The Gardner Report – Third Quarter 2017

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy added 79,600 new jobs over the past 12 months—an impressive growth rate of 2.4%, and well above the national growth rate of 1.2%. However, as we anticipated in last quarter’s report, we continue to see a modest slowdown in the growth rate as the state grows closer to full employment. Growth has been broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than Aerospace (a function of a slowdown at Boeing). Given the current rate of expansion, I am raising my employment forecast and now predict that Washington will add 81,000 new jobs in 2017.

Given the robust job market, it is unsurprising that the state unemployment rate continues to fall. The current unemployment rate in Washington State is 4.6% and we are essentially at full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report reported either a drop or stability in their unemployment rate from a year ago. I maintain my belief that the Washington State economy will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole. Given such a strong expansion, we should also expect solid income growth across Western Washington.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 25,312 home sales during the third quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.6% over the same period in 2016.
  • Clallam County maintains its number one position for sales growth over the past 12 months. Only four other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. This demonstrates continuing issues with the low supply of listings. There were modest declines in sales activity in six counties.
  • The market remains remarkably tight with listing inventory down by 14.2% when compared to the third quarter of 2016. But inventory is up a significant 32% compared to the second quarter of this year. Pending sales rose by 5.2% over the same quarter a year ago, which suggests that closings in Q4 will still be robust.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that inventory is still very low, and the situation is unlikely to improve through the balance of the year.

Home Prices

  • Given tight supply levels, it is unsurprising to see very solid price growth across the Western Washington counties. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12.3% to $474,184. This is 0.9% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • With demand far exceeding supply, price growth in Western Washington continues to trend well above the longterm average. As I do not expect to see the new home market expand at any significant pace, there will be continued pressure on the resale market, which will cause home prices to continue to rise at above-average rates.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Grays Harbor County where sale prices were 20.1% higher than the third quarter of 2016. Nine additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • Mortgage rates in the quarter continue to test the lows of 2017, and this is unlikely to change in the near-term. This will allow home prices to escalate further but I expect we will see rates start to rise fairly modestly in 2018, which could slow price growth.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by eight days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County continues to be the tightest market, with homes taking an average of 17 days to sell. Every county except San Juan saw the days on market drop from the same period a year ago.
  • This quarter, it took an average of 43 days to sell a home. This is down from the 51 days it took in the second quarter of 2016 and down by 8 days from the second quarter of this year.
  • At some point, inventory will start to grow and this will lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. However, I do not expect that to happen at any time soon. So we remain in a seller’s market.


This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the third quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as the second quarter. Though price growth remains robust, sales activity has slowed very slightly and listings jumped relative to the second quarter. That said, the market is very strong and buyers will continue to find significant competition for accurately priced and well-located homes.




Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.


This article originally appeared on the blog.

Posted on November 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Buy a Home

If you’ve been looking to buy a house, it’s easy to get discouraged. With our local real estate market still the hottest in the country, a lot of buyers have become frustrated after losing out to multiple offers and all-cash sales. While some buyers are considering waiting out the market, here is why that’s not a wise move.

1. Historically, this time of the year is the best time to buy a home.

The fourth quarter of the year has always seen the lowest demand for home sales. Kids are back in school. The holiday season is gearing up. It’s just not the time of year when people want to uproot their lives and move into a new home. That all changes in a few months. The market traditionally experiences the highest demand and the lowest inventory of the year between January and May. Your best bet is to make an offer now.

2. Home prices are expected to increase next year.

A booming economy, rising population, and an influx of highly-paid workers are all expected to sustain the strong demand for housing through 2018. While the sharp home price increases of the past few years are expected to moderate, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner predicts that home prices will increase by 9 percent next year.

3. Interest rates are predicted to rise.

Waiting means you’ll get less house for your money. It’s all about the One in Ten Rule. As Matthew Gardner explains, for every 1 percent increase in mortgage rates your buying power decreases by 10 percent. Even if home prices are flat a year from now (which is not expected), an increase in interest rates means you’ll have to borrow more money to buy the same house.

With home valuations at high levels today, buyers should consider three things before they purchase a home: Can I afford the monthly payments, do I like the location, and am I planning to live in the home for at least five years?

If you decide to move forward, your real estate agent can make the difference between winning the deal or not.

Here’s what sets Windermere Real Estate brokers apart:

  • We can position your offer to have the greatest appeal to the seller (and sometimes that’s not just a higher price).
  • We receive extensive training on how to create the most competitive offer and negotiate successfully in a multiple-offer situation.
  • Other agents are more confident in completing a transaction with an agent from Windermere than they are with any other real estate company.

Contact us today!

Posted on October 24, 2017 at 8:58 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Are We in a Housing Bubble?

As home prices in King County have reached record highs, some people are wondering whether we are approaching another housing bubble.

While it’s true that home prices here have surpassed the last peak hit during the housing bubble, that doesn’t mean we are in bubble territory today. The last bubble was fueled by faulty mortgage practices. Today, loans are granted on much more sound principles.

More importantly, the local economy is flourishing. Seattle has the fastest growing population of any major city in the country. The demand for homes, and historically low inventory, have been the catalyst for rising home prices here.

Still not convinced that there is no bubble? Let’s take a look at the statistics.

King County Median Sales Price

View a larger version of the chart here.

According to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the median home price in King County rose steadily since 1993 (the first year the NWMLS reported median home figures), fell during the crash, and has risen since 2012.

Now, let’s assume there was no housing bubble and crash in the mid-2000s and that home prices appreciated at normal historic levels for King County, which has been an average annual rate of 6 percent for many decades. This graph compares actual home prices (blue bars) with what prices would have been with normal appreciation (orange bars) over the same period.

King County Median Sales Price

View a larger version of the chart here.

Bottom Line: Had there not been a boom and bust, based on historic appreciation rates home values would be close to where they are right now. However, there is no doubt that home prices have risen rapidly the past few years, and that rate of appreciation can’t be sustained over the long term. If you are considering buying a home today, make sure you can afford the payments, and choose a location that will appeal to you for years to come.

Posted on August 29, 2017 at 9:45 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Record-Setting Home Sales Across Country

The super-hot housing market isn’t confined to the Puget Sound region. Across the country, homes are selling at record-setting paces.

The high demand and tight supply of homes available is causing prices to rise and many homes are snapped up in just days. According to CNBC, “Denver led the nation in fastest sales, with nearly half of its new listings going under contract in just six days. Seattle came in second at seven days.”

With the high demand and the short days on market, many areas are still seeing a rapid increase in home prices. On average, home prices in the U.S. increased 6.8 percent compared to a year ago. In comparison, on Seattle’s Eastside average home sale prices were up to near-record numbers in May at $875,000. That’s a staggering 15 percent over the same month last year.

While these increases and somewhat frenzied market seems to be spread across the country, it’s important to work with a broker who explains the ins and outs of the Real Estate market to you. These numbers are average, and not all home will sell in less than a week. Get in touch with us today and we can guide you through the Seattle area Real Estate market.

Read the full article for more on

Posted on June 27, 2017 at 7:00 am
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

Existing Homes Selling Faster and Faster

According to a recent report by the National Association of Realtors, existing homes are selling faster than they have since they began tracking them in May of 2011. Across the nation, homes were on the market for an average of 29 days before selling. In Seattle, homes were on the market for an average of only 28 days.

Other cities leading the pack were San Jose with an average of 23 days, San Francisco with 25 days, and Denver with 27 days.

Supply is drastically dwindled by high demand, so many homes for sale are experience multiple offer situations with hungry buyers ready to purchase whatever they can find and afford. also explained what effect this is having on home prices:

“The lack of homes for sale is also turbocharging price tags. [National existing-home prices are] up nearly 3.5% from March and represent a 6% annual increase.

‘Homes in the lower- and mid-market price range are hard to find in most markets,’ NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. ‘When one is listed for sale, interest is immediate and multiple offers are nudging the eventual sales prices higher.’”

Read more from

Posted on May 25, 2017 at 10:15 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

How Seller Gridlock is Controlling Seattle’s Housing Market

The typical Winter cooldown is over and it seems like a scorching Spring housing market is already underway in the greater Seattle area.

Recent statistics reported by The Seattle Times show “home prices in Seattle have nearly doubled over the last five years,” while the number of homes for sale has hit its lowest point since available records began in 2000.

Home prices in King County jumped up 6.7 percent last month from the month before giving us the biggest one-month jump since early 2015 according to The Seattle Times. The biggest increase, the report continues, hit the suburbs. This sharp increase comes after a few months of slower price growth that is typical of winter months.

Does this symbolize an early start to the Spring market? When you combine these high prices with low inventory, an abysmal 1,400 homes available across King County last month, it would seem so.

Our inventory has become so low that fewer people are even wanting to sell their homes. KOMO News reports that our housing market is now facing “seller gridlock” because owners are not selling since they do not have any good options available for buying or upgrading their homes. KOMO also explains homes are being purchased faster than new listings can even hit the market.

According to the same article, not many expect the typical Springtime increase in inventory to meet the demand our area is currently facing and could be facing for some time.

Key advice many are sharing is to get started in the Spring market sooner rather than later. Right now is the perfect time for sellers to get the most out of their home and take advantage of current market conditions.

Read more from The Seattle Times and KOMO News.

Posted on March 23, 2017 at 6:04 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Posted in Buying & Selling |

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 |

2017 Housing Forecast: Local Market No. 4 in US


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.


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 |

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.


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 blog.

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

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 |