November Home Maintenance Checklist

November brings a transition to shorter days, colder weather and spending more time indoors. It also brings anticipation, planning and preparation for the upcoming winter holidays.

Our checklist this month includes small, quick and easy tasks you can do now to get a jump start on your holiday hosting preparation so you can enjoy friends and family when they arrive.

Replace chair floor protectors. Prevent damage to your hardwood floors by adding or replacing floor protection pads to the legs of your chairs. Hardware stores sell felt self-adhesive protectors that are easy to use.

Clean garbage disposal. Run a few pieces of lemon rind with some ice cubes through your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh. The ice chunks scour the blades and scrape away debris. Products that clean and deodorize garbage disposals can also be purchased in retail stores.

Repair plumbing issues. Fix a slow drain or a stuck garbage disposal now rather than wait until you have a full house of guests.

Check bathtub caulk. Use diluted bleach to clean caulk that is moldy or mildewed. Avoid water damage to your home’s framing by replacing worn-out caulking as soon as possible.

Stock up for winter. Buy winter supplies like shovels and ice melting products now so you’ll be ready when the first snow falls.

Silence squeaky door hinges. Spray some cooking oil or other lubricant on door hinges. Be sure to first place a drop cloth on the floor to protect it and also blot the hinge with a rag to remove excess oil.

Clean kitchen exhaust fan filter. Remove kitchen exhaust fan screen and scrub with a mild detergent or run through the dishwasher.

Check fire extinguishers. Locate your fire extinguishers and be sure their gauge shows enough pressure.

Set aside a November afternoon to do the items on this home maintenance list, then sit back and enjoy a cup of hot apple cider. Happy Thanksgiving!

This blog was reposted with the permission of Long & Foster.


Posted on November 28, 2017 at 9:19 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in For Your Home |

Local Market Update – November 2017

Prices in our area have now been rising faster than anywhere in the country for twelve months. Sellers seem to be getting the message that now is a good time to put their home on the market. There was an increase in new inventory in October, but with homes selling rapidly, there still aren’t enough properties to meet demand. As a result, counties throughout the Puget Sound area saw year-over-year price increases in the double digits.

Eastside

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The median price for a single-family home on the Eastside rose 10 percent from a year ago to $845,000. Homes in West Bellevue hit a new record median price of $2.6 million. Despite soaring prices, demand has remained strong in this desirable area. And the continued robust economy makes it unlikely that home prices here will cool any time soon.

King County

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The number of new listings in King County increased at the highest rate in more than a year. But, they were grabbed up quickly, with most homes selling in well under 30 days. The shortage of homes for sale propelled prices up, with the median home price in King County jumping 15 percent over the same time last year to $630,000.

Seattle

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Seattle remains the hottest real estate market in the country, with prices rising here at more than double the national rate. Rents in Seattle are also rising faster than almost anywhere else in the country, pushing more people into the home buying market. High demand and slim supply helped boost the median price of a single-family home nearly 18 percent to $735,000.

Snohomish County

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The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County in October was $440,000, an increase of 14 percent over the prior year. The market here may be moderating slightly. Brokers note that while multiple offers are continuing, listings are experiencing longer market times and fewer above-list price offers.


Posted on November 13, 2017 at 11:33 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |

When Things Go Bump in the Night

It’s Halloween; the time of year when people decorate their homes with haunting embellishments and spooky décor. Bats, spiders, and rodents are all good and fun when they’re made of plastic, but when you have the real thing taking up residence in your home, it’s no treat. Here are some tips for making sure these frightening critters don’t make your house their permanent home.

Blood Suckers

While they may not turn into vampires in real life, preventing a bat infestation is actually good for your health. That’s because bats are a known carrier of rabies and an accumulation of their droppings can cause lung problems in humans. Bats can enter your home through holes less than an inch wide, and when they do, they often find the attic to be very accommodating to their needs. So, how do you keep them from settling in? Start by checking your roof and siding for any gaps. Check your attic for any signs of infestation, including: brown stains around any openings in your siding or roof (from oil on their skin), droppings, or strange sounds coming from the attic. Ghosts aren’t the only ones who like it up there.

To prevent or rid your home of bats follow these tips:

  • Get rid of the bats now, so they can find alternative shelter before hibernation season in the winter.
  • Check with local pest control companies; in some states it is illegal to exterminate bats.
  • Locate the point of entry.
  • Hire a professional to evacuate the bats.
    • As mentioned above, bats can cause health problems; hire a professional who has experience and the right equipment. There are humane options available.
  • Prevent re-entry by sealing any openings.
  • Use mothballs to prevent re-nesting. Bats have a tendency to return to previous nesting sites, so this may need to be repeated.

