This is the Hottest Real Estate Market in the Country–by Far

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Home prices have been on the rise nationally since February, but no area of the country has seen a spike like the Pacific Northwest.

The price of single family homes in the Seattle area has soared 13.5% in the past 12 months. That’s more than twice the national average of 5.9%.

The median single family home in Seattle, as of August, costs $730,000 – though residents willing to brave the 1.5 hour (one way) commute from Snohomish or Pierce County can find a home for $455,000 or $313,000, respectively.

The numbers, from the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, show Portland in second place nationally, with an average 7.6% increase.

Demand for homes in Seattle has greatly outstripped supply, which has fueled the steep increases. And prices aren’t expected to drop anytime soon, since there’s not a lot of private undeveloped land left for builders to create new subdivisions.

The 12-month surge is the largest increase in Seattle housing prices since 2006, in the midst of the housing bubble. Since 2012, when the market bottomed out, average home costs have increased 79% – and they’re now 20% above their previous peak at the height of the bubble.

Chris Morris, Fortune

 

From Boeing to Microsoft, Amazon to Starbucks, how Seattle’s business innovation has shaped the world

Seattle businesses attract creatives with an irresistible combination of great jobs, outdoor amenities and a progressive workplace culture that now includes a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Great companies are the driving engine that grew Seattle into a booming creative mecca, and their forward-thinking CEOs – especially Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – are the city’s rock stars.


Here’s a look at how the most important Seattle companies grew, and how they continue to shape the city’s future.

The builders

Before The Boeing Co, company historian Michael Lombardi notes, Seattle was a logging hamlet. William E Boeing changed that when he founded his commercial aircraft company here in 1916, just two years after the first ever commercial flight. “Seattle and Boeing grew up together,” Lombardi says. As Boeing’s fortunes rose and fell, so did the city’s.

During the early 1970s, Boeing saw a big government contract end, and Seattle unemployment shot to 17%. One wag posted a billboard that read, “Will the last person leaving Seattle – turn out the lights.”

Boeing bounced back, thanks to its diversity. While most aircraft firms specialize in commercial planes, spacecraft or military projects, Boeing pursues all three, Lombardi notes. As China and other Asian nations visited to purchase planes, Seattle became a more international city. Today, Boeing has roughly 80,000 local employees, and the 20 to 50-year production timeframe for airplane models means Boeing brings economic stability to the region, he notes.

Another constant presence is 116-year-old Nordstrom. The chain grew to nearly 350 stores by making shopping special, with live piano music, in-store restaurants and legendary sales staff, who meticulously note and remember customers’ preferences.

“Nordstrom made Seattle the customer-service capital of the United States,” says Robert Spector, a longtime local business observer who has authored books on Amazon and Nordstrom, including The Nordstrom Way to Customer Experience Excellence (Wiley Sept 2017).

Ever an innovator, Nordstrom jumped into e-commerce ahead of competitors, in 1998. Last year, the company brought its store experience and website together with a Reserve & Try feature, which lets customers choose items online to try on at their local store.

A top Seattle style-setter, Nordstrom added more than a dozen exclusive labels to its remodeled downtown flagship store last year, including Louis Vuitton and Beyoncé’s Ivy Park. Nordstrom is one of the last department store brands to retain leaders from the founding family, notes author Spector. He says their success stems from the Nordstroms’ habit of making each new generation start on the sales floor.

While Nordstrom gave Seattle fashion flair, REI served rugged outdoor explorers. Founded in 1938, the company’s flagship store on Seattle’s Capitol Hill was a popular early tourist attraction for its then-rare selection of affordable mountaineering gear, says Alex Thompson, REI’s vice-president for brand stewardship and impact.

Today, REI doesn’t just sell gear – it’s about getting people outside, offering more than 250,000 outdoor classes annually, Thompson notes. The company’s new Force of Nature initiative facilitates women-led outdoor events, and is prompting gear-makers to design with women in mind.

With its co-op ownership model and commitment to sustainability, REI is about more than profits. An example: after opening a zero water and energy-use distribution center in the Arizona desert last year, the company made the plans public, so others could use them. Spreading the gospel, many former REI execs now lead other Seattle outdoor organizations such as The Mountaineers, while former chief executive officer Sally Jewell served as Secretary of the US Department of the Interior.

“There’s a strong correlation between working at REI and going off to do great things,” says Thompson.

The innovators

Seattle’s over-dependence on Boeing jobs ended in the 1980s, after Bill Gates and Paul Allen brought their software startup to town. When Microsoft Windows was introduced in 1983, it became an instant hit, ushering in the age of the personal computer. In 1986, the company settled into its Redmond campus, which now employs more than 46,000 people. Along the way, the ‘Microsoft effect’ brought affluence to the Eastside, which grew its own downtown in Bellevue.

“When I arrived in Seattle in the late 1970s, before Microsoft took off, it was still just a big town,” says Spector. “Now it’s a medium-sized city.”

One thing this chilly city loves is coffee. Howard Schultz saw Seattle’s potential for an Italian-style coffeehouse scene and bought the original Starbucks store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1987. Suddenly, Seattleites couldn’t get to work without a $5 latte.

“I think the brilliance of Howard Schultz,” says MOHAI’s Garfield, “was that he took a prosaic item – regular coffee – and made it an essential luxury, and something that people are passionate about.”

While Starbucks exported Seattle coffee culture to more than 22,000 locations around the globe, the company also raised the bar on employee benefits. The chain offered full health benefits to part-timers in 1988, and added college scholarships in 2015. From recycled cups to ethically sourced beans, Starbucks strives to do well by doing good.

The disruptors

As the 21st century neared, a new breed of entrepreneurs arrived in Seattle. Leading the charge was former Wall Street internet project manager Jeff Bezos, who thought consumers would buy products on the internet.

From its first book sale in 1995, Amazon.com touched off an online shopping revolution. Locally, Microsoft executive Rich Barton would follow suit, spinning travel-booking website Expedia out of Microsoft in 1999, and co-founding real-estate site Zillow in 2006.

Amazon would also foster a new, results-oriented corporate culture that became the norm for local tech startups. Sure, kayak to work, bring your dog, and work when you want – as long as your projects get done. “My team set their own schedule,” says corporate communications manager Sam Kennedy.

It must be working: today, while many traditional retailers struggle, Amazon is hiring 100,000 more workers nationally. Locally, its hiring boom is single-handedly spiking home prices.

As Microsoft reshaped Seattle’s Eastside, so Amazon’s sprawling campus is transforming the once-industrial South Lake Union neighborhood north-east of downtown. Google is building a major branch office nearby, and restaurants, condos and shops have sprouted.

In all, Seattle’s companies bring the practical, progressive lifestyle not just to the city but to the world, says MOHAI’s Garfield. Visitors fly home in Boeing planes, on which they’re served Starbucks coffee. Often, they’re wearing Nordstrom dresses or hauling an REI backpack, while they shop on Amazon or use Microsoft Office on their laptops.

“Every iconic Seattle company is about our lifestyle, ethic and culture,” he says. “It’s hard to think of another US city where you can say that.”

~Carol Tice, The Drum

Real Estate Heat Index October 2017

The greater Seattle area is still experiencing a seller’s market. Although the market doesn’t seem as frenzied as it was in the spring, home prices continue to rise at a rate above the national level.

Click on the link below to view Seattle’s Heat Index for October 2017:

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Five Steps to Take Before Buying a Home

When you’re considering buying your first home, you’re probably full of excitement about achieving the American dream. Unfortunately, this dream could turn into a nightmare if you haven’t made sure that you’re financially ready for the costs of becoming a homeowner. Before you call a realtor, take these five steps to get all your ducks in a row.

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1. Calculate what you can comfortably spend

The last thing you want to do is make yourself “house poor” by spending more of your income on a home purchase than you should. The “affordability standard” for housing is that you should spend no more than 30% of your income on housing costs (including insurance and property taxes), while many mortgage lenders prefer that your housing cost is no greater than 28% of your income.

Your outstanding debts can also impact the amount you can spend on a home. Most lenders want a total debt-to-income ratio — including your mortgage payments and other debts — to be around 36% or less, although you can still get a standard mortgage with a ratio as high as 43%.

This means if your income is $50,000, you could reasonably afford about $1,170 per month for your total housing costs if you stuck to the 28% rule — assuming you didn’t have a substantial amount of other debt that would push your total monthly payments above the recommended 36% of income. If we also assume you can pay 20% down and qualify for an interest rate of 4%, then you could potentially afford a home price of up to $250,000. That may or may not be a realistic price in your area, and you may want to aim lower if you have other sizable debts.

2. Save a down payment of 20%

In our example above, we factored in having a 20% down payment when calculating the price of the home you could afford. Paying at least 20% of the value of the home up front is vital, because it allows you to avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI). PMI insures your lender in the event that you’re unable to make payments and the lender must foreclose on you. On a $200,000 loan, PMI could cost you $100 a month or more, depending on how much you paid up front — and you could be paying it for several years.

