Q2 Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please contact me!

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State employment jumped back up to an annual growth rate of 2.4% following a disappointing slowdown earlier in the spring. As stated in the first quarter Gardner Report, the dismal numbers earlier this year were a function of the state re-benchmarking its data (which they do annually).

The state unemployment rate was 4.7%, marginally up from 4.5% a year ago. My current economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will rise by 2.6%, with a total of 87,500 new jobs created.

 

HOME SALES

  • There were 22,281 home sales during the second quarter of 2019, representing a drop of 4.8% from the same period in 2018. On a more positive note, sales jumped 67.6% compared to the first quarter of this year.
  • Since the middle of last year, there has been a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale, which is likely the reason sales have slowed. More choice means buyers can be more selective and take their time when choosing a home to buy.
  • Compared to the second quarter of 2018, there were fewer sales in all counties except Whatcom and Lewis. The greatest declines were in Clallam, San Juan, and Jefferson counties.
  • Listings rose 19% compared to the second quarter of 2018, but there are still a number of very tight markets where inventory levels are lower than a year ago. Generally, these are the smaller — and more affordable — markets, which suggests that affordability remains an issue.

 

HOME PRICES

  • Year-over-year price growth in Western Washington continues to taper. The average home price during second quarter was $540,781, which is 2.8% higher than a year ago. When compared to first quarter of this year, prices were up 12%.
  • Home prices were higher in every county except King, which is unsurprising given the cost of homes in that area. Even though King County is home to the majority of jobs in the region, housing is out of reach for many and I anticipate that this will continue to act as a drag on price growth.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Lewis County, where home prices were up 15.9%. Double-digit price increases were also seen in Mason, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, and Skagit counties.
  • The region’s economy remains robust, which should be a positive influence on price growth. That said, affordability issues are pervasive and will act as a headwind through the balance of the year, especially in those markets that are close to job centers. This will likely force some buyers to look further afield when searching for a new home.

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home matched the second quarter of 2018.
  • Snohomish County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 21 days to sell. There were five counties where the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in eight counties and two were unchanged.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of 2019. This was the same as a year ago but is down 20 days compared to the first quarter of 2019.
  • As stated above, days-on-market dropped as we moved through the spring, but all markets are not equal. I suggest that this is not too much of an issue and that well-priced homes will continue to attract attention and sell fairly rapidly.

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. I am leaving the needle in the same position as the first quarter as demand appears to still be strong.

The market has benefitted from a fairly significant drop in mortgage rates. With average 30-year fixed rates still below 4%, I expect buyers who have been sitting on the fence will become more active, especially given that they have more homes to choose from.

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

Posted on July 25, 2019 at 7:46 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Matthew Gardner Report | Tagged , , , , ,

Regional Market Update July 2019

The market in our region appears to be moderating. Inventory is up, prices are relatively stable and homes are taking a bit longer to sell. However, with less than two months of available inventory, supply is still far short of demand. Steady buyer activity, low interest rates and a thriving economy are making for a strong summer in the housing market.

Eastside

>>>Click image to view full report.

The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was $950,000 in June, down 3% from the same time last year and up $21,000 from May. Many buyers are looking to take advantage of the Eastside jobs boom with Amazon announcing plans to build a 43-story tower in Bellevue and Google expecting to reach 1 million square feet of office space in Kirkland.

King County

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There was good news for buyers in June as a growing supply of homes helped boost inventory close to 2012 listing levels. The median price of a single-family home in King County was $695,000. That figure is a 3% drop from a year ago and virtually unchanged from May. 33% of homes sold above list price; another sign prices are moderating when compared to 52% of homes sold over list price this time last year.

Seattle

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Home inventory in Seattle inched slightly higher in June. However, with less than two months of supply, the city is still a solid seller’s market. Apple’s plan to turn Seattle into a key engineering hub can only add to demand. The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $781,000, down 4% from a year ago and nearly unchanged from May.

Snohomish County

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After hovering around $500,000 since March, home prices in Snohomish County crept up in June. The median price of a single-family home was $515,500, as compared to $511,500 last June. Snohomish County continues to attract buyers priced out of the King County market, putting an additional strain on supply which stands a just 1.5 months of inventory.

Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, but information was not verified or published by NWMLS.

Posted on July 23, 2019 at 11:54 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , ,

Mortgage Rate Forecast

Geopolitical uncertainty is causing mortgage rates to drop. Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains why this is and what you can expect to see mortgage rates do in the coming year.

 

 

Over the past few months we’ve seen a fairly significant drop in mortgage rates that has been essentially driven by geopolitical uncertainty – mainly caused by the trade war with China and ongoing discussions over tariffs with Mexico.

Now, mortgage rates are based on yields on 10-Year treasuries, and the interest rate on bonds tends to drop during times of economic uncertainty.  When this occurs, mortgage rates also drop.

My current forecast model predicts that average 30-year mortgage rates will end 2019 at around 4.4%, and by the end of 2020 I expect to see the average 30-year rate just modestly higher at 4.6%.

Posted on June 27, 2019 at 1:53 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Matthew Gardner Report | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Regional Market Update June 2019

The pace of the housing market gained momentum in May, bringing an uptick in open house traffic and offers. A drop in interest rates and increased inventory were great incentives for buyers. Despite the increase in supply there is less than two months of inventory available – half the national average and far short of what is considered balanced. Industry experts are predicting a strong market as we segue into summer.

Eastside

MarketUpdate_Eastside_May19.png

The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was $928,800 in May, down 3% from the same time last year and virtually unchanged from April. With a booming economy that continues to grow, news of Amazon’s expansion in Bellevue, the latest Microsoft acquisition and plans for a $1.2 billion office park in Redmond, demand for housing on the Eastside is unlikely to decrease any time soon.

King County

MarketUpdate_KingCo_May19.png

Home sale activity in King County was brisk in May. According to a Windermere analysis, 7 out of 10 properties sold last month had 15 or fewer days on the market. More than half of the homes sold at or above list price. The median price of a single-family home was $700,000. While down 4% from the same time last year, that price was up about $22,000 from the previous month. Home to the fastest growing economy in the country,  King County is expected to draw even more buyers to the area this year.

Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, but information was not verified or published by NWMLS.

Posted on June 23, 2019 at 11:50 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , ,

Regional Market Update May 2019

The spring home buying season started early this year. Open houses had increased attendance and bidding wars returned. After months of softening, home prices in most of the region jumped significantly from the prior month. With just one month of data, we’ll have to wait and see if this is the start of a longer upward trend.

Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, but information was not verified or published by NWMLS.

Posted on May 23, 2019 at 11:47 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , ,

The Housing Market in 2019

The last time we saw a balanced market was late 1990s, meaning many sellers and buyers have never seen a normal housing market.  Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner looks at more longer-term averages, what does he see for the future of the housing market?

 

Posted on May 21, 2019 at 1:57 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Buyers, Market News, Market Report, Matthew Gardner Report, Sellers | Tagged , , , , , ,

Regional Market Update April 2019

Unlike most of King County, home prices on the Eastside grew over the prior year. The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside rose 3% to $950,000. That represents an increase of $50,000 over February.
Here are the reports for Eastside Market Report, Seattle Market Report, Snohomish Market Report and King County Market Report!
Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, but information was not verified or published by NWMLS.
Posted on April 12, 2019 at 10:40 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , ,

Regional Market Update March 2019

The spring home buying season started early this year! With Amazon.com’s latest expansion in Bellevue, Washington, a significant wave of newcomers is expected to flock to the city.
Here are the reports for Eastside Market Report, Seattle Market Report, Snohomish Market Report and King County Market Report!
Created by Windermere Real Estate/East Inc. using NWMLS data, but information was not verified or published by NWMLS.
Posted on March 21, 2019 at 7:28 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , ,

The Q4 2018 Western Washington Gardner Report

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to me. 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The Washington State economy continues to add jobs at an above-average rate, though the pace of growth is starting to slow as the business cycle matures. Over the past 12 months, the state added 96,600 new jobs, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9% — well above the national rate of 1.7%. Private sector employment gains continue to be quite strong, increasing at an annual rate of 3.6%. Public sector employment was down 0.3%. The strongest growth sectors were Real Estate Brokerage and Leasing (+11.4%), Employment Services (+10.3%), and Residential Construction (+10.2%). During fourth quarter, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.3%, down from 4.7% a year ago.

My latest economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will still be positive but is expected to slow. We should see an additional 83,480 new jobs, which would be a year-over-year increase of 2.4%.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 17,353 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2018. Year-over-year sales growth started to slow in the third quarter and this trend continued through the end of the year. Sales were down 16% compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.​
  • The slowdown in home sales was mainly a function of increasing listing activity, which was up 38.8% compared to the fourth quarter of 2017 (continuing a trend that started earlier in the year). Almost all of the increases in listings were in King and Snohomish Counties. There were more modest increases in Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap, Skagit, and Island Counties. Listing activity was down across the balance of the region.
  • Only two counties—Mason and Lewis—saw sales rise compared to the fourth quarter of 2017, with the balance of the region seeing lower levels of sales activity.​
  • We saw the traditional drop in listings in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter, but I fully anticipate that we will see another jump in listings when the spring market hits. The big question will be to what degree listings will rise.

HOME PRICES

  • With greater choice, home price growth in Western Washington continued to slow in fourth quarter, with a year-over-year increaseof 5% to $486,667. Notably, prices were down 3.3% compared to the thirdquarter of 2018.
  • Home prices, although higher than a year ago, continue to slow. As mentioned earlier, we have seen significant increases in inventory and this will slow down price gains. I maintain my belief that this is a good thing, as the pace at which home prices were rising was unsustainable.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Skagit County, where home prices were up 13.7%. Three other counties experienced double-digit price increases.
  • Price growth has been moderating for the past two quarters and I believe that we have reached a price ceiling in many markets. I would not be surprised to see further drops in prices across the region in the first half of 2019, but they should start to resume their upward trend in the second half of the year.

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped three days compared to the same quarter of 2017.
  • Thurston County joined King County as the tightest markets in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 35 days to sell. There were eight counties that saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in five counties and was unchanged in two.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 51 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter of 2018. This is down from 54 days in the fourth quarter of 2017 but up by 12 days when compared to the third quarter of 2018.
  • I suggested in the third quarter Gardner Report that we should be prepared for days on market to increase, and that has proven to be accurate. I expect this trend will continue, but this is typical of a regional market that is moving back to becoming balanced.​

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. I am continuing to move the needle toward buyers as price growth moderates and listing inventory continues to rise.

2019 will be the year that we get closer to having a more balanced housing market. Buyer and seller psychology will continue to be significant factors as home sellers remain optimistic about the value of their home, while buyers feel significantly less pressure to buy. Look for the first half of 2019 to be fairly slow as buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for price stability, but then I do expect to see a more buoyant second half of the year.

 

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

Posted on February 4, 2019 at 11:47 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Buyers, Market News, Market Report, Matthew Gardner Report, Sellers | Tagged , , , , , ,

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News.

Posted on December 19, 2018 at 11:27 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Category: Market News, Market Report | Tagged , , , ,