King County home prices grow $100,000 in a year for first time; West Bellevue jumps 41 percent

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The median King County home price has grown more than $100,000 in just a year.

Following up on a record-breaking spring, the county’s real-estate market had its hottest month of July since such monthly records began in 2000, with prices rising 18.6 percent from a year ago.

The new median price is $658,000, or $103,000 more than last July, according to monthly data released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Just a down payment on the median house costs about $20,000 more than a year ago. So first-time buyers who didn’t save up that much in the past year are further from buying a house today than they were a year ago.

 

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George Moorhead of Bentley Properties in Bothell said his office is working with 60 first-time homebuyers right now — and it’s been a struggle to find something for any of them.

“First-time homebuyers are really feeling the pinch. Some of them have been looking for a home for almost two years,” Moorhead said. “They have to keep going further and further out just to find something that’s worthwhile. It’s just slim pickings out there.”

Trade-up buyers are dealing with a similar crunch. One-third of homes across the region sold for at least $1 million this past month, according to John L. Scott Real Estate.

“Anything between $900,000 and $1.3 million, you’ll still find yourself in a multiple-offer situation — six to 10 offers,” said Lori Holden Scott, a John L. Scott broker who deals with pricier homes.

While prices have been going up for so long that increases might seem inevitable, this month’s surge is actually a bit unusual.

 

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Median prices in Seattle ($749,000) and the Eastside ($860,000) did dip slightly from June’s record highs. Both were still up about 15 percent from a year prior.

West Bellevue had the county’s biggest price jump — up 41 percent from a year ago, to a new median price of $2.3 million, the priciest region in the county. Areas that saw prices zoom up more than 20 percent in the past year include West Seattle, Sodo/Beacon Hill, Central Seattle/Capitol Hill, Shoreline, East Bellevue and Redmond.

Countywide, the annual price increase in July was the largest ever in terms of absolute numbers. But the 18.6 percent growth was a bit slower than in some previous months.

“I don’t think anything is slowing down,” said Laurie Way, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.

Both Moorhead and Way think the market has to cool a bit eventually; it’s just unclear how long that will take.

The very-long-running trend of declining inventory continues, as fewer people put homes up for sale while those properties that do hit the market get snatched up in about a week, on average.

And Moorhead said more repeat buyers are choosing to rent out their old homes, banking on getting steady rental income while knowing they could sell the home later — perhaps at an even higher price. He said his last four homebuyers all rented out their old homes.

The number of homes for sale across King County dropped 18 percent from a year ago and is at the lowest point on record for this time of year. Sales were down slightly, as well.

One bright spot for buyers: Condos across the county cost a median 5.7 percent more than a year ago, the second-slowest growth in the past two years.

 

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Downtown Seattle, where condos are the only homebuying option, actually saw prices drop a tick from a year ago. Enumclaw was the only place where single-family-home prices decreased.

Elsewhere, Snohomish County surged to a record median price of $453,000, growing 11.9 percent from a year ago.

Both Pierce and Kitsap counties dipped a bit compared with last month’s record prices, but they still were up significantly from a year ago. Pierce’s median price is $312,000, up 9.6 percent from a year ago, while Kitsap reached $322,000, an extra 11 percent from this past year.

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

How Millennials Are Changing the Housing Market

 

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Today, younger Millennials are purchasing their first homes and older ones are already moving on to buying their second. Millennials are known as the generation that will buy a $200 pair of jeans after extensive research and trying on 67 different pairs to find the exact right ones. The way they shop for homes is no different.

This research-driven culture is supported by the internet where everything they could ever possibly want to know is right at their fingertips.

The most surprising thing about the way Millennials buy their homes is that they actually want a realtor to help guide them through the process, but that’s not the only generational shift here.

Millennials Want Everything To Be Just Right
Millennials consider owning their own home as an important part of living the American Dream. Unfortunately, thanks to stagnating wages and a sharp increase in student loan debt, saving for that down payment isn’t going to be easy. As a result, there isn’t much cash left over after closing to make any updates Millennials want, so they instead seek out homes that are fully updated and move in ready to begin with.

