Seattle Rents: High, But Not Highest In Washington State

It’s not a news flash that the real estate scene in Seattle has exploded in recent years. The Emerald City has gone from a town most people outside the state only associated with coffee and flannel, to the tech capital of the US (save for our friends in Silicon Valley). As home to some of the biggest tech names in the world and a booming job market to match, it’s fair to say there’s might not be enough housing to meet demand. Or, at least to meet demand AND your budget.

High rises, apartment buildings and condos are going up all over the city, and soon, our beloved skyline will be dotted with more and more buildings and towers, making the Seattle of just 10 years-ago look almost unfamiliar.

Seattle has recently made headlines as one of the most expensive places to live, get this, in the world. That’s right, recent data has placed Seattle’s rent rates at 5th highest in the nation and, supposedly 9th highest in the world! However, San Francisco and New York still dwarf us, tying for number one most expensive, world-wide.

Those of us who are Seattle Natives know that the average rental rate in Seattle has increased fairly dramatically in the last few years, but it’s interesting to note that, while Seattle’s rents have been on the rise, they don’t quite top the list of highest rents in the state.

According to recent data from Apartment List, Seattle ranks at number 5 in the state for highest rents, with the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment at about $1,650.

Surprisingly, Mercer Island tops the list of cities in Washington for highest rents. A one-bedroom on Mercer Island goes for an average of a whopping $1,890 per month. No one said Island living was cheap, I suppose.

Filling in the gaps between number 1 and number 5 on the list are Bellevue at number 2 with an average of $1,860 per month for a one-bedroom (not a whole lot lower than their neighboring Island), Redmond at number 3 with an average of about $1,690 monthly rent for a one bedroom and Kirkland at number 4 with an average monthly rent of $1,660 for a one-bedroom.

Seattle and the Eastside are not the only places in Washington with rising rent rates. Tacoma tops the list nation-wide for fastest growing rent with a year-over-year growth rate of 7.7 percent. Seattle comes close, but not close enough to that figure with year-over-year rental rate growth at 5.3 percent.

Staggering growth aside, Tacoma is still a bargain in the rental market compared to Seattle, with a one-bedroom in Tacoma going for an average of $1,000 per month. For those of you keeping score, that’s a savings of $650 compared to Seattle.

But, proving that some things really don’t change, the cheapest places to live in the Evergreen State are still East of the Cascade Mountains. You can get a one-bedroom for only $600 per month in Walla Walla and it’s not much pricier in the State’s second largest city, Spokane, at around $630 per month.

What a difference a mountain range makes…

Sell Your Home This Spring With These Seven Tips

Spring has sprung in beautiful Seattle, and if you’re looking to sell your home, there may be no better time to do so. Think about it, what a lovely time to showcase your home and really put its best foot forward, so to speak? Here are some tips to get your home looking picture perfect for a Springtime sale.

  1. Spring Cleaning
    Nothing says Spring more than a good old fashioned Spring cleaning, and that may be just what your home needs (probably, even if you’re not going to sell it) to get it in tip top shape. Go through those boxes of STILL unpacked home goods, linens and clothes that have sat in a closet or attic since move-in day and get rid of whatever you don’t need or use anymore (trust me, charitable organizations are just as grateful for the donation this time of year as they are in winter).  Get the windows washed, floors scrubbed and everything looking clean and clutter-free. Plus, you’ll have the added bonus of a much easier move after you sell, if there’s less stuff to pack!
  2. Get Your Garden On
    Spring is an excellent time to make your yard look its absolute best. Slip on some gardener’s gloves and pull a few weeds, plant new flowers, prune trees and bushes and make sure any leftover leaves from winter are raked up and the grass is mowed. Potential buyers are definitely going to check out your yard, and just like a delicious meal, presentation is everything. Do your best to seed patchy grass, lay down beauty bark or simply add rock edging to flower beds. Adding more colorful flowers can make a big difference in how appealing your home looks too. It’s the little touches that can make a big difference.

