Improving supply helps slow escalating home prices in Western Washington

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House-hunters in Western Washington can choose from the largest supply of homes in three years, and they are facing fewer bidding wars, according to officials from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

New statistics from the MLS show prices appear to be moderating (up about 6.7 percent overall), but brokers say they are not bracing for a bubble, or even anticipating a quick shift to a buyers’ market.

“There have been incremental increases in listing inventory the past few months,” noted Gary O’Leyar, the designated broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties, but, he added, “By no means have inventory levels reached a point that is deemed to be a balanced market.”

Area-wide, the number of active listings of single family homes and condos (combined) rose 16.2 percent, but 16 counties reported year-over-year drops in inventory; of those, nine had double-digit decreases from twelve months ago. At month end there were 18,580 active listings, the highest level since September 2015 when buyers could choose from 19,724 listings. Compared to July, inventory was up nearly 11 percent.

The latest numbers from Northwest MLS show wide-ranging changes in the volume of active listings when comparing the 23 counties in the report. In Clark County, inventory doubled from a year ago to lead the list based on percentage gains. King County was runner-up with a 74.3 percent increase, rising from 3,329 active listings a year ago to 5,803 at the end of August.

System-wide there is about two months of supply, but less than that in the four-county Puget Sound region – well below the “balanced market” range of four-to-six months.

Supply was replenished in part by the addition of 11,994 new listings during the month, up slightly from the year-ago total of 11,781.

A slower pace of sales also contributed to the boost in supply. Brokers reported 10,109 mutually accepted offers last month, a drop of 14.8 percent from a year ago when they tallied 11,867 pending sales.

“The Puget Sound residential housing market remains positive, though the market has transitioned from a frenzied state to one of strong sales activity,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “We are seeing stability in the affordable and mid-price ranges in all market areas,” he said, citing “one of the best job growth markets in the nation” and favorable interest rates as contributing factors.

George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties, commented on buyers “still sitting on the sidelines despite clear indicators.” He believes, “This is the best time in three years to be aggressive in the marketplace” given rising inventory, a significant increase in the number of cancelled and expired listings, and more incentives being offered by builders. “We are now seeing price reductions in new home communities as builders try to move inventory of completed homes,” he noted.

With expanding inventories “buyers are definitely taking more time to make a purchase,” stated Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. “This creates a declining curve in pending transactions compared to last year,” he explained. MLS figures show last month’s pending sales in the four-county region were the fewest during August since 2012.

In the four-county Puget Sound region, pending sales were down more than 20 percent, ranging from a 12 percent decline in Pierce County to a drop of more than 23 percent in King County. Referring to King County’s sparse, 1.9 months of supply, Grady emphasized it’s “still a seller-oriented market” with prices continuing to rise at a faster clip than the rate of inflation and the historical 10-year average sales price increase of 3-to 3.5 percent annually.

Unlike most counties, Thurston County nearly matched year-ago levels for both pending and closed sales. “Last month was the second best ever for closed sales in our area,” noted Ken Anderson, president/owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen in Olympia. He attributes the achievement to the area’s relative affordability. “We continue to present the most affordable options when compared to the other major counties along I-5,” Anderson stated, adding “Demand is very high.”

With more homes on the market in the tri-county area, growth of home prices has slowed, noted OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. “Buyers are under less pressure to bid on any home that comes on the market,” he remarked. “Despite what some of the headlines may read, this is no cause for panic; in fact, it’s good news because it’s an indication that we are moving closer to a more balanced market,” he suggested.

The median sales price on the 9,288 completed sales of single family homes and condos during August was $405,000, up nearly 6.9 percent from the year-ago figure of $379,000. All but one county reported price gains, including a dozen counties with double-digit increases; the exception (San Juan County) had only a small 1.7 percent decrease.

For single family homes, the median sales price was $415,000 overall, a 6.4 percent year-over-year increase. Single family homes in King County continue to command the highest price at $669,000, up 2.9 percent from the year-ago price of $650,000, but down from May when a countywide median price of $726,275 was reached, the highest so far this year.

Condo prices also rose by 8.1 percent area wide and 11.3 percent in King County. That segment also experienced a slowdown in sales, with closed transactions off by about 15 percent. Inventory shows signs of improving, with active listings jumping nearly 58 percent, but there was still only about 1.7 months of supply at the end of August.

“The real estate sky isn’t falling,” said Dick Beeson, who acknowledged the “huge increase in inventory the past few months speaks volumes about the anxiety levels sellers have as they try to get all they can before the market crashes, which it won’t. The Northwest still has the best economy in America,” Beeson emphasized.

Why the run-up in listings?, Beeson asked rhetorically. Sellers have read about exorbitant prices and the need for inventory, he explained, adding “I guess we should have schooled them a bit about a phasing in process and not to bunch up at the listing house door.” The velocity of the market is still strong, with well priced and conditioned homes still selling in a matter of days or a few weeks, Beeson stated. “Only now there are just 3-to-5 offers, not 50.”

Several brokers commented on the importance of realistic pricing. “You can’t underprice a home in today’s market, but you can overprice it,” Beeson stated.

Northwest MLS director John Deely agreed. “Sellers should be careful to avoid overpricing as savvy buyers are wary of properties pushing the upper end of the market. Properly priced properties will still see heavy activity in this market. Sellers of homes that linger on the market are reducing their prices to spur activity.”

Deely also said many buyers are coming back into the market but being more cautious by presenting offers with standard contingencies such as inspection and financing provisions.

“Homes that are priced and presented right are still garnering multiple offers, but unlike the past few years, buyers aren’t having to waive protections with their offers,” Scott said.

“Pricing is becoming increasingly important,” Grady emphasized. According to his analysis, recent listings are averaging 22 cumulative days on the market, while other properties listed prior to August are now averaging almost 50 days of marketing time. “This points to pricing and how sellers may have overpriced their homes in the spring and early summer and now have to adjust their asking price.”

Affordability is an ongoing concern, particularly for first-time buyers wanting to live near job centers. In King County, for example, nearly 60 percent of the current inventory of homes and condos has an asking price of $750,000 or higher. Despite that challenge, brokers are upbeat about what Scott describes as a more “normal pace” with buyers having greater selection and availability.

“Even with some doom and gloom about sales being down in many counties, inventory doubling in some areas, and appreciation holding at around 8 percent for the year, our market is still very healthy and recovering from the depleted inventory of the past three years,” remarked Moorhead.

NW Multiple Listing Service

Nearly 2-year streak broken: Seattle no longer leads nation in home price increases

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After 21 months of leading the Case-Shiller’s home price index, the latest report shows that Las Vegas has overtaken Seattle as the nation’s hottest housing market. It reflects the mood Seattle has been seeing so far, with many realtors and reports expressing a bit of a slowdown in the market.

Case Shiller’s report has a bit of a lag, this month’s report uses June numbers, so time will tell if Seattle’s summer season brought a little more frenzy to the market. But even the most recent Northwest Multiple Listing Service report (on July’s figures) has seen a steadily improving supply, and slight drop in sales.

“In Seattle and King County supply is at the highest level since first quarter 2015, which has me thinking about the longevity of seller luxuries like offer review dates, pre-inspections, and escalation clauses,” Robert Wasser, owner of Prospera Real Estate and an officer of the Northwest MLS board of directors, said in the report.

“People are taking notice of the evolving real estate landscape ̶ even my mom tells me she’s noticing more for sale signs!”

However, King County is still well below a balanced market of supply of four to five months; right now King County is boasting about 1.5 months. And in Case-Shiller’s latest report the metro area registered a 12.8 percent increase in single-family home prices in June compared to a year earlier.

But either way, the latter number dropped from 13.6 percent, and the city is now enjoying its time as number two on the hottest cities nationally according to Case-Shiller.

~Zosha Millman, Seattle PI

Buyers see some hope in cooling Seattle real estate market

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Catherine Horne and Joe Hicks rent a home in Maple Valley. And while they like it, they’d rather be homeowners.

And it’s been a frustrating couple years to be a home buyer in the Seattle market.

“It’s tough, it is,” said Horne.

“Lo and behold, it turned out it wasn’t as easy as we thought it was going to be,” said Hicks.

After losing several homes to same-day cash offers, they started to give up. They decided to spend another year renting and wait to see what the market did.

“Time and time and time again, it’d get pulled out from underneath us,” said Hicks.

They felt overwhelmed watching home prices climb.

“That was part of it, like gosh, two years ago this house was worth $400,000, now it’s $600,000,” said Hicks. “Like boy, I wish we could have got in on that.”

