What’s in Your Toolbox to Navigate the Changing Market?

The late spring market brought about some welcomed change to our local real estate markets. In May, we experienced the largest increase in inventory in a decade! North King County and South Snohomish County are two examples of what is happening in all the markets across the Puget Sound as we head into the second half of 2018. Below is a breakdown of the current environment; further is an explanation of what it all means.

North King County (Ship Canal to Snohomish County Line):

  • 38% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
  • 16% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
  • Overall 5% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
  • Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 104% from 105% in May 2018
  • Median Price up 15% complete year over year, but down 1% vs. the previous month, landing at $815K.

South Snohomish County (Snohomish County Line to Everett):

  • 27% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
  • 10% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
  • Overall 2% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
  • Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 102% from 103% in May 2018
  • Median price up 12% complete year over year, but equal with the previous month, landing at $500K.

This increase in inventory is awesome! It is providing more selection for buyers and is helping temper price growth, which was increasing at an unsustainable level. It is still a Seller’s market by all means, which is defined by having three or less months of available inventory. Both market areas are still just under one month of inventory based on pending sales, but not as low as the two-week mark they were experiencing in March.

The increase in inventory is the result of pent up seller demand. From 1985-2008 the average amount of time a homeowner stayed in their home was 6 years. From 2008-2017 it grew to 9 years. With a resounding amount of equity under their belts, many homeowners are now deciding to make moves. Some are moving up to the next best thing and others are cashing out and leaving the area for a new beginning or retirement. This is providing buyers with the selection they have been waiting for after a very tenuous, inventory-starved start to 2018. The buyers that have stayed on the forefront of the market are now being rewarded with choices. These choices are best accompanied with keen discernment in order to craft the best negotiations – the broker they choose to align with is key.

The price analysis above indicates strong equity positions for sellers, but also a leveling off in price growth. Over the first quarter we saw prices increase month-over-month quite handily; now that more inventory is appearing and demand is being absorbed, price growth is not as extreme. This has highlighted the importance of having a strategic pricing and marketing plan for sellers wanting the highest price and shortest market time. The broker they choose to align with is key.

The importance of both buyers and sellers aligning with a knowledgeable, well-researched and responsive broker is paramount. One might think that it is “easy” to sell a house in this market, but the pricing research, home preparation, market exposure, varied marketing mediums, close management of all the communication, and how negotiations are handled can make or break a seller’s net return on the sale. With market times increasing, having a broker with a tight grasp on the changing environment will help create an efficient market time, resulting in the best price and terms for a successful closing. It is important that sellers do not overshoot this market, and it takes a broker with a keen gut sense rooted in in-depth research to help get them their desired results.

If you’re a buyer, it is overwhelmingly important that you are aligned with a broker that knows how to win in this market. The increase in selection has left some room for contemplation in some cases. Considering possible terms and price based on thorough market research as you head into negotiations are what set a highly capable selling broker apart and are required to prevail. With more selection coming to market, buyers have more to consider, and having a broker alongside them to help craft a strategy of negotiations will ensure they don’t overpay.

If you have any curiosities or questions regarding the value of your current home or purchase opportunities in today’s market, please contact me. It is my goal to help keep you informed and empower strong decisions.

Posted on July 12, 2018 at 11:06 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: Community Info, General Market Info, Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , ,

Interest rates on all time low!

 

The long-term loan interest rate remains historically

low, however it has made a slight jump

since the first of the year. Over the last 13-months

rates have gone from 4.25% to 4.625% with

experts predicting a rise to 4.95% by the end of the year

. Keep in mind this recent jump is still

well below the 30-year average of 6.57%

Right now is one of the most advantageous times to mak

e a purchase because the debt service

is so low. This has helped off-set the price appreciation

we have seen in our area. Move-up,

second home, investment, and down-size purchases are all

supported by today’s interest rate. If

you are currently sitting on a higher interest rate you

may want to consider a refinance,

especially if you plan to stay in your home for a while.

I have a list of preferred lenders that are responsive, reputable and competitive. If you’d like a

referral or have any questions about how today’s interest

rate may affect your bottom line

please contact me. It is my goal to help keep my client

s informed and empower strong decisions.

 

 

 

Posted on May 18, 2018 at 11:39 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: General Market Info | Tagged , ,

Does it make more sense to rent or own?

The current break-even horizon* in the Seattle metro area is 1.6 years!

*The amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision.

With rising rental rates, historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying vs. renting is becoming clearer each month.

In fact, Seattle has seen some of the sharpest rent hikes in the country over the last year! Snohomish County has seen a huge increase in apartment growth and rising rental rates as well. There are several factors to consider that will lead you to make the best decision for your lifestyle and your financial bottom line. Zillow Research has determined the break-even point for renting vs. buying in our metro area. In other words, the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision. Currently in Seattle the break-even point is 1.6 years – that is quick! What is so great about every month that ticks away thereafter is that your nest egg is building in value.

I am happy to help you or someone you know assess your options; please contact me anytime.

These assumptions are based on a home buyer purchasing a home with a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and a 20 percent down payment; and a renter earning five percent annually on investments in the stock market.

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 5:53 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: Community Info, General Market Info, Local Market Analysis | Tagged , , , ,

Why we are NOT headed toward another housing bubble

 

Double-digit price appreciation has taken place for over 3 years now, so prices are up. Way up. In fact, in just the last year we have seen prices rise 14% year-over-year. When talking with people about our real estate market, the conversation often involves the question, “are we headed toward a bubble?” I get asked this question often, and I can understand why. With the Great Recession not too far back in our rear-view mirror, the fear that surrounds the bottom dropping out in our home values is real. The large price gains might seem familiar to the gains of the previous up market of 2004-2007, but the environment is much different, and that is why we are not headed toward a housing collapse.

Lending Requirements & Down Payments
Previous lending practices allowed people to get into homes with high debt-to-income ratios, low credit scores, risky loan programs, and undocumented incomes. They called this sub-prime lending. This led to the housing bubble bursting 10 years ago – because people received mortgages they were not equipped to handle. Borrowers were not properly qualified for their monthly payments, and with minimal down payments they had no skin in the game. There were also a ton of adjustable rate mortgages and interest-only loans, which created negative equity positions. In July 2007, the sub-prime loan products disappeared and literally became history overnight. This eliminated a large part of the buyer pool creating over supply, not to mention the foreclosures that followed due to these ill-equipped homeowners walking away. The combination of these two factors caused prices to plummet.

Conversely, in March of this year, the average credit score for an approved conventional loan according to Ellie Mae was 752. Banks are scrutinizing their borrowers much more thoroughly than in the past. Credit scores are only the start; solid documentation of employment, assets, and debt are all passed through strict underwriting standards before closing. During the days of sub-prime lending, banks were funding loans with scores as low as 560! This, coupled with many zero-down loan programs and the risky terms mentioned above, left many new homeowners with little to no equity. When you have little or no equity it is very easy to bail.

In addition to heartier credit scores, down payments have increased significantly. According to Attom Data Solutions the average down payment is 18%. To put this in perspective, the median price in Seattle Metro in the first quarter of 2018 was $775,000. 18% of that is $139,500! There is a marked difference in the connection to one’s investment with such a large amount on the line versus the common 0% down loans of the sub-prime era. When people have high equity levels they are not likely to abandon their home or miss payments.

Our Thriving Local Economy, Job Creation & Californians
According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, it is forecasted that there will be 46,000 more jobs in the Seattle Metro area in 2018. This has created high numbers of residual migration into our area from other states. In 2016 there were 50,000 people that moved here, and 47,000 in 2017. Many of these new Washingtonians are former Californians, specifically from the Bay Area. Unbelievably, our prices are attractive to this group, as they can take a similar tech job here and make the same income with a lower cost of living. If untethered and up for a move, it’s a no-brainer.

The most influential factor that has led the run on prices has been low inventory levels coupled with high housing demand. It’s simply the concept of supply and demand. The growth of companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook in our area has created increased demand, especially for homes closer to job centers resulting in shorter commutes. When you have increased demand and not enough homes to absorb the buyers, prices go up. Over the last three years we have easily seen a 10%+ increase in prices year-over-year. That is above the norm, and will slow down once inventory increases. That slowdown will be welcomed and it will not be a collapse in values or a bubble bursting.

Interest Rates
Interest rates are increasing, and it is predicted they will reach close to 4.95% by the end of the year. This will naturally curtail price growth because it will not be as cheap to borrow money, which will cause buyers to temper their pricing ceilings. Bear in mind, that an interest rate of 4.95% is still historically low, we’ve just been incredibly fortunate to be able to secure long term loans with minimal debt service. The average interest rate over the last 30 years is 7%.

I understand that the recent increase in home prices has been big and that it might remind you of the previous up market before the crash. I hope that digging into the topics above has shed some light on how it is different. I always welcome the opportunity to have a conversation about these hot topics and discern how they relate to you. As always, it is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions. Please let me know if I can answer any questions or help you or anyone you know with their real estate needs.

Posted on April 30, 2018 at 3:37 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: General Market Info

Cost Vs. Value

I am commonly asked which improvements sellers should make to get the greatest return on their home sale.  Every year The Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report (www.costvsvalue.com) compiles all the information and analyzes the estimated percentage return on home improvements in each region.  Getting a home prepared for market requires a keen eye and great resources.  To access the entire Cost vs. Value report please visit www.costvsvalue.com and follow the steps to locate the Seattle area report.

 

Also, I have a great list of reputable contractors from HVAC to plumbing to roofing who are licensed and bonded in the State of Washington.  Please call on me whenever you need a solid recommendation.  I am happy to help whether you are getting your home ready for market or just want to find a good window washer now that the sun is starting to shine a little more.

 

Complete data from the Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com

© Hanley Wood Media Inc.

Posted on March 26, 2018 at 8:47 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: General Market Info

2018 Market Predictions

 

 

At Windermere, we have the privilege of working with esteemed economist, Matthew Gardner. Throughout the year, I have shared his quarterly Gardner Reports which delineate out all the different housing markets in Western Washington and reports on price appreciation and sales data. Below is a recent article he wrote about predictions for the 2018 real estate market; which was picked up by several news sources, including Inman News.

As a bonus, I recently had the opportunity to chat with him and get some specific insights on the Greater Seattle real estate market for 2018 and have included those at the end of this article. 2018 looks to be another strong year in real estate. If you are curious about how the market might affect your bottom line, please contact me. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed, empower strong decisions and create exceptional results. Here’s to a very happy New Year!

What Can We Expect From the 2018 Housing Market?
by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

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
There are changes to the income tax structure that could potentially have a significant impact on homeowners and the housing market. The first is the mortgage interest rate deduction which will be capped at $750,000 – down from $1,000,000. In theory this can be considered a tax on wealthy households, but there have been nearly 100,000 home sales this year where the mortgage loan was over $750,000 (almost 4% of total sales), so the effect will be felt more broadly.

That said, this change will disproportionately affect high-cost markets in California, New York, and Hawaii, and to a somewhat lesser degree, it will also be felt in Seattle, and parts of Colorado and Arizona. 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, New York, and New Hampshire.

The final tax bill also eliminates the deduction for interest on home equity loans which is currently allowed on loans up to $100,000. This is significant because it will largely affect the growing number of homeowners who are choosing to remodel their home rather than try to find a new home in supply-starved markets like Seattle.

While these measures will likely have a dampening effect on housing, I do not believe they will lead to a substantial drop in home values. However, there is a concern that it will lead to fewer home sales, as households choose to stay put so they can continue to take advantage of the current mortgage interest deduction. The result could be fewer listings, which could actually cause home prices to rise at above-average rates for a longer period of time.

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.

https://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/posts/1701
Gardner, Matthew. “What Can We Expect From The 2018 Housing Market?” Windermere Real Estate. Windermere.com, 8 December 2017. Web. 27 December 2017
.

A Conversation with Matthew

It is always a pleasure to talk with Matthew. We recently discussed his thoughts on the Greater Seattle real estate market and what he sees shaping up for 2018.

Millennial homebuyers were more of an influence in the Greater Seattle market in 2017 because of the robust hiring that corporations such as Amazon have made. He thinks that this will continue to grow in 2018, because the cost of rent continues to rise at a rapid pace and in many cases owning makes superior financial sense. For example, it is not unheard of to pay $3,000 a month in rent for a unit in South Lake Union. While this eliminates a commute, it is an incredibly costly payment that goes entirely towards the landlord’s investment. If one is willing and able to pay that much in rent, it is important to look at the fact that that number is equivalent to a mortgage payment on a $550,000 home! He predicts that we will see more millennial homebuyers move out to the more traditional suburbs to start building their wealth in real estate. Ideally, Millennials would love to live in “ex-urban” areas that are still close to their places of work; however, listings are slim and prices very high for this type of product.Therefore, he expects to see Millennials having to look at the suburbs when deciding where to buy.

In 2017, net in-migration totaled 50,000 in the Greater Seattle area. Matthew predicts that we will see the same in 2018 due to our robust job market and Californians continuing to move to the area. Employment in the region will continue to expand, but at lower rates than seen in 2017. That said, he sees more wage growth than job growth in 2018 as companies have done so much hiring over the last 3 years, and now they are focused on maintaining their employee base. Amazon has signed on to occupy 5 million additional square feet of space over and above the 8+ million square feet that they currently occupy, so we will continue to see job growth there. The unemployment rate will stay below 4% in 2018.

Matthew believes we will see a slight increase in inventory taking our market to hot from boiling. Some new construction will help this increase and he does expect to see some Baby Boomers deciding to either cash-out and leave the area, or downsize. This inventory growth should temper price growth and increase sales by 6%. In 2017, we saw a year-over-year price appreciation rate of 13% in the Greater Seattle area, and he predicts 8-8.5% for 2018. This is still well above the normal rate of 5.5%, but certainly much more sustainable than 13%!

