Seattle-area home price cool-down stands out among U.S. cities

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The housing market is getting better for buyers across the country, but Seattle’s shifting market continues to stand out compared to other regions.

Since the local market peaked last spring, single-family home prices have fallen twice as fast in the Seattle metro area as in any other region in the country, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home-price index, released Tuesday.

The total drop for the full metro area in that seven-month span, from June to January, totals 6 percent. The typical U.S. city actually saw a slight uptick in home values over that period, but prices dropped about 3 percent in the San Francisco and San Diego regions, and about 1 percent each in Portland and Chicago.

There are a lot of ways to slice the data, though they all show the local market falling behind the national one

On a month-over-month basis, Seattle-area home costs slipped down another 0.3 percent in January, a slightly bigger drop than the national average.

On a year-over-year basis, prices still went up 4.1 percent, but that was slightly less than the national average – the first time that’s happened in seven years.

And even those gains are masked by big differences across the region. As has been the case, prices are growing for low-cost homes typically found in the outer areas of the region like Tacoma, and staying flat in higher-cost places like Seattle.

The index, which covers King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, divides homes into three tiers. For the cheapest group of homes (those priced below $380,000), prices increased 8 percent over the year. But the most expensive ones (homes priced over $605,000), saw prices tick up less than 2 percent, or slightly less than inflation.

In the middle tier, prices grew 4.5 percent.

Overall, the last time the local market was this cool was 2012, back when prices were still bottoming out from the recession.

The cool-down trend is a broad one. The national home-price gain of 4.3 percent over the past year represents the smallest since 2015. Across the 20 metro areas tracked by the index, only Phoenix saw bigger price gains in January than in December. Las Vegas was the only region in the country where price increases topped 7.5 percent.

There are signs that the local market has bottomed out, however. More recently, prices in February grew $45,000 in King County, the most ever for a single month in dollar terms, though that bounceback isn’t yet reflected in the national Case-Shiller data, which lags behind by a month.

The current median cost of a single-family house is $655,000 in King County, $475,000 in Snohomish County and $355,000 in Pierce County. The Pierce County figure is tied for a record high, while King and Snohomish are well below their peaks reached last spring.

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Newest data predicts return to balance for Northwest housing market

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The latest data and estimates from a handful of Northwest Multiple Listing Service real estate professionals paint a picture of a much friendlier housing market for buyers in 2019.

As 2018 rolled to a close, the housing market in the Northwest saw a noted increase in eager sellers.

“Buyers in December were reaping the benefits of market-weary sellers who were willing to give up part of their bloated home equity to make a deal and move on,” said John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain, in the NMLS report.

That was confirmed by members across the NMLS, including Windermere Real Estate President OB Jacobi.

“The year ended with more of a splutter than a bang as home price growth continued to slow in December,” he noted.

That was rounded by a median closing price for houses of just $639,000 in King County, down from the 2018 high for the county of $726,275 back in May.

Ultimately, according to Jacobi, this is “bringing us closer to a more balanced market,” predicting slowed growth for home prices through 2019 (around 5.5 percent he estimates).

The reasoning for this drop can be found in a variety of factors, including unsustainable home price growth, rising interest rates, and a drop in consumer confidence.

The outlook for the year ahead continues to look positive for home-buyers, who may find that acting quickly might serve them best.

“Buyers should act now, act deliberately, act decisively, and act in conjunction with an experienced real estate professional,” advised Dick Beeson, the principal managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest in Gig Harbor.

Among the buyers in the market will be plenty of first-timers, as more millennials get married, have children, and build their respective households.

“Although many of them will face significant obstacles to buying due to student debt, lack of down payments, and Seattle’s high-priced housing, this group is likely to buy more homes in 2019 than any other demographic,” Jacobi predicted.

That being so, pushing out to more remote areas outside of Seattle’s expensive market is starting to drive up prices everywhere. The NMLS’s report noted that demand in those outlying markets has driven up prices in counties like Cowlitz, Lewis, and Thurston 12.4 percent over the last year.

Meanwhile in King County, condo listings have quadrupled in the last 12 months, as buyers look for alternatives to pricier houses.

All this remains consistent with a prediction from Redfin at the end of the 2018, where they expected “demand to cool the most” in 2019 for a handful of major markets across the country, including Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco among others.

~My Northwest Staff

Seattle area’s topsy-turvy home market ends 2018 with Eastside prices falling over the year

01072019_Bellevue_151741-768x494Home prices on the Eastside have now dropped on a year-over-year basis. In Seattle, the median house is nearly $100,000 cheaper than last spring. And across King County, the number of condos available for buyers has more than quadrupled in the past year.

The cool-down in the local housing market continued in December, ending a topsy-turvy year for real estate, according to new figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

King County’s median single-family home price ticked up just 0.6 percent in December from a year before, and condo costs rose at the same rate — the smallest annual gain since early 2012, when the market was bottoming out.

It’s a huge shift from the prior six years, where the average year-over-year increase was 12 percent, adding as much as $100,000 to the median home in a single year.

