For the first time in years, the real estate market is finally starting to deliver good news for buyers. The region experienced its third straight month of significant growth in inventory. Homes are sitting on the market longer, prices are moderating, and multiple offers are becoming more rare. Despite the surge in homes for sale, it is still a seller’s market. Inventory would need to triple to reach what is considered a balanced market.
Inventory on the Eastside soared 47 percent over the same time last year. There was a slight increase in new listings, but the jump was mostly due to homes staying on the market longer. Price drops have become more common. With buyers having more choices, sellers need to work with their broker to make sure they price their home correctly the first time. After setting a new high of $977,759 in June, the median price of a single-family home dropped to $947,500 in July. While offering some hope that prices may have started to moderate, the median is still 10 percent higher than it was the same time a year ago.
King County saw the biggest increase in inventory in a decade, with the number of homes for sale jumping 48 percent over a year ago. However, at 1.5 months of supply that’s still well below the 4-6 months of inventory that is considered balanced. The median price of a single-family sold in July was $699,000. That represents an increase of 6 percent from a year ago, but is down 4 percent from the record high of $725,000 set in April. Perceptions that the market is cooling needs to be kept in perspective. Homes here took an average of 15 days to sell.
Seattle saw inventory shoot up 60 percent over a year ago, bringing the supply to its highest level in over three years. Even with the sharp increase, much more inventory is needed to meet the demand for homes in the city and sellers may well decide to jump into the market. According to a Zillow study, more than 97 percent of homes in Seattle are worth more now than the peak level before the housing market crashed. Median home prices are 29 percent above the bubble peak level with the median price in July landing at $805,000; up 7 percent from last July and down from the record $830,000 reached in May.
Snohomish County also had double-digit increases in inventory, though not nearly as great as King County. The number of homes for sale in July increased nearly 16 percent over the same time a year ago, but inventory continues to be very tight. The median price of a single-family home rose 9 percent year-to-year to $495,000. That figure is down from the record high of $511,500 set in June. A move towards a more moderated market is encouraging for buyers and an incentive for sellers to list their homes soon.
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.
The Washington State economy added 83,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.5%. This is a slowdown from the last quarter, but employment growth remains well above the national rate of 1.6%. Employment gains continue to be robust in the private sector, which was up by 2.8%. The public sector (government) grew by a more modest 1.1%.
The strongest growth sectors were Retail Trade and Construction, which both rose by 4.8%. Significant growth was also seen in the Education & Health Services and Information sectors, which rose by 3.9% and 3.4%, respectively.
The State’s unemployment rate was 4.7%, down from 4.8% a year ago. Washington State will continue adding jobs for the balance of the year and I anticipate total job growth for 2018 will be around 80,000, representing a total employment growth rate of 2.4%.
Home Sales Activity
There were 23,209 home sales during the second quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 2.3% compared to the same period a year ago.
Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the same period a year ago, with an increase of 12.6%. Jefferson County also saw significant gains in sales at 11.1%.
The number of homes for sale last quarter was down by a nominal 0.3% when compared to the second quarter of 2017, but up by 66% when compared to the first quarter of this year. Much has been mentioned regarding the growth in listings, but it was not region-wide. King County saw a massive 31.7% increase in inventory, though all but three of the other counties covered in this report saw the number of listings drop compared to a year ago.
The takeaway from this data is that while some counties are seeing growth in listings — which will translate into sales down the road — the market is still out of balance.
As inventory is still fairly scarce, growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Prices in Western Washington rose 12.2% over last year to $526,398.
Home prices continue to trend higher across Western Washington, but the pace of growth has started to slow. This should please would-be buyers. The spring market came late but inventory growth in the expensive King County market will give buyers more choices and likely lead to a slowing down of price growth as bidding wars continue to taper.
When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Mason County, which was up 17.4%. Eleven other counties experienced double-digit price growth.
Mortgage rates, which had been rising significantly since the start of the year, have levelled off over the past month. I believe rising rates are likely the reason that inventory levels are rising, as would-be sellers believe that this could be the right time to cash out. That said, the slowing in rate increases has led buyers to believe that rates will not jump soon, which gives them a little more breathing room. I do not expect to see any possible slowdown in demand until mortgage rates breach the 5% mark.
Days on Market
The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days compared to the same quarter of 2017.
King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 13 days to sell. Every county in the region other than Clallam saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop when compared to the same period a year ago.
Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of this year. This is down from 48 days in the second quarter of 2017 and down by 20 days when compared to the first quarter of 2018.
Although we did see some inventory increases when compared to the first quarter of the year, we are essentially at the same level of homes on the market as a year ago. The market has yet to reach equilibrium and I certainly do not expect to reach that point until sometime in 2019.
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. For the second quarter of 2018, I have moved the needle very slightly towards buyers, but it remains firmly a seller’s market. This shift is a function of price growth tapering very slightly, as well as the expectation that we should see more homes come on the market as we move through the balance of the year.
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.
The calendar may claim summer begins on June 21st, but for most of us, it’s already fully in gear. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbecues are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following are a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.
Gardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! If you’re thinking of getting your green thumb engaged, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.
Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space that, like many, suffers in the grey of winter and the rainy spring. To get it properly in the summer spirit I need to get it prepped for hosting. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.
BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.
Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.
Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.
Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out!
Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets, and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.
Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.
Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.
Air it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.
Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.
Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.
Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!
Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.