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.

Tips For Getting Your Home Ready For Winter

broadview homewwIf this wet weather hasn’t already prompted you to do some preventative maintenance on your house before the long, cold months of winter set in, here are some reminders to make sure you don’t experience any rude awakenings in your house this season, courtesy of Redfin.

  • Now that you’re going to be using your heating system again, make sure everything has been moved clear of heating vents in your house, replace air filters in your furnace, and consider installing a programmable thermostat so you can control when your house is heated and save on energy costs.
  • Make sure your pipes are insulated. There can’t be many things worse than a burst pipe in freezing weather.
  • Seal cracks in your foundation so you don’t end up with water damage.
  • Install weather stripping around your windows and doors to eliminate drafts and heat your house more efficiently.
  • Clean out your gutters to prevent rotting and roof problems, and make sure your downspouts are diverting water away from your house and foundation.
  • If you have a chimney, get it cleaned and inspected before you have any cozy fires!
  • Have a professional trim trees around power lines and around your house to prevent any branches going through your roof or knocking out power.

Especially in our wet Pacific Northwest climate, it’s important to get these issues taken care of ahead of time, and a little work up front will save you a LOT of work and money down the line.

Home Value Appreciation Slowing Locally And Nationally

housingZillow is reporting that markets across the country, including Seattle’s, are seeing a sustained slowdown in home price appreciation that will likely continue into 2015. At the end of the third quarter this year, annual appreciation for homes in Seattle stood at 6.9 percent, whereas the change in the third quarter of 2013 from the previous year was 12.9 percent. Zillow is forecasting that in the third quarter of 2015 appreciation in Seattle will be down to 5 percent.

Nationally, home values grew by 6.5 percent over the past year, which is down from the peak annual appreciation of 8.1 percent in April of this year. To give some context, U.S. home values are still 10.1 percent below their peak in April 2007 at the height of the bubble. In further evidence of a softening national market, there are 18.6 percent more homes on the market in the U.S. than there were a year ago, though Seattle is still seeing very low inventory.

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

Seattle Condo Prices Still Below Market Peak

Seattle condo prices are taking their time to bounce back from the housing bubble in comparison to single family home prices. With condo prices down, the market has presented a unique opportunity for renters who haven’t been able to save for a down-payment to purchase a single family home. In some of the suburbs around Seattle, condo listing prices are still well below recovery prices, and low prices paired with low interest rates means more and more renters have the opportunity to be new homeowners. pioneer square

According to the Seattle Times, out of the 30 suburbs throughout King County listed by the NWMLS, all but 3 (Bellevue, Kirkland, and downtown Seattle) have not seen the median home price surpass the 2007 market peak. In 19 of the 36 markets listed in King and Snohomish County, median home prices are still 20% below the market peak. Seattle has seen the cost in rent and single family homes continuously rise, while condo prices have stayed consistent, or even dropped in some areas. While there are a number of reasons that a condo market can suffer during a market recession, many singles, small families and people looking to downsize are turning to condos for an affordable option towards homeownership. If you’re interested in learning more about the Seattle condo market, contact your local real estate agent today.

City Council Votes To Enact Mandatory Developer Fees

towersThe Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Monday to make real estate developer fees that would go toward building affordable housing mandatory; until now, developer fees have been voluntary. As reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Program will require commercial and residential developers to pay a fee of anywhere from $5 to $22 per square foot of rentable space in the building, or make 3 to 5 percent of the building’s units available to those who make 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. According to KIRO, that works out to no more than $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Linkage fees will apply to developments mainly in commercial areas and multi-family residential zones, and will range from $16-$22 per square foot in Downtown and South Lake Union to as low as $5-$7 per square foot in the Rainier Valley and North Seattle (see the map of where fees would be applied here). The money generated by the fees would be used to build housing for people making 60 to 80 percent of the median income, which works out to $45,000 to $65,000 for a family of four, according to The Seattle Times. The fees would not apply to buildings in single-family neighborhoods.

Before the city council vote, a group of 13 land-use lawyers sent a letter to the council opposing the mandatory fees, saying they were illegal under current state law.

If you are interested in learning about housing in Seattle, contact your local real estate agent today.

Downtown Seattle New Condo Prices Down 8% Since May

Downtown condoOne look at the glut of new towers rising in downtown Seattle and one could think condos are having their heyday. But it turns out most of those cranes on the horizon are giving rise to office towers and apartment buildings, with only one condo tower, Insignia, currently under construction downtown. Among new (never before sold) condo units that are on the market, prices have also fallen 8 percent from their peak in May, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce.

Prices did rise slightly from August to September (2 percent), and year over year (up 3 percent from September 2013), but are still falling short of the May peak, when the average price per square foot was $775. In September, the average sold price per square foot for a new condo was $716.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, condo construction is expected to pick up in 2015, in part due to the fact that 170 of the first 350 units at Insignia have already sold, giving condo developers confidence that the demand will keep up with supply. It remains to be seen what effect an increased number of units will have on prices.

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

‘Best September In At Least 10 Years’ For King Co. Home Prices

housesAfter a sluggish summer for home price gains in King County, the median price for a single-family home rose to $460,000 in September, almost 10 percent higher than a year ago and 5.3 percent higher than August’s median price, according to an article in Tuesday’s Seattle Times. The Times says that those numbers, pulled from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, point to the best September for home prices in at least 10 years.

The city of Seattle performed the best of all the sub-markets in King County in September, with the median price having risen to $517,000, 12 percent higher than September 2013. While the median price on the Eastside was higher than Seattle’s at $605,000, yearly appreciation was slower at only 6.3 percent. Southwest King County, which includes Burien, Tukwila, Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Federal Way, and West Kent, continues to be the most affordable sub-market with a median price of $267,250, though that is still up 6.7 percent from September 2013.

Despite the price increase over the past year, the number of closed sales has actually decreased in every sub-market in King County except Seattle, which still only saw one more sale in September 2014 (643) than in September 2013 (642). North King County saw the biggest decrease in closed sales, having dropped 17 percent from September 2013. Agents quoted in the article say this could be the result of buyers’ fatigue after months of low inventory sparking bidding wars and extreme price increases.

For more information on Seattle-area real estate, contact your local real estate agent today.