Monthly Newsletter – April 2019

I am pleased to present the first-quarter 2019 edition of the Gardner Report, which provides insights into select counties of the Western Washington housing market. This analysis is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. I hope that this information will 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 me.

Click to view the full report

 

When you shop at a local Farmers Market, you’re buying outstanding freshness, quality and flavor. Knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it was grown provides peace of mind for your family. Plus, you’re supporting a sustainable regional food system that helps small family farms stay in business; protects land from development, and provides the community with fresh, healthy food. Find one near you!

 

We are collecting vegetable seeds and starts for the Martha Perry Garden, where volunteers grow thousands of pounds of fresh produce every year for local food banks.

My office will be spending a volunteer day in the garden for our annual Community Service Day in June. In addition to our labor, we will gift them all of the vegetable seeds and starts collected between now and then.

All seeds should be no more than a year old, although fresh seeds are preferred.
Wish List:

Basil, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots*, Cauliflower, Chard, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Herbs, Marigolds, Peppers, Radishes, Summer Squash, Snow Peas, Tomatoes, Winter Squash, Zucchini

*High Demand!

Starts of cucumbers, winter & summer squash, cole crops (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc) are especially welcome

Thank you!!

 

Thank you for another successful Shred Day!

Two full truckloads of paper were safely shredded and recycled.

We love providing this service for our clients, friends and neighbors, but what we’re really excited about is how you all gave back to the community. Your donations provided 534 pounds of food and $1,129 to benefit Concern for Neighbors food bank. Thank you!

Posted on May 2, 2019 at 4:36 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – March 2019: Consulting Your Trusted Advisor vs Following the Media

Spring is in the air! The bulbs are starting to poke out of the ground and we recently hit 70 degrees in the Greater Seattle area. This is the time of year, due to weather and the end of the school year approaching, that the local real estate market starts to take off with activity. Not only is the sun thawing out gardens and backyard patios, helping to ready homes for market, but interest rates are continuing to fall, providing a heyday for buyers and sellers.

Spring is the time of year we see more homes come to market providing more selection for buyers. This is what we call our peak season. This spring, however, is especially meaningful due to the recent decrease in interest rates. Seasonality naturally brings more activity, but 2019 has started out with a downward trajectory in regards to interest rates, which has been a welcome shift after watching rates increase by almost an entire point over the course of 2018.

According to Ycharts.com, as of March 14th the US 30-year mortgage rate is at 4.31%, compared to 4.41% the week prior and 4.46% last year. This is quite a bit lower than the long term average of 8.07%. Additionally, rates are now over half a point lower than they were just four months ago, which gives buyers 5% more buying power. Meaning they can increase their price range by 5% and keep the same mortgage payment.

We are beginning to see a ton of activity at open houses, market times are starting to shrink, and multiple offers are popping up again. Demand is on the rise, with first-time home buyers out in full-force along with move-up and down-size buyers all going after the same inventory. Price appreciation will start to happen again month-over-month as the tulips start to open and veggie gardens start sprouting.

This assessment is not only factual and researched, it is anecdotal. You see, statistics are only reported monthly from the NWMLS, so the stories from the streets tell the real story of where we have been, what’s happening now, and where we are headed in the real estate market. My daily engagement with the market, either helping buyers or sellers, researching values, showing properties, negotiating contracts, and working on inspections and appraisals helps me to be informed of the trends before they are even reported.

Around the third of each month, the NWMLS distributes a press release to the media reporting the previous month’s statistics. The media grabs the numbers that are most exciting to them to craft a story around. They create headlines to entice readership, which in turn sells advertising. The problem is that these news stories often only tell part of the story.

A classic example of cherry picked statistics used to create a headline came earlier this month.  The Seattle Times reported in a sub-headline that Snohomish County home prices were falling at their fastest rate in seven years. This is simply not the whole truth. This is a common tactic of the media often only using month-over-month numbers (comparing the current month to the same month a year ago) versus a complete year-over-year analysis. Real estate is a long-term investment, and month-over-month numbers tend to provide more of a snapshot rather than a longer-term analysis of data and what influenced it.

We need to look at the data from all angles. Where were we a year ago, what has happened over the course of the last year in comparison to the previous year, and what happened this month compared to last month? Real-time experiences matter too, as the market changes weekly and even daily. Interactions throughout the month help me understand what opportunities the current environment will provide before the ink even dries on the media release. All of this helps us understand where we have come from and where we are headed. Couple that with front-line, daily experiences, and your trusted advisor can help you determine how all of this relates to your bottom line much more effectively than an article in the newspaper.

Another important factor to consider is that the bulk of the statistics reported in that monthly NWMLS press release are based on closed sales. While closed sales are very important, we must also closely track pending sales activity (homes currently under contract). Closed sales show where we have been and pending sales indicate where we are headed. February was a misleading month because of Snowmageddon. It halted new inventory reaching the market and kept buyers at home. The second half of February once the roads were cleared, had buyers lined up. Many of those buyers are anxiously waiting for that seasonal surge in inventory as we head into spring. This is indicated by conversations being had at open houses and one-on-one encounters with clients. Buyers want to take advantage of these surprisingly low interest rates now and sellers are enjoying the audience they are providing.

Unfortunately, the media is the initial source of information, and sometimes the only source a consumer considers when making such big decisions. I can’t tell you how often I encounter people that are grossly misled by alarming headlines and bite-sized bits of media when it comes to their largest asset, or the consideration of entering into home ownership.