At the top of Millennials’ wish lists are updated kitchens and bathrooms, green features like solar panels, an open floor plan, a home office, a good location, and good Internet and cell service. Almost half of Millennials would rather buy a brand new house in order to avoid any maintenance issues that might occur early on. Only 11% of Millennials consider a home to be permanent anyway.

Eventually, Millennials plan to sell their starter home as 68% view it as a stepping stone to the home they really want and making improvements is not part of that plan. The average homeowner keeps their home for ten years, while the average Millennial only keeps their home for six years.

Some Things Remain the Same Regardless of Generation
When it comes to where Millennials want to live, the suburbs still reign supreme. Half of Millennials live in the suburbs and a surprisingly low 25% live in urban areas. Research shows Millennials want to live in a place that is close to work and close to things to do, and urban areas typically provide both of those things.

Four out of five adults between the ages of 18 and 25 live outside of the urban core of a city, which indicates an even stronger shift toward the suburbs. Still, they want to be close to work to save on commute times and travel expenses, and 65% choose the location of their home based on how far it is to work.

Why Should Sellers Cater To Millennial Home Buyers?
Of all first-time home buyers, Millennials make up 66%, and they are 34% of home buyers overall. Over 66% plan to purchase a new home within the next 5 years. That’s a huge generational shift in real estate. Millennials are better informed about their options than probably any other generation before them.

In short, if you aren’t catering to this generation’s enormous buying potential you’re probably going to be missing out on a lot of opportunities. If you are considering selling your home:

Make All Necessary Repairs and Upgrades Before Listing
Consider updating kitchens and baths – these have always sold homes, but now they are more important than ever
Do an energy efficiency audit and make upgrades anywhere you can, including solar panels
Consider upgrading any old appliances
Install smart home features like programmable thermostats
Millennials do hours of online research just to buy a sweater, so they are naturally going to do even more research when it comes to buying a home. More than three-quarters of Millennial home buyers drove by a home because of photos and listings they found online, and over 60% did walkthroughs because of these listings.

Getting the information in front of them is key, and making sure you highlight relevant features is crucial.

Millennials Now Hold Massive Buying Power
Millennials hold a lot of buying power in today’s real estate market, but many are using their parents to close the deal. According to top performing Denver realtor, Denise Fisher, this makes for an interesting family dynamic with clients that she doesn’t see with other generations:

“One thing real estate agents must adapt to when working with Millennials is dealing with two sets of buyers for the same home. The millennial is usually the one that researches the home online but when it comes to the showing and buying, more and more parents are getting involved in the process. Millennials are frequently getting their down payment or the whole mortgage from their parents so when they are looking it’s a family affair. While the Millennial is my main client, I will often be talking to the parents through the transaction and while showing houses I’ll have 2 carloads of a family to walk through a house. They often have different tastes and ideas for the ideal home. This adds a new element to the sale for realtors.”

Millennials are quickly changing the face of real estate. Gone are the days of only seeing what your Realtor wants to show you. Gone are the days of the glorified fixer upper and the weekend warrior. Millennials are busy working their side hustle anyway. New homes and already fixed up homes are the ones that are going to be moving on the real estate market, an ode to the buying power of the Millennial generation.

Learn more about what Millennials want in a new home from this infographic from Nationwide Mortgages. Much like baby boomers changed the real estate market to shape the suburbs, Millennials are just now starting to make their mark.  Millenials in the Real Estate Market

 

~John White, Social Marketing Solutions

Another Record Month for the East Side Market

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It was another month of record-setting home prices in June as the area yet again took the prize for the hottest real estate market in the country. In a bright spot for buyers, the number of new listings added in June was the highest total for any single month since May 2008. While inventory is still low, the pace of sales is slowing and the number of multiple offers are down, suggesting that we may soon see a slight reprieve from the last year of rapid-fire growth.