  3. Create A Patio Worth ‘Sitting A Spell’ On
    Once the yard is looking good, it’s time to turn your attention to any outdoor living space your home offers. Simple improvements like clean, well-kept patio furniture with bright and colorful pillows and a few nicely potted plants can create a lovely and inviting outdoor space as well as help to evoke images of enjoying the Summertime there, in a home-buyer’s mind. That’s the kind of image that may just get you an offer. Also, it’s a good idea to stage the patio area with a pitcher and glasses of a refreshing beverage on the patio table when showing the home, especially on a nice sunny day.
  4. De-Gunk the Driveway
    A very simple yet often overlooked way to add extra curb appeal and freshen your homes appearance is with a good power wash to the driveway and any sidewalks outside. Moss, oil stains and other undesirable things can collect on paved surfaces outside of your home and make it look neglected or just plain grungy. A nice power wash should do the trick and rid those surfaces of any ‘blemishes’, instantly boosting the overall ‘put-together’ look of your home.
  5. Let There Be Light
    We are blessed this time of year with much more abundant sunlight than just about any other time of year (save for summer, of course). Why not take advantage of it by opening your house up to more light? Weather permitting, open windows and patio doors to let in plenty of light, fresh air, and maybe even the oh-so-Springy scent of freshly cut grass and flowers.  Use light the way ladies use lipstick for a night out, as an easy finishing touch that adds immense appeal, quickly and easily.
  6. Make Sure Things Are Up to Snuff
    Hiring an inspector to give your place the old once over is usually a good idea, no matter how well maintained it may be. If you have even a tiny inclination that something may need to be fixed before it hits the market, you should have a pro take a peek. Plus, getting things fixed and in great condition can significantly drive up the selling price of your home, which is generally a good thing. Your realtor (or a potential realtor) should be able to help you find a professional in your area to conduct an inspection.

7. All The Home’s A Stage
Staging can play a BIG part in attracting a buyer. Just as garden improvements and      landscaping are hugely important for the outside of your home, staging is key for the inside of your home. Regardless of whether you’re currently living in the home, or moved into your new abode, you want to create a space that’s warm, inviting and, well, homey. People need to be able to picture themselves living their daily lives there, so making it feel like home is important. Add a vase of fresh flowers to the dining table, a basket of fresh apples to the kitchen counter, have art on the walls (but not too much, and try to minimize the presence of personal or family photos) and fun throw pillows/blankets on the couches. You can even add the scent of fresh laundry or freshly baked cookies (a scented candle should do the trick) to get an extra edge, as our sense of smell is most directly tied to memory and scents like that can ‘take you home’ in an instant.

With these tips, the task of readying your home for sale should be a little bit easier. Remember to take it easy though. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew and do it all in one weekend. Home buying and selling can take time, and you should take the time needed to get all your ducks in a row before you put that sign out in the yard. Preparing your home for the market can be a breeze if you just take it one step at a time to get your home looking it’s best, and, with any luck, it will be someone else’s home in no time!

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.

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!

Seattle Area Market: Prices Are Rising, People Are Buying

812 W GalerS&P/Case-Shiller released its Home Price Index for April today, and the numbers paint a familiar picture of the Seattle-area housing market: prices are rising, and people are buying. The average price for a single-family home in the area comprising King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties rose 0.9 percent in April from March, and was up 7.5 percent over the year. Despite the rise in prices, homes are selling in an average of 8 days in Seattle, and the number of completed sales in the three-county region was up a staggering 38 percent from last April. According to Zillow, the median single-family home in the area will now cost you $366,100.

Compared to the blistering pace of price gains at this time last year, when prices were up 11.2 percent on a yearly basis, gains seem to be moderating. In reference to the housing market as a whole, Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement that “Normal home value growth is usually between 3 percent and 5 percent annually, well below growth rates of just a year ago, so the current pace is far more sustainable.” While the Seattle area’s growth has not fallen into that threshold yet, we’re not seeing the sustained growth of last year, when prices in the area grew by double digits on a yearly basis for 14 consecutive months. San Francisco and Denver are leading the nation in appreciation, with home prices having risen by 10 percent and 10.3 percent respectively.

It is still a great time to sell in the Seattle area, so if you are interested in listing your home, contact your local real estate agent today!

Seattle Homes Selling In Average of 8 Days

3804 E Blaine St.Across the U.S., houses are selling at breakneck speed, with homes only surviving on the market for an average of 28 days before being snatched up by eager buyers. Many homes sold even faster than that in May, with approximately 35 percent going into contract within two weeks of hitting the market. But you think that’s fast? The national market has nothing on Seattle, where last month homes sold after a mere 8 days on the market, and almost half sold above list price, according to Redfin. This no doubt is due to extremely low inventory, especially within the Seattle city limits, where there is less than a month’s supply of homes available, not nearly enough to satisfy the high demand for homes in the city.

Despite this increased buying activity, national home prices actually grew at a slower rate this May – up just 1.6 percent over April – compared to the 3 percent rise in prices we saw last May. On a yearly basis, prices across the country are up 6 percent from a year ago. List prices in the Seattle market increased just slightly from April to May (1.4 percent), and the median was $426,000. Year over year, Seattle prices were up 6.5 percent.

As these statistics illustrate, now is a great time to sell your home! If you’re on the fence, contact your local real estate agent to learn more about the selling process.