Supply and demand illustrates where we are at in the market, and factors such as interest rates, the local and global economy, and simple things like weather and consumer mindset drive the market. Consumer mindset is influenced by the media. Take it a step further and make sure you are aligned with a professional who is committed to tracking all of this and can help explain how it all relates to you. Everyone has their own goals and their own concerns; it is the analysis of a well-researched trusted advisor that can help you navigate these meaningful financial decisions. It is my goal to provide my clients with the most up-to-date information to help empower strong decisions. If you are curious how this all relates to you, please reach out. I’d be happy to discuss and help educate.

 

Growing your own vegetables is both fun and rewarding. It might seem intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but once you get started, you’ll find it isn’t very hard. Gardening is a learning experience, though. You’ll find that some things work better than others, and every planting season gives you another opportunity to make some tweaks and try again.

The first thing you need to decide is where to plant. For most veggies, this should be the sunniest spot you have. And of course, the second big question is what to plant. Go for the things you love to eat, as well as plants that will thrive in the amount of sun you have.

Our climate in the Pacific Northwest requires some crops to be started indoors in the winter and transplanted outside in the spring. But it’s not too late to get started. There are lots of plants that you can sow directly into the garden in early spring. Here are a few:

There are also many crops that can be planted in the summer for a fall harvest. Click here for a complete timeline of planting vegetables in the Seattle area.

 

Celebrate Earth Day with us! Bring all your sensitive documents to be professionally destroyed on-site by Confidential Data Disposal. Limit 20 file boxes per customer.

We will also be collecting non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit Concern for Neighbors Food Bank. Donations are not required, but are appreciated.

Saturday, April 20th, 10am – 2pm.
4211 Alderwood Mall Blvd, Lynnwood 98036

*This is a shredding-only event. Only paper will be accepted – no electronics or recyclables.

 

Posted on April 15, 2019 at 4:35 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – February 2019

Most recently, we have experienced an uptick in market activity. In fact, in King and Snohomish counties we saw a 53% increase in pending sales from December to January. While it is seasonally normal to see activity increase at the first of the year, it was 16% higher than the previous January. This increase is being driven by multiple factors, such as our thriving economy and job market, price acceleration softening, and the recent decrease in interest rates.

Currently, rates are as low as 4.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage – 0.75 points down from the fourth quarter of 2018. In fact, the interest rate in November was the highest we’ve seen in five years!  The current rate level is the lowest we have seen in a year. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point increase in interest rate, a buyer loses ten percent in purchase power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate increases by a point during their search, in order to keep the same monthly payment, the buyer would need to decrease their purchase price to $450,000. Conversely, for every decrease in interest rate, a buyer can increase their purchase price and keep the same monthly mortgage payment.

Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! If you take the scenario I just described and apply it to the link above, you can see that the folks who choose to jump into the market this year will enjoy an interest cost savings when securing their mortgage. This 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 slow-down in home-price appreciation. Complete year-over-year, prices are up around 8% in both King and Snohomish counties, but note that from 2017 to 2018 we saw a 14% increase. Price appreciation is adjusting to more normal levels and is predicted to increase 4-6% in 2019 over 2018.

As we head into 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 demand 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 re-finance in 2015-2017, will consider giving up that lower rate for the right move-up house now that rates are not as big of a jump up as they were during the second half of 2018.

This recent decrease in rate is making the move-up market come alive. 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 buying real estate. According to Nerd Wallet, 49% of all Millennials have a home purchase in their 5-year plan.

Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, rates should increase into the 5’s in 2019. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 6.85%, 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 30-year 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.

If you would like additional information on how today’s interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact me. I 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 my goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.

Celebrate Earth Day with us! Bring all your sensitive documents to be professionally destroyed on-site by Confidential Data Disposal. Limit 20 file boxes per customer.

We will also be collecting non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit Concern for Neighbors Food Bank. Donations are not required, but are appreciated.

Saturday, April 20th, 10am – 2pm.
4211 Alderwood Mall Blvd, Lynnwood 98036

*This is a shredding-only event. Only paper will be accepted – no electronics or recyclables.

I am pleased to present the fourth-quarter 2018 edition of the Gardner Report, which provides insights into select counties of the Western Washington housing market. This analysis is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. I hope that this information will 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 me.

Click to view the full report

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 5:01 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – January 2019

Happy 2019! As we head into the New Year, it’s a great time to look ahead to what the real estate market has in store. Just last week, I had the pleasure of hosting an Economic Forecast Event with Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and soaked up his knowledge and predictions. Below are his general predictions for the at-large real estate market across the nation. Please review and let me know if you have any questions.

Beyond the national forecast, at the event Matthew reported specifically on the Greater Seattle market, including both King and Snohomish counties. I received his Power Point presentation and I am happy to share his slides, should you request them.

A few take-a-ways to note are:

  • Seattle remains strong economically and our job market is thriving.
  • Interest rates are still historically low and will rise, but not beyond 6%.
  • It is still a seller’s market in our area, but price escalations are softening, creating more balance and sustainability. We are NOT experiencing a bubble.
  • 25% of homeowners in our region have 50% equity in their homes.
  • An economic recession is upon us in 2020. This one should be much like the 1991 recession; short and not based in housing.
  • Be careful how you process the media’s take on the market as they often use extreme month-over-month numbers vs. richer long-term data.
  • Prices are expected to rise 5-7% in 2019, which is more normal, but above the long-term average, yet lower than the recent double-digit year-over-year gains we’ve seen since 2012.