For the full report see: East Side Market Review

More Homebuyers Making Offers Without Seeing Property in Person

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The hot housing markets in Seattle and others like it across the U.S. are leading more homebuyers to bypass the traditional concept of actually seeing, in person, the place they’re looking to buy and live in.

A new survey and report from Seattle-based real estate company Redfin reveals some of the trends being set by a new generation of homebuyers looking for ways to get ahead in the ultra-competitive landscape. The report details such things as how affordability was leading to adjustments in where to look; how political views of potential neighbors might affect the search process; what impact immigration restrictions have on Arab, Asian and Latino survey respondents; and the impact of rising mortgage rates.

But we were most intrigued by the fact that a third of homebuyers who bought a home in the last year said they made an offer on a home without first seeing it in person. Redfin says that’s up from 19 percent last year and from 21 percent two years ago. Millennials lead the charge here, with 41 percent saying they had done so.

Redfin site unseen offers

In Seattle the number is a little lower than the national average, with 22 percent making an offer site unseen. Redfin says the percentage of those willing to buy without looking tends to rise as the median home price rises. The median in the Seattle area last May was $510,000, while San Francisco, for instance, had a median price of $1,290,000 and 35 percent made an offer site unseen. Here’s the survey breakdown:
  • Home price less than $250,000 – 19.5 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $250,000-$499,999 – 24.2 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $500,000-$749,999 – 41.2 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $750,000 – $999,999 – 51.8 percent made an offer site unseen
  • Home price $1 million plus – 58.3 percent made an offer site unseen

But it’s not like these offers are being made with no clue whatsoever about what a house looks like. Obviously there are plenty of ways to view photographs and video tours online, and now 3D photography, including Redfin’s 3D Walkthrough, lets people virtually walk through Redfin listings.

Seattle-based Zillow has also added more technology to speed the process with the test launch last month of Instant Offers, in which home sellers can avoid traditional hassles and sell more quickly.

~Kurt Schlosser, Geekwire

Some unmarried couples co-buying homes as housing prices soar

According to the Northwest MLS, between 2011 and 2016, home prices in Pierce County rose 29%.  Prices rose 38% in Snohomish County and 38% in King County.  In 2011, the median home price was $340,000, but it jumped to $548,000 in 2016.cobuy-neighborhood

Experts say those soaring prices are why we’re starting to see a growing trend of unmarried couples buying homes together.  It’s called co-buying.

This isn’t about love or romance but all about finances.  Relatives, friends, or groups of people are now deciding to buy a property together largely because they can’t afford a space on their own.

Stats from Zillow show people aren’t waiting for marriage to get a mortgage.  In Seattle, young unmarried couples buying homes together jumped to 14% in the last nine years.  At the same time, single people buying homes alone dropped three percent.

It’s dinner time at the Neufeld house in Lake City.  Their new construction homes offers top-notch amenities.  The journey there started ten years ago when the Neufelds moved to Seattle from Winnipeg with an idea for community on a budget.  Shortly after, they met the Linds.

“We were here for about a year in conversation with them and others living together with other unrelated adults,” said Jonathan Neufeld.

Back in 2008, the Linds and Neufelds in the basement with a separate entrance.

“The idea of sharing the mortgage payment was a huge asset and splitting all the utilities made for a very, very affordable footprint for those years we were living together,” said Neufeld.

Living together in a co-buying relationship and it continues to grow in popularity in Seattle as the growing housing costs soar out-of-budget for many.

“Necessity has been the main driver of the co-buying experience,” said Owner/Broker at Infiniti Real Estate and Development Eva Otto knows firsthand after co-buying with her brother years ago.

“We had a lifetime of trust built up between us and we knew that we both wanted to make a real estate investment so we did it together,” said Otto.

Otto joined a panel of experts at this informational session for website GoCoBuy.com  Co-founder Matt Holmes says you can co-buy on your own.  He started this site to streamline the process, answer common questions, and provide contacts of certified experts who know how to help co-buyers.

