We hope this newsletter finds you and yours feeling well and making the best of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. It has been my goal as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic to help keep my clients informed on how this is affecting real estate. We have received many inquiries asking about how the real estate market in our area is fairing during this time. Fortunately, we have access to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist on a weekly basis. Matthew’s one of the most respected economists in the nation, specifically in relation to housing. Last week, we had the opportunity to sit in on a Zoom meeting with him and my colleagues to learn more about COVID-19 and the Western Washington real estate market, and we found his outlook reassuring. Below is the latest edition of a weekly video series that he is recording each Monday to help keep everyone informed and connected to meaningful data. Matthew Gardner and Steve Harney, another economist on the East Coast, are who we are looking to for answers in contrast to just turning on the news or reading the latest headlines. Please click on the image below to listen to Matthew. If you have any questions or want to discuss how this might affect your real estate position specifically, please reach out! It has always been our goal to help keep our clients informed and empower strong decisions, now more than ever.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have surely been felt economically. A common question that we have been asked is, “Is this 2008 all over again?” The answer is “No!” As Matthew touched on above, this is a health crisis, not a housing crisis. Yes, we are headed toward a recession, but not one that is based in housing like The Great Recession of 2008. That recession was primarily based on predatory lending practices that put people into homes they could not afford with little to no down payments and horribly vetted credit. In fact, of the last five recessions, three did not see price depreciation in housing.
Take a look at the graph to the below, which shows the homeowner households in King County with more than 50% equity in their home. In Q4 of 2019, 43% of homeowners in King County were in a very healthy equity position, owing less than 50% of what their home was worth. We have been tracking sales weekly since March 1st, and prices remain strong. We have a very limited amount of inventory, rates remain low, and buyer demand is being fueled by these positive components. Our economy was formidable prior to this, indicating solid bedrock for recovery once we weather this storm that needs to be waited out. The Greater Seattle Area is particularly fortunate as many of our large businesses are centered in information technology and Amazon, which have both stayed active during this time.
Another aspect that is different from the 2008 Great Recession is that some banks and mortgage investors (servicers) are working with homeowners to provide mortgage relief. With the shutdown of so many businesses and services, job losses have been abundant. If you or someone you know would benefit from setting up a mortgage forbearance program or loan modification in order to alleviate the pressure of monthly payments right now, click on this link and have them contact their mortgage servicer today. The available programs that are offered will vary from one loan servicer to another, and are primarily available for loans that are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (click on the appropriate link to help research who owns your loan). Make sure you consider the details and payback terms for your long-term financial health. The ability to protect this asset while waiting this out will protect one’s equity. This is a milestone opportunity and will ensure a strong housing market moving forward.