 

It is always my goal to help empower my clients with information to help them make informed decisions regarding their real estate.  Let me know if you’d like that Power Point. I’m happy to share and help you dissect the information. Here’s to a great 2019!

 

 

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

Posted on Windermere.com in Market News by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

 

The U.S. Economy

 

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

 

The U.S. Housing Market

 

Existing Home Sales
This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

 

Existing Home Prices
We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

 

New Home Sales
In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

 

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

 

Mortgage Rates
In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

 

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

 

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

 

Conclusions
There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

 

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

 

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

 

Originally published on Inman News.

 

 

At Windermere we help people buy and sell homes, but we also help build community. I’m proud to support the Windermere Foundation with every home I help sell or buy. 2018 concluded with another great year of fundraising and giving for the Windermere Foundation, thanks to the continued support of agents, franchise owners, staff, and the community. Nearly $2.5 million was raised in 2018, bringing our grand total to over $38 million raised since the Foundation’s inception in 1989! This money goes right back into our community, helping low-income and homeless families. Read the full blog post here.

 

 

 

This past Christmas, my office adopted 22 foster boys, ranging in age from 13-18 years old, and living in group homes managed by Pioneer Human Services. These group homes serve boys who are struggling with emotional, behavioral and/or psychiatric problems that prevent placement in a traditional foster care setting. We purchased gifts, using wish lists from the boys, to help provide a joyful Christmas morning for these teenage boys who might otherwise be overlooked.

The office also raised money for grocery gift cards for families in need (also referred by Pioneer Human Services). This year we distributed $2,068 in grocery gift cards to 15 local families.

We are also thrilled to report that through our partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, this season Windermere raised a total of $31,900 for YouthCare, an organization that provides critical services for homeless youth. This brings our three-year total to $98,700 towards our #tacklehomelessness campaign! Thank you to the Seahawks and to YouthCare for helping us support homeless youth in our community. We’ll be back next year to raise even more!

Posted on February 6, 2019 at 4:17 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter: 2018 Year in Review

2018 was a year of growth and change. The dynamic greater Seattle area and hottest real estate market in the country started to head toward some balance. After six years of expansion resulting in an extreme seller’s market, we encountered a market shift in the late spring. Where it is tricky, is the media paints a somewhat scary picture, cherry picking month-over-month statistics instead of looking at the entire year in review. I thought I’d take the opportunity to recap what led to this shift and where we might be headed.

In May, we saw a 40% increase in homes for sale. For so many years, the lack of inventory was the central theme of the market, with inventory levels as low as a two-week supply in the first quarter of 2018. These constricted inventory levels led to huge price escalations from buyers competing in multiple offers. It was not uncommon to have 10 buyers fighting over one house, resulting in a sale price 20% over the list price. That type of price growth is unreasonable and the result of the extreme market conditions. In May, that changed as many sellers started to come to market. Suddenly, buyers had more choices and multiple offers started to wane. This phenomenon led to a decrease in month-over-month price appreciation.

It just so happened that the increase in inventory was accompanied by two other influential factors. We had an increase in interest rate, and the now-repealed “Seattle Head Tax” was passed on May 14th, 2018 by the Seattle City Council.

Interest rates had been hovering in the low 4%s during all of 2017 and even in the high 3%s in 2016. We started 2018 in the low 4%s, but by May the rate had jumped a half-point. Coupled with extreme price jumps from limited inventory, affordability became an issue for many buyers. This started bringing folks to the sidelines.

A large contributor to the growth in our real estate market over the past 6 years was our robust job market, and the employment growth of companies such as Amazon. The “Seattle Head Tax” that passed in mid-May, but then repealed on June 12th, 2018, was a huge threat to our thriving economy. The angst it created in our region about the future of Seattle’s job market was palpable, and had companies like Amazon making bold moves such as halting all current construction projects. Also, we were in the midst of Amazon’s HQ2 search, and the head tax had Seattle on the line in regards to remaining the home to the big employers that have fed our job growth and economic rise.

The combination of a 40% increase in new listings, a half-point rise in interest rates, and the month-long battle over the head tax created pause in our real estate market. With more selection, more expensive money, and the drama in the Seattle City Council, folks were unsure of where we were headed. This created confusion, and when people are not clear they are less likely to make decisions. In retrospect, it was the perfect storm. Like any storm, it changed the environment, and like a washed-out road, we had to find a new route.

The new route, while a bit bumpy and new to navigate, has been refreshing and necessary. For so many years, we have been begging for more inventory to help temper price growth and create more mobility in the market. From 2016 to 2017, we had 14% year-over-year growth in median price in both King and Snohomish counties. To put that in perspective, the average year-over-year appreciation rate over the last 19 years has been 6%. Home values growing at double-digit appreciation rates was unsustainable, and quite frankly not affordable. This balancing-out of the market is a healthy and more sustainable new route.

Year-to-date, Snohomish County’s median price has grown 10% over the previous year and King county, 9%. A large part of that growth happened in the first half of the year, and we have seen some month-over-month prices go down since, as the market starts to find some balance. The media loves to report these month-over-month numbers to create headlines, but buries the big picture of growth over the previous year and the fact that balance is healthy, in the last few paragraphs of any given article.

