2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

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 leveling.  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 and the Windermere.com Blog.

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.

Posted on December 18, 2018 at 5:24 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Category: Local Economy | Tagged , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – November 2018

Increased inventory, slower sales and more price reductions all point to a balancing market—welcome news for price-shocked buyers. Sales prices are up from last October and down from the all-time high reached this spring. Despite the slowdown, it’s important to point out that we’re only moving back toward what a normal market looks like. King and Snohomish counties each have over two months of available inventory. While that is double the inventory of a year ago, it’s far short of the four to six months supply that is considered a balanced market. Sellers looking to list their home now can be sure there remains plenty of interest among home buyers.

Eastside

>>>Click image to view full report.

The median home on the Eastside sold for $890,000 in October, up 5 percent from a year ago and unchanged from the previous month.  While year-over-year price increases were in the single digits for the Eastside overall, several areas, including Kirkland, Woodinville and Mercer Island, experienced double-digit price gains.  Buyers are still having to pay a premium for desirable Eastside properties. However, with more choices and less buyer urgency, sellers need to price their home correctly to maximize their chances of getting the best possible return.

King County

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Inventory in King County for all homes, both single-family and condominium, soared 102 percent over last October.  The increase was due to an influx of new listings and the fact that homes are now taking longer to sell than at the peak of the market this spring. While buyers now have more breathing room to make their decisions, the 2.4 months of inventory in King County is still far from a balanced market. The median price of a single-family home in October was $670,999, an increase of 7 percent from the same time last year, and virtually unchanged from August and September.  South King County showed larger increases, with prices rising more than 10 percent from a year ago in Auburn, Kent and Renton.

Seattle

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In October, the median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $750,000, up 2 percent from last October and down slightly from last month. While inventory doubled over a year ago, Seattle falls behind most areas of King County in supply with just under two months of inventory available.  Demand is predicted to stay high, with Seattle’s population projected to grow at twice the national rate next year. That said, buyers are in the position to be able to negotiate.  A recent analysis named Seattle as one of the top markets in the country where it makes the most sense to buy this winter.

Snohomish County

>>>Click image to view full report.

Inventory in Snohomish County soared 65 percent in October as compared to a year ago. The area now has 2.4 months of inventory, about the same relative supply as King County. As with most of the Puget Sound area, the increase in inventory was due to a higher number of sellers listing their homes and fewer sales. Year-over-year, the median price of a single-family home sold in October in Snohomish County grew 8 percent to $473,000.  The median price in September was $485,000.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside Blog.

Posted on November 13, 2018 at 10:46 am
Marilena Sirbu | Category: Local Market Update | Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Gardner Report – Third Quarter 2018

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere Agent. 

Economic Overview

Washington State continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the nation and there is little to suggest that there will be any marked slowdown in the foreseeable future. Over the past year, the state has added 105,900 new jobs, representing an annual growth rate of 3.2%. This remains well above the national rate of 1.65%. Private sector employment gains continue to be robust, increasing at an annual rate of 3.7%. The strongest growth sectors were Construction (+7.4%), Information (+6.2%), and Professional & Business Services (+6.1%). The state’s unemployment rate was 4.5%, down from 4.8% a year ago.

All year I’ve been predicting that Washington State’s annual job growth would outperform the nation as a whole, and we now know with certainty that this is going to be the case. Furthermore, I am now able to predict that statewide job growth in 2019 will be equally strong, with an expected increase of 2.6%.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 22,310 home sales during the third quarter of 2018. This is a significant drop of 12.7% compared to the third quarter of 2017.

  • The number of homes for sale last quarter was up 14.5% compared to the third quarter of 2017, continuing a trend that started earlier in the year. However, the increase in listings was only in Seattle’s tri-county area (King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties) while listing activity was down across the balance of the region.

  • Only two counties had a year-over-year increase in home sales, while the rest of Western Washington saw sales decrease.

  • The region has reached an inflection point. With the increase in the number of homes for sale, buyers now have more choices and time to make​ a decision about what home to buy.

Home Prices

  • As inventory levels start to rise, some of the heat has been taken off the market, which caused home prices in the Western Washington region to go up by a relatively modest 6.2% over last year to $503,039. Notably, prices are down by 4.4% when compared to the second quarter of this year.

  • Home prices, although higher than a year ago, continue to slow due to the significant increase in the number of homes for sale. This, in my opinion, is a very good thing.​​

  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Lewis County, where home prices were up 15.3%. Six other counties experienced double-digit price increases.

  • Slowing price growth was inevitable; we simply could not sustain the increases we’ve experienced in recent years. Lower rates of appreciation will continue until wage growth catches up.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by four days compared to the same quarter of 2017.

  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 39 days to sell a home in the third quarter of this year. This is down from 43 days in the third quarter of 2017 and down 2 days when compared to the second quarter of 2018.​
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 19 days to sell. Every county in the region other than Skagit and King — which both saw the time on the market rise by 2 days — saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop when compared to the same period a year ago.

  • More choice in the market would normally suggest that the length of time it takes to sell a home should rise, but the data has yet to show that. That said, compared to last quarter, we are seeing some marked increases in days on market in several counties, which will be reflected in future reports.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. I started to move the needle toward buyers last quarter and have moved it even further this quarter. Price growth continues to slow, but more significant is the rise in listings, which I expect to continue as we move toward the quieter winter period.

I believe that psychology will start to play a part in the housing market going forward. It has been more than 15 years since we’ve experienced a “balanced” market, so many home buyers and sellers have a hard time remembering what one looks like. Concerns over price drops are overrated and the length of time it’s taking to sell a home is simply trending back to where it used to be in the early 2000s.

 

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 post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

Posted on October 25, 2018 at 2:28 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Category: Local Economy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Home Decor Through The Decades

 

 

As we celebrate our 45th anniversary here at Windermere, we’re feeling a bit nostalgic. The fundamentals of helping our clients buy and sell homes haven’t changed much over the past 45 years, but the way we decorate our homes sure has. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore interior design trends from the past four decades—the good (farmhouse sinks), the bad (macramé owls), and the ill-advised (carpeted bathrooms!).

1970s
Inspired by the hippie movement, interior design in the 1970s centered around bringing the outdoors inside. Wood paneling could be found in bedrooms and basements alike, and wood accents adorned appliances in the kitchen.

Earth tones dominated throughout the house. If your refrigerator wasn’t avocado or burnt sienna and your shag carpet wasn’t harvest gold, you were not keeping up with the times.

 

1980s
In the 1980s, we wanted to make homes as cozy as possible, which for a lot of folks meant chintz, Laura Ashley–inspired florals, and tons of pastels.

The “country” look gained huge popularity during this decade as well. Even high-rise city apartments were filled with objects that seemed more at home on a ranch in Texas, including bleached cow skulls and weathered-wood dining tables and chairs.

 

1990s
Perhaps as a reaction to the excess of the decade before, the 1990s saw a rise in Japanese-inspired minimalism. Sparsely furnished rooms with rock gardens, clean lines, and simple colors were all the rage.

On the opposite end of that spectrum was the shabby chic craze. Distressed furniture, soft colors, and oversized textiles combined to create this look.

Texturized walls were also a big hit. Wall paper and paint brushes were out, and sponges became the way to get the chicest look for your home.

 

2000s
It’s hard to believe, but we’re nearly a decade out from the early aughts. And that perspective makes it easier to spot trends that felt of-the-moment only a few years ago but are waning in popularity today. One example is Tuscan-style kitchens. It seemed every new home—especially homes on the upper end of the market—included a kitchen with stone tiles, granite countertops, hanging vines, and beige and tan tones.

Another popular item from the early 2000s that is now facing a bit of a backlash is mason jars. Once a staple of homes looking to incorporate a rustic feel, mason jars are now so common in decorating both homes and restaurants that they no longer feel special or nostalgic.

 

Today
Trends are always evolving, but if you’re looking for some cutting-edge interior design ideas for 2018, here are a couple to consider.

Embrace super saturated colors, especially warmer tones like yellow and red. These bold hues no longer need to be saved for accent pieces like pillows or lamps. Larger pieces of furniture and entire walls make a bigger splash.

Incorporate geometric patterns. There’s really no wrong way to get on board with this trend. Whether your couch features large circles, you add patterned backsplash in your kitchen, or you cover your ceiling with octagonal wallpaper, geometric shapes will help your home feel fresh.

 

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

Posted on April 23, 2018 at 4:56 pm
Marilena Sirbu | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,