The Gardner Report – Fourth Quarter

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State finished the year on a high with jobs continuing to be added across the market. Additionally, we are seeing decent growth in the area’s smaller markets, which have not benefitted from the same robust growth as the larger metropolitan markets.

Unemployment rates throughout the region continue to drop and the levels in the central Puget Sound region suggest that we are at full employment. In the coming year, I anticipate that we will see substantial income growth as companies look to recruit new talent and keep existing employees happy.

 

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 19,745 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2016—up by a very impressive 13.4% from the same period in 2015, but 18.7% below the total number of sales seen in the third quarter of the year. (This is a function of seasonality and no cause for concern.)
  • Sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with home sales up by 47%. There were also impressive sales increases in Grays Harbor and Thurston Counties. Jefferson County had a fairly modest decrease in sales.
  • The number of available listings continues to remain well below historic averages. The total number of homes for sale in the fourth quarter was down by 13.7% compared to the same period a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will continue to be a seller’s market. We should see some improvement in listing activity, but it is highly likely that demand will exceed supply for another year.

 

HOME PRICES

  • Demand continued to exceed supply in the final three months of 2016 and this caused home prices to continue to rise. In the fourth quarter, average prices rose by 7.1% but were 0.4% higher than the third quarter of the year. The region’s average sales price is now $414,110.
  • In most parts of the region, home prices are well above historic highs and continue to trend upward.
  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County. In total, there were eight counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%. We saw a drop in sales prices in the notoriously volatile San Juan County.
  • The aggressive home price growth that we’ve experienced in recent years should start to taper in 2017, but prices will continue to increase at rates that are higher than historic averages.

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by 15 days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • King County was the only area where it took less than a month to sell a home, but all markets saw decent improvement in the time it took to sell a home when compared to a year ago.
  • In the final quarter of the year, it took an average of 64 days to sell a home. This is down from the 78 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, but up from the 52 days it took in the third quarter of 2016. (This is due to seasonality and not a cause for concern.)
  • We may experience a modest increase in the time it takes to sell a home in 2017, but only if there is a rapid increase in listings, which is certainly not a given.

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2016, I actually moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers, but this is purely a function of the increase in interest rates that was seen after the election. Higher borrowing costs mean that buyers can afford less, which could ultimately put some modest downward pressure on home prices in 2017. That said, the region will still strongly favor sellers in the coming year.

 

This blog by Matthew Gardner originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.


Posted on February 7, 2017 at 11:36 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Economy |

First Time Buyers, Millennials, and What to Expect in 2017

Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner is back again to talk about what the 2017 housing market means for first time buyers and millennials. Here are some of his thoughts…

I believe that the big story for the coming year will be first-time home buyers. Since they don’t need to sell before purchasing, their reemergence into the market ensures that sales will continue to increase, even while inventory is limited. Thirty-one percent of buyers currently in the real estate market are first-time buyers, but it would be more ideal if that figure was closer to 40 percent.

Why don’t we have enough first-time buyers in the market? With Baby Boomers working and living longer, we aren’t making much room for Millennials to start their careers. Plus, the major debt that the younger generation owes on student loans ($1.3 trillion today) hugely impacts the housing market. But the bigger issue is lack of down payments. Before the recession, many Millennials could look to their parents for help with down payments; however, these days that is not as much the case.

I would also contend that the notion of Millennials being a “renter generation” is nonsense. In a National Association of Realtors survey, 75 percent of them said that buying a home would be the most astute financial decision they’d ever make; however, 80 percent said they don’t think they could qualify for a mortgage. I do believe that Millennials will eventually buy, but they’re delaying their purchasing decisions by about three years when compared to previous generations, which is about the same amount of time they’re waiting to start families as well.

Mortgage rates have risen rapidly since the election, and unfortunately, I do not see a turnaround in this trend. That said, they will remain cheap when compared to historic averages. Expect to see the yield on 30-year mortgages rise to around 4.7% by the end of 2017. For those who have grown accustomed to interest rates being at historic lows, this might seem high, but it’s all relative.

If I were to gaze all the way into 2018, my crystal ball takes me to the dreaded “R” word. Like taxes and death, recessions are another one of those unwanted realities that inevitably comes to visit every so often. Irrespective of who was voted into the White House, my view remains the same: prepare to see a business cycle recession by the end of 2018, but, rest assured, it will not be driven by real estate, nor will it resemble the Great Recession in any way.


Posted on January 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Local Market Update – January 2017

A record low number of houses for sale in December indicates that 2017 will continue to be a very competitive market for buyers. The good news: those who decide to take the plunge and list their home can count on getting a premium price for their property. Brokers reported that about three-fourths of the homes sold in December involved bidding wars.

Eastside

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Strong demand driven by a booming tech economy and great schools continue to strain the already low inventory on the Eastside. It’s not unusual for a well-priced new listing to receive dozens of offers and to sell for well over asking price. With supply failing to meet demand, the median price for homes sold in December soared 19 percent to a new record high of $803,500.

King County

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King County had only about 1,600 single-family homes on the market in December, an all-time low. With the healthy regional economy, demand remains very strong. Prices, however, appear to be moderating somewhat. The median price for a single-family home sold in December was $550,000, up 8 percent over a year ago, but unchanged from October and November. A traditional uptick in inventory this spring may help keep price increases more modest this year compared to the double-digit increases seen in 2015.

Seattle

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According to the Case-Shiller home price index, home prices are rising faster in the Seattle metro area than in any other major region in the country. One issue is space. The city’s existing density means that virtually no new single-family homes are being built in Seattle. As new residents flood in, more people are competing for the already tight inventory. As a result, home prices are up. The median cost of a single-family home rose 6 percent from a year ago to $635,000.

Snohomish County

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While home prices in Snohomish County are well below those of King County, the gap is closing as prices here are increasing at a faster pace than neighboring counties. The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County rose 12 percent as compared to a year ago to $400,000. Like King County, inventory is very slim, indicating a market heavily favoring sellers.


Posted on January 10, 2017 at 7:21 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Market Update |

2017 Housing Forecast: Local Market No. 4 in US

2017-home-forecast

According to Veros Real Estate Solutions, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market is projected to be the fourth hottest real estate market in the U.S. in 2017. The company projects home prices to appreciate 10.2 percent in our region next year, far outpacing the rest of the country.

If you’re thinking about selling, the timing couldn’t be better. With inventory at historic lows, prices at or near record highs, and multiple offers the norm, it’s an exceptional time to get top dollar for your home.

2017-market-forecast

Are you ready to sell your home?

Get in touch with a Windermere Real Estate agent to receive a valuation of your home based on current market conditions, walk you through the process, and answer any questions you may have.


Posted on December 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling, Home Ownership, Local Economy |

Local Market Update – November 2016

Home sales outgained new listings again in October, further squeezing already tight inventory and pushing prices higher. Since new listings traditionally decrease in the fall, that inventory shortage is expected to last until spring. Sellers willing to put their home on the market now can expect plenty of interested buyers, and a highly favorable chance of getting the best possible price for their home.

Eastside

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Home prices on the Eastside took a big leap in October, fueled by record low inventory. The median price of a single-family home sold that month was $768,000, a jump of 15 percent over the same time last year, and the fastest price growth in several months. With the market so strongly favoring sellers, brokers are hopeful more consumers will opt to list their homes.

King County

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The amount of inventory in King County fell to levels not seen since the 1990s with just one month of available inventory. With supply falling well behind demand, prices jumped significantly. The median price of a single-family home sold in October jumped 15 percent over a year ago to $550,000.

Seattle

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Click image to view the full report.

There is no place where the supply of homes is tighter than Seattle, particularly in areas close to the city center. Just three weeks of inventory has kept this market in solid multiple-offer territory. Prices in October increased accordingly. The median price of a single-family home in Seattle rose 13 percent to $625,000.

Snohomish County

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Click image to view full report.

Inventory in Snohomish County dropped more than 20 percent from a year ago. With just over a month of available inventory, prices climbed. The median price of a single-family home was up 6 percent over last year to $386,599. Even with that increase, buyers continue to be drawn to the area by home prices that average 30 percent less than King County.


Posted on November 28, 2016 at 7:23 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Market Update |

The Gardner Report – Third Quarter 2016

Economic Overview

Annual employment growth in Washington State slowed somewhat in the third quarter of this year, but still remains well above the long-term average. Additionally, the jobs that are being created are primarily quality, high-paying positions, which is important for the health of our economy. Unemployment in the state remains at levels that are somewhat higher than I would like to see, but this continues to be impacted by a growing labor force and modestly slowing job growth. I still expect to see the rate drop a little further as we move through the final quarter of the year.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 24,277 home sales during the third quarter of 2016—up by an impressive 7.9% from the same period in 2015, and 6.8% above the total number of sales seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • Skagit County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with transactions up by 25.6%. There were also impressive increases in home sales in Thurston, San Juan, Pierce, and Grays Harbor Counties. Sales fell slightly in Jefferson and Kittitas Counties.
  • Overall listing activity remains low with the total number of homes for sale at the end of the quarter 11.2% below that seen a year ago. That said, I’m happy to report that listings have been slowly trending higher in 2016.
  • I’ve been thinking about how sales can continue to rise while inventory remains so low. I believe this is due to an uptick in first-time buyers. These buyers have no home to sell, so they don’t add to the number of listings; however, they do cause sales to increase when they buy. This is a good trend to see!

Home Prices

  • As demand continues to exceed supply, we are continuing to see upward pressure on home prices. In the third quarter, average prices rose by a substantial 10.2% and are 3.2% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • The current rate at which homes are appreciating cannot continue, and I anticipate that we will see a “cooling” start to take place in 2017.
  • When compared to the third quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County. In total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10% and prices were higher across the entire region when compared to a year ago.
  • Although supply levels are slowly starting to creep higher, we are still solidly in a seller’s market. Rising inventory levels should start to do a better job of meeting demand next year, which when combined with modestly higher mortgage interest rates, will see the region move closer toward becoming a balanced market.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by twenty-two days when compared to the third quarter of 2015.
  • All the counties that comprise this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop.
  • In the third quarter of 2016, it took an average of 52 days to sell a home. This is down from the 74 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, and down from the 67 days it took in the second quarter of this year.
  • King and Snohomish Counties remain the only two markets where it took less than a month to sell a home. Even though King County saw days on market rise slightly from 18 to 20, it remains the hottest market in the region.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the third quarter of 2016, I am moving the needle very slightly toward the buyers. This is entirely due to the recent increase in inventory levels that I believe will continue through the rest of the year. That said, the region remains steadfastly a seller’s market.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

This blog originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.


Posted on November 8, 2016 at 4:02 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Will Seattle Be Part of the Next Big Tech Corridor?

Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. are two nearly identical cities in the Pacific Northwest. We’re both eco-conscious, have similar weather patterns, and are creating exceptional technologically-based economies. Vancouver has more in common with Seattle than it does with any of its other Canadian cities even though they are separated by an international border and 140 miles of roads.

Leaders on both sides of the Canadian-U.S. border are taking advantage of the connections. According to The New York Times, Microsoft – currently in need of global engineering talent – is expanding their Vancouver offices, “partly because of Canada’s smoother immigration process.” Alternatively, “Vancouver wants to bring more American technology companies to the city in hopes of spinning out future entrepreneurs” who could expand its smaller base of tech companies.

At the Cascadia Conference in Vancouver last month, officials and executives from both cities discussed both future plans and those currently in place to deepen the technological ties between the two. There were conversations over more globalization and education, research collaboration between the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington, and even ways to maneuver and improve the traffic between Seattle and Vancouver.

All of this technological innovation on our coast bodes well for housing in the Puget Sound region. Our area has so many strengths economically, geographically, and socially, so it is no wonder that our growing technological companies are ready to expand and add more. Some details of this growth are still being discussed and planned. However, it seems as though both Seattle and Vancouver are poised to take over as the leading tech center for the west coast in the near future.

Find out more information on the growing tech corridor between Seattle and Vancouver in the original article from The New York Times.


Posted on October 24, 2016 at 7:54 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Economy |

Local Market Update – October 2016

At a time of year when sales traditionally slow down, September saw particularly strong sales growth. Home prices rose yet again compared to the same time last year, but they remain below the peak of several months ago. And inventory, while still low, is at its highest level in two years. The local real estate market continues to be one of the hottest in the country, but there are signs that prices may be rising more slowly than they did in the first half of the year.

Eastside

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Home prices on the Eastside remain very strong. The September median price of $750,000 was a healthy 10 percent increase over last September. Inventory remains very low with just over a month supply of homes. Demand in this sought-after market continues to overwhelm the number of properties available for sale.

King County

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Click image to view full report.


Home prices are typically lower in the fall, and that was the case in King County for September. The median price of homes sold in September was $538,000, down from the market peak earlier this summer. That number reflects a 10 percent increase over a year ago, which represents a significantly higher appreciation rate than the national average.

Seattle

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Inventory in Seattle remains very tight, but is up slightly from a year ago. While multiple offers are still common – particularly for entry-priced homes — some agents are reporting fewer offers than in the past. The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $630,000 in September, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

Snohomish County

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Home prices in Snohomish County climbed 11 percent in September as compared to a year ago. The median price of a home was $395,000, just below the all-time high of $405,000 set in July. The area continues to see an influx of buyers trying to find a more cost-effective option to the comparatively high housing prices in King County.


Posted on October 11, 2016 at 5:05 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Market Update |

Seattle is No. 1 U.S. Choice for Foreign Investors

Over the past few years we have watched people flock to the Seattle area in record-breaking numbers. Most have attributed this rapid growth to the tech boom, which has certainly played a huge role in tech employees’ eagerness to relocate to the Puget Sound. Last week The Seattle Times released an article that discussed more global circumstances that are enticing an increasing number of foreign buyers to move to the Seattle area.

Previously, when Chinese buyers and investors wanted to purchase properties in the Pacific Northwest they focused on British Columbia. That changed when our neighbors to the north enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers in August. Some Canadian officials justified the tax saying international buyers price out longtime residents and often leave investment homes empty, reducing the overall housing stock and making prices soar more than 30 percent in a year. Understandably, the tax deterred Chinese buyers and encouraged them to redirect their attention to the Seattle area.

While our housing costs have been soaring over the last few years, they still remain far lower and more inviting than other West Coast hubs. Additionally, the Seattle area offers strong lifestyle “fundamentals” that appeal to foreign investors. Some are obvious incentives, like our strong economy and lack of income tax. Others include clean air and access to water, lifestyle and travel opportunities, investment potential, and most importantly education.

According to the National Association of Realtors, Chinese money now accounts for about 55 percent of all homes purchased by foreign investors in Washington. When you add this to our healthy economy, you get a huge interest in the Seattle area. We’re seeing the boost in Seattle as well as other neighborhoods on the Eastside and other areas of King County. Prices have been rising steadily which is great news for sellers who are excited by the prospect of getting an all-cash offer with no contingencies from willing investors.

Think you might be ready to sell and take advantage of our booming market? We can market your property to reach the best buyer and present you with your ideal offer. Let’s get in touch!


Posted on September 27, 2016 at 5:18 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Local Market Update – September 2016

While homes prices were up by double-digits compared to a year ago, the market frenzy that has affected most of this year is showing some signs of moderating. With the exception of the Eastside, prices for most of the region were down from their peak. Home sales generally outpaced the same period a year ago, but a shortage of inventory continues to tip the advantage in favor of sellers.

Eastside

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Click image to view full report.

Bucking the trend of moderating prices, the Eastside saw the median home price soar 14 percent over last year to a new record high of $769,000. That eclipses the previous peak of $760,000 in May of this year. Very tight inventory in this highly desirable market was reflected in flat sales growth compared to a year ago.

King County

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King County saw home prices moderating for the second month in a row. The median price of homes sold in August was $550,000. That represents an increase of 10 percent over last year, but a drop from the high of $570,500 in June.

Seattle

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The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $625,000 in August. While down from the record high of $666,500 in June, that represents a healthy 9 percent increase over the same time last year. Demand continues to exceed the supply of inventory, particularly for entry-level homes.

Snohomish County

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Click image to view full report.

Snohomish County’s August median home price of $400,000 was just shy of the record-high of $405,000 set in July. The median price here is $150,000 less than King County, making Snohomish County a more affordable option for buyers willing to trade a longer commute time for lower housing costs.


Posted on September 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Local Market Update |