The mobility that this created has been a welcome change. People were not putting their homes up for sale because they feared the prospect of finding their next one, so they stayed put. The almost overnight increase in selection created a more comfortable environment for the seller who also had to buy their next home. We have even started to see home sale contingency offers come together as this market has started to balance out.

As we round out 2018, in Snohomish County we ended November with two months of inventory based on pending sales, and 2.4 months in King County. This is still a seller’s market, but not the extreme seller’s market that had only two weeks of inventory – and that is a good thing. A balanced market is when you hit four months of inventory, and we have a way to go to get there. Bear in mind that these measurements are of the entire county and do not take price points into consideration. We have seen inventory pile a little higher in the higher price points. The big news is that sellers are sitting on a ton of equity. In Snohomish County, we have seen a 62% increase in median price since 2012, and in King County, 66%. As long as sellers keep this in perspective and understand that pricing needs to reflect the inventory levels, they will find great success.

The opportunity to make a move-up, downsize, or even buy your first home is awesome right now. Selection is actually an option and interest rates are still historically low. Currently, we are hovering around 5%, and they have actually recently dropped. Rates are predicted to head toward the mid 5%s in 2019, making a purchase now very appealing.

If you are just curious about the value of your home in today’s market or you are considering a move in 2019, please reach out. I’d be happy to relate the current market conditions to your investment and your goals. Education and awareness led to clarity, and when one is clear, they are empowered to make strong decisions. It is my mission to help educate my clients and assist them in making these big life decisions. Whatever your goals are in 2019, it is my honor to help keep you informed on all things real estate related.

 

Why Conserve Water?

There are several compelling reasons to take measures at home to conserve water. Not only will you save money on your utility bill, but conserving water will also help to protect our environment. Reducing how much water we use (and waste) also reduces the energy required to process and deliver it to our homes and businesses. This helps reduce pollution and conserve fuel. Minimizing water use also helps to extend the life of septic systems, and can help avoid costly sewage system expansions.

It’s easy to forget that water is a finite resource, but the stark truth is that only 3% of the water on Earth is fresh water. As populations grow, if we do not protect this precious resource, we may find down the road a lack of adequate, healthy water supply. This would have drastic consequences on water costs, food supplies, and health hazards.

The most effective way to save water is to upgrade your appliances and fixtures. But there are many other ways to reduce the amount of water used at home, most of which do not require any significant investment. Check out this list to get you started. A quick google search will provide even more ideas. Making just a few small changes over the next year can add up to hundreds or even thousands of gallons in water savings!

 

Where to Celebrate NYE

New Year’s Eve 2018 is almost upon us, and if you are still looking for something to do, read on! There are lots of options in the greater Seattle area, whether you are looking for the biggest blow-out bash or an earlier, family-friendly event.

There are actually two parties that will converge at midnight for the iconic Seattle fireworks show.

The Armory Stage will host rock band SWAY from 8pm until midnight. And at the International Fountain, you can dance the night away with live electronic music and video projection show (starts at 10pm). Tickets are required for both parties, however the big fireworks show is free to enjoy.

The Pacific Science Center transforms on NYE with fire sculptures, drinks and live music. There will be special entertainment throughout the night, as well as the standard Science Center exhibits. At midnight, head outside for the Space Needle fireworks. Purchase tickets in advance.

Watch the Seattle Center fireworks from under the glass of Chihuly Gardens. The evening includes appetizers, desserts, live music and a midnight toast. Purchase tickets in advance.

Another Seattle Center option, the Museum of Popular Culture offers four 21+ parties in one. With live music on three performance stages, comedians, party favors, special VIP areas, more than 20 bars, and a special singles-only cocktail hour, this is one of the largest parties of the year. Museum access is included in the price of the party, purchase tickets in advance.

First Night is an all-ages, family-friendly celebration in Downtown Tacoma’s Theater District. The affordable admission price includes museums, music, art, drama, dance, and a whole day and night of activities. The cost of entry increases as the festival gets closer, so buy early to save!

The perfect NYE celebration if you have older kids, this pajama party features comedians, balloon makers, pizza, snacks, and educational, hands-on activities throughout the night. The fun culminates at 9pm with a ball drop.

Ivar’s on Northlake will host live music, tasty food and view of the fireworks without the crowds. Advanced reservations are required, and will range in price depending on your selections.

Ring in the new year with the latest in R&B, Old School, Jazz and Hip Hop music. This is a 21+, semi-formal event, and hotel packages are available with your ticket purchase.

A Seattle tradition for almost a decade, this 18+ party always brings a mixed crowd together for a night of dancing. This is one of the biggest EDM parties of the year.

Celebrate the coming new year all day at KidsQuest! There are activities every hour from 10am to 4pm, including Bubble Wrap Stomp, New Year’s Hats, Storytime, glittery tattoos, and more. Admission is free with membership or museum admission.

Posted on December 15, 2018 at 4:01 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter

With a healthy increase in inventory since May, the need for buyers to have all their down payment funds immediately available, and a willingness to make offers with no contingencies has passed in most cases. It has been quite a relief, and is providing opportunities for many folks that have wanted to cash in on their well-developed equity levels, and either move up to a bigger home or down size (right size) to a home that better fits their current lifestyle.