On the Eastside, prices fell 3.1 percent from a year before, the first time prices declined on a year-over-year basis since 2012. In the city of Seattle, prices ticked up just 1.9 percent from a year prior, amounting to a slight decrease on an inflation-adjusted basis.

Compared with the record highs reached last spring, prices are down $91,000 in Seattle, to a new median of $739,000, and they’ve fallen $69,000 on the Eastside, to $909,000. Most remarkably, in the last seven months prices have declined more than $170,000 in Queen Anne/Magnolia, the central Seattle area that includes Capitol Hill, and in East Bellevue.

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 11.38.21 AMBuyers who once had to make decisions on home purchases in a matter of days now have weeks or months to ponder their options and negotiate, because there are so many more homes to choose from.

The number of single-family homes for sale across the county in December jumped 148 percent from a year prior, the fourth straight month of record-breaking gains in inventory. Condo inventory skyrocketed 314 percent.

There were actually fewer people putting their homes up for sale than this time last year, but buyers continue to disappear from the market, with sales decreasing 19 percent.

It’s standard now for buyers to put contingencies that, for example, allow them to negotiate the price down if an inspection turns up anything broken. Previously, bidding wars were so heated that buyers had to sign away all their rights to win a home.

It’s been an up-and-down year for real estate here. When 2018 began, prices soared nearly 20 percent in January from the year prior, the most in the country. Those double-digit gains, which were the norm for years, continued through May, before an abrupt shift in the market.

Three other areas have lost more than $110,000 since the spring: Ballard/Greenlake, Shoreline-Richmond Beach and Redmond-Carnation. And in the condo-only market of downtown Seattle, prices decreased about 10 percent in the past year.

On the other end, prices soared 42 percent in Mercer Island over the past year (although there aren’t many sales there this time of year, so volatility is high), and were up 18 percent in Renton-Benson Hill and 10 percent in Kirkland-Bridle Trails.

We’re getting into the slow time of year for the housing market, but this year’s changes have been more significant. In the prior five years, prices rose an average of $3,600 from November to December across King County; this time they declined nearly $5,000.

Most people in the real-estate industry expect the market to stay cool for the next couple of months, since the short, rainy days make this a notoriously slow time for people looking for homes, regardless of how the market is doing. Brokers surveyed by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service expect things to pick back up in the normally frenzied spring market, but few are predicting a return to double-digit price gains.

“The last six to nine months have been a good reality check for buyers, that things can change, and I would be pretty surprised to see the spring market in 2019 bring a lot of [price] escalations and multiple-offer scenarios,” Culbert said.

Prices countywide have now fallen 12 percent since their spring peak, which, outside of the Great Recession housing bust, is the biggest seven-month decline since 2000.

There are several reasons for the fall: Interest rates, though on the decline recently, are up over the past year. Rents have stabilized over the past year, adding less pressure to buy now. Foreign buyer interest has dropped off significantly. And prices have gone so high that they have shrunk the buyer pool, leaving only high-income earners able to compete on most homes.

 “Buyers in December were reaping the benefits of market-weary sellers who were willing to give up part of their bloated home equity to make a deal and move on,” John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said in a statement.

Snohomish County is starting to follow King County’s lead. Inventory in Snohomish has also more than doubled in the past year while prices are up 4.5 percent, the smallest increase in two and a half years. The median house sold for $470,000, down from the record high of $511,000 in the spring.

The same shift still hasn’t really made its way to the rest of the Puget Sound region, however. Prices rose 7.5 percent in Kitsap County and 9.2 percent in Pierce County from a year prior, with a median price of $344,000 in both places. Both counties saw modest 13 to 19 percent growth in inventory.

~Mike Rosenburg, Seattle Times

Economist: Seattle’s slow housing market only a blip

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You may have heard that the big chill has suddenly hit the Seattle housing market. According to the Case-Shiller home-price index, Seattle home prices are falling faster than the rest of the country. The Emerald City was leading only a few months ago.

But we mustn’t read too much into it, says Chief Economist Matthew Gardner at Windermere Real Estate.

“In terms of overall house prices, in the last couple of months we’ve seen some significant softening,” Gardner told Seattle’s Morning News. “There are some out there that are projecting a bubble, a major correction in housing values — I don’t see it.”

According to the Case-Shiller home-price index, single-family home costs declined 1.3 percent in September, following a 1.6 percent drop the month before. What’s especially striking is how widespread the drop is; it extends from Pierce to King to Snohomish counties.

“We’ve certainly reached a peak with a lack of affordability. There must be a ratio between home prices and incomes — we’ve breached that, but it doesn’t mean that housing prices are going to correct in the downside,” he said. “Housing is not a stock. You shouldn’t look at it on its value day-to-day, month-to-month, or even year-to-year. It’s shelter, first, and an asset, second.”

Increasing supply of town homes, duplexes, triplexes, ADUs, and small cottages, could potentially mitigate the housing crisis says Gardner. He also believes we need to improve transit substantially and increase density around transit centers as means of making it easier for people to live somewhat near job centers, where Seattle home prices are normally higher.