It’s why they’re interested to see the latest trend in the Seattle housing market – Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas calls it a normalization.

“Obviously, we’ve become accustomed to having the hottest housing market in the nation,” he said. “That’s rapidly shifting.”

New data from Zillow released Thursday illustrates his point. Researchers found home values appreciated 9.1 percent in the last year, down 14.2 percent from July 2017.

Terrazas noted that still above the historical average – around 5.5 percent.

“It’s still tough, yeah,” he said. “We used to be the fast housing value appreciation, now we’re number 12, so certainly things are starting to slow down.”

He predicts appreciation will continue to slow in the next year to approximately 6-7%.

Seattle has now been passed by cities like Dallas and Atlanta, he said.

“I think it’s a signal of buyers being stretched, a signal of changes in our tax laws,” he said. “Which kind of reduced those benefits to ownership, especially in inexpensive markets.”

The Zillow research also found median rent rose just .3 percent over the past year to $2,173. Last summer, rents were appreciating 5.3 percent annually. Terrazas noted that might be relieving pressure on people that might be looking to purchase homes.

There’s also more housing inventory on the market – 13.2 percent more.

~Michael Crowe, King5News

Homebuyers Encouraged,”But Still On Edge” While Sellers Face Reality Check

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“Home sellers throughout the Seattle region are experiencing a reality check and the days of multiple offers are days of the past,” was how one director with Northwest Multiple Listing Service summarized the market upon reviewing the statistical report for July.

New figures from Northwest MLS show year-over-year improvement in inventory (up 6.5 percent), but modest drops on both pending sales (down slightly more than 7 percent) and closed sales (down 3.4 percent). Despite those drops, prices rose 8.64 percent across the MLS service area that spans 23 counties.

Several industry leaders commented on the steadily improving supply. The number of active listings system-wide totaled 16,773 at the end of July, the largest volume since September 2016. System-wide there is 1.8 months of supply, the highest level since October 2016.

“In Seattle and King County supply is at the highest level since first quarter 2015,” remarked Robert Wasser, owner of Prospera Real Estate and an officer of the Northwest MLS board of directors. “People are taking notice of the evolving real estate landscape — even my mom tells me she’s noticing more for sale signs!”

“There continues to be better news for buyers,” agreed Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. He noted the inventory in King County has doubled since March from 0.8 months to 1.5 months of supply, but added “While this is significant, we are still well below a balanced market of 4-to-5 months of inventory.”

King County’s number of active listings surged nearly 48 percent from a year ago, rising from 3,465 active listings to 5,116. “It has been a long time coming, but we finally have some solidly good news for buyers in the Puget Sound area,” commented OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. He noted the number of single family homes (excluding condos) for sale in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in July was up 10.4 percent compared to June and up 20.5 percent year-over-year. “The increase in listings is clearly having a calming effect on prices while also giving buyers in the region somewhat of a reprieve from the frantic market of months past,” added Jacobi.

In his comments about sellers experiencing a reality check, broker Keith Bruce suggested Seattle is experiencing a self-corrective shift in the market. “Many sellers are reaching for their dictionaries to understand the words ‘price reduction’ and ‘increased market time.'”

“Sellers need to put away their dictionaries, take a collective deep breath and enjoy the ride. Listing brokers need to be as honest as possible with sellers and not promise multiple offers or huge price escalations,” suggested Bruce, adding “We are still a seller’s market. Much more inventory is needed to meet the overall demand for quality homes in Seattle.”

“Seller gridlock has loosened close to the job centers,” stated J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “While we are experiencing record sales activity for the higher end and luxury markets in year 2018, a record number of new listings is coming on the market in these price ranges. This has resulted in more opportunities for home buyers and lower premium pricing from the spring market.”

George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties, is noticing an increase in the number of price reductions for actively listed homes as inventory increases, “even in the hotspots in Seattle and the Eastside. We are seeing a continued shift from move-up and luxury home buyers to more first-time buyers, which is consistent with the flattening trends we are seeing in today’s market.”

MLS director John Deely said the change in the market “is more accentuated this year by the historically low inventory that we have been experiencing over the past several years. What now seems like a meteoric increase in inventory is in part caused by the many potential sellers who have been on the sidelines that are now coming to the market,” added Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain’s Lake Union office.

MLS statistics show pending sales declined from 11,800 a year ago to last month’s total of 10,965 for a drop of about 7.1 percent. New listings eclipsed pending sales by a margin of 1,233 units, easing some of the pressure on inventory.

“Even with an improving buyers’ market, our agents are telling us that buyers seem to have taken a bit of a break: instead of 20 buyers looking at new homes on day one, there were only 10 is the comment we’re hearing,” noted Grady. “While we may be lifting the pedal from the metal, we remain very much in the left lane, exceeding the posted speed limit by a significant amount,” he remarked.

Scott agreed, saying “For homes priced below a million dollars, the sales intensity for new listings has come off the extreme frenzy in the spring to just frenzy.”

Prices for single family homes only (excluding condos) rose about 8.4 percent, with a dozen counties reporting double-digit gains. Condo prices increased about 10.2 percent. In King County where more than half the condo sales occurred, price jumped about 12 percent from a year ago.

“It’s not such a crazy, go-go market, but it’s still a great time to be a seller,” stated Northwest MLS director Mike Larson, president of Allen Realtors in Lakewood. “The days of  pushing the envelope on the list price an extra 5 percent are gone. Ultimately, I think that’s healthy for the market,” Larson commented.

~NW Multiple Listing Service

 

Seattle housing market is under pressure as Chinese buying ‘dries up’

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Seattle has been arguably one of the hottest housing markets in America, with home prices rising annually by double digits fueled by scorching demand. There is, however, one outside force that is starting to throw cold water on all that heat: new weakness from once-intense Chinese buyers.

The Pacific Northwest city has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the recent wave of Chinese buyers of U.S. real estate. Both Chinese investors and families hoping to send their kids to American universities have fueled demand for housing in Seattle, which has long enjoyed a strong Asian culture.

In just the last two years, that demand increased dramatically. In 2016, nearby Canadian city Vancouver slapped a 25 percent tax on international homebuyers in an effort to cool its own overheated housing market. Chinese investors, who had been strong in that market, simply moved south of the border to escape the tax.

“Chinese buyers are flooding into Seattle,” said Jonathan Woloshin of UBS in a 2016 interview.

But the Chinese yuan’s recent fall in value against the U.S. dollar has made housing more expensive for Chinese buyers. Now, Woloshin said, Seattle could see the opposite of the buying frenzy it had two years ago.

“I’m not telling you there is going to be a crash in prices, but do I think there is going to be a drop in the rate of increase? yes,” said Woloshin.

In the Seattle metropolitan area, home prices skyrocketed 45 percent between August 2016 and now, according to Woloshin. On a currency-adjusted basis, for Chinese buyers, they are up 54 percent.

“The Chinese have a very long time horizon, so if they are buying that home as a second or third home or they’re going to buy it for their child, that’s fair, but the huge run-up in prices, the depreciation in the yuan is going to have an impact,” he added.

Seattle housing is already cooling. The number of homes for sale in King County (where Seattle resides), shot up 47 percent in May compared with a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Pending home sales, which represent signed contracts, dropped nearly 9 percent.

Stephen Saunders is a managing broker with Coldwell Banker Seattle and works with Chinese investors in the Seattle market. “It’s drying up,” he said. “I just don’t see the same kind of volume. The downtown Seattle condo market has come to a grinding halt, and that’s where Chinese buyers were.”

Most of his clients are looking for properties in the $1 million to $3 million range, but he said the slowdown in buying is not all about the yuan.

“It’s not necessarily the decline in the currency, it is the increasing restrictions on getting money out. It’s just getting tighter and tighter,” he said, adding that the trade war between the U.S. and China is hitting the finances of some of his investor clients. As for Chinese families looking to buy homes for their children in the area, in just the past six to 10 months, “that’s dried up substantially,” he said.

Despite the increase in the supply of Seattle homes for sale, inventory is still incredibly low at barely two months’ worth, based on the level of sales. This is the same trend throughout the West, where overheated home prices have caused buyers to pull back.

“Although signs of an inventory turnaround are encouraging, whether they mean good news for buyers remains to be seen,” wrote Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com, in a release. “But high prices and fast-selling homes are causing some buyer hesitation which is reflected in fewer home sales.”

The Seattle housing market has benefited enormously from the region’s largest employer, Amazon. While there was concern earlier this year that a local “head tax” on employers would cause a hiring slowdown, that tax was quickly repealed after enormous pressure from Amazon.

The e-commerce giant, however, did report its first decline in its number of employees since 2009.

After strong hiring throughout the first half of 2017, job postings for open positions at Amazon headquarters dropped sharply last December, according to a report from The Seattle Times. Amazon is also planning to open a second headquarters, commonly called HQ2, although it has yet to announce the location. It currently employs more than 40,000 workers at its Seattle headquarters, according to quarterly filings.

Hiring shifts in Amazon’s home market would certainly affect local housing. The Seattle area, however, is also home to Microsoft and other tech companies.

“I think it will slow down,” said Skylar Olsen, director of economic research at Seattle-based Zillow. “Amazon is certainly a huge player, but they were a catalyst that started a lot of growth in tech. It wasn’t just Amazon that was booming local neighborhoods, it was other start-up players.”

On the other hand, Olsen said she actually thinks the devaluation of the yuan could spur homebuying in Seattle.

“If they’re investment buyers in the first place, then really you just move down in your price point, but you’re still really interested in the rate of return. If you expect the yuan to continue to drop, then you have every reason to buy an asset that’s not valued in yuan,” she added.

~Diana Olick, CNBC

5 tips for making an offer in a hot real estate market

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Steady demand. Limited supply. That’s what we are seeing in real estate markets across the country right now. Inventory is particularly tight within the lower price ranges. “The starter house is nearly missing in some markets,” according to Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for the National Association of Realtors.

Conditions can vary from one city to the next, but the overall trend in housing markets across the country is that supply is still falling short of demand.

Given these conditions, it’s important for home buyers to make a strong, smart offer when the right house comes along. Here are five tips for doing exactly that.

1. Understand the supply and demand situation in your area.

According to housing experts, a so-called “balanced” real estate market has five to six months of supply. This means it would take five or six months to sell off all homes currently listed for sale, if no new properties came onto the market.

Many real estate markets across the country have less than a three-month supply right now. And some cities have less than a two-month supply.

The first step to making a strong offer is to understand the supply-and-demand situation in your area. We are still seeing sellers’ market conditions in many cities, as of spring 2018. And this could persist for some time.

2. Study recent sales prices in your area.

This is something a real estate agent can help you with, but you can do some of it for yourself. The idea here is to get a good understanding of recent sales prices in the area where you want to buy.

This will help you in a couple of ways. It will save you time during the house-hunting process, by eliminating the need for repetitive research and pricing “sanity checks.” It will also help you make a strong, realistic offer backed by recent sales trends. And speaking of offers…

3. Make a strong and timely offer, backed by comparable sales.

In a slow housing market, where sellers are ready to jump on the first offer that comes along, home buyers have the luxury of taking their time. A buyer might start off with an initial offer below the asking price, just to open negotiations. The seller would probably come back with a counteroffer, or accept the first offer.

But it doesn’t work that way in a more competitive real estate market with limited inventory. In a tight market, buyers are better off making their first offer as competitive as possible. Otherwise, the house could go to a competing buyer.

4. Consider writing a love letter to the seller.

A house love letter, that is! Recent studies have shown that buyers in competitive real estate markets can improve their chance for success by writing a heartfelt letter to the seller. Sure, real estate is a business transaction. But there’s a personal side to it as well. Writing a personal letter to tell the sellers what you love about their home might just tip the scales in your favor.

5. Get an agent on your side.

It’s always a good idea to have help from a local real estate agent. It’s even more important in a tight market with limited inventory. An agent can help you move quickly, putting together a strong offer that’s supported by recent sales data.

~MetroDepth

Housing crash a distant memory for Seattle homeowners, Zillow says

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Now may be the best time to sell in Seattle, considering more than 97 percent of homes are worth more now than the peak level before the housing market crashed in 2008, according to a new Zillow study released on Thursday.
The median home value is 29.2 percent above the bubble peak level, with the average home worth $492,700 – an 11.4 percent increase compared to a year ago.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about rent, with a 1.9 percent increase over the past year and a median cost of $2,176.

The rest of the housing market around the country is doing pretty well, too, with half of all U.S. homes more valuable now than before the 2008 recession. The median home value stands at $217,300 — that’s 8.3 percent higher than last year. Home values have risen by 8.4 percent since the height of the housing bubble.

Similarly, six of the 35 largest housing markets – including five cities in Texas (Austin, San Jose, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Houston), and Denver, Colorado – have more than 95 percent of homes worth more now than pre-recession peak. Portland, Oregon comes in close, with 94.8 percent of homes more valuable now.

But, there are many home buyers across major U.S. cities still struggling to recover from the recession. Las Vegas remains one of the worst cities, with only 0.8 percent of homes more valuable than before the crash. Orlando, Florida comes in second, Riverside, California third, and Baltimore, Maryland and Phoenix, Arizona topping the list for the least valuable homes since the recession.

“Despite widespread and consistent home value growth today, the scars of the recession still run deep for millions of longer-term U.S. homeowners, and it may take years of growth for their home to regain the value lost a decade ago,” Zillow Senior Economist Aaron Terrazas said. “And while stabilizing growth in rents is likely a relief for those renters saving to become homeowners, many of those would-be buyers in a number of the nation’s hottest markets will be contending with home prices that are as high as they’ve ever been.”

~Karina Mazhukhina / KOMONews.com

Here’s How To Buy A House When You Have Student Loan Debt

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So, can you buy your dream house if you have student loan debt?

The common wisdom is bleak: student loans are preventing borrowers everywhere from living The American Dream.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however.

Here are 8 ways to maximize your chance of buying your dream home — even if you have student loan debt.

Student Loan Debt Statistics

If you have student loan debt, you’re not alone. There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to personal finance site Make Lemonade.

The same student loan debt statistics report also found that:

Nearly 2.2 million student loan borrowers have a student loan balance of at least $100,000.
There is $31 billion of student loan debt that is 90 or more days overdue.
There is nearly $850 billion of student loan debt outstanding for borrowers age 40 or younger.
With student loan debt statistics like these, it’s no wonder some think it’s impossible to own a home when you are burdened with student loan debt.

Not so.

Here are 8 steps you can take right now:

1. Focus on your credit score

FICO credit scores are among the most frequently used credit scores, and range from 350-800 (the higher, the better). A consumer with a credit score of 750 or higher is considered to have excellent credit, while a consumer with a credit score below 600 is considered to have poor credit.

To qualify for a mortgage and get a low mortgage rate, your credit score matters.

Each credit bureau collects information on your credit history and develops a credit score that lenders use to assess your riskiness as a borrower. If you find an error, you should report it to the credit bureau immediately so that it can be corrected.

2. Manage your debt-to-income ratio

Many lenders evaluate your debt-to-income ratio when making credit decisions, which could impact the interest rate you receive.

A debt-to-income ratio is your monthly debt payments as a percentage of your monthly income. Lenders focus on this ratio to determine whether you have enough excess cash to cover your living expenses plus your debt obligations.

Since a debt-to-income ratio has two components (debt and income), the best way to lower your debt-to-income ratio is to: repay existing debt;
earn more income; or do both.

3. Pay attention to your payments

Simply put, lenders want to lend to financially responsible borrowers.

Your payment history is one of the largest components of your credit score. To ensure on-time payments, set up autopay for all your accounts so the funds are directly debited each month.

FICO scores are weighted more heavily by recent payments so your future matters more than your past.

In particular, make sure to:

Pay off the balance if you have a delinquent payment
Don’t skip any payments
Make all payments on time

4. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Too many people find their home and then get a mortgage.

Switch it.

Get pre-approved with a lender first. Then, you’ll know how much home you can afford.

To get pre-approved, lenders will look at your income, assets, credit profile and employment, among other documents.

5. Keep credit utilization low

Lenders also evaluate your credit card utilization, or your monthly credit card spending as a percentage of your credit limit.

Ideally, your credit utilization should be less than 30%. If you can keep it less than 10%, even better.

For example, if you have a $10,000 credit limit on your credit card and spent $3,000 this month, your credit utilization is 30%.

Here are some ways to manage your credit card utilization:

set up automatic balance alerts to monitor credit utilization
ask your lender to raise your credit limit (this may involve a hard credit pull so check with your lender first)
pay off your balance multiple times a month to reduce your credit utilization

6. Look for down payment assistance

There are various types of down payment assistance, even if you have student loans.

Here are a few:

FHA loans – federal loan through the Federal Housing Authority
USDA loans – zero down mortgages for rural and suburban homeowners
VA loans – if military service
There are federal, state and local assistance programs as well so be on the look out.

7. Consolidate credit card debt with a personal loan

Option 1: pay off your credit card balance before applying for a mortgage.

Option 2: if that’s not possible, consolidate your credit card debt into a single personal loan at a lower interest rate than your current credit card interest rate.

A personal loan therefore can save you interest expense over the repayment term, which is typically 3-7 years depending on your lender.

A personal loan also can improve your credit score because a personal loan is an installment loan, carries a fixed repayment term. Credit cards, however, are revolving loans and have no fixed repayment term. Therefore, when you swap credit card debt for a personal loan, you can lower your credit utilization and also diversify your debt types.

8. Refinance your student loans

When lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio, they are also looking at your monthly student loan payments.

The most effective way to lower your monthly payments is through student loan refinancing. With a lower interest rate, you can signal to lenders that you are on track to pay off student loans faster. There are student loan refinance lenders who offer interest rates as low as 2.50% – 3.00%, which is substantially lower than federal student loans and in-school private loan interest rates.

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements and underwriting criteria, which may include your credit profile, minimum income, debt-to-income and monthly free cash flow.

Student loan refinancing works with federal student loans, private student loans or both.

If you make these 8 moves, you’ll be better positioned to manage your student loans and still buy your dream home.

Zach Friedman, Forbes

In Seattle real estate market, inventory is finally up

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According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) Seattle ended June with more than a month of inventory for the first time since September 2016.

In the Seattle city limits in June 2018, NWMLS saw 1,246 active listings, a 75.5 percent increase from the year before. Seattle ended last month with 1.2 months of inventory—a figure based on number of homes for sale and typical sales time—which is nearly double what the market had the previous year.

While this didn’t translate to a decrease in housing prices, they did rise less than last month or last year. Median closing prices rose 8 percent compared to June of last year—but at that time, home values had risen 17 percent. So although the median closing price for last month in Seattle was a whopping $740,000, or $812,500 for a single-family home, it rose far less quickly than this time last year.

County-wide, the inventory picture also improved, although home prices continue to rise; King County ended the month with 1.3 months of inventory compared to .84 last year. And while home prices are rising less quickly than this time last year, too, it’s not by as much. County-wide, home prices rose 10.2 percent over last year—compared to 15.7 percent over the previous year.

Even if home values are rising less quickly, they’re still already high—and still, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council, going up by about $5 every hour of every day. With renters already cost-burdened at a higher rate than homeowners, there seem to be fewer options for entering into homeownership. For people already priced out, there’s not a lot of good news here.

But it’s decent news for current househunters worried about getting priced out before they can get an offer accepted, agents short on listings, or current homeowners sitting on their properties because they’re worried about their next steps.

Meanwhile, though, there’s not much relief in sight for would-be homebuyers in Tacoma. As the City of Destiny’s rent rises faster than Seattle, closing prices have jumped more than 13 percent in Pierce County. Inventory is down and median sale prices are up across the city proper, with the biggest jump in home price, 34.6 percent, in central Tacoma.

~Sarah Anne Lloyd, Curbed Seattle

Is Seattle’s red-hot real estate market cooling down?

 

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For the first time in 10 years since the recession, the number of homes for sale in the Seattle area has increased considerably, reports The Seattle Times.

“There aren’t as many bidding wars right now,” said Beata Miklos, Managing Broker for Savvy Lane, a local online brokerage firm. “There isn’t as much urgency for buyers to place offers because they know that it’s softening up a little bit.”

Fierce competition for low-inventory of homes for sale has led to extreme bidding wars and lightning-fast sales. Now, the total number of single-family homes on the market in King County has jumped 43 percent in June from a year ago. And condo inventory has risen to an eye-opening 73 percent.

The Times reports homes already on the market are sitting unsold for longer periods of times, according to monthly data released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Brokerages tell the NMLS since mid-spring, they’ve noticed fewer bidding wars and more homes selling for list price or below.

The total inventory of homes listed for sale has grown for three straight months on a year-over-year basis, reports the times, but the region still has a ways to go to make up for the past 10 years of declining numbers of homes for sale.

Robert Wasser of Prospera Real Estate said the price drop from May to June is the first price drop in King County since before the recession.

~Liza Javier, King5 News