Washington State Home Sales Soar Past Previous Highs

sold-sign2015 may have been an interesting year for many reasons, but in the world of Washington real estate, it sure felt like the good old days.

Not since the way-back-when of 2007 had so many homes and condominiums sold in the Evergreen State. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, 2015 saw a whopping 88,331 homes changed hands last year, about  14% more sales than in the previous year. Those who have done the math say that works out to about 75,975 single family homes and 12,356 condominiums, valued at  approximately $34 billion, about 23% more than the dollar volume sold the year before. Those impressive figures make 2015 one of the best years for Washington State real estate in recent memory.

The last time this state saw real estate figures like that was in 2007, before the bubble burst and sent the country into what is not-so-affectionately known as The Great Recession. Even in 2007, the figures only added up to about 82,197 sales valued at $32.3 billion, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Furthermore, despite a ‘lower inventory’, so to speak, prices and number of sales continue to grow. In King County, the median home price was $480,000 and more than 26,600 homes sold. Compare that to a median price of  $440,000 and 26,600 homes sold, in 2014 and you’ll notice a jump of close to 10%. Snohomish and Pierce counties can top those figures with growth figures for both median home price and number of homes sold over last year at nearly 16.80% ($355,000, up from $326,360 with 11,303 homes sold) and 17.39% ($249,950, up from 230,000 with more than 13,200 homes sold) respectively.

Overall, region-wide, the growth was about 8.8% from 2014, with a median price for single family homes and condominiums at about  $310,000, up from $285,000  last year.

Numbers like this are a positive and encouraging sign for the state of the  real estate market and the country’s economy as a whole. Let’s just hope nothing comes along and tries to ‘burst our bubble’ this time.

Dramatic Growth In Seattle-Area Luxury Homes Market

Luxury home available on Mercer Island

Luxury Mercer Island home available for $10,998,000

It’s no secret that Seattle’s housing market is one of the strongest in the nation, but what is a little surprising is the growth in the luxury homes sector. According to a recent story by the Puget Sound Business Journal, 537 homes sold for more than $1 million in just four Bellevue ZIP codes alone over the past year, 108 more than 2014 and an increase of 25 percent. 60 homes sold for over $3 million in those areas, up 43 percent over last year.

In Seattle as a whole, 901 homes have sold for $1 million or more so far in 2015, compared to 689 in 2014, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Of those sales, more than a quarter (241) occurred in the Central Seattle area comprising the neighborhoods south of the ship canal, north of I-90, and east of downtown. Most were clustered on North Capitol Hill and in the neighborhoods bordering Lake Washington, such as Madison Park, Washington Park, and Leschi. The most expensive sale of the year (so far) was a 9,820-square-foot estate on McGilvra Boulevard in Washington Park that fetched $5.75 million, followed by a lakefront Cape Cod-style home in Washington Park, which sold for $5.195 million. The PSBJ article states that sales of homes priced $1 million or higher in Ballard and Green Lake are up a whopping 200 percent.

The Seattle area’s growing job market is cited as one of the main drivers of the luxury home sales market, as is strong interest from international buyers, especially from China. With tech companies flocking to Seattle and Eastside job centers, they bring with them highly paid executives who may seek out luxury homes. The PSBJ article states that “Luxury homes are bellwethers of a thriving economy and growing job market. They are the ultimate proof of a prosperous and strong residential real estate sector.”

If you’re interested in Seattle’s luxury homes market, please contact one of our residential agents today.

