Does Aging in Place Make Sense?

A group of an architects feel stressed after working on an architecture model together.

 

A desire of many seniors is to “age in place.” According to the Senior Resource Guide, the term means:

“…that you will be remaining in your own home for the later years of your life; not moving into a smaller home, assisted living, or a retirement community etcetera.”

There is no doubt about it – there’s a comfort in staying in a home you’ve lived in for many years instead of moving to a totally new or unfamiliar environment. There is, however, new information that suggests this might not be the best option for everyone. The familiarity of your current home is the pro of aging in place, but the potential financial drawbacks to remodeling or renovating might actually be more costly than the long-term benefits.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) titled Housing America’s Older Adults explained,

“Given their high homeownership rates, most older adults live in single-family homes. Of the 24 million homeowners age 65 and over, fully 80 percent lived in detached single-family units…The majority of these homes are now at least 40 years old and therefore may present maintenance challenges for their owners.”

If you’re in this spot, 40 years ago you may have had a growing family. For that reason, you probably purchased a 4-bedroom Colonial on a large piece of property in a child-friendly neighborhood. It was a great choice for your family, and you still love that home.

Today, your kids are likely grown and moved out, so you don’t need all of those bedrooms. Yard upkeep is probably very time consuming, too. You might be thinking about taking some equity out of your house and converting one of your bedrooms into a massive master bathroom, and maybe another room into an open-space reading nook. You might also be thinking about cutting back on lawn maintenance by installing a pool surrounded by beautiful paving stones.

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? For the short term, you may really enjoy the new upgrades, but you’ll still have to climb those stairs, pay to heat and cool a home that’s larger than what you need, and continue fixing all the things that start to go wrong with a 40-year-old home.

Last month, in their Retirement ReportKiplinger addressed the point,

“Renovations are just a part of what you need to make aging in place work for you. While it’s typically less expensive to remain in your home than to pay for assisted living, that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to stay put. You’ll still have a long to-do list. Just one example: You need to plan ahead for how you will manage maintenance and care—for your home, and for yourself.”

So, at some point, the time may come when you decide to sell this house anyway. That can pose a big challenge if you’ve already taken cash value out of your home and used it to do the type of remodeling we mentioned above. Realistically, you may have inadvertently lowered the value of your home by doing things like reducing the number of bedrooms. The family moving into your neighborhood is probably similar to what your family was 40 years ago. They probably have young children, need the extra bedrooms, and may be nervous about the pool.

Bottom Line

Before you spend the money to remodel or renovate your current house so you can age in place, reach out to a local real estate professional to determine if it is truly your best option. Making a move to a smaller home in the neighborhood might make the most sense.

Published by Keeping Current Matters  February 5, 2020



Posted on February 20, 2020 at 4:27 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

 

It’s a great time to begin preparing your home for spring. Here are a few general home maintenance tips to consider this time of year. 

  • Clean the kitchen exhaust hood & filter 
  • Replace the furnace filter. It may be especially filthy after the winter months. 
  • Inspect the roof for water damage. It’s also a good idea to check any fences, carports and sheds. TIP: check the south end of your roof first; it is the first to show wear. 
  • Test the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 
  • Clear the gutters of any buildup to allow for proper functioning. 
  • Start the grass revival cycle by aerating, thatching and fertilizing. 
  • Be sure no inside or outside vents are blocked by fallen debris 
  • Clean the windows and screens. Repair any holes in screens or replace them if needed. 
  • Inspect and repair siding and peeling paint. Fox or replace damaged siding. Strip peeling paint and replace it with a new coat. 
  • Check the basement for water damage. Pay attention to musty smells, water stain and damp surfaces. 
  • Invest in a carbon monoxide detector – every home should have at least one.  

 


Posted on February 20, 2020 at 3:54 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

Interest Rates Bottom Out, Sparking High Buyer Demand

 

Interest Rates Bottom Out, Sparking High Buyer Demand 

Most recently, we have experienced an uptick in market activity. In fact, King county saw a 35% increase in pending sales from December to January, and Snohomish County 38%. The seasonal uptick from the holidays to the New Year is normal, but it was quite sizable. This is reinforced by a 6% increase in pending activity this January over last January in King County, and a 10% increase in Snohomish County. This increase is being driven by multiple factors, such as our thriving economy and growing job market, generational shifts and historically low interest rates. 

Currently, rates are as low as 3.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage – 1 point down from the fourth quarter of 2019. Moreover, the interest rate is down 1.75 points from 2 years ago. These levels are unprecedented!  The current rates are as low as they have been in 3 years. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point decrease in interest rate, a buyer gains ten percent in purchase power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate decreases by a point during their search, the buyer could increase their purchase price to $550,000 and keep the same monthly payment. 

Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! The Greater Seattle area is not an inexpensive place to own a home; we have seen strong appreciation over the last 7 years due to the growth of the job market and overall economy. The interest rate lasts the entire life of the loan and can have a huge impact on the monthly cash flow of a household. This cost savings is also coupled with a balancing out of home-price appreciation. Complete year-over-year, prices are flat in King County and up around 3% in Snohomish county. Note that from 2018 to 2019 we saw an 8% increase in prices in both King and Snohomish Counties. Price appreciation is adjusting to more normal levels and is predicted to increase 5-7% in 2020 over 2019. 

As we head into the spring market, the time of year we see the most inventory become available, the interest rates will have a positive influence on both buyers and sellers. Naturally, buyers will enjoy the cost savings, but sellers will enjoy a larger buyer pool looking at their homes due to the opportunities the lower rates are creating. Further, would-be sellers who are also buyers that secured a rate as low as 3.75% via a purchase or refinance in 2015-2017, will consider giving up that lower rate for the right move-up house now that rates would be a lateral move or possibly even lower. 

This recent decrease in rate is making the move-up market come alive.  Baby Boomers and Gen X’er’s are equity rich and able to make moves to their next upgraded home or fulfill their retirement dreams. What is great about this, is that it opens up inventory for the first-time buyer and helps complete the market cycle. First-time buyers are abundant right now as the Millennial generation is gaining in age and making big life transitions such as getting married, starting families, and buying real estate. 

Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! Right now is a historical low, and depending on economic factors rates could inch up.  According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, rates should hover around 4% throughout 2020. While still staying well below the long-term average of 7.99%, increases are increases, and securing today’s rate could be hugely beneficial from a cost-saving perspective. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Note the long-term average – it is reasonable to think that rates closer to that must be in our future at some point. 

So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge plus in helping make that transition more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.  There are some pretty exciting money saving opportunities for people to take advantage of right now. 

If you would like additional information on how today’s interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact us. We would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is our goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for your lifestyle and investment. 

 

 


Posted on February 20, 2020 at 3:28 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Statistical Information, Strategy |

Top 12 Takeaways from the Matthew Gardner Presentation for the Year 2020

 

 

 

On January 22nd, we had the pleasure of attending our office’s 11th Annual Matthew Gardner Economic Forecast Event.  At this event, Matthew gives the crowd a review of the previous year and forecasts trends for the economy and housing market for the next year and beyond.  Below are the Top 12 Takeaways worth noting as you start to chart your economic goals for 2020 and beyond.

  1. He anticipates our next recession taking place in 2021, not 2020 as previously thought. The last 11 recessions averaged 58 months in between one recession to the next, and we are currently at 127 months since the last recession, so we are due. Worth noting is the next recession will not be based on housing like the previous recession. It is predicted to be a more normal adjustment that should also be short in length, unlike the Great Recession of 2008-2010.
  2. Recessions do not always cause home prices to drop. Of the last six recessions, home prices actually ended up higher than when the recession began with the exception of the Great Recession of 2008-2010, which was based on housing due to predatory lending.
  3. The U.S. Economy will add 1.8M new jobs, but national unemployment rates should rise to 4% from 3.5% by the end of 2020. However, wage growth should start to improve as that has been slow over the last decade. In the Greater Seattle area, unemployment hovered at 3% in Q3 of 2019.
  4. We are living in our homes longer. In 2019, the average home seller in the U.S had owned their home for an average of 8.2 years compared to the average home seller in 2000 at 4.2 years. This is reflective of homeowners choosing to build more equity over time before they cash-out and move on to the next home, as well as the increased amount of Baby Boomers coming to market with their long-time homes as they pivot towards retirement.
  5. We are not headed toward a housing bubble. When seasonally adjusted, home prices are still 5.8% below the prior peak. In addition, predatory lending practices were eliminated after the 2008 housing crash and the average down payment is much higher. Overall, home equity is high with the national average in Q3 2019 sitting at 26.7% and the average FICO score of a borrower in Q3 of 2019 was 755. This, along with foreclosure starts being low, indicates that we are not headed towards a housing bubble.
  6. Interest rates should remain under 4% in 2020These are historical lows, but reflective of the last decade. In 2010, rates were around 5% and were as low as 3.4% in 2012. In late 2018, rates almost crested 5% but careened down under 4% for most of the year. The 2000’s averaged 6.3%, the 1990’s 8.1%, the 1980’s 12.7%, and the 1970’s 8.9%. This should put today’s rates in perspective.
  7. Single-family new construction remains muted due to the expensive cost of land, labor, materials, and regulatory fees. This has made inventory levels tighter and the appreciation of existing homes stronger. The lack of overbuilding is also another contributing factor to no housing bubble.
  8. Millennials are a force in the real estate market! They are the largest generation at 79M, are the largest cohort in the U.S. workforce, and more than 1M Millennial women are becoming moms every year. This generation has grown up and is experiencing big life transitions that lead to home ownership decisions. Nationally, they accounted for 37.5% of home purchases in Q3 of 2019. In the Greater Seattle area in 2019, 46% of home purchases were done by Millennials with an average down payment of 17% and with a FICO score of 741.
  9. The Greater Seattle economy looks to outperform the U.S. economy due to continued corporate growth, specifically in information services, which will balance out any losses we may see due to the current setbacks in aerospace.
  10. In the Greater Seattle area, as we start 2020 inventory levels are tight due to a high level of absorption over the course of 2019 after a big inventory dump in mid-2018. Many investors offloaded properties in 2018 and it took time to absorb this inventory as it accompanied a time frame where interest rates were near 5%. The market softened at that time, but now we have returned to constricted inventory levels and lower interest rates. This will bode well for home sellers and provide buyers low debt service.
  11. The average sale price in King County in December of 2019 was $830,000 and King County saw a 3% increase in home prices in all of 2019 over all of 2018. It is predicted, due to low inventory, strong job growth. and low interest rates that year-over-year price appreciation in King County in 2020 will be around 6.6%. Affordability and consumer sentiment are the biggest challenges in King County, especially in-city Seattle and on the Eastside, which are closer to job centers.
  12. The average sale price in Snohomish County in December of 2019 was $552,000 and Snohomish County saw a 5% increase in home prices in 2019 over 2018. It is predicted, due to low inventory, strong job growth, and low interest rates that year-over-year price appreciation in Snohomish County in 2020 will be around 7.3%. Snohomish County has benefited from the high prices in King County, leading folks to purchase further out for affordability purposes.

If you would like more information or a copy of Matthew’s PowerPoint, please reach out. It is our goal to help keep our clients well-informed in order to empower strong decisions. 2020 looks to be another positive year in real estate! If you or anyone you know is considering either buying or selling, please use us as a resource. It is an honor to help people make such important investments and meaningful lifestyle choices.

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.


Posted on January 30, 2020 at 6:08 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Statistical Information |

Is it Time to Downsize? Maybe This is Your Season?

Choosing less space often has to do with a desire to live a life that’s simpler. Whether you’re retiring, want an eco-friendly, low-maintenance lifestyle or your children have moved away, downsizing might be the best option for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to consider before making the move and questions to begin asking yourself now.

Advantages

  • Increased cash flow.
    • Spend less on your mortgage payment and you are likely to have more money leftover for other needs or desires.
  • More time.
    • Cut down on time spent on household chores such as cleaning and vacuuming which will leave you with more hours in the day to do something more enjoyable.
  • Lower utility bills.
    • Costs less to heat and air condition a small home.
    • Less square footage decreases the amount of energy expended.
    • Reducing energy is better for the environment and it helps keep your home green.
  • Reduced consumption.
    • You would likely buy less since you won’t necessarily have the room for it.
  • Minimized stress.
    • Homeowners who have successfully downsized often feel happier because they are no longer overwhelmed by the demands of a larger home.
    • Less responsibility, less housework to do, increased cash flow and flexibility equals reduced stress.

Disadvantages

  • Fewer belongings.
    • Moving into a smaller space would mean you would need to give away or donate furniture, books, kitchen supplies, etc.
  • No room for guests.
    • Hosting holiday dinners might be out of the question for a smaller home.
  • Space restrictions.
    • Less space means you could feel cramped.
  • Lifestyle changes.
    • For long-term homeowners, downsizing means changing a lifestyle.

What to consider before downsizing

These questions are important to ask yourself because for some people, downsizing may not be the best option for them.

  1. Does size matter to me?
    1. Think about how much your identity is wrapped in your house.
    2. Is it important for you to have a guest room or a second bathroom?
  2. Will I miss some important things about a more spacious home?
    1. Will moving into a smaller home feel like a step backward?
  3. How will other life events affect my living in a smaller home?
    1. Consider possible scenarios you may not expect such as adult children moving back home or if you plan to add a child.

The Cost to You

  1. How much will it cost to replace the furniture?
    1. When you move into a smaller home this means you might have to downsize your furniture to make room.
  2. How much will it cost to get rid of the stuff I don’t need or won’t fit?
    1. It’s important to have a plan for how you’re going to sell or give away the things you don’t need.
    2. Consider things like family heirlooms. What are you going to do with all your antiques or treasures that your smaller home may not be able to accommodate?
  3. How much will I get when I sell my current home, and will it help cover the cost of buying my new home?

If you know downsizing is the right option for you, you’re probably asking yourself, “Should I sell first and then buy or buy first and then sell?”. When you’re ready to discuss your options, talk to an experienced Real Estate Agent. 

 


Posted on January 24, 2020 at 9:54 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

Q4 2019 Western Washington Gardner Report

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Employment in Washington State continues to soften; it is currently at an annual growth rate of 1.7%. I believe that is a temporary slowdown and we will see the pace of employment growth improve as we move further into the new year. It’s clear that businesses are continuing to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. This is, of course, in addition to the issues that Boeing currently faces regarding the 737 MAX.

In the fourth quarter of 2019 the state unemployment rate was 4.4%, marginally lower than the 4.5% level of a year ago. My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2020 will rise 2.2%, with a total of 76,300 new jobs created.

 

HOME SALES

  • There were 18,322 home sales registered during the final quarter of 2019, representing an impressive increase of 4.7% from the same period in 2018.
  • Readers may remember that listing activity spiked in the summer of 2018 but could not be sustained, with the average number of listings continuing to fall. Year-over-year, the number of homes for sale in Western Washington dropped 31.7%.
  • Compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, sales rose in nine counties and dropped in six. The greatest growth was in Whatcom County. San Juan County had significant declines, but this is a very small market which makes it prone to extreme swings.
  • Pending home sales — a barometer for future closings — dropped 31% between the third and fourth quarters of 2019, suggesting that we may well see a dip in the number of closed sales in the first quarter of 2020.

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Home price growth in Western Washington spiked during fourth quarter, with average prices 8.3% higher than a year ago. The average sale price in Western Washington was $526,564, 0.7% higher than in the third quarter of 2019.
  • It’s worth noting that above-average price growth is happening in markets some distance from the primary job centers. I strongly feel this is due to affordability issues, which are forcing buyers farther out.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in San Juan County, where home prices were up 41.7%. Six additional counties also saw double-digit price increases.
  • Home prices were higher in every county contained in this report. I expect this trend to continue in 2020, but we may see a softening in the pace of growth in some of the more expensive urban areas.

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped four days compared to the third quarter of 2019.
  • For the second quarter in a row, Thurston County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 29 days to sell. In nine counties, the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in four counties and two were unchanged.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 47 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter. This was up nine days over the third quarter of this year.
  • Market time remains below the long-term average across the region, a trend that will likely continue until we see more inventory come to market — possibly as we move through the spring.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

The housing market ended the year on a high note, with transactions and prices picking up steam. I believe the uncertainty of 2018 (when we saw significant inventory enter the market) has passed and home buyers are back in the market. Unfortunately, buyers’ desire for more inventory is not being met and I do not see any significant increase in listing activity on the horizon. As such, I have moved the needle more in favor of home sellers.

 


Posted on January 23, 2020 at 11:28 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q4 Quarterly Snapshot Statistics

North Snohomish County – South Snohomish County – North King County – Seattle Metro – South King County – Eastside

 


 

 

 

 


Posted on January 16, 2020 at 10:07 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes OnLine?

  • by Cami Morrill
  • Dec 18, 2019

Oh, let’s just admit it, shall we? Browsing for homes online is fun and exciting! However, it is important to take everything with a grain of salt. Browser beware, though: those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That charming old home? Might be hiding some super icky plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Might not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.

You keep current. Your property site should, too.

You wouldn’t read last month’s Vanity Fair for the latest gossip, right? So, you shouldn’t browse property sites which show old listings.

Get the latest listings from realtor.com®, which pulls its information every 15 minutes from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale. This means realtor.com®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often.

The best properties aren’t always the best looking.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. So, while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features: the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.

Ultimately though, ask your agent to help you interpret what you find. The best agents have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Treat your Realtor® like your bestie.

At the end of the day, property sites are kind of like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: they show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.

To assess all of this information and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is, talk to your Realtor®.

“Partnering with a RealtorÒ delivers the peace of mind which comes from working with a real person, a real advocate, and a real and trusted professional who is committed to their clients’ futures and neighborhoods just as much as they are,” said Glenda Krull, President of Snohomish County-Camano Association of RealtorsÒ.

An agent who can go beyond and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing.

Want to go deeper? Consider these sites and sources:

  • School ratings: GreatSchools.orgNational Center for Education Statistics, and the school district’s website
  • Crime rates and statistics: CrimeReports,comNeighborhoodScout.comSpotCrime.com, and the local police station
  • Walkability and public transportation: WalkScore.com, and APTA.com
  • Hospital ratings: HealthInsight.orgLeapfrogGroup.org, and U.S. News and World Report rankings

Just remember, you’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes which are available and a general idea of what else is out there. Once you’ve spent time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with an agent.

For more information about buying or selling a home, be sure to work with a RealtorÒ, a member of the National Association of RealtorsÒ. Snohomish County Camano Association of RealtorsÒ is the voice for real estate in Snohomish County. If you have questions for The Expert about Real Estate email us at info@sccar.org, or by visiting https://www.sccar.org.


Posted on January 8, 2020 at 5:56 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

2019 – The Year in Review

 

2019 was a return to normalcy in the real estate market. After a volatile 2018 which encountered a sharp mid-year shift from an extreme seller’s market, 2019 had a more normal pace of seasonality and selection. After four to five years of multiple offers, week-long market times, waived inspections, and huge price escalations, we’ve now experienced a balancing out in price appreciation and in some areas, a correction.

Affordability and inventory have driven demand. A healthy increase in homes coming to market compared to two years ago has provided more selection and afforded buyers time to decern their choices. In-city prices found an affordability cap as buyers were forced to move north or south to find the payment they could afford. Close-in, in-city neighborhoods saw a bit of a price correction due to demand slipping for this reason. Overall, it’s been a welcome change to help buyers and sellers operate in a more balanced environment.

 

It’s important to understand that each market area has its own unique circumstances. Above and throughout this review, I divided the Greater Seattle area into 6 different market areas in order to illustrate this.

This chart is a study of the comparison of new listings to sold listings, which indicates demand. Over the last 12 months in each market area, sold listings have outpaced new listings. While some areas experienced more new listings from the same 12 months the year prior and some less, in each area the sold listings moved at a higher level than the previous 12 months. This is encouraging, as it shows that demand for our area is still very high.

This is driven by having one of the leading national job markets and continued low interest rates. One of the factors that affected the 2018 market shift was higher interest rates. The majority of 2018 rates were in the 4’s and almost reached 5% in late fall. In 2019, we started at 4.5%, and currently sit around 3.7% according to Y charts. In fact, since June we have remained under 4%. This has helped curbed affordability issues, brought first-time buyers out in force, and helped buyers that are also sellers move equity with low debt service. Believe it or not, experts are predicting rates will remain low throughout 2020. This is a key factor for consumers to pay attention to if they plan to jump into the market.

 

Above is a look at the new normal for market times and list-to-sale-price ratios. On average, it simply takes longer to sell your house now compared to the constricted, extreme seller’s markets of 2016-2018. The expectation of your home selling in the first weekend needs to be tempered, as the playing field of inventory has equaled due to more new listings coming to the market.

There is a phenomenon of Baby Boomers cashing out their equity and downsizing or moving out of the area. This is providing great move-up inventory for Gen X and Millennials to absorb. That absorption is then providing a nice selection of first-time-homebuyer houses. Bear in mind however, that the lower price points are where we are seeing the strongest demand, shortest market times, and stronger price appreciation. It’s a pretty awesome cycle to witness!

Sellers have had to negotiate a bit more, whether on the initial offering or during the inspection period. List-to-sale price ratios indicate that buyers and sellers are engaging in the dance of negotiations as prices return to a more normal level of price appreciation. Sellers on average are still getting very close to their list price. Since these are the averages, you must realize that there are still sellers that are escalating.

Homes that come to market with a well-thought-out pricing strategy, in great condition, and expertly merchandised are the ones we see breaking the average. Also, the influx of first-timers has helped drive demand in the lower price points, curtailing days on market and tighter list-to-sale price ratios in that section of the market.

 

When analyzing price appreciation, it is important to use a large data pull. For example, the chart above takes the last 12 months of prices and compares them to the previous 12 months. This provides a much more holistic observation of price growth versus a smaller data pull, such as month over month. Take note that the media often uses month-over-month data to paint a more dramatic story.

As mentioned above, the close-in, in-city markets have experienced a correction. It is clearly more expensive to live where you have a shorter commute to major job centers. Also, on the Eastside where the prices are the highest, they enjoy close proximity to some of the area’s biggest employers and arguably some of the best school districts in the area. The more out-lying communities found in south King and all of Snohomish County continue to see steady appreciation due to still-manageable commute times and affordability. The north Snohomish County market has been a hotbed for first-timers and Baby Boomers moving out of the area due to retirement and commutes not being a factor.

Note that this data pull is a complete year-over-year look at December 2018 to November 2019 compared to December 2017 to November 2018. Bear in mind that the first half of 2018 was an extreme seller’s market with sparse inventory and crazy escalations. This is where prices found their peak, and as we move away from those unique months and head into 2020, I believe that we will see the decrease in appreciation equal out and possibly have some subtle growth.

 

The chart above is a study of the months of inventory. This illustrates how quickly we would sell out of homes based on demand if nothing new came to market. We are calling the 2019 market a more normal market, but in reality, it was still measured as a seller’s market (0-3 months of inventory). It just hasn’t been so extreme, which has created a mentality that needs to be adjusted.

Just like the pricing study above, the data from the first half of 2018 included some markets that had only weeks of inventory versus months. That feels wildly different and takes some getting used to. Some may argue that the new normal of measuring a seller’s market is now 0-2 months, and that 2-4 months is a balanced market. Perspective is driving that viewpoint, as we have an entire portion of consumers that have known nothing besides historically low interest rates and low inventory levels. The vantage point of what is actually normal is finding its footing.

Right now, all six markets sit at a lower inventory level than the average of the year. This is due to seasonality. Many sellers prefer to come to market when the days are longer and we are outside of the holidays. I predict that the low interest rates and the turn of the new year will encourage strong buyer demand. New Year’s resolution goal setting always brings demand. With that said, the sellers that come to market earlier in the year prior to the spring rush will enjoy a large audience hungry for inventory to gobble up.

Overall, 2019 has been a very positive year in real estate. The majority of the sales have been propped up on incredibly favorable equity positions on behalf of sellers and historically low interest rates for buyers. If a person has owned their home for 3 or more years and hasn’t cashed equity out, they are in a positive equity position. For those that have been in their homes for 10 or more years, they are knocking it out of the park!

Below you can watch a short video from Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, and hear what he thinks we have in store for 2020 on the national level. As we head into the New Year, please reach out should you have a curiosity about how your local real estate market relates to your financial and lifestyle goals. It is always our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions through thorough research and a high level of communication.

Here’s to a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2020!


Posted on December 19, 2019 at 12:34 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |

Home Security During the Holidays

The holiday season can bring joy and peace, but it can also bring package thieves and burglary. Stay safe this winter by taking a few precautions with your home security. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe and preserving that sensibility.

Upgrade your locks:

A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your door frames are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.

It’s also a good idea to check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.

Exterior and interior home lighting:

Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers.  Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.

If you will be gone from your home for an extended period, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.

Alarm systems:

If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems.  If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24-hour call service for an extra fee.

Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.

If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.

Security cameras:

Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options and professional systems that come along with monitoring services. There are even options that will work with your smartphone.

If the cost of security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.

Build your community:

Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.

by Meaghan McGlynn/Windermere


Posted on December 13, 2019 at 6:45 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |