Understanding the Basics of Appraisals

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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!

Prices Down In King Co., But Sales Are Strong

1Home prices in the Puget Sound housing market showed signs of cooling in July, but sales volumes were on par with the blazing temperatures we saw for much of the month. While the number of closed sales of single-family homes in King County held relatively steady from June to July, there were 266 more closed sales this July than during the same month in 2014, despite there being 1,311 fewer active listings than a year ago, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The median sold price for a home in King County actually fell from $500,000 in June to $485,000 in July, but prices were still up 3.63 percent on a yearly basis. The median sales price for single-family homes in Seattle showed no change from June to July, holding steady at $575,000.

Though that may seem like a modest yearly increase compared to the 10 percent year-over-year price increase in June, median prices in many sub-markets in King County are growing at much higher rates. Prices in west Auburn in southwest King County grew by nearly 25 percent over the year, and Kirkland saw a yearly increase of almost 18 percent. The city of Seattle saw median prices rise by 5.9 percent to $575,000. Even the West Bellevue area made up of communities including Medina, Hunt’s Point, and Clyde Hill, which is home to the county’s highest median price of $1,537, 500, saw prices rise 14.4 percent over last July.

King County’s supply of homes actually increased slightly over the month, from 1.18 months’ worth in June to 1.22 months’ worth in July, but that is still far below the ‘balanced’ range of 4-6 months’ of inventory. Some areas, especially neighborhoods within Seattle, are scraping by with under a month’s worth of homes. The northwest Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard, Green Lake, Fremont, and surrounding areas have just half a month’s supply; and northeast Seattle is doing just slightly better with 0.6 months’ worth of homes available.

Despite the slight drop in home prices over the month, the continued lack of inventory means it is still a great time to sell. If you’re interested in buying or selling a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

Price Growth In Seattle Area Slows In May

1S&P/Case-Shiller released its monthly home price index this Tuesday, and the numbers show that home prices in the Seattle metro area have reached a minor lull in the traditionally busy buying season, with the index up just 1.4 percent in May from April. Average prices stayed the same from April to May, whereas prices grew by 0.6 percent from March to April. The weaker than expected gains still reflect a 7.4 percent increase from last year, on par with year-over-year gains in April. The median price in the Seattle area is still 6 percent below the 2007 peak.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee, said in a statement that first-time home buyers are partially to blame. “First-time buyers provide the demand and liquidity that supports trading up by current homeowners. Without a boost in first-timers, there is less housing market activity, fewer existing homes being put on the market, and more worry about inventory,” he said.

Though the Case-Shiller index showed an overall gain of 7.4 percent from last year the most notable jump was still in the most affordable homes. There was a 10.7 percent gain in homes sold under $296,017 and only a 6.7 percent gain in houses sold over $471,764.

Data from CoreLogic shows that only 2.18 percent of homes mortgaged in King and Snohomish counties are delinquent by 90 days or more. A sharp decline from last year’s 3.26 percent delinquency rate, and the July 2012 peak of 6.68 percent.  This decline has helped to ground home prices.

Though gains have slowed for the current month, it is anticipated that the stagnation will not continue in the coming months according to Stan Humphries, Zillow Chief Economist.

If you are looking to buy or sell a home in the Seattle area, contact your local real estate agent today!

Nearly Half Of Seattle Homes Selling For Over Asking

Blue RidgeOnly four cities in the U.S. have a higher percentage of homes selling above their listing price than Seattle: San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. are seeing nearly 80 percent of homes selling above asking; Oakland, Calif. is not far behind at more than 70 percent; and Denver, Colo. is narrowly edging out Seattle with slightly more than 50 percent of homes going for more than list price. Seattle clocks in at just under 50 percent, according to Redfin Research. Despite home prices in Seattle being up 15 percent from this time last year, a recent report by the Puget Sound Business Journal showed that homes are not only selling for above asking, but FAR above asking. A home in Ravenna, where the buyers never personally set foot in the house before making an offer, sold for $1,175,000 – $200,000 more than its list price of $975,000. Similarly, a home in Magnolia listed for $699,000 ended up selling for $800,000. Underscoring the great lengths buyers are going to in order to purchase a home, even this home in Bellevue, which backs up to a 50-foot ravine instead of a backyard and was found to have cracks in its foundation, sold for $893,900 – 6 percent over asking.

Not only are homes selling for sky-high prices, but they’re selling in the blink of an eye. Seattle boasts the second lowest number of days on the market of any city in the U.S. at an average of nine days, according to Redfin. Only Denver is seeing its homes sell in a shorter period of time, at an average of just six days. With inventory down 27.5 percent over the year in Seattle and very high demand, it doesn’t look like this mad scramble for homes will let up in the near future.

If you have questions about buying or selling a home in Seattle, one of our agents would be happy to help you navigate this challenging market!

Median Home Price In King Co. Hits $500,000

1215 McGilvra NewThe median price of single-family home sold in King County has reached new heights this year. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the median price in King County has risen to $500,000, a 10.3 percent increase over the last peak of $481,000 in July 2007. In Seattle, the median is significantly higher than that, having risen 15 percent over the year to $575,000. It’s been rumored that we are in a bubble, but Alan Pope, a real estate appraiser in Redmond, says he believes we aren’t in a bubble, but that “… the balloon is growing, and I can’t tell when it’s going to stop.” In fact, the housing market is just gaining traction from taking a hit during the past recession and isn’t too far above the prices they normally would be had we missed it.

The Seattle area’s healthy job market has caught the eye of the nation and beyond. As more people settle in to Seattle and surrounding cities, the housing market has become quite competitive. With a surge of buyers and very little increase in single-family residential development, there is a shortage of houses on the market. Between March and May of this year, Seattle only had a month’s supply of single-family homes and condominiums on the market, according to a Seattle Times analysis of NWMLS data. Inventory in June of this year was well below the average three months’ supply, and the number of residential listings in King County was 23 percent lower than last year.

Other counties are seeing similar patterns. In Snohomish County, the median price of single-family homes sold was $360,125, that’s 6 percent higher than last year. Pierce County prices are up an impressive 9.5 percent, sitting at $257,000.

In Seattle, homes for sale sit on the market for an average of just eight days, compared to the national average of 28 days. When a home goes on the market, Seattle house hunters are ready to play ball, even if that means paying well above the listing price. The only true fix to relive the pressure on the current housing market is to build new houses. The National Association of Home Builders reports that there were 3,481 permits issued for new single-family homes between January and May, down 4 percent over the year. That might be due to the lack of adequate plats to build on. Allison Butcher of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties told the Times that land is becoming increasingly hard to find in Seattle.

As for condominiums, we’re seeing a bit of a trickle-down effect, as the median price in King County was $287,000, up 7 percent over last year, and up 12 percent in Snohomish County, now sitting at $239,950. However, Pierce County is down about 7 percent, at $162,500. Listings for condos aren’t climbing as quickly as single-family homes, but they are taking some of the heat as buyers look for other more available options.

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.

Millennials Opt Out of Seattle’s Real Estate Goat Rodeo

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The fact that the housing market in Seattle is hot, is not new news, and finding a home without over paying is becoming quite a task. When a 1,100 square foot home listed at $559k, sells for $717K, it feels it might take miracle to lock something down that is both desirable and reasonable. Moreover, when, and more so, if¸ you find a great buy, the market heavily favors those willing and able to pay cash to win the bid. Well, there is one demographic of Puget Sound residents who aren’t jumping on the real estate bandwagon – millennials.

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, people between the ages of 25 and 35 who are homeowners is at the lowest since the Gold Rush era. And for good reason. Overall, things are just more expensive now than they were during the previous decades. College tuition has tripled since 1980, causing millennials to take out college loans or needing to take a longer time getting their education due to having to work simultaneously. As such, paying off acquired debt, or simply just getting the basics (job, place to live, overhead costs) nailed down is priority number one. With such a competitive job market, it takes a few years (or ten) of hard work to reach reasonable earning potential.

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However, Seattle has some of the biggest businesses headquartered here favoring hiring millennials, one of which is Amazon. The online retailer hires thousands of employees yearly, many of which are coming in out of state. Most of those recruits, still fresh to Seattle and a little leery of all the grey, are perfectly content with renting even if they could afford a nice house to match their nice salary. And this doesn’t just happen for Amazon employees, as Seattle has plenty company employees working the same model.

Not surprisingly, this might be a piece of why Seattle currently ranks second on the list of best cities to own a rental property (a jump from seventh place last year). The region’s job growth, paired with the number of people moving into the area, and with the lack of available homes for sale, these are some key factors in why the rental market is going so well. So, for now the millennials are opting out of Seattle’s real estate goat rodeo, but it doesn’t seem like too many people, no matter how ready, are having much success either.