Creepy Crawlies

In lists of common phobias, more than thirty percent of adults report fearing spiders, right behind public speaking and death. Most spiders that you find in your home are perfectly harmless; however, that doesn’t mean you want to share your space with them. To be on the safe side, there are some measures you can take to protect yourself from our little eight legged friends. Even a bite from a harmless spider can cause infections with itchy, red skin. In most cases, it can be treated by washing it with cool, soapy water, elevation, and an ice pack. Of course, if it shows signs of getting worse, your next step should be calling your doctor. Spider varieties that you should avoid include: Hobo spiders, Black Widows, Brown Recluses, and the Yellow Sac spider. These spiders are poisonous and can cause a number of symptoms from vomit to necrotic lesions. According to experts, spiders very rarely cause death in humans; however, if you are bit by a venomous spider you should seek immediate medical attention (and bring the spider remains with you, if possible).

Here are some tips to reduce spiders in your home:

  • Kill spiders on sight.
  • Place non-poisonous spider traps with non-toxic attractants and glue in areas where spiders are commonly found and in corners.
  • Be careful with common insect repellent and spider sprays, these can be toxic and harmful to children and pets.
  • Spiders can be deterred with essential oils: lavender, chestnut, clover leaf, and coconut.
  • Use ultrasonic devices.

Rodents:

The most effective way to prevent mice and rat infestation is to keep them out of your home in the first place. Mice can get through a gap as small as a quarter of an inch, so thoroughly inspecting the foundation and interior of your home for entrance points and sealing any cracks or holes is a great way to start. Rodents are also excellent at tracking food sources. Keep all food, including pet food and pantry items in secure bins and jars.

If you have found evidence of mice or rats (generally droppings or urine) take caution. Rodent secretions can be hazardous, and can spread salmonella or hanta virus. There are multiple methods for removing rodents from your home, including traps, poison bates, electronic and sonic devises and, a house cat, or professional exterminator.

If you are getting rid of the critters on your own you will want to follow these steps:

  • Identify their food source(s), entry points, and common routes around and through your home.
  • Remove food source with secure packaging that cannot be chewed through, such as glass containers.
  • Seal all entry points with wire mesh.
  • Place sonic devises, traps, poison, or other deterrents in the pathway of the rodents.
  • Use caution, make sure poison or exposed traps are not accessible to children or pets.
  • If you find urine, droppings, or a dead mouse you will want to spray the surface and mouse with a bleach/water solution. Using gloves and a face mask, remove the rodent and wipe all surfaces.
  • If you have identified a large quantity of rodents, contact a professional for removal and clean up.
  • You may need to take extra measures to ensure the removal is permanent by changing components of your back yard, replacing siding, or upgrading building materials to prevent outdoor nesting and re-infestation.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere blog.


Posted on October 31, 2017 at 10:33 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in For Your Home |

Local Market Update – October 2017

The typical seasonal slowdown of new listings in September added to frustration for buyers who are competing for a very limited number of homes. Strong job growth continues to fuel demand. The state added 83,000 new jobs in the month of August, and September looked to be just as robust. The result? King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all reported double-digit price increases from a year earlier.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside jumped 14 percent from the same time last year to a $855,000. As the median on the Eastside approaches the $1 million mark, the price tag for a luxury home is increasing. Of all the single-family homes that sold on the Eastside in September nearly 40 percent sold for more than $1 million. In the city of Bellevue, two-thirds of the homes sold for more than $1 million.

King County

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The median price of a single-family home sold in King County in September increased 16 percent from a year ago to $625,000. While down from the record high of $658,000 in July, it represents the highest value for any September since records began in 2000. Among the largest metro areas in the U.S., our region has now led the nation in price increases for the last 11 months.

Seattle

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Seattle’s inventory remains as tight as ever, with homes being snapped up in days. A big hiring push by local employers just keeps adding to the pressure. With supply dwindling and demand soaring, prices had only one place to go – up. In September, the median single-family home price in Seattle soared 15 percent over a year ago to $725,000.

Snohomish County

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The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County sold in September was $450,000, a 14 percent increase over the same time last year. With just slightly over one month’s inventory of homes available, it’s unlikely price growth here will slow any time soon.


Posted on October 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Buy a Home

If you’ve been looking to buy a house, it’s easy to get discouraged. With our local real estate market still the hottest in the country, a lot of buyers have become frustrated after losing out to multiple offers and all-cash sales. While some buyers are considering waiting out the market, here is why that’s not a wise move.

1. Historically, this time of the year is the best time to buy a home.

The fourth quarter of the year has always seen the lowest demand for home sales. Kids are back in school. The holiday season is gearing up. It’s just not the time of year when people want to uproot their lives and move into a new home. That all changes in a few months. The market traditionally experiences the highest demand and the lowest inventory of the year between January and May. Your best bet is to make an offer now.

2. Home prices are expected to increase next year.

A booming economy, rising population, and an influx of highly-paid workers are all expected to sustain the strong demand for housing through 2018. While the sharp home price increases of the past few years are expected to moderate, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner predicts that home prices will increase by 9 percent next year.

3. Interest rates are predicted to rise.

Waiting means you’ll get less house for your money. It’s all about the One in Ten Rule. As Matthew Gardner explains, for every 1 percent increase in mortgage rates your buying power decreases by 10 percent. Even if home prices are flat a year from now (which is not expected), an increase in interest rates means you’ll have to borrow more money to buy the same house.

With home valuations at high levels today, buyers should consider three things before they purchase a home: Can I afford the monthly payments, do I like the location, and am I planning to live in the home for at least five years?

If you decide to move forward, your real estate agent can make the difference between winning the deal or not.

Here’s what sets Windermere Real Estate brokers apart:

  • We can position your offer to have the greatest appeal to the seller (and sometimes that’s not just a higher price).
  • We receive extensive training on how to create the most competitive offer and negotiate successfully in a multiple-offer situation.
  • Other agents are more confident in completing a transaction with an agent from Windermere than they are with any other real estate company.

Contact me today.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside blog.


Posted on September 28, 2017 at 2:37 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Home Buying |

Local Market Update – September 2017

High demand and low supply made it the market’s hottest August since records began in 2000. Sparse inventory was again the norm, as were multiple offers. However, brokers are cautioning sellers to price their homes correctly. Most buyers have been in the market a long time and are well educated. Overpriced listings are not getting showings or offers. In some rare good news for buyers in this heated market, mortgage lenders are relaxing some standards to make it easier to buy a home.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside increased 11 percent from a year ago to a $853,000. That number is down slightly for the second month in a row, but affordability is still a big issue. The share of million-dollar homes here is rising faster than just about anywhere in the country. In Medina, 99.7 percent of homes are worth at least $1 million. On Mercer Island, it’s 88 percent, and 64 percent of West Bellevue homes are worth $1 million or more.

King County

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The local area led the nation in home-price growth for the 10th straight month. In August, the median home price in King County jumped 18 percent over the same time last year to $650,000, off slightly from the record high of $658,000 in July. While inventory is low, the fourth quarter of the year has always seen the lowest demand for home sales. If you’re thinking about buying a home, it is to your advantage to work with your broker and make an offer now.

Seattle

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Inventory-starved Seattle just can’t keep up with the demand of its growing population. Lack of supply helped push the median price for a single-family home to $730,000, an increase of 17 percent over a year ago. That’s down slightly from the peak of $750,000 in June. If sellers need an incentive to put their home on the market, a recent analysis showed Seattle among the top U.S. cities for sellers to get the greatest return on investment.

Snohomish County

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While prices in King County may be showing the first signs of moderating, Snohomish County continues to hit new records for home prices. The median price of a single-family home here jumped 14 percent over the same time last year to $455,000, yet another record high.


Posted on September 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |

Why Owning a Home is Such a Smart Investment

After succumbing to the “Great Recession” ten years ago, the stock market has made a comeback. So, does that mean you should forget about buying a new house and invest in stocks instead? The answer to that question, say experts, depends on your investing savvy, your financial discipline, your age, and your current financial situation.

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I disciplined enough to invest in stocks?” According to two professors who recently studied 30 years of personal-finance performance, you need to be someone with exceptional financial discipline if you want to earn real money in the stock market. Or, you could simply buy a house.

When you buy real estate, the down payment and monthly mortgage payments force you to set aside a significant amount of your earnings on a regular basis. It’s automatic. But if you can’t summon the same discipline to invest that same amount of money in the stock market on an equally regular basis, then stocks are probably going to be a losing proposition, according to the professors’ study.

“We find that if people don’t invest all the money, actually about 90% of the time, you’re better off buying real estate,” says Professor Eli Beracha, co-author of the study.