“People can log-on, build consensus, be connected with a lender. Eventually be connected with a real estate agent who can quarterback them through the process,” said GoCoBuy.com Co-founder Matt Holmes.

It takes you step-by-step from interested buyer to homeowner.  People at all stages were at this informational session including Microsoft Aaron Malveaux.

“I always thought two married people would buy a home together. I never thought unmarried people or just groups of friends could buy homes together,” said potential co-buyer Aaron Malveaux.

That possibility could be Malveaux’s reality as the native Texan gets used to the sticker shock in Seattle.

“Literally homes in Houston cost a fraction of what they cost in Seattle,” said Malveaux.

According to Zillow, the average home in Houston costs.  Less than half of the price of an average home in Seattle.  So the idea of co-buying…

“This is definitely a great option for me,” said Malveaux.

But Holmes insists money should be the only concern.  GoCoBuy.com poses more challenging and uncomfortable questions for potential co-buyers.

“How do you pay? Do you have a joint bank account? What happens if somebody wants to leave,” said Holmes.

On the site, potential buyers can answer all of those questions up front before they face challenges.

“What happens if you breakup, what happens if one of you decides to move, what happens if one of you dies?” asked Otto.

Those answers then turn into a legally binding contract.

“Having a written agreement in place, not so you can take your buddy to court, but so you have this understanding,” said Holmes.

Jonathan Neufeld says they didn’t discuss all the possible outcomes, but had the finances spelled out.

“We would have had the financial documents which described who had what share in the investment in the property itself,” said Neufeld.

They lived together in this home for six years before deciding to redevelop the property.

“Subdividing the original property into four separate properties so that everybody has their own house, it’s all legally titled to their own house,” said Neufeld.

Eva Otto is their realtor and says what the Neufelds and Linds did is the perfect co-buying long-term plan.  She says more problems arise when people co-buy single family homes and there’s no clear divide on space or ownership.

“Buying a duplex with your friend, living there for three to five years, and the tearing that duplex down and building two separate single family homes and subdividing that lot,” said Otto.

Neufeld says he appreciates their original co-buying agreement that helped them save money to build their dream property.

“We have a place we can afford in a community that we love,” said Neufeld.

~Nadia Romero

Should You Pay Off Your Student Loan or Buy a Home?

Group of college students sitting in the library and using wireless technology. Man is using digital tablet while women are using cell phone. The view is through glass.

If you’re still paying off your student loans, does it make sense to buy a house before you’ve paid off your debt?

“Getting into a home can be a good way to build savings and to pay yourself rather than paying someone else for the cost of your housing,” says Matt Ribe, senior director of legislative affairs and corporate secretary for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “[But] given the interest rates that are typically associated with student loans, it’s not unreasonable to want to prioritize paying those when you’re just starting out.”

The bottom line? Limit your debt to what you can afford to pay. Here are some questions to ask yourself before making this important decision:

What’s the Interest Rate on Your Student Loans?

“Typically, subsidized government loans are in the 6.5 – 7% range,” says Ribe. “Private loans can be even higher. Even with refinanced loans, you’d be extremely lucky to get less than 5%.” The higher your interest rate, the greater your incentive to pay off your loans before you buy a home.

Are You Making Progress on Paying Down Your Loans?

“It’s possible with some of the income-driven student loan repayment plans to achieve a very low monthly payment,” Ribe says. “But if that payment is not covering the amount of interest that’s accruing every month, then you’re not making progress on repaying your student loan, which means you may have longer-term affordability issues. Don’t conflate your [lower] monthly student loan payment with room in your budget without doing a more thorough analysis.”

What’s Your Debt-to-Income Ratio?

To qualify for a mortgage, your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) should be less than 43%, but many experts recommend it be no higher than 36%. The lower your DTI, the lower the stress of monthly payments.

If your DTI exceeds 43%, focus on paying down your student loans and other debt before pursuing homeownership. “Credit card balances typically have the highest interest rates,” Ribe says, “so we certainly advocate paying those down first.”

Do you have a rainy-day fund?

Experts recommend you have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses put aside in the event of an emergency. As a homeowner, you’ll also want savings to cover inevitable repairs.

“The total cost of a home is much greater than your monthly payment,” says Ribe. “There are some maintenance and homeownership costs, mortgage insurance, property taxes, etc. … so make sure you have some money set aside after you cover your down payment to take care of those types of contingencies.”

If your monthly student loan payments are standing in the way of your ability to build a hefty rainy-day fund, consider holding off on a home purchase until your cash reserves can adequately cover repairs and other emergencies.

Are You Contributing to Your Retirement?

Purchasing a house may be a personal goal and may even be a good investment, but don’t let it completely replace your retirement savings. If your employer is matching your contribution, at a minimum you should be contributing at least as much as your employer match annually to ensure you aren’t leaving free money on the table.

Remember that contributions to your retirement account in your 20s provide far higher returns than those made in your 40s. That said, once you’ve covered your employer match, it may make sense for you to buy a home or pay off high-interest student loans instead of investing more in your retirement account. That will depend on your income, tax bracket, investment returns and other personal factors.

How’s Your Credit Score?

The best mortgage rates go to buyers with excellent credit scores (above 740). But if your score is below 680, you may be better off waiting to buy a home until you have a chance to improve it.

Paying your student loans on time each month and never missing payments helps you earn a better credit score. Student loans also add to your credit mix of installment and revolving loans, which can have a small beneficial impact on your credit score, according to FICO.

When you pay off your student loans in full, it helps lower your DTI, but your credit score may dip slightly if you don’t have another installment loan in good standing on the books. In this scenario, to keep a good mix of credit after your loans are paid off, you might consider applying for credit in the form of a mortgage – if your financial circumstances allow. If not, focus on paying down your other debt and getting your credit utilization below 30% on each account.

Can You Get a Good Mortgage Rate?

Usually, getting the most favorable mortgage terms requires 20% down, but not always. “There are a number of first-time homebuyer mortgage products that are attractive in terms of being able to purchase a home with a low down payment at a good rate,” says Ribe. Just make sure you plan to stay in the home long enough to build some equity.

If you can’t get a good mortgage rate, your focus should be on paying down your student loans and shrinking your DTI. This could increase your chances of getting a better rate when you finally apply for a home loan.

Do You Plan to Live in the Home for the Foreseeable Future?

The longer you plan to own a home, the greater your chances of building equity. If you aren’t quite sure where you want to settle down or envision a job transfer out of the area, for example, it may be best to wait.

“Anything less than five years, you’re going to want to rethink your options,” Ribe says. So, if there’s a pretty good chance you’ll move soon, focus on paying off your student loans.

In the end, choosing whether to pay off your student loans before buying a house is both a financial and personal decision. “There’s no one-size solution that fits everyone, so I encourage people thinking about this to speak with an expert counselor,” advises Ribe. You can find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website.

~Mary Purcell

Twenty-Five Tips for First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home can be nervewracking, especially if you’re a first-time home buyer. Not only is it probably the biggest purchase of your life, but the process is complicated and fraught with unfamiliar lingo and surprise expenses.

To make the first-time home buying journey a little less stressful, NerdWallet has compiled these 25 tips to help you navigate the process more smoothly and save money.

1. Start saving for a down payment early
It’s common to put 20% down, but many lenders now permit much less, and first-time home buyer programs allow as little as 3% down. But putting down less than 20% may mean higher costs and paying for private mortgage insurance, and even a small down payment can still be hefty. For example, a 5% down payment on a $200,000 home is $10,000. Play around with a down payment calculator to help you land on a goal amount. Some tips for saving for a down payment include setting aside tax refunds and work bonuses, setting up an automatic savings plan and using an app to track your progress.