Gardner says that part of the reason that prices have softened is that plenty more units are coming on the market and that people are trying to time the market. Invariably, when you get more supply, with a still reasonable demand, home price growth softens.

“I think a lot of those will trail off this month as they classically do in December. The big question is going to be is how many more units we see coming online in the spring market.”

~Kiro Radio Staff

Condo prices in Seattle continue to speak to the strength of the real estate market

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You may have heard Seattle is experiencing a cool down. Not so fast.

The market is definitely slowing within the city (if not Thurston County), but that doesn’t mean that prices have dipped all that much. The median closed sale price fell by about $45,000 from the month before, but it was still up $30,000 from the same time last year, according to the latest Northwest Multiple Listing Service report.

The NWMLS report writes, nearly 60 percent of the current inventory of homes and condos has an asking price of $750,000 or higher, making affordability an ongoing concern. And while the single-family home is still king in Seattle and King County, condos are also seeing higher prices.

The median closed sale price for condos in Seattle during August (the last month for which information was available) was $504,500. That’s a 6.21 percent increase from the same time last year.  Area-wide, that jump looks more like 8.1 percent, while across King County the jump in median condo prices was 11.3 percent.

Some good news is that condo prices are going through the same market-wide cool down as single-family homes: Active listings jumped nearly 58 percent, and closed transactions dropped off by about 15 percent.

But that’s not necessarily enough to turn what was once seen as a “starter home” into an affordable option. It’s also not a sign of a pending bubble or rapid inflation, as far as brokers can tell; like all the other changes in the city, blame it on the strong local economy.

“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,” George Moorhead, designated broker and owner, Bentley Properties, Bothell said in the report.

~Zosha Millman, Seattle PI

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

 

It’s really tough to be a homebuyer in Seattle

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If you’re hoping to buy a home in Seattle, be prepared for rejection. A lot of it.

“For buyers, we are typically making six to 10 offers before we get a house,” said Rob McGarty, who has been a real estate agent in Seattle for 14 years. “The amount of emotional energy going into preparing these offers is huge.”

Home prices in Seattle are on fire: rising nearly 13% in February from the same time a year ago, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.
Prices have risen so fast that it’s led to an affordability crisis, with no relief in site.
“Seattle seems to be defying all the laws of housing market trends,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at real estate data firm ATTOM.

The problem is simple: there are more people looking to buy homes than there are homes available for sale.
Seattle’s population has been rapidly growing recently thanks in part to its large homegrown businesses like Amazon and Starbucks.

Amazon in particular has played a major role in Seattle’s economic growth and strength. The company employs more than 40,000 workers at its Seattle headquarters and pays out nearly $26 billion in compensation.
“Amazon has amassed a huge talent pool of employees that has caused other companies to open offices here,” said McGarty. “We have a ton of [San Francisco] Bay area companies that now have offices in Seattle … those transplants have driven prices up.”

Home values in King County, where Amazon is located, have appreciated twice as fast as the national average, according to Blomquist. Average annual home price appreciation from 1995 (when Amazon first launched) to 2018 was 6%, according to ATTOM. Over the same time period, the national average was just 3%.

Life as a buyer

After months of online searching, open houses and having several offers rejected, Kayela Robertson and her husband, Cody, had hit their limit. She said it was common to see the homes they lost out on go on to sell for at least $100,000 over the asking price with multiple offers. They were about to expand their search radius when they made their seventh offer.

“If we were going to be in Seattle, we had joked that we needed to get this house. This was the make it or break it offer,” she said. “If we didn’t, I would have to cave and move farther out.”
Fortunately, their seventh offer was accepted. To close the deal, they offered $140,000 more than the list price of $590,000. They also dropped all contingencies, included an escalation clause, put $100,000 in escrow and promised to close within two weeks.

The couple sold their home in Spokane in January for full asking price, and the money from the sale helped make their offer competitive. They closed on the new home a month ago.
“The house we sold was much nicer and bigger and was much less [than the Seattle home],” Robertson said. “It is still an adjustment that we are paying more than two times more for this house.”

After months of online searching, open houses and having several offers rejected, Kayela Robertson and her husband, Cody, finally snagged a home in Seattle.
Where Seattle goes from here

Despite being a seller’s market, Seattle homeowners are hesitant to sell. Last year, the city was among the best markets to sell a home, and the average home seller return on investment was 64%, according to ATTOM. But even if they get a good price, sellers are struggling to find a home to trade up to.

While the demand is clearly there, there’s only so much room to build in Seattle. It’s bounded by water and mountains. The city also has strict regulations when it comes to building apartment and condos, and 70% of the land mass in the city is zoned for single family homes, according to Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate.

“We aren’t very dense at all,” he said.

The home affordability problem could make the city less appealing to businesses. The city recently passed a new tax on big businesses that will help pay for affordable housing and fight homelessness.
At some point, the housing affordability issues and high cost of living, plus the new business tax, could cause companies to think twice about starting or expanding in Seattle.


“The two most important things when companies think about growing in a market is whether there is a suitable talent pool and how much they have to pay people, and the biggest part of salary is the local cost of living,” said Gardner.

~Kathryn Vasel, CNN Money