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 |

Homeowners Insurance: Protecting Your Home

In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. And it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.

What a standard homeowners policy covers

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.

The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.

Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.

If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.

How much insurance do you need?

Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:

·      Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?

·      Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?

·      Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?

Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.

Protect your assets

Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.

Rebuild your home

You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.

The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.

Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.

Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.

Replacing your valuables

If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.

There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectables. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.

To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.

Create a home inventory file

It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease.  The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value.  Simple inventory lists are available online.  You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:

·      Item description and quantity

·      Manufacturer or brand name

·      Serial number or model number

·      Where the item was purchased

·      Receipt or other proof of purchase \Photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser

·      Date of purchase (or age)

·      Current value

·      Replacement cost

Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.

Storing your home inventory list

Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe incase your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.

We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.


Posted on July 7, 2017 at 10:40 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in For Your Home |

Local Market Update – June 2017

The hottest real estate market in the country just keeps getting hotter. Despite a large number of new listings, home prices in the Puget Sound area continued to set records in May. According to a Seattle Times article, “For the first time since the 2007 housing bubble, every county in the central Puget Sound region has set a new median home price record.” Brokers hope this news will help entice more sellers to put their homes on the market.

Eastside

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While down just slightly from its record high last month, the median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up 15 percent from a year ago to $875,000. With just three weeks of inventory, those looking to buy a home can continue to count on a highly competitive market. It is key for buyers to work with a broker on a buying strategy, and to be willing to act quickly to make an offer.

King County

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King County is starved for inventory. The number of homes for sale in the county dropped 20 percent from a year ago. The good news: The number of new listings year-over-year grew for the first time in 2017. The bad news: They’re getting snapped up as soon as they come on the market. The median price of a single-family home in King County jumped 13 percent over a year ago to a new record of $632,000.

Seattle

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Seattle is the fastest growing city in the country, and that demand is driving prices ever higher. That demand combined with razor-thin inventory has resulted in Seattle topping the nation in bidding wars. As a result, it’s no surprise that home prices here set yet another record in May. The median price for a single-family home in Seattle soared 14 percent over a year ago to $729,000.

Snohomish County

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A steady stream of buyers being priced out of King County have set their sights north in hopes of finding a more affordable house payment. While home prices here are indeed less, that gap has been slowly closing. The median price of a single-family home jumped 15 percent over the same time last year to $450,000, an all-time record.


Posted on June 19, 2017 at 2:41 pm
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |

How People Buy Homes Today

Today’s buyers use a lot of resources in their home search – and 92% count on a real estate agent to help them purchase their home.

How People Buy Homes Today

If you’re looking to buy or sell your home, reach out to me to help you successfully navigate the Seattle housing market.


Posted on June 6, 2017 at 11:12 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Home Buying |

Local Market Update – May 2017

The local real estate market—already the hottest in the country—set yet another price record in April. The number of homes for sale dropped 27 percent compared to a year ago, the lowest amount of inventory ever recorded for a spring month. The historically low supply of homes is making competition among buyers fierce. Sellers are in the enviable position of being able to structure sales agreements to include concessions such as rent-backs and longer closing time so they can take the time to find their next home.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside reached an all-time high of $880,000 in April, a 21 percent jump over last April. That represents an increase of $150,000 over a year ago, the largest dollar increase on record. With our strong economy and growing population, brokers are not predicting a slowdown any time soon.

King County

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Inventory in King County just keeps getting tighter. There are just 1,900 homes on the market here. That compares to nearly 8,000 in April 2011. As buyers bid up existing homes, prices have escalated sharply. The median price of a single-family home jumped 16 percent from the same time last year to $625,000.

Seattle

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Seattle set a record for home prices for the third straight month. The median price of a single-family home rose 13 percent over the same time last year to $722,250. Like the rest of King County, lack of inventory was the driver. In one of the city’s hottest markets, Ballard, there are just 19 single-family homes on the market.

Snohomish County

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Home prices in Snohomish County are rising at their fastest pace in four years. The median price of a single-family home soared 17 percent from a year ago to $440,000. While that increase is substantial, prices here are still 30 percent less than in King County.


Posted on May 15, 2017 at 11:22 am
Sandy Nicholls | Posted in Local Market Updates |