Is the Housing Market Ready to Rebound?

After months of slowing sales and moderating prices, the housing market may be poised to rebound. Favorable mortgage interest rates have been a key driver. In the mid-January:

Buyers Taking Advantage of Lower Interest Rates

As we head into the peak spring home buying season, more buyers and sellers are expected to enter the market. The local economy remains strong and home prices here continue to moderate. There is an abundance of inventory, and depending on how many additional homes come on the market, prices may moderate even further.

Potential buyers who held off because of higher interest rates in the fourth quarter of 2018 will want to take advantage of today’s lower rates before they go up. All indications point to strong demand this spring.

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.

Tips for Moving Into a Smaller Home as a Senior

By Michael Longsdon

For many seniors, there comes a time when the expense and upkeep of a big home no longer seem realistic. All of your kids have moved out, and suddenly, your multi-bedroom house feels excessively large and empty. Plus, it may be difficult to keep up with mortgage payments if you’re expecting a lower income during retirement. Whether downsizing is a financial necessity or an emotional decision, here’s how to tackle the process without getting overwhelmed.

Do Online Research

Before you start looking at houses in person, narrow down your options by doing some research online. Search the local housing market on sites such as Redfin to get a feel for house prices in your desired area. For example, homes in Seattle, Washington have sold for an average of $685,000 during the past month. Explore listings in your preferred size range and location so you can come up with a realistic budget for your new home.

Think far ahead as you look at homes, considering the possibility that the needs of you and your spouse may change over time. One-story homes can be much more accessible for you and your friends down the line. You should also take time to research the neighborhood and pay attention to the house’s proximity to grocery stores, leisure centers, and public transportation.

Plan for Your Storage Needs

If you’re moving to an apartment or condo, you may not have the attic, basement, or even the closet space that you’re used to. Look for a nearby for an affordable self-storage unit so you aren’t left crowding boxes and furniture into your new home. Some simple online research can help you find the best deals in your area. In the last 180 days, for instance, self-storage units in Seattle, Washington cost an average of $88.45 per month.

Go Through Your Possessions Methodically

One of the hardest parts about downsizing is getting rid of things you’ve had for decades. Apartment Guide recommends looking at pictures of clutter-free rooms in magazines for inspiration before starting your own purge. This will mentally prepare you for getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need cluttering up your new, smaller space.

As you declutter, go room by room and sort items into no more than five piles: keep, donate, sell, gift, and throw away. Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are useful but not particularly necessary in your own life. Likewise, don’t keep things out of obligation or feelings of guilt. While you’re cutting the clutter, keep a floor plan of your new home nearby so you can plan out your rooms and ensure your furniture will fit. If you’re worried about accurately measuring your space, you can hire a professional to help you out.

Pack Like a Pro

Protect your items during your move and make them easier to unpack later by trying out some expert packing tips. For example, socks make great padding for glasses and mugs, while oven mitts are perfect for transporting knives a little more safely. Secure entire desk drawers and kitchen storage trays with plastic wrap for much faster unpacking later. Also, keep your clothing on hangers and simply slip a garbage bag over them for protection. Remember to pack an essentials box of everything you need during your first day and night in your new house.

Follow a Moving Checklist

There is a lot to remember to do before moving day. For example, you need to update your mailing address with the post office, find a new doctor, and transfer your utilities. Follow a moving checklist (or hire a senior move manager for around $316 per day) to avoid forgetting important tasks. One of your moving tasks should involve researching moving companies at least two months before your move. This gives you plenty of time to find the help you need within your budget. Learn about how to spot rogue moving companies so you can avoid being scammed, especially if you’re moving long distance.

Moving is exhausting for anyone. But moving into a smaller home can be especially emotional as you say goodbye to personal objects that have surrounded you for much of your life. For this reason, it’s important to take things slow while you sort through your possessions and search for the perfect place to spend your golden years.

 

Mr. Longsdon provides advice to seniors on downsizing and aging in place and can discuss concerns like tackling home accessibility modifications, how to find a great contractor, the benefits of aging in place, and more.​

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Windermere Living – Winter 2018

The Winter 2018 issue of Windermere Living showcases a number of fantastic articles, including the latest trends in kitchen designs, “under-the-radar” ski resorts, and update on the Luxury real estate market from Windermere Chief economist, Matthew Gardner, as well as pages upon pages of beautiful homes!

Windermere Living is an exclusive listings magazine published by Windermere Real Estate. Read the online version by clicking on the image below.

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.