Is the Condominium Lifestyle Right for You?

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time homebuyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.

If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds up-keep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Whether living in a condominium works for you depends on your current and planned future lifestyle. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that most homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear your neighbors.

Space: Except for very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain amount of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. HOA bylaws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

What amenities are most important to you?

Amenities vary location to location. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Most buildings will have a rental cap, so be sure to know what that cap is if you’re buying as an investment. Parking can also be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Ask to review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

Meaghan McGlynn/Windermere November 2019


Posted on November 8, 2019 at 10:30 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information, Strategy |

Sell Your House Twice? That’s Right!

It’s true! A listing agent’s goal is to get their listing sold to a qualified buyer who will close. However, a good listing agent also realizes that once a home is under contract, they now have to sell the house to the appraiser if the buyer is getting a loan. You see, a buyer cannot complete their financing if the appraisal does not come in at the same value or higher than the agreed-upon contract price. A good strategy, especially if the price escalates above the list price, is for the listing agent to prepare an appraisal packet and meet the appraiser or share it with them via email. This gives the listing agent the opportunity to share their research and the story of the demand surrounding the property. This is some extra effort, but so worth it to ensure success for the seller!

Need some help selling your house?  Give us a call – We’re here to help!

 


Posted on November 4, 2019 at 11:14 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |

October 2019 – What is a Dual Real Estate Market?

 

 

Last month, we did an analysis on the new phenomenon of a dual market. A dual market is when you have different market conditions within the same overarching real estate market. This duality presents amazing opportunities for sellers who are also buyers, depending on where they want to go. We reported on two dual markets, the move-up market and the move-out market. Another dual market that deserves to be shared is the condo market compared to single-family residential.

In September, single-family residential homes in Seattle Metro had an absorption rate of 43% while condos were at 27%. Months of inventory based on pending sales for single-family residential was only 1.9 months of available inventory, and condos, 3.5 months! That is the difference of a seller’s market for single-family residential to a balanced market for condos. After many solid years of strong appreciation, folks that are looking to cash out the equity on their single-family residential homes and move to a condo have the opportunity to move their investment with a sizable down payment and upgrade to a lifestyle that is often stair-free with less maintenance.

The median price for a condo in Seattle Metro in September was $455,000 and for a single-family residential home, $750,000. The median price for a condo in south Snohomish County is September was $343,000 and for a single-family residential home, $569,000. It is common for folks to sell their long-time family home and downsize into a condo and pay all cash. The buildup of equity over the years and paying down their loans allow for large cash-outs and easier all-cash purchases.

If one is getting a loan though, it is important to highlight today’s interest rates. They are a point lower than they were a year ago, affording buyers 10% more buying power. For example, a one-point-lower rate on a purchase at $500K will now afford a buyer the purchase of a home at $550K with the same monthly payment. Couple that with price appreciation tempering and you have a perfect downsizing market, which often includes condo purchases!

If you are curious about moving from a single-family home to a condo and the opportunity this dual market presents, please reach out. It is our goal to help keep clients educated and empowered to make strong decisions. This is especially rewarding when it leads to their next chapter in life, which can be an amazing transition.

 

 

 

 


Posted on November 4, 2019 at 11:00 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Statistical Information, Strategy |

2019 Holiday Tree Lighting Celebrations

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebrations 

 Kick off the holiday season with a community tree lighting celebration. Thanksgiving falls late on the calendar this year, so the Christmas festivities will be right on it’s heels. Some of these celebrations start as early as the day after Thanksgiving! 

The bigger celebrations feature Santa’s arrival, and most of the communities will have fun activities designed to put you and your family in the holiday spirit. live music, refreshments, crafts, and other fun activities. Santa will make an appearance at most of these as well. 

Nov. 29 – Bellevue at Bellevue Place 

Nov. 29 – Seattle at Westlake Center 

Nov. 30 – Seattle at Pike Place Market 

Nov. 30 – Tacoma at the Broadway Center 

Nov. 30 – Edmonds at Centennial Plaza 

Dec. 1 –  Bothell on Main Street 

Dec. 1 – Olympia at Sylvester Park 

Dec. 6 – Mercer Island at Mercerdale Park 

Dec. 6 – Mountlake Terrace at Evergreen Playfield 

Dec. 6 – Renton at Coulon Park 

Dec. 6 – Sammamish at City Hall 

Dec. 6 – University Place (south of Tacoma) 

Dec. 7 – Kenmore at City Hall 

Dec. 7 – Kent at Kent Town Square Plaza 

Dec 7 – Lynnwood at City Hall 

Dec. 7 – Mill Creek on Main Street 

Dec 7 – Mukilteo at Rosehill Community Center 

Dec. 7 – West Seattle at West Seattle Junction 

Dec 7 – Woodinville at DeYoung Park & Wilmot Gateway Park 


Posted on October 23, 2019 at 10:39 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Just for Fun |

Q3 2019 Gardner Report for Western Washington

 

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

Washington State employment has softened slightly to an annual growth rate of 2%, which is still a respectable number compared to other West Coast states and the country as a whole. In all, I expect that Washington will continue to add jobs at a reasonable rate though it is clear that businesses are starting to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. The state unemployment rate was 4.6%, marginally higher than the 4.4% level of a year ago. My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will rise by 2.2%, with a total of 88,400 new jobs created.

 

HOME SALES

  • There were 22,685 home sales during the third quarter of 2019, representing a slight increase of 0.8% from the same period in 2018 and essentially at the same level as in the second quarter.
  • Listing activity — which rose substantially from the middle of last year — appears to have settled down. This is likely to slow sales as there is less choice in the market.
  • Compared to the third quarter of 2018, sales rose in five counties, remained static in one, and dropped in nine. The greatest growth was in Skagit and Clallam counties. Jefferson, Kitsap, and Cowlitz counties experienced significant declines.
  • The average number of homes for sale rose 11% between the second and third quarters. However, inventory is 14% lower than in the same quarter of 2018. In fact, no county contained in this report had more homes for sale in the third quarter than a year ago.

 

 

 

HOME PRICES

  • Home price growth in Western Washington notched a little higher in the third quarter, with average prices 4.2% higher than a year ago. The average sales price in Western Washington was $523,016. It is worth noting, though, that prices were down 3.3% compared to the second quarter of this year.
  • Home prices were higher in every county except Island, though the decline there was very small.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County, where home prices were up 22%. San Juan, Jefferson, and Cowlitz counties also saw double-digit price increases.
  • Affordability issues are driving buyers further out which is resulting in above-average price growth in outlying markets. I expect home prices to continue appreciating as we move through 2020, but the pace of growth will continue to slow.

 

 

 

 

 

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped one day when compared to the third quarter of 2018.
  • Thurston County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 20 days to sell. There were six counties where the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in six counties, while two counties were unchanged.
  • Across the entire region, it took an average of 38 days to sell a home in the third quarter. This was down 3 days compared to the second quarter of this year.
  • Market time remains below the long-term average across the region and this trend is likely to continue until more inventory comes to market, which I do not expect will happen until next 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. I am leaving the needle in the same position as the first and second quarters, as demand appears to still be strong.

The market continues to benefit from low mortgage rates. The average 30-year fixed rates is currently around 3.6% and is unlikely to rise significantly anytime soon. Even as borrowing costs remain very competitive, it’s clear buyers are not necessarily jumping at any home that comes on the market. Although it’s still a sellers’ market, buyers have become increasingly price-conscious which is reflected in slowing home price growth.

 


Posted on October 22, 2019 at 11:43 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q3 2019 Seattle Metro Quarterly Trends

 

Increased pending activity is an indication of strong buyer demand which is very much being driven by historically low interest rates, a thriving job market, and an overall strong local economy. In fact, interest rates are an entire point lower than they were a year ago! This affords buyers a price point that is 10% higher over last year while maintaining the same monthly payment. A year ago, the monthly payment for a home at $750,000 is the same for a home at $825,000 today. Today’s rates coupled with tempered price appreciation provides increased affordability for buyers, which in turn is providing a healthy audience for sellers.  After many years of strong price increases, many sellers are moving their equity to the next lifestyle home they desire.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in the Seattle Metro area; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.


Posted on October 16, 2019 at 6:25 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q3 2019 North King County Trends

 

Increased pending activity is an indication of strong buyer demand which is very much being driven by historically low interest rates, a thriving job market, and an overall strong local economy. In fact, interest rates are an entire point lower than they were a year ago! This affords buyers a price point that is 10% higher over last year while maintaining the same monthly payment. A year ago, the monthly payment for a home at $750,000 is the same for a home at $825,000 today. Today’s rates coupled with tempered price appreciation provides increased affordability for buyers, which in turn is providing a healthy audience for sellers.  After many years of strong price increases, many sellers are moving their equity to the next lifestyle home they desire.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in north King County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.


Posted on October 16, 2019 at 6:19 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q3 2019 South Snohomish County Quarterly Trends

 

Increased pending activity is an indication of strong buyer demand which is very much being driven by historically low interest rates, a thriving job market, and an overall strong local economy. In fact, interest rates are an entire point lower than they were a year ago! This affords buyers a price point that is 10% higher over last year while maintaining the same monthly payment. A year ago, the monthly payment for a home at $550,000 is the same for a home at $605,000 today. Today’s rates coupled with tempered price appreciation provides increased affordability for buyers, which in turn is providing a healthy audience for sellers.  After many years of strong price increases, many sellers are moving their equity to the next lifestyle home they desire.

This is only a snapshot of the trends in south Snohomish County; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.

 


Posted on October 16, 2019 at 6:13 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

Q3 2019 Seattle Eastside Quarterly Trends

Increased pending activity is an indication of strong buyer demand which is very much being driven by historically low interest rates, a thriving job market, and an overall strong local economy. In fact, interest rates are an entire point lower than they were a year ago! This affords buyers a price point that is 10% higher over last year while maintaining the same monthly payment. A year ago, the monthly payment for a home at $900,000 is the same for a home at $990,000 today. Today’s rates coupled with tempered price appreciation provides increased affordability for buyers, which in turn is providing a healthy audience for sellers.  After many years of strong price increases, many sellers are moving their equity to the next lifestyle home they desire.

This is only a snapshot of the trends on the Eastside; please contact us if you would like further explanation of how the latest trends relate to you.


Posted on October 16, 2019 at 6:08 am
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Quarterly Reports, Statistical Information |

How Long do Things Last?

Nothing lasts forever. From the roof to the floor, everything in your home has a lifespan. Use these approximations to help budget for improvements or deciding between repairing or replacing items when problems arise.  It’s hard to anticipate when things will wear out but  you can tuck this information away for the future.  It may come in handy.

 


Posted on October 2, 2019 at 11:43 pm
Becky and Steve Larsen | Posted in Helpful Information |