In September Amazon announced a plan to open a second multi-billion dollar headquarters (HQ2) in North America, and as of late October nearly 240 cities had joined the competition to become the company’s second home. Some hopeful contenders have made outrageous gestures to win the favor of the e-commerce giant. Tuscon delivered Jeff Bezos a 21-foot saguaro cactus, Birmingham placed giant Amazon delivery packages all over the city, and Stonecrest, Georgia offered to give the company its own 345-acre city.
Of course Amazon has its own strict criteria for HQ2’s home including an area with low cost of living, an educated and tech-savvy workforce, at least one million people, close access to an international airport, and more. Despite Seattle fulfilling several of these criteria, it was originally believed that Amazon had firmly set its sights elsewhere. However, Seattle is in the running and local leaders are actively trying to convince Amazon that they can work together to make Seattle the best option for HQ2.
Seattle’s Approach to Winning HQ2
While other cities are vying to gain Amazon’s attention and a spot on its radar, Seattle is focused on reconciling and rebuilding its relationship with the company. According to The Seattle Times Seattle-area politicians sent Amazon an apologetic letter asking that the city and its largest private employer hit the “refresh button” in their relationship. It suggested the company and local leaders create a “joint task force” on issues related to transportation, freight mobility, public safety, the gig economy, and public education.
A representative responded a month later saying, “We propose a roundtable discussion in January at our offices to discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead for the city and how we can best work together on them.”
Read the full article from The Seattle Times.
It looks like we’re skipping the normal holiday slowdown this season with brokers reporting crowded open houses and competitive bidding in many areas. However, since sellers who list their homes at this time of the year are usually motivated to move soon, the holidays are still a good time to buy. Some of the best pricing is historically found between December and February.
The rate of appreciation for homes on the Eastside continues to be as robust – or more so – as in Seattle. Both local and international buyers attribute the appeal of the area to larger lot sizes, newer construction, and highly-rated school districts. Inventory here is extremely low, and homes are selling quickly. The median price for a single-family home on the Eastside reached $851,000 in November, a 12 percent increase over the same time last year.
The number of new listings in King County is down 19 percent as compared to a year ago. With demand still strong, the median home price in King County rose 15 percent over last year to $630,750. Condo inventory, long an option for more affordable housing, is at a record low as developers opt for building apartments to avoid the legal and financial risks that come with building condos.
Seattle is one of the fastest growing American cities, and demand doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon. Combine that with a very limited supply and it’s no surprise that for over a year home prices here have been rising faster than anywhere in the country. Last month, the median price for a single-family home in Seattle was $741,000, soaring 21 percent from the previous year.
Buyers priced out of the King County market are taking this advice: drive until you qualify. Many are ending up buying in Snohomish County. The number of homes for sale was down more than 24 percent here in November and there is currently less than one month of inventory available. The median price of a single-family home was $445,000, up 11 percent year-over-year.
Your kids have moved out and now you’re living in a big house with way more space than you need. You have two choices – remodel your existing home or move. Here are some things to consider about each option.
Choice No. 1: Remodel your existing home to better fit your current needs.
- Remodeling gives you lots of options, but some choices can reduce the value of your home. You can combine two bedrooms into a master suite or change another bedroom into a spa area. But reducing the number of bedrooms can dramatically decrease the value of your house when you go to sell, making it much less desirable to a typical buyer with a family.
- The ROI on remodeling is generally poor. You should remodel because it’s something that makes your home more appealing for you, not because you want to increase the value of your home. According to a recent study, on average you’ll recoup just 64 percent of a remodeling project’s investment when you go to sell.
- Remodeling is stressful. Living in a construction zone is no fun, and an extensive remodel may mean that you have to move out of your home for a while. Staying on budget is also challenging. Remodels often end up taking much more time and much more money than homeowners expect.
Choice No. 2: Sell your existing home and buy your empty nest dream home.
- You can downsize to a single-level residence and upsize your lifestyle. Many people planning for their later years prefer a home that is all on one level and has less square footage. But downsizing doesn’t mean scrimping. You may be able to funnel the proceeds of the sale of your existing home into a great view or high-end amenities.
- A “lock-and-leave” home offers more freedom. As your time becomes more flexible, you may want to travel more. Or maybe you’d like to spend winters in a sunnier climate. You may want to trade your existing home for the security and low maintenance of condominium living.
- There has never been a better time to sell. Our area is one of the top in the country for sellers to get the greatest return on investment. Real estate is cyclical, so the current boom is bound to moderate at some point. If you’re thinking about selling, take advantage of this strong seller’s market and do it now.
If your current home no longer works for you, consider looking at homes that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling. Get in touch with a Windermere Real Estate broker to discuss the best option for you.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside blog.
Prices in our area have now been rising faster than anywhere in the country for twelve months. Sellers seem to be getting the message that now is a good time to put their home on the market. There was an increase in new inventory in October, but with homes selling rapidly, there still aren’t enough properties to meet demand. As a result, counties throughout the Puget Sound area saw year-over-year price increases in the double digits.
The median price for a single-family home on the Eastside rose 10 percent from a year ago to $845,000. Homes in West Bellevue hit a new record median price of $2.6 million. Despite soaring prices, demand has remained strong in this desirable area. And the continued robust economy makes it unlikely that home prices here will cool any time soon.
The number of new listings in King County increased at the highest rate in more than a year. But, they were grabbed up quickly, with most homes selling in well under 30 days. The shortage of homes for sale propelled prices up, with the median home price in King County jumping 15 percent over the same time last year to $630,000.
Seattle remains the hottest real estate market in the country, with prices rising here at more than double the national rate. Rents in Seattle are also rising faster than almost anywhere else in the country, pushing more people into the home buying market. High demand and slim supply helped boost the median price of a single-family home nearly 18 percent to $735,000.
The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County in October was $440,000, an increase of 14 percent over the prior year. The market here may be moderating slightly. Brokers note that while multiple offers are continuing, listings are experiencing longer market times and fewer above-list price offers.
The Washington State economy added 79,600 new jobs over the past 12 months—an impressive growth rate of 2.4%, and well above the national growth rate of 1.2%. However, as we anticipated in last quarter’s report, we continue to see a modest slowdown in the growth rate as the state grows closer to full employment. Growth has been broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than Aerospace (a function of a slowdown at Boeing). Given the current rate of expansion, I am raising my employment forecast and now predict that Washington will add 81,000 new jobs in 2017.
Given the robust job market, it is unsurprising that the state unemployment rate continues to fall. The current unemployment rate in Washington State is 4.6% and we are essentially at full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report reported either a drop or stability in their unemployment rate from a year ago. I maintain my belief that the Washington State economy will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole. Given such a strong expansion, we should also expect solid income growth across Western Washington.
Home Sales Activity
- There were 25,312 home sales during the third quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.6% over the same period in 2016.
- Clallam County maintains its number one position for sales growth over the past 12 months. Only four other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. This demonstrates continuing issues with the low supply of listings. There were modest declines in sales activity in six counties.
- The market remains remarkably tight with listing inventory down by 14.2% when compared to the third quarter of 2016. But inventory is up a significant 32% compared to the second quarter of this year. Pending sales rose by 5.2% over the same quarter a year ago, which suggests that closings in Q4 will still be robust.
- The key takeaway from this data is that inventory is still very low, and the situation is unlikely to improve through the balance of the year.
- Given tight supply levels, it is unsurprising to see very solid price growth across the Western Washington counties. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12.3% to $474,184. This is 0.9% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
- With demand far exceeding supply, price growth in Western Washington continues to trend well above the longterm average. As I do not expect to see the new home market expand at any significant pace, there will be continued pressure on the resale market, which will cause home prices to continue to rise at above-average rates.
- When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Grays Harbor County where sale prices were 20.1% higher than the third quarter of 2016. Nine additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
- Mortgage rates in the quarter continue to test the lows of 2017, and this is unlikely to change in the near-term. This will allow home prices to escalate further but I expect we will see rates start to rise fairly modestly in 2018, which could slow price growth.
Days on Market
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by eight days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
- King County continues to be the tightest market, with homes taking an average of 17 days to sell. Every county except San Juan saw the days on market drop from the same period a year ago.
- This quarter, it took an average of 43 days to sell a home. This is down from the 51 days it took in the second quarter of 2016 and down by 8 days from the second quarter of this year.
- At some point, inventory will start to grow and this will lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. However, I do not expect that to happen at any time soon. So we remain in a seller’s market.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the third quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as the second quarter. Though price growth remains robust, sales activity has slowed very slightly and listings jumped relative to the second quarter. That said, the market is very strong and buyers will continue to find significant competition for accurately priced and well-located homes.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
The typical seasonal slowdown of new listings in September added to frustration for buyers who are competing for a very limited number of homes. Strong job growth continues to fuel demand. The state added 83,000 new jobs in the month of August, and September looked to be just as robust. The result? King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all reported double-digit price increases from a year earlier.
The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside jumped 14 percent from the same time last year to a $855,000. As the median on the Eastside approaches the $1 million mark, the price tag for a luxury home is increasing. Of all the single-family homes that sold on the Eastside in September nearly 40 percent sold for more than $1 million. In the city of Bellevue, two-thirds of the homes sold for more than $1 million.
The median price of a single-family home sold in King County in September increased 16 percent from a year ago to $625,000. While down from the record high of $658,000 in July, it represents the highest value for any September since records began in 2000. Among the largest metro areas in the U.S., our region has now led the nation in price increases for the last 11 months.
Seattle’s inventory remains as tight as ever, with homes being snapped up in days. A big hiring push by local employers just keeps adding to the pressure. With supply dwindling and demand soaring, prices had only one place to go – up. In September, the median single-family home price in Seattle soared 15 percent over a year ago to $725,000.
The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County sold in September was $450,000, a 14 percent increase over the same time last year. With just slightly over one month’s inventory of homes available, it’s unlikely price growth here will slow any time soon.
The debate about whether it makes more financial sense to rent or buy has been raging for decades. Advocates of buying say: When you rent, you’re essentially paying someone else’s mortgage. Buying, on the other hand, is an investment—one that can significantly increase in value every year you continue living in the home.
Fans of renting say: The extra costs associated with owning a home (interest payments on the loan, property taxes, homeowner dues, improvement/repair costs, etc.) add up. And there’s no guarantee that those expenses will be recouped when the house is sold. Instead of investing in a home, you may be better off investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities.
According to Jed Kolko, one of the country’s most respected real estate economists, “Mortgage rates are still near long-term lows. Because prices fell so much after the housing bubble burst, and remain low relative to rents even after recent price increases, buying is still much cheaper than renting.“
But that’s a blanket statement. The right option for you depends on your personal circumstances, and your answers to the following questions:
What’s the real estate situation in your city?
Industry groups put out reports every quarter stating the average national sales price for a home, and the average monthly payment for a U.S. rental. But what really matters is what the numbers show when you dig into them on a local level.
The reports are almost always based on average for all the cities in the country. Delve into the details, and you’ll see there are some cities that fall well below that average, and some that rise far above it. The learning: When comparing housing costs, be sure to base your evaluation on what’s happening in your city and neighborhood, not the nationwide averages.
How long do you expect to live there?
If five years is the longest you can envision yourself living in one place right now, renting is probably your best bet financially. But if you think you’re ready to put down roots for as long as 10 years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate during that time even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way.
What’s the mortgage rate?
One of the other key factors to consider is the cost of your loan (the interest you’ll pay the lender). Fortunately, you now have access to some of the lowest mortgage interest rates in history, even if they increase a bit over the coming year, as many expect. According to a recent article in Forbes, “Compared to decades past, today’s rates are unprecedentedly—and artificially—low. They’re the direct result of a Federal Reserve-funded fiscal stimulus plan, better known as the third round of quantitative easing of QE3, aimed at hastening the recovery in housing and the economy as a whole.”
Can you pay a bit more?
If you can afford to pay a little extra towards your mortgage bill each month, it makes even more sense to buy. Paying $300 more per month (on a 30-year, $300,000 loan) will knock eight years off the life of the loan and reduce your final bill by more than $63,000 (that’s savings you would never see if you rented).
Will you need to make repairs or improvements?
Buying a fixer-upper may seem like a great way to get a deal on a house, but if the money you spend on the repairs is too great, your profit could be slashed when it comes time to sell. The same is true for remodeling and improvement projects. If you can only afford a home that demands major improvements, and you don’t have the skills to do much of the work yourself, it’s probably better to rent.
Do you have other ways to invest?
Many see a home purchase as an easy way to invest—a place where they can generate savings through home equity. But others say you can make more money renting an apartment and investing your savings in stocks, bonds, and other financial securities.
According to two professors studying the issue, it is possible to make more money investing in securities, however, you need to invest ALL the money you would have put towards the house (something most people can’t/won’t/don’t do). Plus, do you have the knowledge, resources and liquid cash necessary?
“We find that if people don’t invest the money, actually about 90% of the time, you’re better off buying,” says professor Eli Beracha, a co-author of the study.
Can you rent part of the house?
Here’s a twist: If you buy a house that includes a rental (space bedroom, mother-in-law unit, etc.), you could BE the landlord instead of paying the landlord. With that rental income, you could pay off the mortgage faster and contribute more to your savings. But, of course, you need to be willing to share your home with a tenant and take on the responsibilities of being a landlord.
Making your decision
To make your decision about whether to rent or buy easier, input the key financial facts regarding your situation into this Realtor.com Rent vs. Buy Calculator: https://www.realtor.com/mortgage/tools/rent-or-buy-calculator/. For help making sense of the results and analyzing other factors, contact me.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
In mid-September renowned dignitaries, politicians, business executives, and other influential and high-powered people gathered in Bellevue for the grand opening of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), which has been about five years in the making. It was an exciting moment for the 44-student cohort that is set to start classes there soon, as well as everyone who is interested in seeing the Seattle area continue to thrive as an international tech hub.
What is the Global Innovation Exchange?
GIX is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between two leading academic institutions, University of Washington in Seattle and Tsinghua University in Beijing. It will offer students a graduate school experience designed to train them in entrepreneurship and encourage new ideas around real-world challenges.
Students will also be able to study both in Bellevue and Tsinghua, allowing them to explore different perspectives, cultures, and environments. Microsoft president Brad Smith noted the school’s importance saying, “Innovation never happens in a vacuum – it takes an entire ecosystem. Literally we are bringing the world together.”
There are several reasons GIX is so unique.
First, it represents the first time a Chinese research institution has established a U.S. location. Five years is also a relatively quick turnaround from an idea to an actual institution considering how many partners are involved and how universities traditionally move slowly on new projects such as GIX. Of course, support from partners such as Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped catalyze the process.
What about the GIX building?
As with any project of this magnitude on the Eastside, it is also worth mentioning the building itself. In keeping with the tech focus, the three-story, 100,000-square foot building is named the “Steve Ballmer Building” after the former Microsoft CEO. It is nestled in Bellevue’s new 36-acre Spring District development and features classrooms, an incubator, and makerspace with state-of-the-art equipment. The layout of the building reflects the purpose of the GIX curriculum, which is to prepare students for real-world work through team-based projects.
I’m looking forward to seeing the talent and perspectives that come from this exciting new program.
High demand and low supply made it the market’s hottest August since records began in 2000. Sparse inventory was again the norm, as were multiple offers. However, brokers are cautioning sellers to price their homes correctly. Most buyers have been in the market a long time and are well educated. Overpriced listings are not getting showings or offers. In some rare good news for buyers in this heated market, mortgage lenders are relaxing some standards to make it easier to buy a home.
The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside increased 11 percent from a year ago to a $853,000. That number is down slightly for the second month in a row, but affordability is still a big issue. The share of million-dollar homes here is rising faster than just about anywhere in the country. In Medina, 99.7 percent of homes are worth at least $1 million. On Mercer Island, it’s 88 percent, and 64 percent of West Bellevue homes are worth $1 million or more.
The local area led the nation in home-price growth for the 10th straight month. In August, the median home price in King County jumped 18 percent over the same time last year to $650,000, off slightly from the record high of $658,000 in July. While inventory is low, the fourth quarter of the year has always seen the lowest demand for home sales. If you’re thinking about buying a home, it is to your advantage to work with your broker and make an offer now.
Inventory-starved Seattle just can’t keep up with the demand of its growing population. Lack of supply helped push the median price for a single-family home to $730,000, an increase of 17 percent over a year ago. That’s down slightly from the peak of $750,000 in June. If sellers need an incentive to put their home on the market, a recent analysis showed Seattle among the top U.S. cities for sellers to get the greatest return on investment.
While prices in King County may be showing the first signs of moderating, Snohomish County continues to hit new records for home prices. The median price of a single-family home here jumped 14 percent over the same time last year to $455,000, yet another record high.