Consulting Your Trusted Advisor Vs. Following the Media

Spring is in the air! The bulbs are starting to poke out of the ground and we recently hit 70 degrees in the Greater Seattle area. This is the time of year, due to weather and the end of the school year approaching, that the local real estate market starts to take off with activity. Not only is the sun thawing out gardens and backyard patios, helping to ready homes for market, but interest rates are continuing to fall, providing a heyday for buyers and sellers.

Spring is the time of year we see more homes come to market providing more selection for buyers. This is what we call our peak season. This spring, however, is especially meaningful due to the recent decrease in interest rates. Seasonality naturally brings more activity, but 2019 has started out with a downward trajectory in regards to interest rates, which has been a welcome shift after watching rates increase by almost an entire point over the course of 2018.

According to Ycharts.com, as of March 14th the US 30-year mortgage rate is at 4.31%, compared to 4.41% the week prior and 4.46% last year. This is quite a bit lower than the long term average of 8.07%. Additionally, rates are now over half a point lower than they were just four months ago, which gives buyers 5% more buying power. Meaning they can increase their price range by 5% and keep the same mortgage payment.

We are beginning to see a ton of activity at open houses, market times are starting to shrink, and multiple offers are popping up again. Demand is on the rise, with first-time home buyers out in full-force along with move-up and down-size buyers all going after the same inventory. Price appreciation will start to happen again month-over-month as the tulips start to open and veggie gardens start sprouting.

This assessment is not only factual and researched, it is anecdotal. You see, statistics are only reported monthly from the NWMLS, so the stories from the streets tell the real story of where we have been, what’s happening now, and where we are headed in the real estate market. My daily engagement with the market, either helping buyers or sellers, researching values, showing properties, negotiating contracts, and working on inspections and appraisals helps me to be informed of the trends before they are even reported.

Around the third of each month, the NWMLS distributes a press release to the media reporting the previous month’s statistics. The media grabs the numbers that are most exciting to them to craft a story around. They create headlines to entice readership, which in turn sells advertising. The problem is that these news stories often only tell part of the story.

A classic example of cherry picked statistics used to create a headline came earlier this month. The Seattle Times reported in a sub-headline that Snohomish County home prices were falling at their fastest rate in seven years. This is simply not the whole truth. This is a common tactic of the media often only using month-over-month numbers (comparing the current month to the same month a year ago) versus a complete year-over-year analysis. Real estate is a long-term investment, and month-over-month numbers tend to provide more of a snapshot rather than a longer-term analysis of data and what influenced it.

We need to look at the data from all angles. Where were we a year ago, what has happened over the course of the last year in comparison to the previous year, and what happened this month compared to last month? Real-time experiences matter too, as the market changes weekly and even daily. Interactions throughout the month help me understand what opportunities the current environment will provide before the ink even dries on the media release. All of this helps us understand where we have come from and where we are headed. Couple that with front-line, daily experiences, and your trusted advisor can help you determine how all of this relates to your bottom line much more effectively than an article in the newspaper.

Another important factor to consider is that the bulk of the statistics reported in that monthly NWMLS press release are based on closed sales. While closed sales are very important, we must also closely track pending sales activity (homes currently under contract). Closed sales show where we have been and pending sales indicate where we are headed. February was a misleading month because of Snowmageddon. It halted new inventory reaching the market and kept buyers at home. The second half of February once the roads were cleared, had buyers lined up. Many of those buyers are anxiously waiting for that seasonal surge in inventory as we head into spring. This is indicated by conversations being had at open houses and one-on-one encounters with clients. Buyers want to take advantage of these surprisingly low interest rates now and sellers are enjoying the audience they are providing.

Unfortunately, the media is the initial source of information, and sometimes the only source a consumer considers when making such big decisions. I can’t tell you how often I encounter people that are grossly misled by alarming headlines and bite-sized bits of media when it comes to their largest asset, or the consideration of entering into home ownership.

Supply and demand illustrates where we are at in the market, and factors such as interest rates, the local and global economy, and simple things like weather and consumer mindset drive the market. Consumer mindset is influenced by the media. Take it a step further and make sure you are aligned with a professional who is committed to tracking all of this and can help explain how it all relates to you. Everyone has their own goals and their own concerns; it is the analysis of a well-researched trusted advisor that can help you navigate these meaningful financial decisions. It is my goal to provide my clients with the most up-to-date information to help empower strong decisions. If you are curious how this all relates to you, please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss and help educate.

Growing your own vegetables is both fun and rewarding. It might seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but once you get started, you’ll find it isn’t very hard. Gardening is a learning experience, though. You’ll find that some things work better than others, and every planting season gives you another opportunity to make some tweaks and try again.

The first thing you need to decide is where to plant. For most veggies, this should be the sunniest spot you have. And of course, the second big question is what to plant. Go for the things you love to eat, as well as plants that will thrive in the amount of sun you have.

Our climate in the Pacific Northwest requires some crops to be started indoors in the winter and transplanted outside in the spring. But it’s not too late to get started. There are lots of plants that you can sow directly into the garden in early spring. Here are a few:

There are also many crops that can be planted in the summer for a fall harvest. Click here for a complete timeline of planting vegetables in the Seattle area.

Celebrate Earth Day with us! Bring all your sensitive documents to be professionally destroyed on-site by Confidential Data Disposal. Limit 20 file boxes per customer.

We will also be collecting non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit Concern for Neighbors Food Bank. Donations are not required, but are appreciated.

Saturday, April 20th, 10am – 2pm.
4211 Alderwood Mall Blvd, Lynnwood 98036

*This is a shredding-only event. Only paper will be accepted – no electronics or recyclables.

Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Posted on March 26, 2019 at 10:19 am
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

The current break-even horizon* in the seattle metro area is 1.69 yearS!

 

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

 

 

With expensive rental rates, historically low interest rates, and home prices softening, there are advantages to buying versus renting.

 

In fact, the Seattle Metro area has seen some of the sharpest rent hikes in the country over the last few years! 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 versus 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 1.69 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.

 

 

Read the full article on the Zillow Research website here

 

 

 

 

Zillow Research® is a trademark of Zillow, Inc.

Posted on February 27, 2019 at 12:16 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

2018 Year in Review

2018 was a year of growth and change. The dynamic greater Seattle area and hottest real estate market in the country started to head toward some balance. After six years of expansion resulting in an extreme seller’s market, we encountered a market shift in the late spring. Where it is tricky, is the media paints a somewhat scary picture, cherry picking month-over-month statistics instead of looking at the entire year in review. I thought I’d take the opportunity to recap what led to this shift and where we might be headed.

In May, we saw a 40% increase in homes for sale. For so many years, the lack of inventory was the central theme of the market, with inventory levels as low as a two-week supply in the first quarter of 2018. These constricted inventory levels led to huge price escalations from buyers competing in multiple offers. It was not uncommon to have 10 buyers fighting over one house, resulting in a sale price 20% over the list price. That type of price growth is unreasonable and the result of the extreme market conditions. In May, that changed as many sellers started to come to market. Suddenly, buyers had more choices and multiple offers started to wane. This phenomenon led to a decrease in month-over-month price appreciation.

It just so happened that the increase in inventory was accompanied by two other influential factors. We had an increase in interest rate, and the now-repealed “Seattle Head Tax” was passed on May 14th, 2018 by the Seattle City Council.

Interest rates had been hovering in the low 4%s during all of 2017 and even in the high 3%s in 2016. We started 2018 in the low 4%s, but by May the rate had jumped a half-point. Coupled with extreme price jumps from limited inventory, affordability became an issue for many buyers. This started bringing folks to the sidelines.

A large contributor to the growth in our real estate market over the past 6 years was our robust job market, and the employment growth of companies such as Amazon. The “Seattle Head Tax” that passed in mid-May, but then repealed on June 12th, 2018, was a huge threat to our thriving economy. The angst it created in our region about the future of Seattle’s job market was palpable, and had companies like Amazon making bold moves such as halting all current construction projects. Also, we were in the midst of Amazon’s HQ2 search, and the head tax had Seattle on the line in regards to remaining the home to the big employers that have fed our job growth and economic rise.

The combination of a 40% increase in new listings, a half-point rise in interest rates, and the month-long battle over the head tax created pause in our real estate market. With more selection, more expensive money, and the drama in the Seattle City Council, folks were unsure of where we were headed. This created confusion, and when people are not clear they are less likely to make decisions. In retrospect, it was the perfect storm. Like any storm, it changed the environment, and like a washed-out road, we had to find a new route.

The new route, while a bit bumpy and new to navigate, has been refreshing and necessary. For so many years, we have been begging for more inventory to help temper price growth and create more mobility in the market. From 2016 to 2017, we had 14% year-over-year growth in median price in both King and Snohomish counties. To put that in perspective, the average year-over-year appreciation rate over the last 19 years has been 6%. Home values growing at double-digit appreciation rates was unsustainable, and quite frankly not affordable. This balancing-out of the market is a healthy and more sustainable new route.

Year-to-date, Snohomish County’s median price has grown 10% over the previous year and King county, 9%. A large part of that growth happened in the first half of the year, and we have seen some month-over-month prices go down since, as the market starts to find some balance. The media loves to report these month-over-month numbers to create headlines, but buries the big picture of growth over the previous year and the fact that balance is healthy, in the last few paragraphs of any given article.

The mobility that this created has been a welcome change. People were not putting their homes up for sale because they feared the prospect of finding their next one, so they stayed put. The almost overnight increase in selection created a more comfortable environment for the seller who also had to buy their next home. We have even started to see home sale contingency offers come together as this market has started to balance out.

As we round out 2018, in Snohomish County we ended November with two months of inventory based on pending sales, and 2.4 months in King County. This is still a seller’s market, but not the extreme seller’s market that had only two weeks of inventory – and that is a good thing. A balanced market is when you hit four months of inventory, and we have a way to go to get there. Bear in mind that these measurements are of the entire county and do not take price points into consideration. We have seen inventory pile a little higher in the higher price points. The big news is that sellers are sitting on a ton of equity. In Snohomish County, we have seen a 62% increase in median price since 2012, and in King County, 66%. As long as sellers keep this in perspective and understand that pricing needs to reflect the inventory levels, they will find great success.

The opportunity to make a move-up, downsize, or even buy your first home is awesome right now. Selection is actually an option and interest rates are still historically low. Currently, we are hovering around 5%, and they have actually recently dropped. Rates are predicted to head toward the mid 5%s in 2019, making a purchase now very appealing.

If you are just curious about the value of your home in today’s market or you are considering a move in 2019, please reach out. I’d be happy to relate the current market conditions to your investment and your goals. Education and awareness lead to clarity, and when one is clear, they are empowered to make strong decisions. It is my mission to help educate my clients and assist them in making these big life decisions. Whatever your goals are in 2019, it is my honor to help keep you informed on all things real estate related.

Why Conserve Water?
There are several compelling reasons to take measures at home to conserve water. Not only will you save money on your utility bill, but conserving water will also help to protect our environment. Reducing how much water we use (and waste) also reduces the energy required to process and deliver it to our homes and businesses. This helps reduce pollution and conserve fuel. Minimizing water use also helps to extend the life of septic systems, and can help avoid costly sewage system expansions.

It’s easy to forget that water is a finite resource, but the stark truth is that only 3% of the water on Earth is fresh water. As populations grow, if we do not protect this precious resource, we may find down the road a lack of adequate, healthy water supply. This would have drastic consequences on water costs, food supplies, and health hazards.

The most effective way to save water is to upgrade your appliances and fixtures. But there are many other ways to reduce the amount of water used at home, most of which do not require any significant investment. Check out this list to get you started. A quick google search will provide even more ideas. Making just a few small changes over the next year can add up to hundreds or even thousands of gallons in water savings!

New Year’s Eve 2018 is almost upon us, and if you are still looking for something to do, read on! There are lots of options in the greater Seattle area, whether you are looking for the biggest blow-out bash or an earlier, family-friendly event.

  1. New Year’s Eve Celebration at Seattle Center

There are actually two parties that will converge at midnight for the iconic Seattle fireworks show.
The Armory Stage will host rock band SWAY from 8pm until midnight. And at the International Fountain, you can dance the night away with live electronic music and video projection show (starts at 10pm). Tickets are required for both parties, however the big fireworks show is free to enjoy.

  1. SPECTRA: New Year’s Eve Under the Arches

The Pacific Science Center transforms on NYE with fire sculptures, drinks and live music. There will be special entertainment throughout the night, as well as the standard Science Center exhibits. At midnight, head outside for the Space Needle fireworks. Purchase tickets in advance.

  1. New Year’s Eve pARTy at Chihuly Gardens and Glass

Watch the Seattle Center fireworks from under the glass of Chihuly Gardens. The evening includes appetizers, desserts, live music and a midnight toast. Purchase tickets in advance.

  1. INDULGENCE New Year’s Eve Bash at MoPOP

Another Seattle Center option, the Museum of Popular Culture offers four 21+ parties in one. With live music on three performance stages, comedians, party favors, special VIP areas, more than 20 bars, and a special singles-only cocktail hour, this is one of the largest parties of the year. Museum access is included in the price of the party, purchase tickets in advance.

  1. Tacoma’s First Night

First Night is an all-ages, family-friendly celebration in Downtown Tacoma’s Theater District. The affordable admission price includes museums, music, art, drama, dance, and a whole day and night of activities. The cost of entry increases as the festival gets closer, so buy early to save!

  1. Nighttime Party for Families at Imagine Children’s Museum

The perfect NYE celebration if you have older kids, this pajama party features comedians, balloon makers, pizza, snacks, and educational, hands-on activities throughout the night. The fun culminates at 9pm with a ball drop.

  1. New Year’s Eve with Ivar’s Salmon House

Ivar’s on Northlake will host live music, tasty food and view of the fireworks without the crowds. Advanced reservations are required, and will range in price depending on your selections.

  1. Slamming’ Jammin’ New Year’s Eve Party

Ring in the new year with the latest in R&B, Old School, Jazz and Hip Hop music. This is a 21+, semi-formal event, and hotel packages are available with your ticket purchase.

  1. Resolution New Year’s Eve Party at WAMU Theater

A Seattle tradition for almost a decade, this 18+ party always brings a mixed crowd together for a night of dancing. This is one of the biggest EDM parties of the year.

  1. New Year’s at KidsQuest Bellevue

Celebrate the coming new year all day at KidsQuest! There are activities every hour from 10am to 4pm, including Bubble Wrap Stomp, New Year’s Hats, Storytime, glittery tattoos, and more. Admission is free with membership or museum admission.

Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Posted on January 30, 2019 at 12:21 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

2019 Economic & Housing Forecast

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Happy 2019! As we head into the New Year, it’s a great time to look ahead to what the real estate market has in store. Just last week, I had the pleasure of hosting an Economic Forecast Event with Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and soaked up his knowledge and predictions. Below are his general predictions for the at-large real estate market across the nation, please review and let me know if you have any questions.

Beyond the national forecast, at the event Matthew reported specifically on the Greater Seattle market, including both King and Snohomish counties. I received his Power Point presentation and I am happy to share his slides, should you request them.

A few take-a-ways to note are:

  • Seattle remains strong economically and our job market is thriving.
  • Interest rates are still historically low and will rise, but not beyond 6%.
  • It is still a seller’s market in our area, but price escalations are softening, creating more balance and sustainability. We are NOT experiencing a bubble.
  • 25% of homeowners in our region have 50% equity in their homes.
  • An economic recession is upon us in 2020. This one should be much like the 1991 recession; short and not based in housing.
  • Be careful how you process the media’s take on the market as they often use extreme month-over-month numbers vs. richer long-term data.
  • Prices are expected to rise 5-7% in 2019, which is more normal, but above the long-term average, yet lower than the recent double-digit year-over-year gains we’ve seen since 2012.

It is always my goal to help empower my clients with information to help them make informed decisions regarding their real estate.  Let me know if you’d like that Power Point. I’m happy to share and help you dissect the information. Here’s to a great 2019!


2019 Economic and Housing Forecast
Posted on Windermere.com in Market News by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate 

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 levelling.  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.
At Windermere we help people buy and sell homes, but we also help build community. I’m proud to support the Windermere Foundation with every home I help sell or buy. 2018 concluded with another great year of fundraising and giving for the Windermere Foundation, thanks to the continued support of agents, franchise owners, staff, and the community. Nearly $2.5 million was raised in 2018, bringing our grand total to over $38 million raised since the Foundation’s inception in 1989! This money goes right back into our community, helping low-income and homeless families. Read the full blog post here.
This past Christmas, my office adopted 22 foster boys, ranging in age from 13-18 years old, and living in group homes managed by Pioneer Human Services. These group homes serve boys who are struggling with emotional, behavioral and/or psychiatric problems that prevent placement in a traditional foster care setting. We purchased gifts, using wish lists from the boys, to help provide a joyful Christmas morning for these teenage boys who might otherwise be overlooked.

The office also raised money for grocery gift cards for families in need (also referred by Pioneer Human Services). This year we distributed $2,068 in grocery gift cards to 15 local families.

We are also thrilled to report that through our partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, this season Windermere raised a total of $31,900 for YouthCare, an organization that provides critical services for homeless youth. This brings our three-year total to $98,700 towards our #tacklehomelessness campaign! Thank you to the Seahawks and to YouthCare for helping us support homeless youth in our community. We’ll be back next year to raise even more!

Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Copyright © 2019 Windermere Real Estate/ North Inc., All rights reserved.
Posted on January 30, 2019 at 12:17 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

Quarterly Economic Update for Western Washington

Quarterly Economic Update for Western Washington
We are so fortunate here at Windermere to have Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist to help keep us informed on our economy and the real estate market. Each quarter Matthew compiles in-depth research on counties from across Western Washington. Click here to download Matthew’s full Q3 2018 report and check out the latest on the area you call home.
At the close of the third quarter, the Windermere Foundation had donated (year-to-date) over $1.2 million to non-profit organizations in communities throughout the Western U.S. that provide services to low-income and homeless families.

During the third quarter alone, the Windermere Foundation collected over $742,226 in donations; 70 percent of which came from individual contributions and fundraisers, while 30 percent came from donations through Windermere agent sales transactions. This brings the grand total to $37,151,731 raised since 1989!

If you would like to learn more about how the Windermere Foundation is supporting low-income and homeless families in our communities, check out this blog post. And for information on how we’re helping the California Wildfire Relief Fund, click here.

Thank you for your support! Together, we are able to make a real difference for those in need in our local communities.

Click here to learn more about the Windermere Foundation.

#Tacklehomelessness Update
Consider this house protected. In our last home game win against the Packers, the Seattle Seahawks also brought home $2,800 to be donated to YouthCare to #TackleHomelessness. With that, we’re up to $15,000 raised this season and $81,800 in total! Great work and #GoHawks!
Posted on November 28, 2018 at 10:31 am
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

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.

Windermere Community Service Day 2018

On June 8th, my office spent our annual Community Service Day with the Snohomish Garden Club constructing trellises, weeding and staking beds and planting and labeling a half-acre of produce!

The Snohomish Garden Club will harvest this half-acre, which will yield close to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to be donated to various food banks and senior centers in Snohomish County. The land for the garden is generously donated by the Bailey Family Farm.

For more information on how you can lend a hand, please visit: SnohomishGardenClub.com

Windermere’s Community Service Day was established in 1984 to offer agents and staff a chance to volunteer an entire workday to give back to the neighborhoods in which they live and work.

The Fourth of July is right around the corner.  With it being on a Wednesday, it makes sense to stay local.  Here is a list of fireworks shows nearby to help you celebrate the great U.S. of A!

  • Bellevue – Downtown Park 10:05 p.m.
  • Des Moines – Marina 10:20 p.m.
  • Edmonds – Civic Stadium 10 p.m.
  • Everett – Port Gardner Bay 10:20 p.m.
  • Federal Way – Celebration Park 10:15 p.m.
  • Kent – Lake Meridian Park 10 p.m.
  • Kenmore – Log Boom Park 10:00 p. m.
  • Kirkland – Marina Park 10:15 p.m.
  • Lakewood – Joint Base Lewis-McChord 10 p.m.
  • Newcastle – Lake Boren Park 10 p.m.
  • Renton – Coulon Park 10 p.m.
  • SeaTac – Angle Lake Park 10 p.m.
  • Seattle – Lake Union 10:20 p.m. BIG!
  • Tacoma – Ruston Way 10:10 p.m. BIG!
  • Tukwila – Fort Dent Park 10 p.m.
Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Copyright © 2018 Windermere Real Estate/ North Inc., All rights reserved.
Posted on June 29, 2018 at 8:38 am
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

A Tale of Two First-Time Home Buyers

Have you had dreams of owning a home or know someone that does?  Jumping into the market as a first-time home buyer can be intimidating, especially within the wild ride of the Greater Seattle market; but there is hope! In an effort to illustrate the reality for first-time buyers in today’s market, my office got together and identified several sets of buyers who recently found success in today’s market and asked them to share their stories. We think this is timely because it is the time of year that we see a surge in inventory, which gives buyers more selection and opportunity. We have two stories to share below, but before we dive into those let’s defy some first-time home buyer myths.

First, many people think it is necessary to have a 20% down payment saved in order to make their first purchase. That is simply not true. While a 20% down payment can help make you more competitive and naturally lowers your monthly payment, it is not the only option. There are loan programs with down payments as low as 3%. Nationally, in March the average down payment for all loans was 10%. For first-timers it was 6% and repeat buyers it was 14%.

Second, expectations around credit scores can use some clarification as well. In March, the average credit score for all loans was 722. For Conventional loans it was 742 and for FHA it was 677.  If your credit needs some work, contact me and I can put you in touch with one of my preferred lenders that can help with credit repair. There is hope, as these numbers are just the average. You’d be surprised that you don’t have to have perfect credit to get the process started.

Lastly, the cost to be a renter is high, and the return on your investment is nothing. Recently, Rent.com did a survey of landlords and 88% said they planned to raise their rents in the next 12 months. In the same survey, 53% said they’d rather place a new tenant with a higher rent versus renegotiate and renew with a current tenant.  This sounds expensive and unstable. Owning leads to building wealth and putting down permanent roots.

Now that we’ve gained some clarity on what it takes to qualify in today’s market, let’s jump into these two honest, yet heartwarming local first-time home buyer stories.

Three Teenagers, One Bathroom, No More

A happy family of five just moved in to this house earlier this month. Two hard working parents, Brandy and Juan, with three teenagers were renting a 3-bedroom, 1-bath rambler in Edmonds and needed more space. It was time to make a move, and they had saved up a 3% down payment for a new home. Their budget was $400,000.

The first step in the home buying process was sitting down with their agent for the initial buyer consultation. This is where they discussed market conditions, desired features such as bedrooms, bathrooms and garage, and their budget. This lead them to explore which locations had the inventory that met their needs in order to stay within their budget. They had to marry these three key points – we like to call this the Triangle of Buyer Clarity. They then identified a few workable locations that had inventory which supported their desired features and their budget and went for it. This upfront research and partnership with their agent lead to Brandy and Juan finding success rather quickly, saving them money in an appreciating market, and a whole lot of strife.

They did this and ultimately bought a great house in Marysville which fit their budget, afforded them the features they desired, and still provided a manageable commute into Lynnwood. Their mortgage payment is higher than their rental rate, but relative to the size of their new home and their investment. Not to mention, they are now on the equity-building train and don’t have to worry about a landlord displacing them. Their monthly mortgage payment is fixed with an awesome low interest rate, and they are super happy to have more than one bathroom for their teenagers.

From North Seattle to West Seattle

First, how cool is this house? Super cool! That’s just how Paul and Ange feel about their newly purchased home in the Highland Park neighborhood of West Seattle. They just closed in early April and have already attended two neighborhood BBQ’s, received gifts from their new neighbors, discovered new parks and restaurants and, wait for it…shortened their commute.

Paul described his new neighborhood, Highland Park, as “magical.” Previously, Paul and Ange were renting in Wedgwood for six years and loved it there. So much that they could not imagine living anywhere else. When they started their home search in late 2017, they kept to strict search criteria of North Seattle because that is what they knew and it was comfortable. After making two offers and not prevailing because they were getting beat out on price, West Seattle was suggested to them as a more affordable option by their agent. The price corner of the Triangle of Buyer Clarity was making itself known as a challenge in North Seattle, so it was time to reconvene.  They sat down with their agent and evaluated the market conditions in West Seattle compared to North Seattle and applied them to their feature list and budget, and voila: West Seattle was calling their names. You see, they wanted a more turn-key home, and the homes they were encountering in their price range in North Seattle needed a lot of work.

They went out on a limb and traveled over the bridge to start looking at homes. They quickly saw the difference – the homes they were interested in were not, as Paul said, “scary”!  The anticipated repairs they would have to make to the homes they were able to afford in North Seattle were daunting and unexciting. They felt much more at ease with the features that the West Seattle homes provided within their price range. They just needed to get comfortable with the idea of moving to a different community.

When they found the house featured above, the leap of faith to West Seattle started to take shape. They prepped a strong offer, did their due diligence, and believe it or not, secured the home in a multiple offer situation at $805,000, which was not the highest price! They listened to their agent and wrote an offer with very strong terms as well as a very well-researched price.  Their agent kept in close contact with the listing agent and the Sellers chose their offer due to all of these factors.

Since moving in almost two months ago, they find themselves in a state of excitement and discovery every day. The community has been welcoming and conversations with neighbors and the random stranger at the grocery store come easily. Paul has observed a strong sense of curiosity within his new community as people are new to the area and are encouraged to build relationships and make discoveries.

In the end, Paul and Ange remained within their price range, bought a home with all the features they wanted, but made what seemed to be at the time, a compromise on location. That compromise ended up being, as they put it, magical! They have never looked back to Wedgwood with regret, only excitement over what their new neighborhood might bring.

The point of these two stories is to debunk the sentiment we hear from time to time, that first-time home buyers cannot find success in our market. With a well-laid-out plan strategically constructed by the agent and client, we are seeing many happy stories for first-timers. The end result is putting these new homeowners on the path to building wealth, growing thriving communities, and making their house their home.

If you or someone you know has dreamed about buying their first home, please reach out. It is my goal to help identify the opportunities that are available, the strategies that find success, and to educate along the way.

We are so fortunate here at Windermere to have Matthew Gardner help keep us informed on our economy and the real estate market.  Each quarter Matthew compiles in-depth research on counties from across Western Washington. Click here to download Matthew’s full Q1 report.
When you shop at a local Farmers Market, you’re buying outstanding freshness, quality and flavor. Knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it was grown provides peace of mind for your family. Plus, you’re supporting a sustainable regional food system that helps small family farms stay in business; protects land from development, and provides the community with fresh, healthy food. Find one near you!
Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Posted on May 26, 2018 at 12:48 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

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.

Now that the 2017 tax deadline has come and gone it is time to think about how the new tax reform of 2018 might affect you next year.  A few notable items are the limited mortgage interest rate deduction capped at $750,000, limited property tax deduction capped at $10,000 and moving expenses can only be written off by members of the armed services.  Read the full article here and take notes, so you are prepared for next year’s tax season.
Thanks to your continued support, the Windermere Foundation collected over $330,000 in donations in the first quarter of 2018. Fifty-eight percent of the donations came from individual contributions and fundraisers, while 42 percent came from donations through Windermere agent sales transactions. This brings our grand total to $35,869,961 raised since 1989. We are very close to reaching the $36-million mark! These funds go towards supporting low-income and homeless families right here in our local community.

Thanks again for all you do to support the Windermere Foundation. Together, we are able to make a difference for those in need in our local communities.

For the full first quarter 2018 report, please visit the Windermere blog, and to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, visit www.windermere.com/foundation.

Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Posted on April 30, 2018 at 1:48 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

What the Same House Sold for 3 Years Later!

Price Appreciation Case Studies in South Snohomish & North King Counties18407 62nd Pl W, Lynnwood  •  3 bedroom  •  1,305 sq ft

Sold in September 2014
$315,000
Sold in July 2017
$450,000
$135,000 INCREASE IN HOME VALUE: 42.85%
17836 1st Ave NE, Shoreline  •  4 bedroom  •  2,917 sq ft
Sold in November 2014
$560,000
Sold in January 2018
$800,000
$240,000 INCREASE IN HOME VALUE: 42.85%
Since 2014, home values have grown by over 10% each year, resulting in a resounding 35% or more return in pricing. Above are some examples of actual homes sold in late 2017 to early 2018 that also sold in 2014, and that were not remodeled or significantly improved in between sales. These examples show the growth in home values that we have experienced over the last three years due to our thriving local economy. I pulled these examples to show you actual pound-for-pound market data versus the statistical percentages I often quote in these market updates. I thought these examples were pretty telling and quite exciting.

This phenomenon has been driven by a lack of available housing inventory and super high demand due to the robust job market in our area influenced by companies like Amazon. In 2017, there were 1,000 people moving into our area each week! According to census data, that trend is supposed to continue.The large price gains might seem familiar to the gains of the previous up market of 2004-2007 that resulted in a bubble, but this environment is much different, which is why we are not headed toward a housing collapse. Previous lending practices allowed people to get into homes with risky debt-to-income ratios, low credit scores, and undocumented incomes. A large part of why the housing bubble burst 10 years ago was due to people getting into mortgages they were not equipped to handle, which lend to the eventual fall of sub-prime lending and the bubble bursting. Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist speaks to this topic in this video.

It is supply and demand that is creating these huge gains in prices. An increase in inventory would be healthy and would temper price growth. Many folks who have been waiting for their current home values to return in order to make big moves involving their retirement, upgrading homes, investing, or even buying a second home are well poised to enter the market. If you are one of those people, I hope these examples provide insight on the increase in home values and how they might pertain to your goals.

Potential buyers might shy away from the market due to affordability. While it is expensive to buy a home in the Greater Seattle area, the people that have become homeowners over the last three years have built some amazing wealth. Interest rates remain low, helping to absorb the cost of a home in our area. Last month, I wrote a Love Letter to Buyers which helped layout the advantages of participating in today’s market and how to be successful. If you or any one you know is considering making a purchase, it is worth the read.

As we head into the active spring and summer months, if you’d like me to provide you a complimentary Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) on your home, so you have a better understanding of your home’s value, I’d be happy to do that. This would be an important component in charting your 2018 financial goals, and what a great time of year to gather that information! It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

Celebrate Earth Day with us! Bring all your sensitive documents to be professionally destroyed on-site by Confidential Data DisposalLimit 20 file boxes per customer.

We will also be collecting non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit Concern for Neighbors Food Bank. Donations are not required, but are appreciated.

Saturday, April 21st, 10am – 2pm
4211 Alderwood Mall Blvd, Lynnwood 98036

*This is a shredding-only event. Only paper will be accepted – no electronics or recyclables.

It is approaching that time of year when April showers will start to bring May flowers, so no better time to get outside to start prepping the garden. First, one must get their hands dirty cleaning out the beds, tending the soil and trimming back plants to prepare for new plantings and fresh growth. For a complete list of Spring gardening tips, click here.
Do you want to be “In the Know” in your neighborhood? Sign up for a monthly overview of what’s happening in the zip code(s) of your choice. Neighborhood News is a great tool to stay informed about the home values and activity in your own backyard or to study a new market you may be interested in. Click here to sign up on my website.
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Posted on April 5, 2018 at 11:33 am
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog

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 5, 2018 at 1:05 pm
Ginna Demme | Category: Newsletter Blog