Economic Forecast

eastsidekickoff-240Matthew Gardner, Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist, attended to share his forecast for the 2017 housing market. While he has shared some general reports with predictions, Gardner provided our brokers with an in depth analysis of the economy and the local real estate market. We always appreciate his insight and statistics as we educate our clients on the financial choices they make in the purchase or sale of their homes.

Home Design Trends for 2017

eastsidekickoff-277In a special panel moderated by Peter Hickey, owner of Windermere Real Estate/Northeast, Inc., architecture and design specialists described Northwest home design trends we might be seeing more of this year. This panel featured Sheri Olson of Sheri Olson Architecture, Susan Marinello of Susan Marinello Interiors, Inc., and Brenda Gage with JayMarc Homes.

With a large influx of newcomers to the area, home buyer design interests and trends are shifting. Outgoing trends like microwaves over ranges, and incoming trends like designed mudrooms were hot topics. The three discussed how we will probably see a resurgence in architecture to reflect the environment.

The Right Mindset for 2017

eastsidekickoff-292Then it was time to wrap up the event and get everyone in the right mindset for the new year. Dan Givens with Windermere Professional Development shared his three main ways to help positively approach the new year. The bonus with these steps is they can be used every day and will benefit everyone regardless of where they work in the real estate industry. If you tell yourself you will have fun, meet nice people, and set a goal to help someone solve a problem each day, you will have no choice but to have a positive and successful year.

The Windermere Eastside Kick-off was an inspiring event with useful information to help our brokers prepare for and embrace for the year ahead. We are excited to put this knowledge to good use as we help you navigate the listing or sale of your home in 2017!

Local Market Update – January 2017

A record low number of houses for sale in December indicates that 2017 will continue to be a very competitive market for buyers. The good news: those who decide to take the plunge and list their home can count on getting a premium price for their property. Brokers reported that about three-fourths of the homes sold in December involved bidding wars.

Eastside

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Click image to view full report.

Strong demand driven by a booming tech economy and great schools continue to strain the already low inventory on the Eastside. It’s not unusual for a well-priced new listing to receive dozens of offers and to sell for well over asking price. With supply failing to meet demand, the median price for homes sold in December soared 19 percent to a new record high of $803,500.

King County

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Click image to view full report.

King County had only about 1,600 single-family homes on the market in December, an all-time low. With the healthy regional economy, demand remains very strong. Prices, however, appear to be moderating somewhat. The median price for a single-family home sold in December was $550,000, up 8 percent over a year ago, but unchanged from October and November. A traditional uptick in inventory this spring may help keep price increases more modest this year compared to the double-digit increases seen in 2015.

Seattle

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Click image to view full report.

According to the Case-Shiller home price index, home prices are rising faster in the Seattle metro area than in any other major region in the country. One issue is space. The city’s existing density means that virtually no new single-family homes are being built in Seattle. As new residents flood in, more people are competing for the already tight inventory. As a result, home prices are up. The median cost of a single-family home rose 6 percent from a year ago to $635,000.

Snohomish County

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Click image to view full report.

While home prices in Snohomish County are well below those of King County, the gap is closing as prices here are increasing at a faster pace than neighboring counties. The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County rose 12 percent as compared to a year ago to $400,000. Like King County, inventory is very slim, indicating a market heavily favoring sellers.

2016 Economic & Housing Forecast

The National Economic Forecast

1. The U.S. will continue to expand with real GDP growth of 2.3% in 2016.

Although a positive number, the forecasted rate of growth suggests that we will be modestly underperforming in 2016.  On a positive note, oil prices are likely to remain well below long-term averages, which puts more money into consumers’ pockets in terms of disposable incomes.  However, I believe that consumers are likely to continue to save rather than spend which will constrain growth.  That said, there is certainly no recession on the horizon – at least not yet – and a strong dollar will act as a bit of an anchor.

2. Employment will continue to expand but the rate of growth will slow. Look for an increase of 1.6% in 2016.

We are rapidly approaching full employment (generally considered to be when the unemployment rate drops below 5 percent).  As such, growth in employment has to be driven more by population growth rather than a return to employment. 2015 saw an average of around 210,000 jobs created per month and I believe that this is likely to slow to an average monthly gain of 190,000 new jobs.

3. The U.S. unemployment rate will continue to drop and end 2016 at 4.8%.

As mentioned above, we are heading toward full employment and, as such, the national unemployment rate cannot trend much lower.  That said, the less acknowledged U-6 rate (which includes those working part-time and those marginally attached to the workforce) will remain elevated at around 8%, signifying that there is still some slack in the economy and room for the rate to drop a little further.

4. Inflation will remain in check with the Consumer Price Index at 1.9%.

The Federal Reserve has begun the long-awaited tightening of monetary policy and we will likely see the Fed Funds Rate continue to move higher over the next two years. Inflation has yet to respond to the low unemployment rate, but it will.

The core rate of inflation should remain in check and the overall rate could stay below long-term averages as a function of stubbornly low energy costs. Should we see a shift in OPEC’s position relative to oil supply, the overall rate of inflation could rise more rapidly.  Oil prices, therefore, will remain in focus during 2016.

The National Housing Market Forecast

5. Mortgage rates will rise, but we will still end 2016 with the average 30-year fixed rate below 5%.

I am taking the Fed at its word when it says that monetary tightening in 2016 will be gradual and heavily data dependent. Accordingly, I expect only a modest uptick in long-term rates in 2016. Furthermore, as long as the Federal Reserve continues to reinvest the dividends that it is receiving from their bond holdings – which is highly likely – the yield on the key 10-year treasury will remain low and hold mortgage rates in check. This is only likely to change after the general election, therefore suggesting that rates will remain very attractive relative to their long-term averages.

6. Credit Quality – which had been remarkably stringent – will relax a little.

Access to credit, specifically mortgage instruments, has not been easy for many would-be homebuyers but that is set to change. I believe that we will see some improvement, specifically for borrowers with “near-prime” credit. This will be of some assistance to first-time buyers; however, credit quality will still be higher than it needs to be.

7. Existing home sales will rise modestly to an annual rate of 5.53 million units with existing home prices up by 4.7%.

I anticipate that we will see some improvement in overall transactional velocities in 2016, but unfortunately, demand will still exceed supply. Prices will continue to rise, but at a more constrained pace than seen over the past few years. This will be a function of modestly rising interest rates as well as slightly improving levels of inventory. I anticipate that we will see more listings come online as more households return to positions of positive equity in their homes.

8. New home sales will jump and be one of the biggest stories for 2016.  Look for a 23% increase in sales and prices rising by 3.4%.

I believe that builders will start to build to the entry-level buyer, filling a huge void.  Additionally, I see the total number of new home starts increase quite dramatically in 2016 as banks start to ease lending and builders start to believe that the downward trend in homeownership has come to an end.  This will help to absorb some of the pent-up demand currently in the market.

9. Foreclosures will continue to trend down to “pre-bubble” averages.

Any story regarding foreclosures will be a non-story as the rate will continue to trend down toward historic averages. However, we will see the occasional uptick as banks work their way through their existing inventory of foreclosed homes. Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.

10. The Millennials will start to enter the market.

There are several substantial reasons to expect an increase in Millennial buyers. Firstly, early Millennials are getting older and starting to settle down, and even with modestly higher mortgage rates, rents are likely to continue to trend upward, and this will pull many into homeownership.

Secondly, more favorable mortgage insurance premiums, additional supply from downsizing boomers, and growing confidence in the housing market will lead to palpable growth in demand from this important – and substantial – demographic.

To conclude, it appears to me that 2016 will be a year of few surprises – at least until the general election! Because it is an election year, I do not expect to see any significant governmental moves that would have major impacts on the U.S. economy or the housing market.

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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. 

King County Had Almost Half of 2015’s 30 Most Competitive Neighborhoods in America

We probably don’t need to tell you that 2015 was a crazy year in real estate, especially in our area. Bidding wars and listings lasting mere days on the market is something we’ve all grown accustomed to. But it turns out we’re not alone. Curbed recently published an article that focused on the 30 most competitive neighborhoods in America. What’s the most mind blowing thing about this list? Of the 30 neighborhoods listed, 13 of them are in King County.

2015-competitive-markets

The Eastside was well represented on this list with Bellevue and Redmond making huge claims. Overlake was was the second-most competitive market in the entire nation! Honorable mentions were Grass Lawn (#7), Newport Hills (#14), Idylwood (#28), and Newport (#30).

It’s hard to say exactly what 2016 has in store, but our very own Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, has a few ideas (such as expecting that housing in Seattle will continue to appreciate in value, but at a slightly lower rate than 2015).

Read more on Seattle Curbed.