60 Percent Fewer Underwater Mortgages In Seattle Than In 2012

Photo Courtesy of Istock Photo

Photo Courtesy of Istock Photo

Over the past two years, 7 million homeowners in the U.S. have come back above water on their mortgages, finally gaining positive equity in their homes after the recession left many owing more than their home was worth.Though there are more than 100,000 people who remain underwater on their mortgages in Seattle, the current negative equity rate of 16.2 percent is down from its peak of nearly 40 percent, and is projected to fall to 13.3 percent in 2015. This should mean that the market sees an increase in available homes for sale, as more owners who were previously sitting on inventory waiting to build their equity back up are now in a position to sell. If you are interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.


Chinese Buyers Big Players In Seattle Real Estate – And Getting Bigger

bellevue homePeople from China bought more than $2 billion in residential real estate in the Puget Sound area in 2013, and it doesn’t appear that that number will be decreasing anytime soon, according to a new report by the Puget Sound Business Journal. Chinese buyers are lured here by our clean air and good schools, and by the fact that they are able to buy a large home here for the same price that a small condo would cost in Beijing or Shanghai.

Tere Foster, a residential agent with Windermere, told the PSBJ that while many Chinese buyers buy homes here to use as their residence, many also buy them simply as part of an investment portfolio and let them sit vacant. Chinese investor groups have also been getting in on the commercial market in the past several years, having bought the First Congregational Church property in Bellevue for $30 million, and another Bellevue development site for $31 million. Many transactions, for sales of both residential and commercial properties, are being conducted in all cash, making closings much quicker than those involving financing, an obvious incentive for sellers.

Local brokerages are fully embracing the influx from East Asia, hiring Mandarin-speaking agents and forming divisions specifically to serve Chinese buyers. PSBJ cites a statistic from the National Association of Realtors that says there are more than 2 million millionaires in China, 47 percent of whom plan to move out of China within the next five years, meaning that the flow from China to Seattle has most likely just begun.

Insurance Tips For First TIme Home Buyers

Searching for a home can be a job in and of itself, and home insurance often gets lost in translation of the to-do list for first time home buyers. There are so many factors to consider in the home search,  such as choosing the right mortgage company, and real estate agent. Finding the right home insurance, and factoring it into your home buying budget should also be a top priority. Our friends over at Zillow have put together great guidelines and insider insurance tips for first time home buyers. Here are some of the key take-aways: 1910 NW 100th St-6

Do your research, and shop around for the best rate between insurance carriers. You might be able to save yourself hundreds of dollars just by comparing a few different companies.

Your credit score matters – not just for your mortgage rate, but also for your insurance. Insurance companies utilize your credit report to determine the level of risk you’d be as a new policyholder. If you’re shopping for a home, you’re probably already making moves to improve your credit, but its important to know that your credit is also important in achieving an affordable insurance rate.

Consult with your current auto insurance or boat insurance company to discuss bundling options. You can often save on your premium by utilizing the same company for home and auto insurance.

Invest in substantial coverage plans. While you don’t want to overspend, home owner’s insurance is also something you don’t want to hold back on.  Be sure your policy covers your home from weather risks common to your area, and be sure your dwellings coverage is substantial enough to cover the structure of your home incase of serious damage or destruction. If you’re looking for a new home, and would like some inside knowledge on the Seattle real estate scene, contact your local real estate agent today.

Tips For Keeping Your Home Warm – And Efficient – This Winter

EC3Though truly cold weather is rare in Seattle, the seemingly constant rain and early sunsets of winter often make us Northwest residents want to hibernate inside until the (somewhat) drier, warmer spring months. Although holing up in a cozy, warm house may seem appealing, it can also result in an outsized energy bill. But there are several simple steps you can take to maximize your home’s energy efficiency in the colder months.

