Local Market Update – January 2019

A cool-down in prices and a surge in inventory spelled out good news for buyers in December. Median home prices throughout the region continued to moderate. The number of homes for sale more than doubled over a year ago. Condo inventory more than quadrupled. While we’re still far short of the four to six months that are considered a balanced market, December moved us closer in that direction. As winter months traditionally bring slower sales and lower prices, we’ll be able to determine a more solid trend when the peak real estate season comes this spring.

Eastside

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The number of single-family homes and condos on the market in December tripled as compared to a year ago on the Eastside. With an abundance of choices for buyers, homes here took longer to sell. However, well-priced homes still sold within weeks rather than days, which was the case earlier in the year. As with all of King County, home prices here continued to moderate. The median price of a single-family home was $909,000. That’s down 3 percent from a year ago, but up from November’s median price of $885,000.

King County

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In December, the median price of a single-family King County home was $639,000. That is 0.6 percent more than the same time last year and a welcome respite from the double-digit increases we saw for much of 2018. Inventory was up as well, soaring 143 percent from a year prior. The trend toward a more balanced market is good news for buyers. Instead of having to make a decision in a matter of hours, buyers now can take the time to consider their options and negotiate a price and terms that work best for them.

Seattle

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Last December there were only 299 homes on the market in Seattle. This December there were 1,111. Despite the sharp uptick, Seattle has the tightest inventory in King County with less than two months of supply. Demand is predicted to stay high in 2019. With an abundance of high-paying jobs and not enough people to fill them, Seattle’s population is expected to grow at twice the national rate this year. Prices have continued to moderate from the unsustainable increases of last year. The median price of a single-family home inched up 2 percent from the year prior to $739,000.

Snohomish County

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The median price of a single-family home was up 4 percent from last year to $470,000 in December – the same price the area posted the previous month. Inventory has more than doubled in the past year due to more sellers listing their homes and fewer sales. However, at 2.6 months of supply the area has a long way to go before becoming a balanced market.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog. 

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or leveling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News and the Windermere.com Blog.

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.

2018 Windermere Eastside Kick-off

Every year over 500 brokers from Windermere offices across the Eastside gather to prepare for the new year at the annual Windermere Eastside Kick-Off Event at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Last week, several speakers shared their insights and advice to prepare our agents to better serve their clients for the 2018 housing market.

Looking Ahead: What to Expect From the 2018 Housing Market

Matthew Gardner, Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist, shared his forecast for the 2018 housing market. Low inventory seems to be a problem stretching all the way to Ohio with many people living in their homes twice as long as past generations. Lack of skilled labor, available land and high material costs continue to make new construction an expensive option. Read more about his forecast.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” – Colin Powell

Breaking Through The Noise

Micheal Fanning Kick Off 2018Senior Vice President Windermere Services and Ninja Instructor, Michael Fanning, brought his insights on breaking thought the mediocrity of the market place. Finding ways to bring those extra touches and using technology to your advantage can set you apart in a sea of daily distraction. Employing techniques from the Ninja Installation Train Program, Michael reminds agents that the hard things never get easier, you just get better and an average mindset will always result in a missed opportunity.

“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like somebody.” – Robby Novak

Understanding Your Client’s Story

Tori Dabasinskas Eastside Kick Off

Licensed marriage and family therapist, Tori Dabasinskas, shared her communication strategies to help our agents better connect with their clients. Addressing techniques for authentic listening, creating more meaningful connections and responding with emotion as well as logic, Tori emphasized taking time to truly understand the “story” of each individual client. With personal empathy and active appreciation, our agents can better anticipate the needs of their clients and what can be done to better serve them.

“The truth is, rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.” – Dr. Brené Brown

Law Of Attraction

Richard Bennion Kick OFF 2018

Executive Vice President of HomeStreet Bank, Richard Bennion, reminded our agents that every client has a story. Their hopes, dreams and challenges are opportunities to listen, be attentive and show those clients their importance. Becoming an expert who is professional, authentic, self-aware and highly competent will attract people and help build your business’ sphere of influence. Taking a long-term approach in building client relationships will result in a strong business over time.

“Always take your job seriously, never yourself.” ― David Brooks

Growth, Support and The Power of Windermere

Brooks Burton Kick Off 2018

Brooks Burton, Chief Operating Officer for Windermere Services Company, opened the Kick-Off by sharing some exciting changes agents can look forward to in 2018. They included refreshed branding, offering more social media resources, improving technology and more resources based on agent feedback. Brooks also touched on the success of the Windermere Foundation which has raised over $35 million for local organizations since its inception in 1989 as well as how funds are allocated among those organizations.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

Strategy and Determination

David Wasielewski Kick Off 2018

David Wasielewski, the Managing Partner of Northwest Din Tai Fung Partners, spoke about bringing the popular Chinese restaurant brand to the Seattle area. David shared that as a previous marketing veteran at Intel Corporation he had no restaurant experience prior to starting his own business. David’s approach to success? Strategy, action, and pacing himself.  He flew to California for many weekends to work at another Chinese restaurant owned by Din Tai Fung’s owners without pay to prove his interest and dedication to his mission. Fast forward to today and he owns four restaurants in the Seattle region and his first Bellevue Square location has won the highest gross sales award from Kemper Development Company in each of the five years he has operated.

“Strategy is pattern is a stream of decisions” – Henry Mintzberg

Getting in the Right Mindset: Pursuing Excellence

Tracie Ruiz Conforto Kick OFF

Tracie Ruiz Conforto, Olympic Medalist and Synchronized Swimmer of the Century, inspired us to find and pursue our passions, just as she did with swimming at the age of nine. She advised agents on three ways to achieve excellence – find your passion, use your competition to improve your skills, and surround yourself with a team who will support you. Tracie showed us that anything is possible when you combine passion, discipline, competition, and teamwork.

“Pursuing excellence means investing more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.” – Winston Churchill

The Windermere Eastside Kick-off was an inspiring and motivational event. Our brokers are more prepared than ever to provide valuable service for their clients and face the year ahead. We are excited to put this knowledge to good use as we help you navigate your real estate journey in 2018!

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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!