 

Other issues that make stock investing risky

Investing guru James Altucher wrote a column in The Wall St. Journal titled, “8 Reasons You Stink at Trading Stocks.” In it, he argues that most non-professionals don’t have the investing savvy required to be successful in the stock market. Here are a few telling excerpts:

  • “Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average drivers. Nine out of 10 people think they are above-average investors. Both are mathematically impossible.”
  • “Most people sell at the bottom and buy at the top—the opposite of what you want to do as an investor—because they let emotions get in the way of patience and strategy.”
  • “It’s really hard to own stocks. It’s not just picking a stock and watching it go up 1,000%. It’s buying it and sometimes watching it go down 80% before it ends up rising 20% above your purchase price. It’s waiting. It’s patience. Psychology is at least 80% of the game. And knowing when to sell? Even harder.”

 

Age matters

When you’re young, many financial advisors encourage investing in things like individual stocks. With a long career ahead, you have time to wait for any bad investments to turn around before you may really need the money. But once you’re a little older, with a family, and starting to focus on your financial future, that’s when advisers recommend you buy things like real estate—a conservative investment with a long history of stable, predictable earnings.

 

The type of loan you choose also makes a difference

If you want to both own a home and invest in stocks, consider a 30-year home loan, which will significantly reduce your monthly payments and leave you with extra money for playing the market. (Just remember the tradeoff: You’ll end up paying thousands of dollars more in interest over the life of the loan.)

If you don’t have a burning desire to play the stock market, choose a 15-year home loan. You’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan, you’ll build equity faster, and, obviously, you’ll be mortgage-free 15 years sooner.

 

The tax advantages of owning real estate

As a homeowner, you’re entitled to a bevy of tax benefits you don’t get as a stock investor. You can deduct your mortgage interest and property taxes from your annual tax return. Plus, depending on your circumstances, you could also get a deduction or credit for any home-office expenses, moving expenses, capital gains, any “points” used to lower your interest rate, and more.

 

One caveat: investing in real estate takes time

No matter what some of those reality TV programs show, buying a home should not be viewed as a get-rich-quick scheme. But if you think you’re ready to put down roots for as long as seven years, chances are very good that any home you purchase will appreciate significantly during that time (even if the economy runs into some bumps along the way).

 

The non-financial benefits

Of course, not all of the benefits of owning a home are financial. For most Americans, their home is a source of tremendous pride, comfort, security and freedom. Most of us also use our homes to showcase our personality, through paint colors, furnishings, landscaping, yard signs, holiday decorations and so much more.

Yes, the stock market is on an upswing currently (depending on the week), but if you want an investment with a long-term track record of consistent returns—plus tax breaks and a variety of personal perks—you may want to buy a home instead.

 

If you have questions about the buying or selling process, or are looking for an experienced agent in your area, connect with me.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.


Posted on August 30, 2017 at 8:23 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Home Buying |

Local Market Update – August 2017

Instead of experiencing the typical summer seasonal slowdown, the real estate market in July was as hot as the weather. For yet another month, our area had the distinction of seeing home prices rise faster than any other market in the country. Buyers were hit with a double whammy – soaring prices and the continuing lack of inventory. Despite the rising prices, most homes are selling in about a week. Brokers are hoping to see the return to a more balanced market soon.

Eastside

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While down from its record in June, the median price of a single-family home on the Eastside soared 15 percent from a year ago to a $860,000. The median price in West Bellevue was $2.3 million, making it the most expensive area in King County. Even at that price point, competition is steep. Of the 71 homes that sold in West Bellevue in July, 40 percent sold in a week or less.

King County

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For the first time, the median home price in King County grew more than $100,000 in a year. That translated into a median home price of $658,000, a whopping 19 percent increase over the same time last year, and another new high. Tight inventory was a big contributor. There were 18 percent fewer homes for sale than last July.

Seattle

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With just two weeks of inventory, the supply of homes of homes for sale in Seattle just can’t keep up with demand from new residents to live close to the city. In the desirable, close-in Ballard neighborhood, there are currently only 17 single-family homes on the market. Prices are up accordingly. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle increased 15 percent over a year ago to $748,500, essentially unchanged from the peak in June.

Snohomish County

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While still a relative bargain when compared to King County, Snohomish County has been playing catch-up. Prices have regularly increased by double digits over the previous year. July was no exception. The median price of a single-family home jumped 12 percent over the same time last year to $453,000, another record high.