According to HouseLogic, the average homeowner wastes nearly $350 per year on heat that escapes through leaks around doors and windows, attics, gaps around recessed lights, and other poorly sealed openings. They suggest caulking and installing weatherstripping around windows and doors, installing “baffles” around recessed lights that are not airtight (look for a label on your light indicating that it is ICAT – Insulation Contact and Airtight), sealing cracks around pull-down attic stairs or hatches, and caulking the area where the framing meets the foundation in your home’s basement.

Though we all love the look and ambiance of a traditional wood-burning fireplace, they tend to let warm air that’s already inside your home out through the chimney. HouseLogic suggests using a gel fireplace insert, which is both eco-friendly, as it produces no smoke, and efficient, as there is no chimney where warm air can escape.

Spending the majority of your time indoors during the winter can also make you feel sluggish, especially if your home has a lack of natural light. Remove screens from your windows to let more light in, make sure lightbulbs are dust-free (cleaning bulbs alone can make homes appear 30 percent brighter), and if you have rooms that are particularly dark, consider painting them a warm orange or yellow to brighten them up. Additionally, indoor plants improve air quality and add a natural element to your home.

If you are interested in real estate in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

October Trends: Higher Appreciation, More Homes Sold

broadview homewwAfter months of single-family home prices in the U.S. growing by smaller and smaller percentages on a yearly basis, the market finally looks to be back on the rise. Prices in October grew by 6.1 percent compared to the previous October, whereas year-over-year gains for September were 5.6 percent, according to new data released by CoreLogic. They report that all states in the U.S. saw some percentage of yearly appreciation in October.

But despite this recent uptick, Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, said in a statement that prices are only growing by half the pace they were in the spring of 2014, when the market was seeing double-digit growth. However, some markets such as Seattle and Denver are seeing higher appreciation than the rest of the country.

Nationally, the number of homes sold in October increased by 2.2 percent from October 2013. Redfin attributes the jump to low mortgage rates that are hovering below 4 percent, a drop in unemployment, slowing home-price growth, and higher median wages. They point out that median incomes increased in all but one (Orlando) of the markets that saw the biggest year-over-year jump in sales. Though Seattle was toward the bottom of the list, with only a 2.6 percent jump in number of homes sold (as a comparison, Tampa, Fla. saw a 19.7 percent increase) and only 1.9 percent more homes newly listed for sale, any increase is welcome in our market, which has seen extremely low inventory over the past year.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Tis the Season: Top Reasons to Buy During the Holidays

Although sales are historically down during the last few months of every year, there are certainly some noteworthy perks to the home search during the holiday season. Here are a few reasons a new home should be on your wish list for Santa this year. 812 W Galer

Did you know home prices are generally listed lower in December, than they are throughout the rest of the year? There are several reasons for home affordability increasing this month, and low mortgage rates is another factor in your favor. Mortgage rates are around or just under 4%, and according to Zillow estimates, are expected to jump to 5% by this time next year. If you wait just one more year to purchase the same home, your monthly mortgage payment could increase significantly. This isn’t to say that you should buy a home now if you’re not ready; buying a home is a huge commitment, and  knowing when you’re ready and able to purchase is essential. It is also worth noting that if Seller’s are listing their home during the holidays, they are usually very serious about selling their home. Maybe they recently received a new job and need to relocate before the end of the year. Their lack of time is your gain – and you can also lower your tax bill for the year if you close on your new home by Dec 31st. For more information on homes for sale in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Seattle-Area Home Prices Fell Slightly In September

Cap Hill housingAverage single-family home prices in the Seattle area (King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties) remain up from a year ago, having grown 6 percent from September 2013, but have now fallen on a month-to-month basis for the seventh straight month, according to data released today from the S&P/Case-Shiller Seattle Home Price Index. Average prices dropped by 0.2 percent from August to September, whereas they saw no change from July to August.

Since the market’s peak in 2007, we’ve seen the highest highs followed by the lowest lows after the housing bubble burst, but now the market appears to be stabilizing. In an article in The Seattle Times, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries was quoted saying, “The days of double-digit home value appreciation continue to rapidly fade away as more inventory comes on line, and the market is becoming more balanced between buyers and sellers.”

Nationally, both the 10- and 20-city indices saw no change in average prices from August to September, and the U.S. market as a whole saw only a slight increase of 0.1 percent. S&P Dow Jones Committee Chair David Blitzer also predicts stability for the market in the coming year, telling The Times, “With the economy looking better than a year ago, the housing outlook for 2015 is stable to slightly better.”

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

Seattle Market Earns ‘D’ Grade For Affordability

roanokeA recent study conducted by Interest.com has found that Seattle is home to the 7th least affordable housing market in the country, based on criteria including median home price, median income, average property taxes and insurance costs, consumer debt, and local mortgage rates. The study assigned a ‘C’ grade to cities where households who make the median income can afford the median-priced home, and Seattle fell short of that, earning a ‘D’ grade with our median income of $67,479 and median home price of $357,400.

In their analysis of the study, mynorthwest.com reports that although housing price growth has slowed recently, the median price for a home in the top 25 largest metro areas grew by 6 percent over the last year, whereas incomes only grew by 2 percent. This is compounded by the fact that in 2013 the recovering housing market grew by leaps and bounds in many cities, and grew by 12 percent nationally, giving wages no chance of keeping up. In the interest.com article summarizing the study, Adam DeSanctis, a media manager for the National Association of Realtors says, “Affordability would improve at a faster pace if wage growth would pick up. We’ve seen an improvement in job growth, but wages have remained somewhat static.”

Not surprisingly, topping the list of unaffordable markets is San Francisco, which earned an ‘F’ for affordability, as did New York City, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Miami. Boston came in at number six with a D-. No cities earned an ‘A’ grade for affordability. Looking for an affordable place to relocate? Head to Minneapolis, where the median housing price is more than $100,000 less than Seattle’s at $212,900, but the median wage is nearly identical at $67,194.

If you are interested in buying a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

Could The Holidays Actually Be A Good Time To Sell?

WreathConventional wisdom has historically dictated that the holiday season is a bad time to sell a home. People are preoccupied with family gatherings, and bad weather can thwart showings. But since you’re likely already putting some extra effort into getting your home spruced up and ready for holiday visitors, why not run with that and put your home on display for prospective buyers?

Embrace the season by adding touches to your home to make it feel extra cozy for house tours. Light a fire in the fireplace, pile your couch with pillows in autumn-inspired hues, and light a candle or two (stick with unscented). Though the thought of sweeping your porch or front walk in the freezing weather isn’t the most inviting, putting effort into curb appeal is more important when you don’t have blue skies and the greenery of your landscaping doing some of the work for you. Get out the broom and make sure your walk and porch are clean, and consider adding a few winter-friendly potted plants to your front entry; Green Mountain Boxwood will stay lush and green all year long. Some tasteful, white twinkle lights never hurt, either, but do not go overboard with Christmas decorations.

So, if you want or need to sell your home during the off season, use the the holidays as your inspiration and you may be surprised with the response! If you are interested in selling or buying a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.

First-Time Buyers’ Share Of Market Lowest In 30 Years

housingThe National Association of Realtors recently published results from its annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, and the association found that the percentage of purchases made by first-time home buyers is at its lowest point since 1987. First-time buyers made up 33 percent of the national market, down 5 percent from a year ago, whereas historically (based on surveys conducted since 1981) four of every 10 home purchases were made by first-time buyers.

Though interest in purchasing homes remains high for young adults, obstacles such as student loan debt, credit card debt, and car loan expenses were the most common deterrents to saving for a down payment among survey participants. Other factors include rising rents; wage growth slowing in relation to housing prices; and market conditions such as low inventory and tight credit restrictions. NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said that lowering mortgage insurance premiums and looser credit standards could give first-time buyers the extra boost they need to jump into the housing market for the first time.

If you are interested in buying a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today.