LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2020

August saw the lowest number of homes for sale in more than 20 years and the lowest mortgage rates on record. Sparse inventory and high demand pushed home prices to new highs.

  • With pending sales outpacing new listings, inventory continues to shrink. King and Snohomish counties each have about a two-week supply of available homes.  Four to six months of inventory is considered a balanced market, favoring neither buyers nor sellers.
  • The region saw the second consecutive month of record-setting price growth with home prices experiencing double-digit increases as compared to a year ago.
  • Fierce competition among buyers has made multiple offers the norm. In King County, 46% of home sold for more than the list price. Last August that number was 24%. In Snohomish County, 58% of homes sold above list price as compared to just 28% the prior year.

The charts below provide a brief overview of market activity. If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.


Posted on September 17, 2020 at 1:36 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Regional Market Updates | Tagged

Preparing for the School Year at Home

Image source: Shutterstock

 

For those whose children will be taking classes online or participating in remote learning this school year, keeping the following tips in mind will help create an at-home learning environment that prioritizes health and learning, while being able to adjust to this year’s unknowns.

A home cannot fully replace all that a formal school classroom has to offer. However, what it lacks in traditional classroom appeal it makes up for in comfort and familiarity. Prepping your home to take on this additional role will help set your child up for success during what will be a unique academic year for many.

 

Set the tone

One of the best ways to set your children up for success this school year is to get them excited. It is important to communicate that this school year, even with all its unknowns, is an exciting opportunity for new and creative ways to learn and grow. Helping your child understand the unique learning possibilities your home provides will get the school year off to an enthusiastic start.

 

Create a space 

Establishing a designated space for school at home is important for a child’s ability to focus and to associate a space with learning. How you create a classroom environment will depend on your home and your needs. If your child is most comfortable in their room, try incorporating their classroom setup there. Depending on your child’s age, it may help to have toys or familiar room objects nearby. However, if your child is distracted by their own room, it may be better to set up elsewhere to help them focus, such as a nook or office.

Allowing your child the freedom to make the space their own will help stimulate their imagination, which is vital to their learning and enjoyment of school.

Wherever the home classroom is, be sure that area has minimal distractions, maintains a strong internet connection, and is well-stocked with school supplies within reach at all times.

 

Back to school

To maintain a sense of normalcy, keep your family’s back-to-school traditions intact this year, such as picking out school supplies, back to school clothes shopping, and everyone’s favorite first day of school photo. These ceremonies of preparation for the school year will build excitement while bringing some familiarity to those final days of summer.

Establish a routine

Just as adults have discovered new routines to parallel the shift to remote work, children need a shift in their daily flow to mirror the change to remote learning. The rigor of their school schedule will determine how much flexibility you have in putting together a routine.

Stay active, incorporating movement breaks throughout the day to make up for the lack of physical activity. Plan out times away from their computer screens to differentiate between work and play time.  It’s recommended that children move at least 60 minutes a day, so prioritize exercise and movement, going outside when possible. This change of scenery is a helpful intermission for children. It gives their eyes a rest from their screens and returns them to their learning space feeling refreshed and revitalized.

 

Granted, your ability to facilitate your child/children’s preparedness and monitor their continued learning is based on various factors like your work schedule and what resources your school district is providing for at-home learning. No matter your household’s situation, taking these factors into consideration where possible will help set your student(s) up for success.


Posted on September 3, 2020 at 1:38 am
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged

WINDERMERE INSIGHTS: SECOND HOME PURCHASES ON SOME BUYERS’ MINDS

With COVID-related economic stressors mounting for those in the local hospitality and tourism industries among other impacted sectors, many area residents are wondering about the sustainability of their current rent or mortgage. In conjunction with this, mortgage brokers are experiencing a deluge of refinance applications for homeowners looking to lower their monthly overhead and take advantage of the pandemic’s preposterously low interest rates.

“It’s an interesting environment, with uncertain times causing people to seek opportunities to save money,” said Michael Press, a loan officer with Penrith Home Loans based out of Windermere’s Ballard office. “Borrowers are being cautious overall,” he observed, “and they’re seeking the lowest possible monthly payment.” By refinancing at historic rates, Press said, “many people are going to improve their situations.”

One of the oddities of COVID-19 is that while it has put many on their heels, it also seems to have motivated some Seattle-area homeowners to consider purchasing a second home outside the city. As remote work and online schooling have been the new reality for many area residents, some are looking to set up shop away from the city while they can. This has led to a trend that has affected Seattle-area real estate professionals. We spoke to a few leaders within the Windermere network about what they’re seeing in the second home market.

“This has been an unusual summer for sure,” said Patrick Chinn, owner and principal broker of Windermere Midtown’s six in-city offices. “On the one hand we have this massive economic upheaval legitimately impacting the livelihoods of many people in our region,” he observed. “COVID has put them in a hard place and we are doing everything we can to help prevent more housing insecurity in our region.”

“At the same time,” Chinn continued, “about 30% of my brokers have received requests from their clients to talk about a second home purchase.” He noted that areas within an hour and a half to two hours from Seattle — such as Suncadia, Seabrook and the islands (Whidbey, Camano and the San Juans) — are in buyers’ sights right now. “Every week I’m handling agent referral requests in these areas,” Chinn said.

D’Ann Jackson, manager of Windermere’s Bellevue office, said her brokers are assisting buyers in the same Washington hot spots. She pointed to the current popularity of the second-home markets that Chinn spotlighted — Seabrook, Suncadia and Island County.

“With folks not traveling on planes this summer,” Jackson commented, “some want to have a vacation spot they can drive to, and these markets all fit that.” She added that low interest rates may also be encouraging “people with the means and motivation to look into buying a vacation home.”

Penrith’s Michael Press agrees. “We are definitely seeing an uptick in people looking for second homes,” he observed. “At the same time that many people are seeking space and solitude, record-low rates are helping to make second homes more affordable.”

Larry Johnson, general manager of Windermere’s West Seattle office, is seeing movement to both the beach and the mountains. “Buyers are pursuing areas that allow for more open space, scenic views and access to water,” he observed. “They’re looking in Long Beach, Ocean Shores, Hood Canal, the islands, Winthrop, Mazama, Leavenworth, Cle Elem and Lake Chelan, to name a few.”

Johnson noted that with the added interest from buyers, some of these markets are getting quite competitive. “They are starting to heat up and brokers are experiencing multiple offers,” he said. “I suspect that we will continue to see this type of activity for months to come.”

Exactly how long this trend will last is the question.

“Time will tell,” D’Ann Jackson commented. “Someday in the future we’ll be back to a little more normal,” she said. “But for now and the immediate future people are being affected in ways we’ve not seen before, and they’re exploring their options for living, space and location.”

Noting that it comes with some privilege, Jackson understands the logic of her brokers’ clients who are looking at vacation homes. “They’re probably thinking ‘If I have to work from home, I might as well be somewhere I really want to be,’” she said. “And some of them have the economic latitude to make that happen.”


Posted on August 26, 2020 at 8:35 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Buyers, Homeowners | Tagged , , , ,

Your Guide to Going Solar

Image Source: Canva

For homeowners looking to reduce their home’s carbon footprint, increase its sustainability, and add value to their property, going solar is an obvious choice. Understanding how solar works and how to maximize its benefits are key first steps in your journey to becoming a solar energy-producing household.

How does solar work?

The technology that turns your house into a solar energy-harnessing hub is called photovoltaics, more commonly known as PV. PV works by fielding direct sunlight and absorbing its photons into the solar panels’ cells, which then creates electricity that provides energy for your home. This energy reduces your home’s output of carbon and other pollutants, which translates to cleaner air and water.

With the sun as the power source, the majority of the power generation occurs during the middle of the day, making summer the highest producing season. But don’t worry, it all evens out in the end.

Rooftop panels work best when they are exposed to sunlight, free of shade or shadow from nearby trees or structures. Given the sun’s east-to-west path, south-facing roofs are best-suited for maximizing your solar power. To see if your roof is set up for success, consult a mapping service or solar calculator to establish your roof’s suitability. If your roof isn’t up to standard, there are options such as ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens that you can explore.

Components

  • Solar panels: Capture the sun’s energy
  • Inverter: Converts the sun’s energy to a form that powers devices
  • Racking: The foundation that holds your solar system in place
  • Batteries: To store the energy generated
  • Charge controller: To control how quickly the batteries charge

What are the benefits of solar power?

  • Sustainability: Having a renewable source of energy coursing through your home reduces your household’s carbon footprint and increases your eco-friendliness.
  • Savings: How much money you save by going solar depends largely on how much energy your household consumes and the energy output of your solar panels. The cost of going solar has continued to decrease every year, so you are more likely to save as time goes on. For information on state incentives and tax breaks, explore what options apply to your home by visiting DSIRE(Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency).
  • Utilities: Whether your utility company charges a flat rate for electricity or charges variable rates throughout the day based on electricity production—i.e. higher rates in the afternoon, lower rates at night—solar power offsets the price you are charged for electricity. It becomes even more valuable during those higher-rate periods or during seasonal fluctuations in utilities costs.
  • Sell it back: Homeowners can sell their solar energy back to utilities through “Net-metering” plans. When your power generation rate is greater than your household’s consumption rate, the end result on your electric bill is a net energy consumption. Refer to DSIRE for region-specific regulations and policies.
  • Home value: A recent study by The Appraisal Journal found that homes with solar PV systems increased their sale price by an average of 3.74%, equaling a premium of $14,329.

Although the right solar solution looks different for each household, what remains true across the board are the environmental benefits and increased home values that solar power brings. Taking all this information into your research will improve your home’s renewable energy and reduce your carbon footprint.


Posted on August 13, 2020 at 10:00 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Homeowners, Living | Tagged , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – AUGUST 2020

While the pace of daily life may seem slow right now, the local real estate market has had an unusually busy summer. The number of new listings in July was up, sales increased, and home prices followed suit.

• While overall inventory is at historic lows, more sellers put their homes on
the market. New listings of single-family homes in King County jumped more than
25% from a year ago. Snohomish County saw a 7% increase in new listings.

• Pent-up buyer demand fueled sales activity in July.  The number of pending
sales was up 17% over a year ago in King County, and up 13% in Snohomish
County.

• With buyers snapping up new listings as soon as they hit the market, total
available inventory dropped to a 10-year low for the month.

• The lack of inventory is benefiting sellers, and multiple offers are now common
at every price point. As a result, single-family home prices rose 7% in King
County and 15% in Snohomish County.

The charts below provide a brief overview of market activity. If you are interested in more information, every Monday Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner provides an update regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the US economy and housing market. You can get Matthew’s latest update here.


Posted on August 13, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Regional Market Updates | Tagged , , , ,

Setting Up Your Home Gym

Image Source: Canva

 

As the stay-at-home hours add up, setting up a home gym is not only physically beneficial, but can bring some added mental wellness to the new normal many of us find ourselves in. In comparison to a gym membership, even with the up-front investment of purchasing equipment, an at-home gym can deliver savings in the long run. With far-ranging fitness gear options online, there are more ways to save than ever before.

 

Location, location, location

Before the lunges, pushups, and weightlifting, the first step in setting up your at-home gym is deciding where to build it. You’ll want plenty of room for the activities and workouts you have in mind. Rooms with low ceilings or narrow walls are not well-suited for a gym. They will limit your ability to perform any kinds of jumping exercises or workouts with wide ranging movements. This space is dedicated to physical activity and the environment should support that. If extra space is hard to come by in your home, consider taking your gym outdoors to a patio, multipurpose space, or other less commonly used area.

 

A space with level, hard flooring, like wood, laminate, or tile, is the best fit for your gym, especially if you plan on establishing a workout plan based around lifting or cardio. Having spatial awareness at all times is important while working out, so you’ll want plenty of light in your home gym. Mirrors are a common fixture in gyms, consider adding one to your wall to analyze your technique.

 

Gear up

  • Strength training: Simple workout tools like kettlebells and dumbbells allow you to perform a variety of workouts without taking up much space. Kettlebells are a great tool for incorporating cardio workouts with added weight. Dumbbells at a lower weight are better for toning exercises, while those at heavier weights are better for low-repetition, bulk exercises.
  • Cardio training: Smaller workout tools such as jump ropes, wrist and ankle weights will add intensity to your cardio workouts. Yoga mats provide proper support while performing core exercises or other body weight circuit workouts during your cardio sessions.
  • Large equipment: To get the most out of large workout equipment like treadmills, stair climbers, and bikes in your home gym, plan for them to be a significant part of your workouts.
  • Additional: Applying a layer of gym flooring will help prevent damage and provide added support. If you prefer music and/or video to accompany your workouts, add speakers and a TV to get the motivational juices flowing.

 

Establish a routine

Your home gym is no good if it gets no use. With zero commute time to account for, arrange a workout routine that suits your daily schedule. Even if you have 30 minutes, getting into a routine of working out is the key to building up your healthy lifestyle in this new normal of home life.

 

Once your home gym is set up, it can be either your individual fitness sanctuary or an opportunity to work out with others. Invite a friend to exercise via video chat and schedule times to feel the burn together. With more virtual fitness classes available now than ever, surf the web to find the classes that best fit your schedule and desired workout intensity.


Posted on July 23, 2020 at 10:17 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

Western Washington Real Estate Market Update Q2

 

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 reach out anytime!

 

REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

It appears as if the massive COVID-19 induced contraction in employment that Washington State — along with the rest of the nation — experienced this spring is behind us (at least for now). Statewide employment started to drop in March, but April was the real shock: total employment dropped almost 460,000 between March and April, a decline of 13.1%. However, this turned around remarkably quickly, with a solid increase of 52,500 jobs in May. Worthy of note is that, in May alone, Western Washington recovered 43,500 of the 320,000 jobs that were lost in the region the prior month. Although it is certainly too early to categorically state that we are out of the woods, the direction is positive and, assuming we respect the state’s mandates regarding social distancing and mask wearing, I remain hopeful that Washington will not have to re-enter any form of lockdown.

 

HOME SALES

  • There were 17,465 home sales during the second quarter of 2020, representing a drop of 22.2% from the same period in 2019, but 30.6% higher than in the first quarter of this year.
  • The number of homes for sale was 37% lower than a year ago, but was up 32% compared to the first quarter of the year.
  • Given COVID-19’s impacts, it’s not surprising that sales declined across the board. The greatest drops were in Whatcom and King counties. The smallest declines were in Grays Harbor and Cowlitz counties.
  • Pending sales — a good gauge of future closings — rose 35.7% compared to the first quarter of the year, suggesting that third quarter closings will grow as well.

 

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Home-price growth in Western Washington rose by a relatively modest 3.5% compared to a year ago. The average sale price in the second quarter was $559,194.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County, where home prices were up 14.3%. Clallam County also saw a double-digit price increase.
  • It was interesting to note that prices were up a significant 6.6% compared to the first quarter. This suggests that any concern regarding negative impacts to home values as a function of ​    COVID-19 may be overblown.
  • I will be watching for significant price growth in less urbanized areas going forward. If there is, it may be an indication that      COVID-19 is affecting where buyers are choosing to live.

 

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the second quarter of this year matched the second quarter of 2019.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 40 days to sell a home in the second quarter. I would also note that it took an average of 14 fewer days to sell a home than in the first quarter of this year.
  • Thurston, King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties were the tightest markets in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 17 days to sell. All but two counties, Grays Harbor and Cowlitz, saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop compared to the same period a year ago.
  • Market time remains well below the long-term average across the region. This is due to significant increases in demand along with the remarkably low level of inventory available.

 

 

 

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.

What a difference a quarter makes! Given that demand has reappeared remarkably quickly and interest rates remain historically low, it certainly remains a seller’s market and I don’t expect this to change in the foreseeable future.

The overall housing market has exhibited remarkable resilience and housing demand has rebounded faster than most would have expected. I anticipate demand to remain robust, but this will cause affordability issues to remain as long as the new construction housing market remains muted.

 

 

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER

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 23, 2020 at 10:14 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Matthew Gardner Report | Tagged , , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – JULY 2020

While our lives are very different than they were a year ago, the local real estate market has recovered to 2019 levels. Record low interest rates are helping spur demand. Sales were up, home prices increased and multiple offers were common.

  • The number of pending sales, a measure of current demand, was higher in June than for the same period a year ago.
  • The supply of homes on the market remains very low, with just a month of available inventory.  When inventory is this low, quick sales over full price are common. That was the case in June when about 40% of homes sold for more than the asking price.
  • Home prices in King County rose 4% over a year ago. Snohomish County home prices increased 5%.
  • More sellers put their homes on the market. While total inventory remains low, the number of new listings in June was similar to the same time last year.

The monthly statistics below are based on closed sales. Since closing generally takes 30 days, the statistics for June are mostly reflective of sales in May.


Posted on July 13, 2020 at 10:45 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Market News, Market Report | Tagged , , , ,

WINDERMERE INSIGHTS: HOW LOW INVENTORY IS INFLUENCING THE MARKET

Although there was already ample concern about our region’s housing supply pre-pandemic, the inventory squeeze was exacerbated by the shutdown. Buyers never really stepped out of the market, despite the onset and risks of COVID-19, while sellers mostly stayed on the sidelines. The resulting demand-supply crunch creates a cycle in which buyers compete aggressively for fewer and fewer units, absorbing active inventory faster than the market can be resupplied.

“While we see more sellers getting ready to list,” observed Pat Grimm, owner of Windermere Capitol Hill, “every week that those homes don’t go on the market, we risk losing buyers to what I’d call a reasonable fatigue.”

Grimm pointed to Seattle’s imbalanced market activity in the first half of June. Pending sales of single family homes were up 21% from the same period last year, despite a 45% reduction in the number of active listings. By mid-month, there remained a paltry 0.8 months’ supply of homes for sale, based on pending sales. Low inventory led Seattle buyers to purchase homes and condos faster and for higher prices than in June 2019.

“Sellers should benefit from this dynamic,” Grimm said, “if they can undertake a move at this stage of the re-opening.”

On the Eastside, the market is undergoing a similar push-pull, according to Joe Deasy, co-owner of Windermere East Inc. “Active listings are being absorbed faster than we can get new For Sale signs up,” he observed. With month-to-date pending sales activity up 21% this June versus last, Deasy noted that the Eastside’s supply of homes is down to only 0.9 months.

Through the first half of June Eastside single family home listings were down 46% from the same period last year, while there were 28% fewer condo listings. “There’s a bottleneck happening, and we could see sales drop unless we bring more homes to market,” Deasy said. “But more listings will lead to more sales,” he added.

One community that has been keenly watching its real estate market dynamics is West Seattle. Hit by the double whammy of the shutdown and the bridge closure, brokers there were wondering how May and June numbers would stack up for this “small town” within the city.

It turns out that West Seattle is experiencing the same demand-supply issue as other local areas. In the first half of June, the supply of single family homes for sale was down 31% from last year. Based on a 9% increase in month-to-date pending sales, the supply of homes stands at just one month.

“Ours is still a seller’s market,” said Larry Johnson, general manager of Windermere’s West Seattle office. “June has seen faster market times and higher selling prices on the units that have gone pending.” The squeeze on West Seattle homes has also led buyers to move on condos, Johnson noted, with month-to-date pending sales up 56% over last year and average sold prices up by 22%.


Posted on July 2, 2020 at 10:42 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , ,

REOPENING REAL ESTATE, THE RIGHT WAY

As King County enters Phase 2 of reopening, residential real estate services providers must follow a strict set of rules. These control how brokers may conduct business inside and outside their offices and homes for sale (listings).

Windermere has developed protocols for reopening that meet or exceed all of the state requirements. From the beginning of the shutdown, we have lived by the mantra “Go slow, do no harm.” This philosophy remains firmly in place during the current reopening phase.

Staying Safe: Inside a Listing

Pete Richmond, owner of Windermere’s Greenwood office, discussed how brokers and their vendors must follow strict guidelines when inside a listed home. “For safety reasons, we can’t allow more than three people – including ourselves – inside a listing at once,” Richmond said. He noted that all visitors must observe social distancing guidelines and that all activities inside a listing must take place by appointment only. “So we can’t host open houses, other than by virtual means like live-streaming,” he added.

During Phase 2, brokers and their vendors must wear face coverings at all times when inside a listing. Richmond pointed out that Windermere brokers are encouraged to provide masks, gloves, booties and hand sanitizer to each vendor or client entering a listing.

“Normally we’re required to leave a business card in every home we preview,” Richmond said, explaining that this obligation has been suspended during COVID-19. “We’re also no longer traveling in the same car as clients or colleagues,” he added.

Staying Safe: In the Office

Windermere offices in King County have moved to reopen and are operating under a strict set of guidelines that brokers and staff must follow.

Deanne Wilson, co-owner of Windermere East Inc., and Laura Smith, co-owner of Windermere Co., used the state’s Safe Start guide to establish a reopening plan for their 12 offices. “We’re doing everything possible to keep everyone safe by following the protocols established by the state,” Wilson said.

Windermere’s reopened offices have implemented numerous rules, including restrictions on the amount of people allowed inside at any one time. While staff are permitted in the office to perform essential functions, employees rotate between being onsite and working from home. Total occupancy may not exceed 50% during Phase 2. Visitors must have appointments to enter the office and must limit visits to 30 minutes.

Brokers and staff must observe social distancing at all times. They also must wear face coverings when entering and leaving the office, while in common areas, and whenever not working alone. Windermere kitchens are closed, office entry is required through the primary entrance only, and smaller conference rooms where social distancing is not possible have been closed.

Windermere offices are providing masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to brokers, staff, and the limited number of guests who enter. Many offices have installed sneeze guards to protect front office personnel. They have also installed sanitizing stations at entry points and in common areas. “We’ve even rearranged furniture to encourage social distancing,” Wilson said.


Posted on June 30, 2020 at 7:09 pm
Carlene Sandstrom | Posted in Market News | Tagged , , , ,