Real Estate Market

Market Reports, Real Estate Market

Seattle Market Update: Home Prices Increase Amidst Lack of Condo Supply


Seattle has made countless headlines in recent months for its hot real estate market as home prices in the region have led the nation in growth for 13 consecutive months amidst increasing demand and a lack of available inventory. In looking at November market trends, a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article says the seasonal “holiday home-sale slowdown” typical in most markets simply hasn’t happened in the Emerald City. Just take a look at the numbers: pending home sales were up 1.6 percent year-over-year, while “closed home sales jumped 2.5 percent in November to more than 8,000 transactions in the Seattle area.”

In line with demand, median home prices continue to increase, up to $575,000 (15.6 percent) for all residential housing types, and $630,750 when condos are eliminated. While there are still affordable condominium options in the greater Puget Sound region, the lack of available supply in the downtown core is certainly impacting the market, as an RSIR report indicates there are just 7 resale condos available for sale in Seattle priced below $700,000.

The lack of affordability that potential buyers face in Seattle is even more stark when looking to inventory statistics from other popular markets in the U.S. While last month in Seattle there were just five condos priced under $500,000 on the market, Seattle Times says New York had nearly 500, Miami had 560, and even San Francisco had 24.

Condo sales prices have jumped nearly 20 percent compared to this time last year, which may seem daunting to potential buyers. Yet those that can plan ahead have found an alternative to the competition of the resale market in unit reservations and presales, while others take advantage of the favorable winter season to make their next move.

Real Estate Market

Evergreen Dreaming: Californians Flock to Washington State

According to recent Census data, California sends more new residents to King County than any other state in the US, as noted in a recent Seattle Times article. The trend makes a lot of sense considering that the two states share a time zone, a love for the ocean and a propensity for employing high-tech workers, as recently highlighted by The Wall Street Journal and the Puget Sound Business Journalwhich described that the average home costs nearly $600,000 less in Seattle compared to Silicon Valley. A delegation of RSIR brokers and owners recently visited the Bay Area to explore these trends firsthand.

Thousands of Californians moving from the Golden State to the Evergreen State. For the year ending July 2015, nearly 22-percent of the 16,999 new residents in Washington came from California, according to State of Washington Department of Licensing:

“Many inbound Californians recognize that Washington offers a bounty of opportunity with a much lower cost of living,” said Dean Jones, President & CEO of RSIR. “I joke that we’re the Evergreen State not just because of the lush forest and landscapes but because we have no state income tax. Washington’s a good place to get wealthy and stay wealthy, whereas California has the highest combined tax rates in the US and top earners can pay up to 13-percent state income.”

Jones says one of the trends is for affluent Californians to buy a principal residence in Washington State and keep their current home in California as a second home. By becoming a Washington resident and living in the Puget Sound region for the majority of the year, passive income earners can avoid paying state income tax in California and invest those savings in building equity in two homes instead of paying the government.

Californians remain a targeted consumer group for RSIR, as have immigrating Asian home buyers, who comprise the second largest relocating demographic in Washington.

Real Estate Market

FHA to Cut Mortgage Insurance Premiums, Caliber Home Loans Predict Boom of Homebuyers in 2015

In an effort to expand homeownership among lower-income buyers, President Barack Obama cut mortgage-insurance premiums charged by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in an announcement according to Bloomberg News.

“Lowering the annual mortgage insurance fee from 1.35% down to .85% will be a significant boom for both first-time homebuyers and current homeowners that want to refinance their FHA loans,” says Keith Lashley, Mortgage Banker with Caliber Home Loans and Preferred Lender for Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty.  “Prospective homebuyers are urged to take advantage of the lowest interest rates in over a year.  Factoring in the rising median home prices and positive economic trends, I’d say this is about the most confident time to buy in recent memory.”

Lashley breaks down the changes like this.  Mortgage insurance on a $400,000 loan currently costs a homeowner $450 per month but will drop down to $283 per month under the reduced premium providing a $166 per month savings to homeowners financed through FHA.

Under the new premium structure FHA estimates that 250,000 additional first-time homebuyers will be able to enter the market due to the reduce premium and over 2 million  borrowers will save an average of $900 annually over the next three years if they purchase or refinance homes.

2015 is quickly shaping up to be a blockbuster year in real estate according to Lashley.  He says homebuyers can take advantage of incredibly low interest rates, less restrictive FHA underwriting guidelines and now lower mortgage insurance to leverage their purchasing power all at the same time. He also warns that an increase of more homebuyers could make the marketplace even more competitive for buyers.

These favorable factors coupled with fast rising rents are not lost on first time homebuyers as Millennials and other modest income buyers are projected to move into the home buying market in record numbers this year.  Other macro factors such as increased employment, low inflation and low relative home prices are further enticements for new home buyers to act in the first quarter of the New Year.

Anticipating a return of consumers favoring ownership over rental, some developers that rented their remaining condominium inventory are returning them for sale.  Such is the case at Carbon 56 in downtown Seattle in the popular South Lake Union neighborhood.  Broker Carrie DeBuys with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty says remaining homes are priced from $377,500 to $529,500 and monthly payments can look a lot like rent.

Real Estate Market

Seattle to be a Hot Housing Market in 2015

Trulia released their annual report of the hottest housing markets to watch for in the coming year, and we have to say that we are not surprised to see that Seattle picked up the number ten spot on their list. Erin Renzas explained that this year, Trulia’s Chief Economist Jed Kolko determined which markets made the cut using “fundamentals such as job growth, rising incomes, and more household formation.” Thus, Renzas says his ten selections, “have strong fundamentals for housing activity,” which “include job growth, which fuels housing demand, and a low vacancy rate, which spurs construction.” She added that they “gave a few extra points to markets with a higher share of millennials.”

10. Seattle, WA

Companies like Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, and UPS have provided steady job growth for the area, but, hey, Seattleites know how to rock, too — as the home of grunge, which is still popular in the music scene there.