You’re stuck with PMI until you pay your loan down to 78% or less of the home’s original value. Once you prove to your lender that you’ve reached that milestone, your lender is required to drop the PMI requirement. .

If you don’t have a down payment, not only will you waste thousands of dollars on PMI and additional interest payments, but you’ll also put yourself at substantial risk. When you make a 20% down payment on a home, the value of the house would have to fall more than 20% for the home to be worth less than you owe on it. If you only make a tiny down payment, however, even a slight downturn in the market could mean you’re underwater — i.e., your home is worth less than you still owe the bank. This makes it difficult or impossible to sell unless you can bring cash to the real estate closing for the difference between what your house sells for and what you still owe.

3. Save an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of living expenses

When you’re a homeowner, you are responsible for everything that goes wrong in your house. Instead of calling a landlord when the furnace breaks or the pipes freeze, you have to call — and pay for — a repair man. If the problems are costly to fix, or can’t be fixed, you’re the one on the hook. If you don’t have money set aside to cover maintenance, repairs, and replacements, then you’ll have to use credit. You don’t want to be paying interest on your new fridge for the next 10 years, so make sure you have an emergency fund to cover the many costs of being a homeowner.

Not only can an emergency fund help you pay for surprise repairs, but it can also ensure that you don’t lose your home in the event that an illness, job loss, or other crisis puts a major strain on your household finances. If you cannot pay your mortgage because your income has taken a hit, you could be foreclosed on, lose your house, and end up with ruined credit. You don’t want this to happen, so save up enough money to pay the mortgage for several months in case something goes wrong.

4. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan

When you have your financial house in order, it’s time to prove to the bank that you’re ready for the responsibility of taking on a mortgage. You want to get pre-approved by your chosen financial institution before you start shopping for a home. Getting pre-approved means you’ll have a clear idea of what the bank will lend you so you don’t shop outside of your price range. You’ll also be taken much more seriously by real estate agents and any potential sellers to whom you make an offer. Some sellers won’t even consider offers from someone who isn’t pre-approved, because there’s no way to know whether the financing will be available to complete the sale.

If you want your bids to be competitive and you want to know you’re shopping for houses that are priced right, provide your financial information to the bank before you start house shopping and get a pre-approval letter to take with you.

5. Find a buyer’s agent

Although you can technically buy a house without an agent, it’s usually a bad idea to try it — especially if it’s your first home. An agent can help you spot red flags that should send you running away from a prospective home. Agents know the market and can help you make a reasonable offer so you don’t overpay, and they can also guide you through the steps of the buying process, like getting a home inspection.

You’ll want to be sure you find a buyer’s agent, rather than letting the seller’s agent represent both you and the seller. A buyer’s agent is focused only on your interests and has lots of experience helping homebuyers find the house of their dreams. If you’ve already made sure you’re financially ready before calling a realtor, your agent can help you make the buying process low-stress and successful.

Seattle Among Top U.S. Cities for Sellers to Get Greatest Return on Investment

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The problem for homeowners who decide to sell in a hot real estate market like Seattle, is that it turns you into a buyer in a very competitive environment. But for those who do decide to cash in, perhaps because they’re leaving the area for someplace cheaper, there’s big money to be gained in Seattle and other cities across the West.

A new analysis by Zillow found that sellers who had held onto their home for a little bit of time are seeing huge returns on their investment. Oakland and Portland lead the way, followed by San Jose, Calif., Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle.

Zillow reports that the typical seller in Oakland in 2016 sold their home for an average of $590,000 after living in it for just over seven years. That’s an increase of 78 percent more than what they initially paid. In Portland, the typical 2016 seller sold for about $145,000 more than what they paid nine years earlier, a 65 percent gain.

Seattle sellers, bowing to dollar signs and the influx of well-paid technology workers looking to purchase in the area, gained 53.1 percent or $185,000 on a 2016 sale for a home in which they lived for an average of about nine years.

“The housing market can change a lot in 10 years, and you see that reflected in this top 10 list,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said in a news release. “Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions people will make in their lifetime, and it really paid off for sellers in these cities. Every city on this list has been growing extremely fast over the past decade, with the majority passing peak home value hit during the housing bubble. It’s extremely difficult to time the market, but if you’re a longtime homeowner in one of these cities, you could potentially see a great return on your investment.”

That ROI potential doesn’t appear to be slowing, especially in Seattle where home values rose 15.5 percent year over year. That figure makes the city the fastest growing on Zillow’s top 10 list, followed by Boston and Sacramento.

~Kurt Schlosser, GeekWire

U.S. Home Prices Surged in June, Led by Seattle

FILE - This Monday, July 10, 2017, file photo shows a house for sale, in North Andover, Mass. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for June is released. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

U.S. home prices climbed higher in June with gains that are eclipsing income growth – creating affordability pressures for would-be buyers.

The Standard & Poor’s CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.7 percent in June, according to a Tuesday report. The separate national average rose as well, putting it 4.3 points above its housing bubble-era peak in July 2006.

The price increases are different from the bubble period, when subprime mortgages led to a housing bust. There is a shortage of properties for sale, causing the prices to steadily rise at more than double the pace of average hourly earnings. Buyers are also relying on historically low mortgage rates to ease the affordability pressures. Cheaper borrowing costs have kept buyer demand strong despite the price increases.

“Given current economic conditions and the tight housing market, an immediate reversal in home price trends appears unlikely,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The largest price gain over the past year occurred in the Seattle metro area with a 13.4 percent increase year-over-year. Portland, Oregon and Dallas recorded sizable price growth.

But other metro areas are seeing a more tempered increase in home values.

Prices rose less than 4 percent in the more expensive New York City and Washington, DC markets. They increased just 2.9 percent in Cleveland and 3.2 percent in Chicago.

The National Association of Realtors said last week that the number of existing homes listed for sale has plummeted 9 percent over the past 12 months to 1.92 million. Because buyers are competing for fewer homes, the Realtor’s median sales price has surged 6.2 percent to $258,300.

Supporting demand have been relatively low mortgage rates.

The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.86 percent last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. Average rates have declined in recent months, in line with Treasury bond yields, as uncertainty has surrounded President Donald Trump’s tax and infrastructure policies and their ability to stimulate faster economic growth.

~Josh Boak, Associated Press

Snohomish County home prices reach new high — again

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EVERETT — Housing prices continue to climb in Snohomish County reaching never-seen-before heights.

Median prices for houses and condos reached $430,000 for July, up from $385,000 for the same month a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Services.

That’s an 11.7 percent increase year-over-year. It’s also a $10,000 increase on the same numbers in June, when the median price was $420,000.

“We should be entering the summer doldrums, but I don’t see that happening,” Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-south Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood, said in a statement.

The median price for closed sales for all homes surpassed $400,000 for the first time this year in April. Prices have been rising steadily ever since.

Last month, a news story in the Orange County Register in Anaheim, California, reported that Snohomish County trailed only King County in the nation for the shortest amount of time a home was on the market. The report citing numbers from Realtor.com said that houses sold in 20 days. Houses in King County sold in 19 days. Arapahoe County east of Denver came in third at 23 days.

Home prices vary greatly with location, with homes in south Snohomish County costing far more than homes in the north.

Almost all of the county saw double-digit price increases year-over-year. The biggest jump was for the Multiple Listing Service area along the U.S. 2 corridor. There, housing prices rose to $433,000, up from $322,475 a year ago, or a 34.3 percent increase.

The only listing service area that did not see a double-digit increase was the one around Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace in south Snohomish County. There, prices reached $470,000, up from $444,000 a year ago, or an increase of just under 6 percent.

The median prices for houses alone is $453,000 for all of the county. The median prices for condos is $323,475, according to the numbers released Monday.

One of the reasons for the climbing prices is a lack of inventory. Only 1,759 Snohomish County homes were on the market for July. That’s down 10.7 percent from the same month a year ago when there were 1,969 homes.

“Inventory remains low, but prices and demand continue to increase, prompting murmurs of a looming bubble,” Haines said, adding, “Some say yes, and just as many are saying no” when asked about the likelihood of a bubble.

In some areas, inventory is showing some signs of growth, Haines noted, but it’s still “way below what would be considered anywhere near normal. Frankly, I am not even sure anymore exactly what normal is — perhaps the current low inventory status is the new normal.”

~Jim Davis, Everett Herald Net

Six Ways to Rustle Up a Down Payment for a Home

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The down payment. It’s the only thing keeping you from a home of your own. You’ve got a good job, you’re paying down debt, and mortgage rates are still remarkably low. And rental rates are getting ridiculous.

Let’s see if we can break down this home buying barrier.

It doesn’t always take 20% down

If you’re a first-time home buyer, the down payment hurdle you have to clear may be quite a bit lower than you think. Traditionally, lenders have preferred 20% down, but a lot of low down payment options are available, especially to first-time buyers.

Mortgages guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs or Agriculture Department can be go-to low down payment loans. In fact, mortgages backed by the VA and the USDA — for those who qualify — usually don’t require a down payment at all. A funding fee is charged on VA loans, but even that can be rolled into your monthly loan payment.

You could get an FHA-backed loan with as little as 3.5% down, but you’d have to pay mortgage insurance to help lenders defray the costs of loans that default.

Conventional loans, which aren’t backed by the government, also offer low down payment programs to first-time buyers. Down payments of just 3% are common. Some lenders will offer 0% down loans. Mortgage insurance will enter the picture here, too.

However, a lower down payment usually means you’ll pay a higher interest rate.

Crowdfunding a down payment

Crowdfunding is the ultimate dream for snagging sudden money from strangers, other than the lottery. It can be done, but there are some catches.

First, you’re not going to get this done on Kickstarter; personal fundraising isn’t allowed there. Sites like GoFundMe are best suited for hard-luck appeals like medical expenses for life-threatening diseases, so it’s unlikely you’ll get a lot of help there when you’re pitching to raise money for a mortgage down payment. But who knows?

FeatherTheNest.com might be an option to consider. It lets you build an online profile for a gift registry where contributions to your down payment can be funneled into a linked bank account. The service seems particularly suited for engaged couples and newlyweds. The transaction fees are pretty stout, though — totaling about 8% on each donation.

Family down payment gifts and loans

Getting help from family members might be another way to go.

Garrett Clayton, CEO of AmCap Mortgage in Houston, cautions that receiving a gift toward a down payment takes a “full circle” of documentation to satisfy a mortgage lender’s requirements. The donors will have to verify in writing not only that they made the gift but that they have the financial ability to make such a donation. That will require them to provide bank statements as proof, along with a letter confirming that the donation is a gift and not a loan.

“From a lender perspective, if it is something that will be required to be paid back, then we would need to take those terms of repayment into the calculation of the borrower’s [debt-to-income] ratio, to make sure they still qualify,” Clayton says.

However, while properly documented gifts are acceptable to lenders, you might not want to rely exclusively on the kindness of family members, he adds.

“We see that borrowers that have none of their own money in the transaction are way more likely to default on loans,” Clayton says. “I would much rather do a loan to a 600 FICO client that has 100% of their own down payment, versus a 780 client that is getting 100% [of their down payment as a] gift.”

State and local down payment assistance

Here’s a little-known source of down payment help: state and local assistance programs. Rob Chrane, CEO of Atlanta-based DownPaymentResource.com, says the service has identified close to 2,500 initiatives across the nation.

There are programs in every state, implemented by government agencies, nonprofits, foundations and even employers. Assistance can have a geographic focus as wide as the nation or as narrow as a city — all the way to hyperlocal initiatives targeted as tightly as neighborhoods, and even house by house.

Programs change often; they’re funded, defunded and sometimes funded again.

Often, it’s a matter of matching a property to a program, Chrane says, based on a home’s location and price. Assistance requirements typically set a maximum sale price for a county or other geographic definition. Obviously, these programs aren’t meant to help borrowers buy million-dollar homes or vacation properties, he says.

“There’s typically some maximum household income limit,” Chrane adds. That can vary by location, as well as the number of members in a household, he says. Even statewide programs will have income requirements that are often higher in metropolitan areas and lower in rural areas.

A 2016 study by Attom Data Solutions determined that the typical down payment assistance program benefit, calculated over the life of a loan, was $17,000. The total combined an average savings of nearly $6,000 on the down payment with over $11,000 in monthly house payment savings over the life of a loan.

Benefits can be layered. Chrane says users of the website who were eligible for assistance qualified for an average of eight programs last year.

“There are some myths and misperceptions around this,” Chrane says. “Sometimes people think, ‘Oh, this is only for really low-cost housing, in targeted census tracts, distressed neighborhoods…and very low-income households. It’s much more widely available than that.”

Tapping retirement accounts

If you have a retirement nest egg, you might be tempted to tap a portion of it to help with the down payment. Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans often allow for penalty-free hardship withdrawals or loans. But if you’re under 59½, you’ll pay income taxes and a 10% penalty on the withdrawal. And loans can trigger an immediate repayment — or taxes and a penalty — if you lose your job.

IRA withdrawals for home purchases are allowed, up to $10,000. Roth withdrawals are tax-free and without penalty if you’ve had the account for at least five years. Tapping a traditional IRA will trigger income taxes.

The most obvious strategy
There’s always the spend-less-than-you-earn-and-save-it strategy to building a down payment fund. Maybe a few savings tips can help you there.

More than likely, it may take a combination of strategies to get you into a home with a decent down payment — and still have a little left over to cover those unexpected homeownership expenses.

~Hal Bundrick, NerdWallet

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