Posted on August 15, 2017 at 4:35 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |

The Gardner Report – Second Quarter 2017

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy has been expanding at a rapid pace but we are seeing a slowdown as the state grows closer to full employment. Given the solid growth, I would expect to see income growth move markedly higher, though this has yet to materialize. I anticipate that we will see faster income growth in the second half of the year. I still believe that the state will add around 70,000 jobs in 2017.

Washington State, as well as the markets that make up Western Washington, continue to see unemployment fall. The latest state-wide report now shows a rate of 4.5%—the lowest rate since data started to be collected in 1976.

I believe that growth in the state will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole and, with such robust expansion, I would not be surprised to see more people relocate here as they see Washington as a market that offers substantial opportunity.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 23,349 home sales during the second quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 1.1% from the same period in 2016.
  • Clallam County maintains its position as number one for sales growth over the past 12 months. Double-digit gains in sales were seen in just three other counties, which is a sharp drop from prior reports. I attribute this to inventory constraints rather than any tangible drop in demand. The only modest decline in sales last quarter was seen in Grays Harbor County.
  • The number of homes for sale, unfortunately, showed no improvement, with an average of just 9,279 listings in the quarter, a decline of 20.4% from the second quarter of 2016. Pending sales rose by 3.6% relative to the same quarter a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that it is unlikely we will see a significant increase in the number of homes for sale for the rest of 2017.

Home Prices

  • Along with the expanding economy, home prices continue to rise at very robust rates. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.9%. The region’s average sales price is now $470,187.
  • Price growth in Western Washington continues to impress as competition for the limited number of homes for sale remains very strong. With little easing in supply, we anticipate that prices will continue to rise at above long-term averages.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in San Juan County where sale prices were 29.2% higher than second quarter of 2016. Eight additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • The specter of rising interest rates failed to materialize last quarter, but this actually functioned to get more would-be buyers off the fence and into the market. This led to even more demand which translated into rising home prices.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the quarter dropped by 18 days when compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County remains the tightest market; homes, on average, sold in a remarkable 15 days. Every county in this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop from the same period a year ago.
  • Last quarter, it took an average of 48 days to sell a home. This is down from the 66 days it took in the second quarter of 2016.
  • Given the marked lack of inventory, I would not be surprised to see the length of time it takes to sell a home drop further before the end of the year.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the second quarter of 2017, I moved the needle a little more in favor of sellers. To define the Western Washington market as “tight” is somewhat of an understatement.

Inventory is short and buyers are plentiful.

Something must give, but unless we see builders delivering substantially more units than they have been, it will remain staunchly a sellers’ market for the balance of the year.

Furthermore, increasing mortgage rates have failed to materialize and, with employment and income growth on the rise, the regional housing market will continue to be very robust.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.


Posted on August 4, 2017 at 10:02 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Housing Market News |

Local Market Update – July 2017

It was another month of record-setting home prices in June as the area yet again took the prize for the hottest real estate market in the country. In a bright spot for buyers, the number of new listings added in June was the highest total for any single month since May 2008. While inventory is still low, the pace of sales is slowing and the number of multiple offers are down, suggesting that we may soon see a slight reprieve from the last year of rapid-fire growth.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside soared 19 percent from a year ago to a new record-high of $885,000. Despite that increase, multiple offers—while down—are still common. With most buyers presenting offers on multiple properties before purchasing a home, working with a broker to create a strong strategic plan, clear negotiating parameters, and a streamlined offer are critical for success.

King County

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The median price of a single-family home in King County climbed 14 percent over a year ago to a new record of $653,000. Inventory remains extremely tight, and homes are selling very quickly. According to a broker analysis, 80-to-90 percent of sellers in the Puget Sound area are accepting offers on their homes within 30 days of listing. In hot neighborhoods, that number can be just a few days.

Seattle

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Seattle home prices are rising at the fastest rate in nation. U.S. Census data shows Seattle is gaining about 1,100 residents week. With supply unable to keep up with soaring demand, prices just keep climbing. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle jumped 13 percent over a year ago to $750,000. The increase in the number of $1 million-plus homes in the city was among the highest in the country.

Snohomish County

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Buyers looking to get more home for their dollar continue to make the move north to Snohomish County. Demand is so high that new construction homes are selling before they’re built, with many new homes not even hitting the market. The median price of a single-family home sold in June increased 14 percent over the same time last year to $450,000, unchanged from last month’s record high.


Posted on July 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |