Jan. 22, 2018

Eye on the Market - February 2018


According to CW Title, a recently released report on real estate activity nationwide shows the Seattle metro area with 19 of 25 most competitive markets in the country. The study took into account price appreciation, days on the market, how many sales were above list price, and other factors. That stunning result supports why many in the market for a home are currently experience; our region is hot, and competition is fierce.

The latest statistics from the Northwest MLS show closed-sales prices for single-family homes are again up year-over-year in King County by 15.45 percent, in Snohomish County by 12.50 percent and in Pierce County by 12.25 percent.

Inventory remains the biggest concern for our region's housing-market health. Brokers are reporting brisk traffic at open houses, and properly priced listings are moving fast. Some are speculating that the Seahawks missing the playoffs this year might have allowed prospective buyers a bit more time on the weekends to visit homes. While that may be true in many cases, the fact is that there are plenty of qualified buyers scouring the market and more entering every day.

It's a great time to live and work in our area, and to invest in real estate here. There is no shortage of buyers, and for those who've been sitting on the fence about selling a home, now is a great time to enter the market and maximize their return.

Dec. 14, 2017

What to expect after the closing of your property

Nov. 28, 2017

Key Indicators for Western Washington housing still rising, but brokers detect slowdown and uncertainty

Latest Press Release by the NWMLS

Market Snapshot Infographic

KIRKLAND, Washington (November 6, 2017) - Early seasonal snow and questions swirling around the tax plan unveiled last week by House Republicans could make the usual seasonal slowdown more pronounced, say industry leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. For October, however, key indicators trended upwards.

Pending sales rose nearly 8 percent from a year ago, closed sales were up 5.2 percent, and prices jumped about 8.2 percent, with 14 counties reporting double-digit gains. Even the number of new listings improved on the year-ago total.

Northwest MLS figures for the 23 counties it serves show members added 8,466 new listings to inventory during October, outgaining the year-ago total of 7,575 by 11.8 percent. Buyers outnumbered new listings, with 10,586 of them having their offers accepted. That number of pending sales was up nearly 8 percent from the same month a year ago.

"The challenge for buyers actually isn't lack of choice, it is the rapid pace of sales," suggested Ken Anderson, president/owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty.

"The market in Thurston County has never been better for sellers, and they're getting the message," Anderson remarked. His analysis revealed a 10-year high for sellers coming to market during October. "These savvy sellers are not waiting until spring to sell. They are taking advantage of today's great market and making their move now," he reported.

Buyers may find themselves in a quandary as the year winds down as they contemplate limited supply, possible upticks in interest rates and tax reform. Last week's announcement of a provision in a GOP tax proposal to cap the mortgage interest deduction is concerning to buyers, brokers and builders.

"Imagine if the proposed plan to cap the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 is approved in a market that is starved for homes and where the median price [for a single family home in King County] is now $630,000," said O B Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. "Homeowners may be less likely to sell because they would be giving up their grandfathered tax credit on their current home. That's fewer homes for sale in a market where we really need them," he stated, adding, "There could also be a flood of new buyers trying to purchase before the plan is passed, adding to the already hyper-competitive market conditions."

The president of the National Association of REALTORS® also weighed in, saying details are currently under review, but stated, "Eliminating or nullifying the tax incentives for homeownership puts home values and middle class homeowners at risk, and from a cursory examination this legislation appears to do just that."

Northwest MLS data show 66 percent of single family homes sold so far this year (Jan. - Oct.) in King County had selling prices of $500,000 or higher.

The median sales price system-wide for October was $373,000, up more than 8.1 percent from twelve months ago when it was $344,900. All counties in the four-county Puget Sound region notched double-digit gains.

For single family homes (excluding condos), the median sales price for last month's completed transactions was $381,000. Within King County prices are considerably higher. In Seattle, year-over-year prices jumped 17.6 percent, from $625,000 to $735,000. On the Eastside, the median price for a single family home rose 10 percent from a year ago, increasing from $768,000 to $845,000. Nevertheless, high prices did not seem to deter many house-hunters.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, noted October was the "best ever for sales activity in the Puget Sound region."

Northwest MLS brokers reported 7,740 pending sales in the four-county region (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap), bettering the year ago mark of 7,487 mutually accepted offers. System-wide, pending sales increased from the year-ago total of 9,805 to last month's total of 10,586 (up 7.97 percent).

"With a large buyer pool for each new listing, we saw a higher percentage of new listings sell within the first 30 days of coming on the market," Scott reported, while also noting the seasonal change in housing market dynamics. "As we enter the winter market, the number of new listings being added will be in short supply from now through February," he explained.

Compared to spring months, Scott expects volumes in the next few months will be at 30-to-50 percent of spring totals. "The stage is set once again for a frenzy housing market after the first of the year in the price ranges where there is a shortage of active listings for sale."

Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott's Poulsbo office, also commented on supply, noting in Kitsap County, the number of active listings is down nearly 24 percent from a year ago. "What this means to Kitsap County buyers is that everything is compressed: with lower inventory and higher prices the pressure continues to build for those buyers who need to find a home."

Inventory remains low in many counties in the Northwest MLS system. Overall, there is only 1.5 months of supply of single family homes and condos combined. In King County, it's less than one month. Industry analysts say four to six months typically indicates a balanced (or "normal") market.

Most brokers agree inventory will not grow over the next few months. "Sellers who bring their homes on the market over the next three months will have a lot of interest because of the pent-up demand of buyers who are going to have fewer houses to consider," suggested Wilson.

"Homebuyers in our area are at a real disadvantage right now," commented Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. "They have to be pre-underwritten with their lenders, put forward a conventional or better offer, put down substantial earnest money, and hope that multiple offers do not escalate the price out of their affordability zone." He fears "more and more buyers will be sidelined."

Brokers in Snohomish County are detecting some tapering of activity.

"Buyers are no longer being as aggressive with concessions on homes when making offers and they are unwilling to compete for a home where sellers are being too aggressive with a list price," commented George Moorhead, designated broker and owner at Bentley Properties. He also noted buyers who have been on the sidelines are now more active as they see a slowdown "and an opportunity to finally own a home without the multiple offer competition."

Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-South Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood, believes the usual seasonal slowdown is apparent "a bit earlier than usual." She reported multiple offers are continuing but listings in Snohomish County are experiencing longer market times, fewer above-list price offers, and a noticeable increase in price reductions. "All of this puts an emphasis on how important correct, accurate pricing has become."

Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, suggested statistics for October "at first blush suggest the lack of listings of single family homes and condos in the region is self-correcting." As an example, he notes new listings in the tri-county region (King, Snohomish and Pierce) increased 11 percent from a year ago, while year-over-year sales rose only 6 percent. "That implies the shrinking inventory of homes for sale experienced over the past couple of year may be evening out."

Looking at year-to-date figures tells a different story, according to Grady. His analysis of the three counties shows a 20 percent reduction in active listings. Factoring in strong sales yields a statistic known as months of inventory, which is under two months in the four counties comprising the Puget Sound region.

"The story continues to be in the 'commuter' counties, which are experiencing the biggest shrinkage from a year ago," said Grady. "This reduction of supply will continue to put pressure on rising prices. Bottom line: investment in a home continues to be bullish with no change in sight."

Northwest MLS board member Robert Wasser said while it may be a difficult time to be a buyer and a positive time to be a seller, the best strategy "regardless of market conditions is to calculate the pros and cons involved and make informed choices." Wasser, the owner/broker at Prospera Real Estate in Seattle, recommends working with a real estate professional who, among other topics "is equipped to discuss market conditions, financing considerations, historic trends, and buying and selling strategies."

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of more than 2,200 member offices includes more than 26,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.

Statistical Summary By Counties
Market Activity Summary and 4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (PDF)

Oct. 26, 2017

First Time Buyer Programs

First Time Buyer Programs

Lenders now have new options available to first time buyers!  These programs help buyers get their foot in the door for home ownership.  One of these programs is called a Down Payment Assistance programs or DPA Grants.  The benefits of a DPA Grant are:

    1.  Down payment and/or closing cost assistance grant, up to 5% of the loan amount.
    2.  DPA grant never has to be repaid.
    3.  Affordable interest rates and variety of grant levels.
    4.  FHA, VA, USDA and Conventional mortgage loan options.
    5.  NOT limited to first-time homebuyers.

The three main types of down payment assistance are grants, second mortgage loans, and tax credits.

    Grants – Grants are funds that you do not have to pay back as long as you own and occupy your home for a certain period of time.
    Second mortgage loans – The most common down payment source, many second mortgage loans offered by state and local governments have low or zero interest rates, and the payments are deferred over a specified time span and, in many cases, the loan is completely forgiven over time.
    Tax credits – Certain states and local governments, including housing finance agencies, issue mortgage credit certificates, which reduce the amount of federal income tax you pay. This makes more money available upfront for your down payment or closing costs.

Depending on the program, assistance may be limited to first-time homebuyers and/or low- and moderate-income homebuyers. Home buyer counseling may be required and we highly recommend that you get advice through the process.

For more information about First Time Buyer programs or down payment assistance, please contact a lender or give us a call and we can refer you to some great local lenders.


Aug. 1, 2017

Buyer's beware of wire fraud

Real Estate wire fraud is on the rise. Buyer's need to be aware never to transfer funds into an account per instructions received via email. Instead, they should contact the escrow company personally to confirm any account numbers before they transfer funds.

Escrow company's are responsible for any lost funds when they transfer money out of their accounts, however, buyer's are responsible for all funds transferred into the lenders account. Thus, if the funds are transferred into a fraudulent account, those funds can be lost forever with no way to recover them and the buyer is out the money and won't get the home.

Hackers have become quite savvy with logging into email accounts and watching what is happening with a transaction. They can then start sending you emails that appear to be the real estate broker, the lender, or the escrow/title company involved in that transaction. The hacker can use the same logo and have the same branded appearance.

Here are some tips to help prevent against wire fraud according to an article in RealEstate.Boston.com:

-Brokers should tell their client that everyone is exposed to the risk of wire fraud, but explain what precautions they will use to guard against theft.

-Brokers should stress to the home buyer that any change in the transfer of funds will be discussed face to face to ensure the validity of the request.

-It’s recommended that agents, realtors, attorneys, every party handling property transactions use only those devices that are on secured Wi-Fi networks encrypted to prevent “break-ins.’’

-Everyone involved should change their passwords frequently; use only complex, impersonal character combinations; and write different ones for every site.

-Real Estate Brokers and attorneys should use company e-mail addresses. Ex. Name@SolutionPartnersNW.com. It’s more difficult for hackers to create a duplicate company e-mail address than a Gmail or Yahoo one. And look for subtle differences: Jane.Johnson@gmail.com could very easily become Jane.Jonson@gmail.com.

-Clients should pay attention to the URLs, the e-mail addresses, and the times of day they’re receiving correspondence from the parties in the transaction.

-Report suspicious activity to the parties involved.

So it is better to be safe than sorry and confirm any wire transfer number directly with the escrow company before sending the money. 

June 9, 2017

Risks of listing homes below market to stimulate multiple offer situations

A popular listing strategy some agents are implementing is marketing homes substantially below market to stimulate a frenzied multiple offer situation. This means buyers compete to outbid one another with escalation clauses. The result is the seller may receive an above market final closing price and the buyer might end up paying more than the home is actually worth.

The risk with this approach is the sellers might not receive escalation high enough to bring them up to market. For example, homes in a neighborhood might be closing for sales prices at $625,000 or $278/square foot.  A broker may list a home for $499,999 to stimulate multiple offers on the home, but the escalation might only reach $585,000 or $260/square foot, thus the seller loses potential income. And, homes in the neighborhood could be devalued if the strategy fails.

Another problem with this approach, is buyer's may see a home is listed for $499,999 and be very hopeful that they can purchase the home for this price and be extremely disappointed to learn they have been outbid and will never have a chance to buy this home. This creates a tough situation for buyer's agents.

Due to the competitive bidding happening in the Seattle market, buyer's and their agents are getting fatigued. Buyers may not even bid on a home they know will likely escalate beyond their reach when they know it is listed below market.

May 4, 2017

Should Sellers get a Pre-listing Inspection?

Should sellers do a pre-listing inspection when the market is buzzing and it is a seller's market?  With homes around the region bidding up with multiple offers, and most buyers waiving the inspection, it would seem a pre-listing inspection is not necessary.  However, a pre-listing inspection can make your home even more attractive to buyers. 

This way buyers don't have to pay $500 for an inspection and they feel more comfortable waiving it.  This also can eliminate pre-inspections and the possibility of having multiple inspectors going through your home before it is under contract. 

A pre-listing inspection also lets buyers know exactly what they are getting.  You, as a seller, have an option to fix the items on the list - which could increase your home's value even more, or you could just opt to sell your home "as is."

"Sellers who have a home inspection upfront also can identify any major problems that could potentially derail a sale later on at the closing table. Any major repairs can be addressed beforehand. Doing repairs ahead of time might also be more cost-effective than having to pay a buyer's own licensed contractor do the work," according to the National Association of Realtors.

If a home is under contract and an inspection is done as part of the contract - often buyers will use the inspection as a way to negotiate the price down.  However, a pre-listing inspection takes that negotiating power away from the buyer's agent. 

March 30, 2017

Things to Know when Selling a Condo

Selling a condo has a few more steps involved than selling a single-family home.  First the seller needs to order a resale certificate, which will disclose to the buyer if there are any impending Home Owners Association (HOA) special assessments for the development.  A special assessment is assigned when there are not enough reserves for replacements in the HOA budget.  For example, if the siding on the building needs to be replaced but was not in the budget, then a special assessment may become the burden for all of the homeowners.  Thus, as a real estate broker, it is very important to read the resale certificate to advise our buyer's of this potential cost. 

Also note, a resale certificate is only typically good for 90 days.  If selling time exceeds 90 days, then the lender may request an updated resale certificate. 

Another important question to ask, is if there a rental cap on the development.  A rental cap is a limit to the number of renters allowed in a condo or development (also known as owner-occupancy rates). If you own a property with a rental cap and the rental cap has been met, you need to add your name to the HOA waiting list before you can rent out your unit. If you are selling you condo, you will want to disclose if there is no rental cap.  A condo development without a rental cap is more desirable to an investment buyer.  Condominiums with low owner occupancy rates, under 51% can also have difficulty obtaining financing. 

If the HOA is well managed, then selling condominium is not a difficult process.  It is important for a real estate broker to help their client through the selling and buying process and ensure the due diligence has been done. 

March 13, 2017

February 2017 NWMLS News Release: Housing Inventory Reaches Record Low, But Brokers Expect Spring Bounce




KIRKLAND, Washington (March 6, 2017) – Home buyers are in a spring mood, but sellers are still hibernating, suggested one broker while commenting about the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Figures for February and feedback from brokers indicate record-low inventory is spurring multiple offers, rising prices, fewer sales, and frustrated house-hunters.

Year over-year pending sales (mutually accepted offers) declined for the first time since March 2016, falling 8.9 percent. Eight counties, including King and Snohomish, reported double-digit drops in pending sales as the volume of new listings couldn’t keep pace with demand.

During the past three months, brokers have added 17,572 new listings to inventory, down only 5.7 percent when compared to the same three-month period of a year ago. During the latest December-to-February timeframe, MLS members reported 22,393 pending sales, far outpacing the number of new listings.

“Our robust market has created extreme conditions, and we’re seeing frenzy hot activity on each new listing coming on the market,” reported J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott. “We’re also experiencing some of the lowest inventory levels on record,” he noted.

In fact, a check of Northwest MLS records dating to 2004 shows no other month when the number of active listings dipped below the 10,000 mark – until last month.

At the end of February, there were 9,091 active listings in the Northwest MLS system, which encompasses 23 counties. That represents a drop of nearly 25 percent from the year-ago total of 12,107.

“Home sellers and buyers are complaining equally about the current market’s low inventory,” remarked MLS director George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties. “Sellers are frustrated when they cannot find another home to match their current needs, or when a home goes off market so fast that the option of a contingent sale is not even considered,” he stated.

Buyers have been grumbling about the market for the past two years, Moorhead said. “That mood has escalated into a panic as other buyers up the ante – at times to a level that even causes real estate professionals to shake their heads,” he remarked.

Brokers believe seasonality is a factor, with several saying they are expecting an uptick in listings.

“For buyers, hope springs eternal, but the sellers are still hibernating,” suggested John Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain. “We’ve been experiencing continued high buyer demand as the spring market takes off early but sellers are on a more traditional schedule as listings slowly ramp up,” he reported, adding, “Sellers that have come to market ahead of the traditional spring market are reaping the benefits of less competition [from others who are selling] and a highly competitive buyer pool.”

Deely said anecdotal information indicates many sellers are preparing their properties for the more traditional listing time around May.

That expectation was echoed by fellow MLS director Frank Wilson, the branch managing broker at John L. Scott in Poulsbo, and by Lennox Scott.

Scott expects inventory to start rising in March, but he also anticipates the number of buyers will increase too. “It will continue to be a competitive market in the more affordable and mid-price ranges,” he predicts.

“The spring market in Kitsap is a little like waiting for the tulips to begin coming up. We have the buyer demand but the inventory has not started springing up yet,” commented Wilson. “Open houses have a lot of traffic and we are seeing multiple offers on new listings that are priced correctly.”

Wilson noted Kitsap County is seeing an increase in investor type buyers as they anticipate the impact of the new fast ferry system, now in the beginning stages of roll-out. “Access directly to Seattle on a fast foot ferry will have a large impact on Kingston, Bremerton, and Port Orchard, while hopefully reducing the pressure on the Bainbridge Island terminal,” he stated.

“What many don’t realize is that while a lack of inventory might help a seller get more for their home, it has a downside,” according to Wilson. “It can cause potential sellers not to list, appraisals to come in low, buyers to lose out to multiple offers, VA and FHA buyers to take second chair to cash or conventional loans, and a general frustration from lack of choice. A balanced market is always preferable to this unbalanced state of things,” he remarked.

Scott agreed, saying, “Some potential sellers are currently parked in a gridlock position because they are afraid to put their home on the market for fear they either won’t find a home, or they will find themselves in a multiple offer situation. This has stalled the migration pattern of sellers who would normally be putting their homes on the market.”

Moorhead suggested one tactic for buyers, given the historic low levels of inventory, is to start looking below the price point they’ve been considering. “Getting into a home and then moving up in 3-to-5 years is becoming a more common theme as most buyers cannot secure the home they wish to be in long-term. This is a definite shift in mindset since the average homeowner typically lives in a home 7-to-10 years.”

Brokers expect little relief in rising prices.

“Home sellers are benefitting from the perfect storm of market conditions, but as the ongoing low inventory levels and precipitous drop in pending sales indicate, there simply are not enough homes to meet the demand of buyers. All of this is pushing up home prices faster than anywhere else in the country and will continue to do so if we don’t see more homes come on the market this spring,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate.

“With less than a two month supply of inventory, we will continue to see price escalation,” stated Wilson, who noted prices on closed sales of single family homes and condos in Kitsap County, where his office is situated, are up 10 percent from a year ago. That county has about 1.4 months of supply, third lowest among the 23 counties in the MLS database.

Both King and Snohomish County had less than one month of supply. Area-wide there was about 1.7 months of supply. (In general, four-to-six months of supply is considered balanced.)

Year-over-year prices are up nearly 8.9 percent area-wide, with 13 counties reporting double-digit gains. The median price for last month’s 5,374 closed sales of single family homes and condos (combined) was $335,000. Closed sales volumes rose nearly 6.9 percent from a year ago.

In King County — one of only four counties where the volume of closed sales fell from a year ago – prices jumped 14.1 percent, climbing from $439,950 to $502,000. Despite the drop, King County’s year-to-date total of 3,803 closed sales is running 7.3 percent ahead of the first two months of 2016. System-wide, the number of completed transactions for January and February is up 12.3 percent. Deely believes those figures indicate the “fast pace, high velocity market” will continue to grow in 2017.

For single family homes (excluding condos), the median selling price in King County was $560,000. That’s a gain of more than 8.7 percent from the year-ago figure of $514,975.

Snohomish County prices spiked more than 18.2 percent, rising from $327,500 to $387,250. For single family homes only, prices in that county increased 14.9 percent, from $359,000 to $412,500.

“At this point it appears that those seeking to stay in ‘commuter counties’ that surround the job hub of King County have the best opportunity to do so in Pierce County,” suggested Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. “However,” he noted, “inventories in Pierce County are shrinking at a high rate as well (down nearly 24 percent), suggesting that demand is pushing southward to Tacoma/Pierce County. That will likely cause sales prices to spike in the future, so this opportunity may not last long.”

The median price on last month’s sales in Pierce County rose to $274,950 from $249,250 for a gain of 10.3 percent. That’s about 55 percent of the price in King County ($502,000), Grady noted. Single family home prices (excluding condos) in Pierce County ($280,000) were half the price in King County ($560,000).

Area-wide prices on last month’s completed transactions for condo sales rose 6.2 percent from a year ago, increasing from $275,000 to $292,000. King County condo prices increased 5.1 percent to $340,500.

Condo inventory plunged 33.2 percent, most notably in King County where brokers reported a sharp drop, at 41.5 percent. At month end there were only 759 condos listed for sale, down from the year-ago total of 1,136 units.

Sparse inventory of condos system-wide likely contributed to a 14.8 percent decline in pending sales. Brokers reported 1,063 pending sales of condos during February while adding 915 new listings. A year ago, members logged 1,247 pending sales and added 1,099 new listings to condo inventory.

Asked about recent news reports of immigrants backing out of home purchases in reaction to the President’s immigration policies, brokers had mixed comments.

“While we’re hearing from our brokers about buyer uncertainty related to those holding H-1B work visas (for temporary employees) and those who are undocumented residents, we don’t at this point see a significant effect on the market. Until we have clarity around the Trump Administration’s executive orders on immigration, it’s impossible to know what effect they may have,” said Grady.

Moorhead said there is a “distinct ripple being felt,” but added, “We do anticipate many buyers with the H-1B visa to start cooling their interest until clarity is given to how this new policy will shake out.”

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.

© 2017 NWMLS

Jan. 19, 2017

Solution Partners NW has Moved to a New Office Location!


Hi Everyone!

Solution Partners NW is now located at:

22525 SE 64th Place

Issaquah, WA 98027

Company Phone: 425-460-4423

Posted in SPNW News