Larger Homes Changing Faces of Many Neighborhoods

3804 E Blaine St.According to a new report by The Seattle Times’ “FYI Guy” Gene Balk, construction trends continue to point to a ‘bigger is better’ mentality in much of the Seattle area. Balk’s data shows that between 2012 and 2014, 1,500 houses were demolished and replaced with much larger homes, 450 of which were approximately triple the square footage of the previous dwelling. Many of Seattle’s predominately residential neighborhoods consist of modestly sized Craftsmans or bungalow-style homes, but home buyers seem to be increasingly buying houses with the intent of tearing them down and starting from scratch or adding significant square footage. The average 1,546-square-foot teardown was replaced by a 3,219-square-foot home. According to Balk’s data, Eastside neighborhoods such as Kirkland, West Bellevue, and Beaux Arts; and the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard, Phinney Ridge, and West Seattle saw the highest number of teardowns between 2012 and 2014.

Many residents see these newer homes as out of scale with the existing homes in the neighborhood, especially when they encroach ever closer to property lines and their increased height blocks the amount of sunlight reaching neighboring homes and yards. In 2014, plans for a proposed rowhouse development in Ballard made the news because it was sited so close to the house next door that it would impede the owners’ access for maintenance (the rowhouses were completed in 2015). The Seattle Times article includes before-and-after photos of some dramatic transformations of homes in the Seattle area.

If you are interested in buying or selling a home in Seattle, or if you would like more information on the housing market in general, please contact one of our agents today!

No Slowdown Predicted For Market During Holiday Season

As we head into the holidays, real estate experts in the area predict that the Puget Sound market will not see the typical slowdowns associated with the season. Listings often drop off during this time of year, as potential sellers are more focused on holiday events, but with sustained demand for homes in our region, the next few months are going to be a great time to sell a home. The area comprising King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish counties saw the highest number of pending sales in a decade in October, and those high sales volumes are predicted to continue.

Though median sales prices for single-family homes are down in King County on a monthly basis, from $490,250 in September to $480,000 in October, prices are up by 7 percent over the year, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Similarly, Seattle’s market saw prices dip slightly from $571,000 in September to $555,000 in October, but rose by almost 8 percent over October 2014. However, some neighborhoods within Seattle saw significant monthly gains, such as Queen Anne and Magnolia, where the median price rose from $699,950 in September to nearly $800,000 in October.

Inventory continues to slide, as there were 10 percent fewer homes on the market in King County in October than in September, and 32 percent fewer than this time last year. Since inventory historically drops anyway at this time of year, the supply of homes could become especially tight, likely prompting an increase in prices. Though well-priced homes are selling quickly, overpriced homes are seeing longer stints on the market, emphasizing the need for an experienced real estate agent who can establish a listing price that will garner your home the most attention possible.

These statistics were gathered from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, but were not compiled or published by that organization.

Seattle Condos Appreciating Faster Than Homes

Madison Tower cropped

Featured condo – 1000 1st Ave., Unit 2202, Seattle, 98104

Condominium property values were some of the hardest hit after the housing crash, with the typical condo in the U.S. losing a third of its value. But according to a recent Zillow survey, condos are finally making a long-awaited comeback and are appreciating more quickly than single-family homes in many U.S. markets, including Seattle’s.

According to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS), the median sales price for a condo in Seattle in October was $368,000, up 23 percent over the year, compared to an 8 percent price increase for single-family homes. Condos in many neighborhoods within the city saw much higher rates of appreciation. Prices increased by 55 percent in Southeast Seattle (Columbia City, Rainier Valley, Seward Park), and by 45 percent in both Beacon Hill and the Ballard/Green Lake/Phinney Ridge area. Prices for condos in Seattle’s most expensive market, comprising Downtown and Belltown, rose by 34 percent over the year to a median of $539,000, and Queen Anne condo prices are the highest in a decade.

The condo market may be especially attractive to first-time home buyers, who are largely being priced out of Seattle’s expensive single-family market. Condos are often more affordable and lower maintenance, and many offer the urban lifestyle that young professionals are increasingly attracted to. Seattle’s condo market is also suffering from a lack of inventory with only 1.18 months’ worth of supply available (compared to the 4-6 months’ worth that is generally considered a ‘balanced’ market) which could be another factor helping drive price increases. Currently, there are 107 condos on the market in Downtown Seattle, ranging from $209,900 for a 447-square-foot unit at Vine and Western, to $9,990,000 for the 6,758-square-foot full-floor penthouse at the Madison Tower.

Zillow’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell wrote in the survey summary that, “Over the past few years, buying a condo hasn’t always been considered an investment on par with buying a single-family home. Clearly, the most recent data indicate that notion may be due for a second look.”

If you are curious how much your condo might be worth, please do not hesitate to contact one of our real estate agents!

Late Summer Gains For Seattle Area Housing Market

neighborhoodThe S&P/Case-Shiller Index numbers for August were released yesterday, and after a July where we saw average home prices decrease by 0.1 percent in the Seattle Metro Area (King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties), prices bounced back and increased by 0.7 percent in August. On a yearly basis, prices in the area grew by 7.6 percent, coming in at number five on the list of cities with the highest yearly gains among the top 20 metro areas in the index.

Though prices in the Seattle are are still four percent below their peak, overall prices are showing steady growth and much of it is coming from a surprising sector of the housing market: condos. Zillow’s Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said in a statement that in the national market “…a good portion of the overall home price growth we’re seeing, especially in cities, has been driven by strong growth in condominium values, which are currently appreciating more quickly than single-family homes.” He cited condos’ popularity with younger buyers, many of whom live more urban lifestyles, are looking for more affordable housing options than single-family homes. This appears to be true in the Seattle market, as according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, median condo prices in King County were up 19 percent this August over August 2014. The median price for a condo in Seattle was up 32 percent over the same time period to $248,500.

Overall, it appears that the U.S. market is leveling out. Zillow’s Gudell says that “Annual U.S. home value appreciation has stabilized and settled into a nice groove over the past few months, and this relative stability should continue into the foreseeable future.”

If you’re interested in speaking with a real estate expert about Seattle’s market, contact your local agent today.

Real Estate Site Ranks Seattle No. 1 Housing Market

1150 17th Ave E-33. straightened smalljpgReal estate website auction.com has ranked the Seattle area the No. 1 housing market in the country for single-family homes, according to its analysis of home prices, sales data, demand, and economic factors. They point out the combination of strong price growth, at 10.9 percent over the year, and an equally strong increase in sales over the year, at 12.6 percent, as indicators of our market’s overall strength. The Seattle area’s solid job market keeps attracting new residents, and relative affordability compared to other tech hubs such as San Francisco, San Jose, and New York has seen demand continue unabated. Coupled with the fact that it is still 13 percent less expensive to buy rather than rent in Seattle means that everyone is trying to get their piece of the Seattle real estate pie.

Rounding out the top five behind Seattle are three areas in Florida – Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Palm Beach County – followed by our little sister to the south, Portland, where prices grew by 9.4 percent over the year.

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

Understanding the Basics of Appraisals

neighborhood

A home appraisal is a step of the mortgage process when an unbiased state-licensed professional determines a home’s value based on size, condition, function, and the quality of the home. To do this the appraiser must first inspect the property. Then, by researching similar homes within the area and comparing recent residential sales, the appraiser will present their “opinion of value” with all supporting data and research used to come to their conclusion.

The appraisal process is important because mortgage lenders require an appraisal before they’ll provide a home buyer a loan. This is because the value of the property will likely determine how much a lender will lend. Lenders want to make sure that homeowners aren’t over borrowing because the home serves as collateral for the mortgage. So, if the borrower were to default on the mortgage and go into foreclosure, the lender would be able to get back the money they lent by selling the house.

If you’re a buyer, a home appraisal also can function as protection for the client too. If an appraisal comes in higher than the price being paid for the residence, than the borrower will have more home equity than initially expected. Also, an appraisal can help protect a client in keeping them from overpaying for a home, if the appraisal comes in lower than the asking price.

If you’re a seller, you want your home to be appraised for the amount you’ve listed it for.  In order for that to happen there are a few things you can do to impact that number. Clean, updated, well-maintained houses tend to receive higher appraisals. Make sure things like the home’s exterior and curb appeal is one that is eye catching, holes in the drywall are patched, and rug stains are cleaned can help. It’s also a good idea to provide your appraiser with a list of recent list of improvement you’ve made to the home as well as a list of attractive aspects about your neighborhood. Be sure to mention items like grocery stores, parks, and neighboring schools.

If you are unhappy with the appraisal, sometimes there is an option to appeal called “Reconsiderations of Value.” So, if there were enhancements made your home or recent comparable residential sales that happened the neighborhood to which wasn’t considered in the initial appraisal, it’s important to provide this information to your lender. Also, getting a second appraisal is always available to the buyer as well. Lastly, it’s important to add that an appraisal that was conducted beyond six month prior will likely be considered out of date by a lender.

King County Home Prices Bounce Back in August

1After the median selling price for a single-family home in King County dropped to $485,000 in July, prices bounced back to just a hair under $500,000 in August, representing a 14.4 percent annual gain, and the biggest yearly gain of any month in 2015. Inventory in King County was also up slightly from July, and now stands at 1.36 months’ worth of supply, the most inventory we’ve seen since February, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. In contrast, median prices within the sub-market of Seattle stayed essentially flat last month, having dropped by just $500 from $575,500 in July to $575,000 in August. However, that is a 15 percent increase over August 2014.

Inventory in Seattle followed King County’s lead and increased by a small increment to .91 month’s supply, up from .74 months’ worth in July. Lack of inventory continues to put pressure on the market in the Puget Sound region, with total listings down 29.7 percent in King County and down 32.7 percent in Seattle since this time last year. “The biggest challenges our buyers face are lack of inventory and the quality of homes to choose from,” MLS director George Moorhead said in a statement. Some believe this continued double-digit price growth combined with lack of available properties is not sustainable and that we may see a slowdown in the market as we enter the fall season, when inventory historically drops by about half.

The area condo market has made great strides over the year, especially in Seattle, where the median price rose from $299,000 in August 2014 to $395,000 this year – a staggering 32 percent. Prices increased more modestly countywide, but still showed strong growth with a 19 percent rise.

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

Only 2% of Seattle Renters Plan To Buy Within Year

371 ProspectSeattle is home to one of the nation’s highest homeownership confidence rates, according to Zillow’s recently released Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI), but our region’s soaring home prices could be causing renters to think twice about entering the home-buying market. According to a Zillow report, only two percent of renters in Seattle are planning to purchase a home in the next year, which is far below the national average of 11.4 percent and the lowest rate among the top 20 metro areas. Miami led all metros with 21 percent of renters planning to buy in the upcoming year, despite a healthy 8.9 percent year-over-year home value increase.

The Seattle Times cited another statistic from Zillow stating that even among renters making $90,000+ per year, 48 percent said they were not planning to buy in the next five years. In the most recent census data available (from 2013), the biggest growth in the rental market was from those making $100,000+ per year. Though some of Seattle renters’ hesitation may largely have to do with discouragement over the high prices and bidding wars that have become the new normal, many are consciously choosing renting for the flexibility it allows. With the plethora of luxury apartment buildings sprouting all over Seattle, many offering amenities akin to those at high-end hotels, renting, and avoiding the obligations of home ownership, is looking more and more appealing to many.

But just because renters are staying out of the fray doesn’t mean no one’s buying, in fact, quite the opposite. Even with almost a third fewer listings this August than August 2014, pending sales and closed sales in King County were both up this August compared to a year ago, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. After a slight dip in home prices in July, the median price for a single-family home in King County bounced back to just a hair under $500,000 at $499,950 in August. The Seattle area’s market also rose from 10th to 2nd on Zillow’s Housing Confidence Index.

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