2. Check your credit
When you’re taking out a mortgage loan, your credit will be one of the key factors in whether you’re approved, and it will help determine your interest rate and possibly the loan terms. So check your credit before you begin the home buying process. Dispute any errors that could be dragging down your credit score and look for opportunities to improve your credit, such as making a dent in any outstanding debts.

3. Pause any new credit activity
Any time you open a new credit account, whether to take out an auto loan or get a new credit card, the lender runs a hard inquiry, which can temporarily ding your credit score. If you’re applying for a mortgage soon, avoid opening new credit accounts to keep your score from dipping.

4. Determine how much home you can afford
Before you start looking for your dream home, you need to know what’s actually within your price range. Use a home affordability calculator to determine how much you can safely afford to spend.

5. Explore your down payment options
Struggling to come up with enough money for a down payment? First-time home buyer programs are plentiful, including federal mortgage programs with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that allow loans with only 3% down, plus Federal Housing Administration loans and Veterans Affairs loans. You could also try crowdfunding or asking if family members are willing to pitch in with a gift.

6. Research state and local assistance programs
In addition to federal programs, many states offer assistance programs for first-time home buyers with perks such as tax credits, low down payment loans and interest free loans up to a certain amount. Your county or municipality may also have first-time home buyer programs.

7. Budget for closing costs
In addition to saving for a down payment, you’ll need to budget for the money required to close your mortgage, which can be significant. Closing costs generally run between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. You can shop around and compare prices for certain closing expenses, such as homeowners insurance, home inspections and title searches. You can also defray costs by asking the seller to pay for a portion of your closing costs or negotiating your real estate agent’s commission.

8. Set aside more money for after move-in
Sorry, that’s not all you need to save up for before home shopping. Once you’ve saved for your down payment and budgeted for closing costs, you should also set aside a buffer to pay for what will go inside the house. This includes furnishings, appliances, rugs, updated fixtures, new paint and any other touches you’ll want to have when you move in.

9. Consider what type of property to buy
You may assume you’ll buy a single-family home, and that could be ideal if you want a large lot or a lot of room. But if you’re willing to sacrifice space for less maintenance and extra amenities, and you don’t mind paying a homeowners association fee, a condo or townhome could be a better fit.

10. Research mortgage options
Is a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage a given, or is another loan type right for you? If you can afford larger monthly payments, you can get a lower interest rate with a 20-year or 15-year fixed loan. Or you may prefer an adjustable-rate mortgage, which is riskier but guarantees a low interest rate for the first few years of your mortgage.

11. Compare mortgage rates
Many homebuyers get a rate quote from only one lender, but this often leaves money on the table. Comparing mortgage rates from at least three lenders can save you more than $3,500 over the first five years of your loan, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Get at least three quotes and compare both rates and fees.

12. Decide if paying points makes sense
Lenders often allow you to buy discount points, which means prepaying interest upfront to secure a lower interest rate. There may also be an option for negative points, in which the lender pays some of your closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate. How long you plan to stay in the house is one of the key factors in whether buying points makes sense. You’ll need to do some calculations or speak to a mortgage broker or loan officer to help you decide if buying points is worth it for you.

13. Get a preapproval letter
You can get prequalified, which simply gives you an estimate of how much a lender may be willing to lend based on your income and debts. But as you get closer to buying a home, it’s smart to get a preapproval, where the lender thoroughly examines your finances and confirms in writing how much it’s willing to lend you and at what terms. Having a preapproval letter in hand makes you look much more serious to a seller and can give you an upper hand over buyers who haven’t taken this step.

14. Hire the right buyers agent
You’ll be working closely with your real estate agent, so it’s essential that you find someone you get along with well. The right buyers agent should be highly skilled, motivated and knowledgeable about the area.

15. Stay under your preapproval limit
As your agent shows you homes, look for properties that cost a little less than the amount you were approved for. While you can technically afford that amount, it’s the ceiling — and it doesn’t account for a broken washer or dryer or any other expenses that arise during homeownership, especially right after you buy. Rather than maxing out that amount, set a lower purchase budget to leave yourself wiggle room for unexpected costs.

16. Pick the right neighborhood
Finding the right neighborhood is just as important as locating the right house. Research the schools, even if you don’t have kids, since that affects a home’s value. Look at local safety and crime statistics. How close are the nearest hospital, pharmacy, grocery store and other amenities you’ll use? Also, drive through the neighborhood on various days and at different times to check out traffic, noise and activity levels.

17. Make the most of an open house
Use this as another opportunity to scope out the neighborhood and your potential neighbors. During the open house, pay close attention to the home’s overall condition and look for any smells, stains or items in disrepair. Ask a lot of questions about the home, such as when it was built, when items were last replaced and how old key systems like the air conditioning and the heating are. If several other potential buyers are viewing the home at the same time as you, don’t hesitate to schedule a second or third visit to get a closer look and ask more questions.

18. Buy a home for tomorrow
It’s easy to look at properties that meet your current needs. But if you plan to start or expand your family, it may be preferable to buy a larger home you can grow into. Consider your future needs and wants and whether this home will suit them.

19. Let little things go
When you’re looking at a home, it’s easy to get caught up on superficial details like paint color, fixtures and carpets. These features are easy to change once the home is yours, so don’t let those little details get in the way.

20. Be prepared to compromise
It’s rare to find a house that’s perfect in every way, so think carefully about what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. Perhaps no walk-in closet in the master bedroom is a deal breaker, but an outdated guest bathroom will be tolerable until you can renovate it.

21. Make a strong offer
Your real estate agent can help you with this, but consider how much under or over the asking price you’re willing to pay to obtain your dream home. If there are multiple bids, think about tactics to win over the seller, such as a personalized letter.

22. Avoid a bidding war that blows your budget
In a competitive real estate market with limited inventory, it’s likely you’ll bidding on houses that get multiple offers. When you find a home you love, it’s tempting to make a high-priced offer that’s sure to win. But don’t let your emotions take over; stick to your purchase budget to avoid getting stuck with a mortgage payment you can’t afford.

23. Negotiate
A lot can be up for negotiation in the homebuying process, which can result in major savings. Are there any major repairs you can get the seller to cover, either by fully handling them or by giving you a credit adjustment at closing? Is the seller willing to pay for any of the closing costs? If you’re in a buyers market, you may find the seller will bargain with you to get the house off the market.

24. Buy homeowners insurance
Before you close on your new house, your lender will require you to buy homeowners insurance. Shop around and compare rates to find the best price. Look closely at what’s covered in the policies; going with a less expensive policy usually means fewer protections and more out-of-pocket expenses if you file a claim. Be aware that your insurer can drop your property if it thinks the home’s condition isn’t up to snuff, so you may have to be prepared to find a new policy quickly if it sends someone out to look at the property and isn’t happy with what it finds. Also, flood damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so if your new home is in a flood-prone area, you may want to buy separate flood insurance.

25. Know the limits of a home inspection
Once your offer is accepted, you’ll pay for a home inspection to examine the property’s condition inside and out. But not all inspections test for things like radon, mold or pests, so be sure you know what’s included. Make sure the inspector can access every part of the home, such as the roof and any crawl spaces. Attend the inspection and pay close attention. Don’t be afraid to ask your inspector to take a look — or a closer look — at something and ask questions. No inspector will answer the question, “Should I buy this house?”, so you’ll have to make this decision after reviewing the reports and seeing what the seller is willing to fix.

~Emily Starbuck Crone

The Seattle Area Housing Market: Big Demand, Little Supply

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Home buyers in the Seattle area are up against the toughest purchasing prospects in the country.

The Seattle Times cited the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, which showed a 12.3-percent year-over-year increase for single family home prices in the metro area in March. It’s the fastest growth in more than three years and easily outdistances increases in Portland (9.2 percent), Dallas (8.6 percent), Denver (8.4 percent) and Boston (7.7 percent).

Seattle also more than doubles the national average for price gains, which are at 5.8 percent.

Seattle-based real estate company Redfin released its Demand Index on Tuesday, and it shows what buyers are certainly learning the hard way as prime selling season approaches — there just aren’t enough houses available for interested parties.

Seattle is the most inventory-constrained metro, as measured by months of supply, but it also has the third smallest amount of inventory, following Oakland and San Francisco, Redfin said. Seattle posted the largest year-over-year decrease in inventory, down 35 percent from last April. In the same period, the number of Redfin customers making offers climbed by 36.9 percent, an indication that the market is more competitive for buyers this year than it was last year.

“There’s no indication that this market is going to see a drastic increase in supply or a drop in demand, so waiting isn’t an option for a serious buyer,” said Redfin Seattle agent Kyle Moss in the company’s blog post. “People intent on purchasing this season should be discerning and focus on the one or two criteria that are most important to them, like commute time and/or schools. From there, carve out a list of homes that meet your qualifications and work alongside an agent who has experience winning offers in competitive situations to build and execute a competitive strategy that fits your budget.”

That inventory crunch, in a city attracting thousands of new well-paid tech workers to companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Expedia and others, is leading to the highest rate of bidding wars among the cities that Redfin tracks in other hot markers. In Seattle in April, 88.7 percent of homes received multiple offers, outpacing Los Angeles (79.3 percent), Oakland (78.6 percent), San Diego (77.5 percent) and Washington, D.C. (73.9 percent) among others.

The Times said extra offers often drive prices higher, and the typical single-family house in the city last month sold for a record $722,000.

~Kurt Schlosser, Geekwire

Seattle’s Hot Housing Market

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Seattle home values continued their seemingly endless ascent last month, reaching a median sale price $630,800. That’s up 14 percent from sales in March 2016.

The numbers are even more extreme when you exclude condos. The median sale price for houses in Seattle in March was $700,000, nearly a 10 percent increase year-over-year. For condos — an increasingly attractive option for buyers working with less cash — the median sale price in March was $434,000.

There are a number of factors contributing to Seattle’s feverish housing market. One is, undeniably, a rapidly growing population of high-paid workers drawn to the region for tech jobs. Those people need homes and can afford to pay more for them.

“We are seeing more multiple offers than ever on new listings, and all cash offers are dominating the winning bids,” John Deely, Northwest MLS chairman and principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain, said in a press release. “Last year they were advising a buyer to bid 10 percent above the list price, this year they’re advising 20 percent over in certain Seattle neighborhoods.”

These trends aren’t just restricted to Seattle. In Greater King County, the median price for all residences rose to $530,000, a more than 15 percent increase year-over-year. For single-family homes, it was about $600,000. Snohomish and Pierce counties saw eight and 11 percent increases, respectively.

~Monika Nickelsberg

Will White House Uncertainty Affect Housing Market?

content_dreamstime_m_27154591.jpgWindermere Real Estate Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, was interviewed by real estate industry news leader, Inman News, on what impact recent White House turmoil could have on the U.S. housing market. This is what he had to say:

Gardner says housing will be isolated from recent events, at least for now. “Financial markets hate one thing more than anything else, and that is uncertainty,” Gardner told Inman. “Yesterday’s sell-off was a clear response to the appointment of a special counsel and markets were clearly on edge.

“As far as housing goes, the downside will likely be muted, at least for the time being. Yesterday’s news headlines cast further doubt on the new administration’s ability to rapidly enact the legislation that prompted investors to make big bets on higher stocks and interest rates.

“Unsurprisingly, investors pushed stocks and interest rates lower following the news. This triggered mortgage rates to drop significantly, as part of the broad-based sell-off in equities. At least for the time being, I do not see any long-term housing related issues following the political turmoil that currently embroils Washington.”

You can find insights from other industry leaders in the full article here: White House Uncertainty