For the first time in years we are starting to see an increase in contingent offers that are turning into pending transactions. A contingent sale is one where a buyer makes an offer to purchase their next home contingent on the sale of their current home. In some cases, the buyer’s current home may be already on the market, or in other cases they still need to launch their home to the market. Many buyers in this situation wait to find a home/seller that is willing to accept their contingent offer, and then they immediately launch their home onto the market.

The goal is a sale within 30-45 days, which will then provide the buyer with their down payment funds, and then close both properties within days of each other, making a smooth transition from one house to the next. We have not seen inventory levels the way they are now since late 2014, so the opportunity for successfully executing a contingent offer has not been an option for 4 years! It is a great time to seize this opportunity. With that said, let’s look at some statistics which highlight some of the gains there are to be had.

First and foremost, let’s look at year-over-year price appreciation. Over the last 12 months, we have seen an 11% increase in prices in both King and Snohomish Counties. Last year, the year-over-year price appreciation was 14% for both counties. This illustrates that price appreciation is slowing, or softening, if you will, due to the increase in inventory levels. This is a welcome trend as we move away from unsustainable appreciation levels, which is helping to stabilize affordability. Bear in mind that a historically-normal appreciation rate is 3-5%, so we are still a ways away from reaching that baseline.

The current market environment for both counties is still a seller’s market, sitting at 2.6 months of inventory based on pending sales for King, and 2.3 for Snohomish. A balanced market is representative of 3-6 months on inventory; we are currently just under that, but well above the extreme 0.5-0.8 months that we experienced over the last year or so. This has created more selection, which has minimized multiple offers and given buyers the opportunity to write offers with more comfortable terms, such as a home sale contingency.

Lastly, let’s talk interest rates! Currently, they are hovering around 5%. Yes, this is up from the 4.5% we saw earlier this year, but still well below the 30-year historical average of 6.7%. Money is still relatively cheap to borrow, and this should be taken advantage of as experts predict interest rates to rise as we head into 2019 and beyond. Your interest rate is typically fixed for the life of your loan, so rate plays into the long-term savings you can have on your asset if locked in at today’s levels.

If you have thought about making a move to a home that is a better fit for your current lifestyle, but have been stalled because you weren’t sure how to do it, now is the time to consider your options. Please reach out if you’d like a review of the current market conditions and how they relate to your goals. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

 

Choosing a color palette for your home can be a complex process. Whether you are refreshing the interior or exterior, identifying colors that you relate to and that are on trend can be a challenge. Check out this article from House Beautiful on the most popular color palettes for 2019 based on your color personality. I think there is a lot of fun to be had here, and remember – a couple coats of paint can be the most inexpensive way to refresh your home. If you need a painter or any other contractor, remember that I can be a resource, as I have a preferred contractors list that I can pull from.

 

#TackleHomelessness
Every play matters in the fight against homelessness! Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for helping us raise $4,600 to #TackleHomelessness in their last home game against Los Angeles. That brings our season total to $9,200 and our cumulative money raised to $76,000! Good luck to the Hawks this weekend against the Chargers!

Posted on November 3, 2018 at 8:45 pm
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter

With the sharpest increase of available homes for sale in years, more opportunities are now available for buyers, including first-timers. Many first-time home buyers have sat on the sidelines and remained renters due to the constriction of inventory, which put major pressure on price affordability. Not only has affordability been an issue, but the terms required to prevail in a multiple-offer situation were often not within reach for someone entering the market for the first time.

For example, over the last 12 months in the Seattle Metro area we have seen a 66% increase in the selection of homes for buyers to choose from. There is currently 1.8 months of available inventory based on pending sales versus 0.8 months that was available the same month last year. This is still a seller’s market (0-3 months), but it is providing more than twice as much selection than a year ago. This loosening up of the market has helped to temper price growth by reducing the amount of price escalations and the need to have super aggressive financing terms in order to secure a home.

You see, over the last 3-4 years we have experienced double-digit price appreciation (10-14%) year-over-year, each year. A normal rate of appreciation is 3-5%. Minimal amounts of available inventory, low interest rates, and rapid job growth lead to this increase in prices. Now that more homes are coming to market and job growth has stabilized a bit (still growing, but not as fast), price growth has slowed. This is good news for sustainability and affordability. Here’s the deal though – we are still experiencing growth in values, making home ownership a sound investment over renting.

According to the most recent survey from rentcafe.com, the average rent for an apartment in Seattle is $1,906 with an average square footage of 736 sq. ft. That is quite a bit of money for not a ton of space. Further, that monthly expenditure does not create any wealth for the renter, only for the landlord. With renting, rates can be increased at any time, and you are paying down someone else’s asset, not your own. Also, owning gives the homeowner control of their overhead, while getting to make their house their home by adding improvements such as painting.

There are several factors to consider that will lead a person to make the best decision for their lifestyle and their financial bottom line. One of the biggest factors is interest rates! Currently, the rate for a 30-year fixed, conventional, conforming loan is hovering around 4.88%. Up from earlier this year and predicted to rise, but still historically low over the course of the last 30 years. These rates need to be considered the greatest opportunity of them all! With prices tempering and rates still under the 30-year average of 6.65%, buyers are able to secure a sound investment with very low debt service.

With interest rates predicted to rise over the next year, a good rule of thumb to remember is that for every one-point increase in rate, a buyer loses 10% of their buying power. For example, if the rate jumps from 4.75% to 5.75% and one wants to keep the same monthly payment, they must adjust their price point down by 10%. So, a $450,000 budget becomes a $405,000 budget, and that isn’t taking appreciation into consideration. If you assume an average appreciation rate of 4% year-over-year, today’s $450,000 house will be $468,000 next year. What side of the equity growth do you want to be on? As an owner now, or a buyer a year from now, when prices are higher and interest rates are most likely higher as well?

Once you secure a mortgage, the payment stays the same over the term of the entire loan. The long-term benefits of owning are abundant, including the stability of not being asked to move. These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially millennials, who are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market. One myth to address is the common belief that you must have a 20% down payment in order to buy a home. That is simply not true. There are loan programs as low as 3% down, decreasing the need to have a large sum of money saved up before being able to buy.

Where folks are having to compromise the most due to affordability is commute times, and settling in less-urban neighborhoods. Worth pointing out, is the average home price in south Snohomish County is 34% less than Seattle Metro – that is a huge savings! Further, south King County is 74% more affordable than Seattle. Some people, mainly millennials, have not been willing to give up living in the core urban neighborhoods that have high walk scores and shorter commute times. That should be apt to change with more selection available in the purchase market, coupled with low interest rates. The advantages of moving out a little further and securing a home will start people on the track of building long-term wealth. If you or anyone you know is currently renting and is considering a change, please let me know, as I would be happy to get their questions answered and help them make an informed decision.

 

 

Don’t Wait for a Disaster to Build Your Emergency Kit

Two Weeks Ready: Be Prepared. Build Kits. Help Each Other.

The first few days after a disaster are often the most critical. Government and essential services may not be available right away, depending on the circumstances. It is imperative to have a plan in place for such a time, and be ready to act on your own.

Washington’s biggest disaster threat is from earthquakes. Washington State’s Emergency Management Division advises that we take precautions to be on our own for at least 2 weeks. Take a look at their Two Week Ready Brochure (PDF) that outlines the basics necessary for your emergency kit. While it is important to get ready, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. The list of necessities is long, so take a look at the agency’s year-long prep plan. You will also find information on pet preparedness, as well as the agency’s Drop, Cover, and Hold Earthquake Scenario map.

 

#TackleHomelessness Update

During last weekend’s win against Dallas, the Seattle Seahawks had 46 defensive tackles, raising another $4,600 for Windermere’s #TackleHomelessness campaign. Combined with what we’ve raised over the past two seasons, this brings our to-date grand total to $71,400! All season long we’ll be partnering with the Seahawks to raise money for YouthCare in support of homeless youth.

Posted on September 29, 2018 at 7:20 pm
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter

Keeping Price Growth in Perspective,
Opportunities Abound for Both Buyers and Sellers

 

“How’s the Market?” is a question I am asked all the time. It is a common segue in casual conversation over the neighbor’s fence, at a cocktail party or family gathering. Now more than ever, the answer to this question is critical, yet fascinating. You see, our market is experiencing a long-awaited correction, a tempering of price appreciation. This is providing great opportunities for both buyers and sellers.

For so long, inventory has been so limited that prices have had nowhere else to go but up, and up fast! In May, we saw the largest jump in new listings in a decade, which created a slowdown in month-over-month price appreciation. This was especially exacerbated due to the scarcity of inventory in the first quarter of the year when many jobs were being filled by big companies in the area, skyrocketing demand. The graphs above illustrate the price growth in both King and Snohomish Counties. If you average out the last 12 months and compare to the previous 12 months, prices are up 14% in King County and 13% in Snohomish County. Due to a large increase in inventory and other factors, we have seen prices start to balance out since May.

Additional factors that play into this healthy adjustment on the run-up of prices are interest rates, affordability, and Seattle summertime. First, interest rates have been dancing. They have climbed over a half a point from a year ago, which has been coupled with double-digit price growth, forcing many buyers to take a step back. Bear in mind that interest rates are still under 5% and well below the 30-year average of 6.61%. This must be taken to heart!

Affordability has been a huge factor that played into the reduction of absorption rate once the increase in new listings hit this Spring. This was especially true in King County. Prices peaked so far this year at $725,000 in April, whereas they peaked in Snohomish County at $510,000 in June. This is simple supply and demand, as buyers have had more selection. Further, many buyers turned their heads north to find a more affordable option while still sustaining a manageable commute.

The bottom line is that it just got too expensive for some to make King County their home, even Snohomish County for that matter. Combine that with an influx of selection, and you find the top of the market so far in 2018. This is not a bad thing! We must keep the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation in perspective, and trust that the market factors which led to prices balancing out are healthy. A typical appreciation rate is 3-5%. Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, predicts that we will finish out 2018 with 7-8% appreciation over 2017, which is well above the norm of 3-5%. Sustainable growth is important to the overall health of our economy and culture; this provides opportunity.

Buyers take heed. As we come out of the Seattle summertime seasonal slowdown, we anticipate a little run on new listings in September and October. Note on the graph above that we seasonally see prices peak in the late spring and early summer, due to many folks taking time to enjoy the summer months traveling and relaxing a bit. If you have been a sidelined buyer or have been thinking about making a move, the remainder of 2018 may be your time to enjoy more selection, still-low interest rates, and the chance to secure the best home for your lifestyle.

Interest rates are still attractive (historically attractive) and are predicted to rise. Plus, selection has increased, making negotiations not as intense. Multiple offers are not always the norm these days, which provides some breathing room for luxuries like inspections and relying on the bank’s appraisal to confirm value. Also, if you are a buyer that needs to sell a home first in order to purchase, this environment is much more forgiving. Believe it or not, we have even started to see contingent offers make a comeback.

This was one reason why we saw such a limit on inventory, because folks were not able to make fluid moves, so they just uncomfortably stayed put. It was the many baby boomers who came to market this spring and summer who relocated out of the area that loosened this up, paving the way for the local first-time, move-up, or move-down buyer to have some opportunity to transition.

So what does all this mean for potential sellers? Well, a lot! The word of the day is perspective. You must keep a close connection to the double-digit, year-over-year price appreciation we have seen over the last three years, and come to terms with today’s balancing out. Great equity gains are behind every homeowner who has owned their home since 2012. If that equity has been cared for, there are large profits to turn, even though you might not get multiple offers. All it takes is one good buyer for a successful sale!

It is all about what is motivating you. If a move seems interesting or imminent, chances are you can take that equity and turn it into something that better matches your current lifestyle. This is where a detailed assessment of the features of your home, along with an analysis of market conditions can be developed into a winning strategy. This does not come easy and requires in-depth research, close attention to condition and comparable homes, and outstanding marketing and merchandising.

Where I have seen the most opportunity is when sellers partner up and listen to the professional assessment of all of these factors. It often leads to satisfying results with one buyer, or believe it or not, the occasional multiple offer. Our market is exciting, but it takes skill to set level expectations, which leads to positive results.

If you or someone you know is curious about “How’s the Market?”, please reach out. Education and explanation are key to awareness, which leads to clarity. I love what I do and look forward to the opportunity to serve during this changing time. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

 

 

We are so fortunate here at Windermere to have Matthew Gardner help keep us informed on our economy and the real estate market. Each quarter Matthew compiles in-depth research on counties from across Western Washington. Click here to download Matthew’s full Q2 report.

 

 

Summer is quickly coming to a close, and it’s time to think about prepping your yard for fall.  Here are a few quick tips to get you started, and a full article here.

Fertilizing

All summer long, plants and grass are using up nutrients in the soil. After months of growing, your soil’s reserves become depleted, which is why a fall fertilizer is great to restore nutrients and give your grass, shrubs, and perennials a boost to help them make it through winter. It is recommended to fertilize once every season.

Stop Pruning and Watering

Late summer and fall might seem like a good time to prune dead flowers and branches, but several experts recommend waiting until spring to prune anything. Pruning stimulates new growth, but with the frost coming, chances are this new growth won’t survive. Pruning also interferes with the plant when it is going dormant.

In late September, you should also stop watering your plants to help them go dormant as well.

Furnace Filter

Okay, this isn’t really a yard tip but it’s still important, and after all this smoke – critical! It’s recommended that you change your furnace filter at least every three months, if not more often. Having a clean furnace filter will make the air circulating through your house cleaner, and will put less stress on your heating and air systems.

Posted on September 1, 2018 at 7:20 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter

August 8th-10th will be an exciting time in Seattle. Pearl Jam, Seattle’s own original grunge band will be hosting two shows at Safeco Field on August 8th and 10th, and the Seattle Seahawks kick off their preseason schedule at Century Link on August 9th. Besides providing great entertainment for music and football fans, both of these events will give back to the community.

The two Pearl Jam shows have been coined The Home Shows as Seattle is Pearl Jam’s home town; but more importantly, proceeds from both shows will be donated to organizations such as Mary’s Place, the YMCA and The Mockingbird Society to help fight homelessness. These organizations have programs in place that are helping to improve the homeless crisis in our city. The Windermere Foundation has partnered with Pearl Jam and their Vitalogy Foundation and joined other organizations such as Alaska Airlines, Nordstrom, Tom Douglas, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help sponsor these two benefit shows.

The Windermere Foundation has always been rooted in working towards overcoming homelessness and helping families and children get back on their feet. The Home Shows aligned with the Windermere Foundation’s mission, making it a natural fit for this partnership. Check out this video of Mike McCready, Pearl Jam’s guitarist serenading Windermere for our partnership.

On August 9th, the Seattle Seahawks kick off their pre-season schedule which also kicks off the Windermere Foundation’s third year of partnering with the Seattle Seahawks to Tackle Homelessness. For every defensive tackle that takes place at a regular season home game, the Windermere Foundation will donate $100 towards Youth Care, an organization that helps youth struggling with homelessness or transitional living.

Thanks to the generosity of Windermere agents, staff, franchise owners, and the community, the Windermere Foundation has proudly donated a total of $920,351 so far this year to non-profit organizations that provide services to low-income and homeless families. This brings the total amount of money that the Windermere Foundation has raised since 1989 to over $36 million.

Each Windermere office has its own Windermere Foundation fund account that they use to make donations to organizations in their local communities. Our office recently sent 24 low-income children to YMCA’s Camp Orkila and Camp Colman with funds that we raised. These kids will enjoy a life changing week of summer camp, meeting new friends and experiencing the outdoors. These experiences would not be possible without the support of our clients. For each transaction that Windermere closes, the Windermere agent involved makes a donation to the Windermere Foundation. Thank you for your support of my business, it helps make the Windermere Foundation possible!

 

 

 

The first day of school sneaks up so fast… summer is here and then gone in a flash! Use these helpful tips to start getting settled into a new routine for fall, before life gets hectic.

Start talking about it. New teacher, new classmates, new schedules can all create some anxieties with kids. Start talking about school a few weeks before the first day. Talk about practical things like what the new schedule will be like, but also make sure to address their feelings and concerns about the upcoming year.

Go back to school shopping early. The store aisles are currently packed with school supplies. Take advantage of your summer schedule to shop while the store isn’t as busy and the supplies haven’t been picked through. Don’t forget to buy extras for homework time or the winter re-stock that inevitably happens in January.

Determine how your child will get to and from school and practice the route.

Ease back into the scheduled days. When you and your kids are used to lazy mornings and staying up late, shifting to the early morning school bus rush can be incredibly difficult. To ease the transition, start 7-10 days before school starts, and shift bedtimes and wake-up times gradually. Every day, start their bedtime routine 10-15 minutes earlier and wake them up 10-15 minutes earlier until they’re back on track. And don’t forget to readjust your bedtime schedules, too!

Re-set eating habits. When school starts, your student’s eating patterns need to maintain a high level of energy throughout the day. Implementing a routine for breakfast, lunch and snacks is just as important as their sleeping patterns. Begin this transition 7-10 days before school starts as well.

Sync your calendars. Add the school calendar to your personal/family calendar, so important dates like parent-teacher night aren’t missed.

Set rules for after school. After-school time and activities such as TV, video games, play time, and the completion of homework should be well-thought out in advance. Talk about the rules (and consequences) for these before school starts.

Posted on August 9, 2018 at 4:51 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter

The late spring market brought about some welcomed change to our local real estate markets. In May, we experienced the largest increase in inventory in a decade! North King County and South Snohomish County are two examples of what is happening in all the markets across the Puget Sound as we head into the second half of 2018. Below is a breakdown of the current environment; further is an explanation of what it all means.

North King County (Ship Canal to Snohomish County Line):

  • 38% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
  • 16% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
  • Overall 5% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
  • Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 104% from 105% in May 2018
  • Median Price up 15% complete year over year, but down 1% vs. the previous month, landing at $815K.

South Snohomish County (Snohomish County Line to Everett):

  • 27% increase in new listings from April to May 2018
  • 10% more new listings in May 2018 vs. May 2017
  • Overall 2% more new listings over the last 12 months vs. the previous 12 months
  • Average list-to-sale price ratios reduce to 102% from 103% in May 2018
  • Median price up 12% complete year over year, but equal with the previous month, landing at $500K.

This increase in inventory is awesome! It is providing more selection for buyers and is helping temper price growth, which was increasing at an unsustainable level. It is still a Seller’s market by all means, which is defined by having three or less months of available inventory. Both market areas are still just under one month of inventory based on pending sales, but not as low as the two-week mark they were experiencing in March.

The increase in inventory is the result of pent up seller demand. From 1985-2008 the average amount of time a homeowner stayed in their home was 6 years. From 2008-2017 it grew to 9 years. With a resounding amount of equity under their belts, many homeowners are now deciding to make moves. Some are moving up to the next best thing and others are cashing out and leaving the area for a new beginning or retirement. This is providing buyers with the selection they have been waiting for after a very tenuous, inventory-starved start to 2018. The buyers that have stayed on the forefront of the market are now being rewarded with choices. These choices are best accompanied with keen discernment in order to craft the best negotiations – the broker they choose to align with is key.

The price analysis above indicates strong equity positions for sellers, but also a leveling off in price growth. Over the first quarter we saw prices increase month-over-month quite handily; now that more inventory is appearing and demand is being absorbed, price growth is not as extreme. This has highlighted the importance of having a strategic pricing and marketing plan for sellers wanting the highest price and shortest market time. The broker they choose to align with is key.

The importance of both buyers and sellers aligning with a knowledgeable, well-researched and responsive broker is paramount. One might think that it is “easy” to sell a house in this market, but the pricing research, home preparation, market exposure, varied marketing mediums, close management of all the communication, and how negotiations are handled can make or break a seller’s net return on the sale. With market times increasing, having a broker with a tight grasp on the changing environment will help create an efficient market time, resulting in the best price and terms for a successful closing. It is important that sellers do not overshoot this market, and it takes a broker with a keen gut sense rooted in in-depth research to help get them their desired results.

If you’re a buyer, it is overwhelmingly important that you are aligned with a broker that knows how to win in this market. The increase in selection has left some room for contemplation in some cases. Considering possible terms and price based on thorough market research as you head into negotiations are what set a highly capable selling broker apart and are required to prevail. With more selection coming to market, buyers have more to consider, and having a broker alongside them to help craft a strategy of negotiations will ensure they don’t overpay.

If you have any curiosities or questions regarding the value of your current home or purchase opportunities in today’s market, please contact me. It is my goal to help keep you informed and empower strong decisions.

 

 

Windermere Community Service Day 2018

On June 8th, my office spent our annual Community Service Day with the Snohomish Garden Club constructing trellises, weeding and staking beds and planting and labeling a half-acre of produce!

The Snohomish Garden Club will harvest this half-acre, which will yield close to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to be donated to various food banks and senior centers in Snohomish County. The land for the garden is generously donated by the Bailey Family Farm.

For more information on how you can lend a hand, please visit: SnohomishGardenClub.com

Windermere’s Community Service Day was established in 1984 to offer agents and staff a chance to volunteer an entire workday to give back to the neighborhoods in which they live and work.

Posted on July 5, 2018 at 12:59 am
Stefanie A. Massie | Category: Newsletter