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.
It is the time of year when our market starts to take off. Spring is here and we are starting to see seasonal increases in inventory. In fact, there was a 69% increase in new listings in March compared to February. That increase was followed by a 48% rise in pending sales, illustrating very strong demand for housing in your area. Last month, the average list-to- sale price ratio (the amount the sale price topped the list price) was 105%, indicating that multiple offers were the norm. We ended the quarter with 0.6 months of inventory based on pending sales. More inventory would be absorbed by happy buyers looking for more selection and would help temper price growth, which is up 16% year-over- year.
Seattle Metro real estate has a very high premium due to close-in commute times and vibrant neighborhoods. In fact, the median price in March was $800,000, up 5% from the month prior! Sellers are enjoying amazing returns due to this phenomenon, and buyers are securing mortgages with minor debt service due to low interest rates. This is a very strong seller’s market, but buyers who are securing a home are already enjoying appreciation in equity.
This is only a snapshot of the trends in the Seattle Metro area; please contact me if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.
These graphs above provide a 10-year history of the odds of selling in the month of October for both King and Snohomish Counties. As you can see, the odds of selling are at a 10-year high, hitting 86% in King and 85% in Snohomish. These are quite favorable odds for sellers and indicate what one might expect moving toward 2017.
Buyer demand remains very strong! In fact, pending sales reached peak levels in May of this year and continued with steady momentum throughout the summer and fall. Every month this year recorded a higher pending level than the same month the previous year. This illustrates strong buyer demand and is coupled with lower inventory levels than the year before. This combination has created very low months of available inventory, and we anticipate this continuing as we complete 2016 and head into 2017. For a potential seller, this means the market is in your favor, and waiting until the tulips bloom in April might have you lined up against more competition. Historically, we see inventory peak April through June, however pending sales have closely matched supply all throughout the year. With that said, one might consider bringing their home to market in the first quarter of the year versus the second, because they will have less competition, but still enjoy an engaged buyer audience.
Most recently we have seen interest rates bump up a bit, and this has created more urgency in the market. While still historically low, buyers are smart enough to know that cheap money is a huge long-term savings. Paying attention to all of these market factors will empower one to make the best real estate decisions. Please reach out if you are considering a move over the next year, and I’d be happy to apply this research and weigh in on your options.
The graphs here illustrate the brass tacks of affordability between King and Snohomish Counties, measured by the average monthly payment. Most recently in September, the average monthly payment was 35% higher in King County compared to Snohomish County. What is fascinating, though, is comparing today’s average monthly payment to peak monthly payments back in 2007! In King County, monthly payments are currently 21% less than during the peak, and in Snohomish County, 36% less. That is a lot of saved monthly overhead. Note that this has everything to do with today’s historical interest rates, as average prices are higher now than in 2007. When one buys or refinances a house, they are not only securing the property, but securing the rate for the life of the loan.
Close proximity to the work place and affordability is often near the top of a buyer’s list of preferred features. 2016 has continued to be a year when commute times to major job centers widened the price divide between key market areas in the greater Seattle area. Over the last 12 months, the average sales price for a single-family residential home in the Seattle Metro area was $696,000! In south Snohomish County (Everett to the King County line), the average sales price for a single-family residential home was $471,000 – 48% less than Seattle Metro. Further, if you jump across Lake Washington to the Eastside, the average sales price for a single-family residential home was $881,000 – 27% more than Seattle Metro!
The “drive to qualify” mentality has been proven by the pending sales rate in south Snohomish County over the last 12 months. Pending sales are up 7% complete year-over-year, whereas in Seattle Metro pending sales are down 1%, and down 2% on the Eastside. I believe this is a result of affordability, more inventory choices in south Snohomish County, new construction options, lower taxes, strong school district choices, and manageable commute times. Newer transit centers and telecommuting have also opened up doors to King County’s little brother to the north as well. If you are curious about possible commute times, you can search for properties on my website based on commutes times, which is a feature provided by INRIX Drive Time. Also, I track the market in several ways, so if these graphs are interesting to you I would be happy to provide additional information relative to your specific neighborhood. Please contact me anytime, as it is my goal to help keep you informed and empower you to make strong real estate decisions.
Wow, just wow! The interest rate levels that we have experienced in 2016 are seriously unbelievable. Currently we are hanging around 3.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage, almost a half a point down from a year ago. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point increase in interest rate a buyer loses ten percent in buyer power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate increases by a point during their search, in order to keep the same monthly payment the buyer would need to decrease their purchase price to $450,000. Conversely, for every decrease in interest rate, a buyer can increase their purchase price and keep the same monthly mortgage payment.
Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! If you take the scenario I just described and apply it to the graph above, you can see that the folks who jumped into the market this year enjoyed an interest cost savings when securing their mortgage. This cost savings is doubly important because we are in a price appreciating market. In fact, the median price in King County has increased by 13% year-over-year and 10% in Snohomish County. Interest rates are helping to keep payments more manageable in our appreciating market. Most recently we have started to see a slight increase in inventory compared to the spring/summer market, which is a plus for buyers and something to be taken advantage of.
Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! The graph above provided by Freddie Mac shows a prediction for rates to start rising. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 7.65%, increases are increases, and securing these rates could be downright historical. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Another factor to consider is that it is an election year, and rates historically remain level during these times. What 2017 and beyond hold for rates will likely not mirror these historical lows under 4%. Note the 30-year average – one must think that rates closer to that must be in our future at some point.
So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge plus in helping make that transition more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.
If you would like additional information on how today’s historical interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact me. I would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is my goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.