Lastly, Matthew is adamant that we are not headed toward another bubble. The average down payment in the Greater Seattle area is now over $100,000 and home owners have great equity positions, which is a critical ingredient to a non-bubble market. Additionally, credit is still very tight and buyers are very highly qualified, and the rampant speculation that is the key sign of a bubble is not being seen locally. His biggest concern is affordability, and that we need to continue to find ways to create more housing through zoning changes and decreasing the cost of regulation for builders. This density would create more affordable housing.

Posted on December 29, 2017 at 5:47 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: General Market Info, Local Market Analysis

Demystifying the Zestimate

 

Knowing the value of your home is helpful in many ways. It can help determine one’s net worth, help one decide if a home sale or purchase is a financially feasible move, determine the ability to get a loan – and it’s just nice to know where your largest investment stands. Consumers have the option to access several websites such as Zillow® to search the AVM or Zestimate® on their property.

A Zestimate is an AVM (Automated Valuation Model). The product of an automated valuation technology comes from analysis of public record data and computer decision logic combined to provide a calculated estimate of a probable selling price of a residential property. An AVM generally uses a combination of two types of evaluation, a hedonic model and a repeat sales index. The results of each are weighted, analyzed and then reported as a final estimate of value based on a requested date.

Often times when I am talking with potential sellers, their Zestimate (or other AVMs) come up in the overall conversation. I understand why, too. This is information that is relatively easy to access and gives the seller a starting point on the value of their home. Where an AVM can become dangerous is when a consumer thinks it’s accurate. Even worse, when a consumer makes a major financial decision solely based on this information. According to Zillow, less than half of all Zestimates in the Seattle metro area are even within 5% of the actual value, and they only give themselves a 2-star (fair) rating on their accuracy. In fact, they publish an accuracy report that you can access here.

In August, the average home price in the Seattle Metro area was $824,000. With less than half of all Zestimates within 5% of the actual value, that is a beginning margin of error of $41,200! Further, they claim that 72.3% of their Zestimates are within 10% of the actual value, which is a marked difference – up to $82,400. Where AVMs are incomplete is that the basis of their formula is tax records, which in my experience are often inaccurate. Also, and most importantly, an AVM does not take into consideration the condition of the home, the neighborhood and other environmental impacts such as school district, road noise and unsightly neighboring homes, to name a few.

At the end of the day, to give an accurate accounting of the value of a home in today’s market requires actually physically touring the home and the surrounding homes that compare, as well as considering current market conditions such as supply and demand and seasonality. An algorithm cannot accomplish this, but a real estate broker can.

So why does the Zestimate exist? Zillow is a publicly traded company (ZG) and their website is the vehicle to create profit. The Zestimate drives consumers to the website who are often dipping their toe in the pool to see what their home might be worth, or searching available homes for sale. When a consumer is searching on the website they are surrounded by real estate broker and mortgage broker ads on every page. These real estate brokers and mortgage brokers are paying for that advertising space, which is how Zillow makes its money and why there is a Zestimate. The Zestimate is not a public service, it is a widget to bring eyes to their advertising space which in turn, sells more ads.

Another important item to note is that Zillow does NOT have all available inventory in the Greater Seattle area on their website. In May, they cut off access to manually input listings, leaving some real estate firms unable to get their listings on the site any longer. Some firms just plainly chose not to syndicate to them. It is estimated that Zillow has between 70%-80% of the total available inventory on their site. In an inventory-tight market like the one we are in now, it is important for consumers to understand that if Zillow is the only source they are searching with, they may be missing out. Brokerage firm websites, such as Windermere.com have a direct IDX feed from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service which refreshes every 15 minutes, insuring the accuracy and completeness of all listing data.

The moral of the story is this: use Zillow as one of the many tools in your real estate evaluation and search toolbox. Zillow provides a great starting point and contains a ton of information to whet your palate when embarking on a real estate endeavor. However, we live in a time of information overload and we are overstimulated at best. Nothing beats the evaluation and discernment of a knowledgeable and experienced real estate broker to help you determine accuracy, which will lead to the empowerment of clarity.

If you are curious about the value of your home in today’s market, please contact me. I can provide an annual real estate review of all of your real estate holdings, and can even dive deep into a complete comparative market analysis if you would find that helpful. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

Zillow® and Zestimate® are trademarks of Zillow, Inc.
Posted on October 6, 2017 at 4:39 pm
Brian Hayter | Category: General Market Info