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 6, 2017 at 3:57 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: bellevue, economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate, statistics

Seattle / Eastside Market Report – 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.
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Posted on May 9, 2017 at 10:34 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: bellevue, economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate, seattle, statistics

Seattle / Eastside Market Update – March 2017

Home prices are growing faster in our region than anywhere else in the country. After a brief slowdown last month, home prices in February jumped to new record highs. The reason? The lowest number of homes for sale on record. The surge in prices came well ahead of the normal seasonal spring uptick, adding even greater urgency among buyers competing for already severely limited inventory. It remains to be seen if the predicted hike in interest rates will help moderate the market. For now, sellers are calling the shots.
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Posted on March 21, 2017 at 3:42 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: bellevue, economy, interest rates, real estate, seattle, statistics

The Trump Effect – How will it impact the US economy and housing?

trumppresidency

The American people have spoken and they have elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Change was clearly demanded, and change is what we will have.

The election was a shock for many, especially on the West Coast where we have not been overly affected by the long-term loss in US manufacturing or stagnant wage growth of the past decade. But the votes are in and a new era is ahead of us. So, what does this mean for the housing market?

First and foremost I would say that we should all take a deep breath. In a similar fashion to the UK’s “Brexit”, there will be a “whiplash” effect, as was seen in overnight trading across the globe. However, at least in the US, equity markets have calmed as they start to take a closer look at what a Trump presidency will mean.

On a macro level, I would start by stating that political rhetoric and hyperbole do not necessarily translate into policy. That is the most important message that I want to get across. I consider it highly unlikely that many of the statements regarding trade protectionism will actually go into effect. It will be very important for President Trump to tone down his platform on renegotiating trade agreements and imposing tariffs on China. I also deem it highly unlikely that a 1,000-mile wall will actually get built.

It is crucial that some of the more inflammatory statements that President-Elect Trump has made be toned down or markets will react negatively. However, what is of greater concern to me is that neither candidate really approached questions regarding housing with any granularity. There was little-to-no-discussion regarding housing finance reform, so I will be watching this topic very closely over the coming months.

As far as the housing market is concerned, it is really too early to make any definitive comment. That said, Trump ran on a platform of deregulation and this could actually bode well for real estate. It might allow banks the freedom to lend more, which in turn, could further energize the market as more buyers may qualify for home loans.

Concerns over rising interest rates may also be overstated. As history tells us, during times of uncertainty we tend to put more money into bonds. If this holds true, then we may see a longer-than-expected period of below-average rates. Today’s uptick in bond yields is likely just temporary.
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Posted on November 10, 2016 at 4:31 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends

Seattle/Eastside Market Update – August 2016

Home prices are still on the rise compared to a year ago, but there is some indication that prices are moderating. Combine that with an increase in inventory and we may be seeing some relief for buyers. Time will tell whether this is a momentary breather, or if we’re slowly moving to a more balanced market.

Eastside

 

Click image for full report.
Click image for full report.

Home to the highest concentration of luxury homes in the state, the Eastside continues to be the highest priced region of King County. Median home prices here were up 10 percent over last July to $750,400. That is down from the May peak of $760,000, and virtually unchanged from June. Buyers looking in this desirable market may be seeing the start of easing home prices.

 

King County

 

Click image for full report.
Click image for full report.

After five months in a row of record-setting prices, King County saw the median price of a single-family home drop slightly from the high of $570,500 in June to $555,000 in July. However, July’s median price was up 14 percent over a year ago. An increase in inventory, accompanied by a slight slowdown in sales, may indicate that the market is settling down from the frenzied pace we’ve experienced so far this year.

 

Seattle

 

Click image for full report.
Click image for full report.

Seattle also saw a small decrease in home prices, with the median price of a single-family home dropping from its record $666,500 in June to $650,000 in July. The July number still represents a hefty 13 percent increase year-over-year. Some buyers are looking to the areas of North King County that include Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and Kenmore for a more affordable alternative. Prices there soared 18 percent over last year, but the median price of $505,000 is significantly less than Seattle.

 

Snohomish County

 

Click image for full report.
Click image for full report.

The median home price in Snohomish County topped $400,000 for the first time, setting a record for the third straight month. Prices were up nearly 12 percent over the same time a year ago to $405,000. With prices here about 25 percent less than King County, buyers looking for lower housing costs continue to fuel an environment where multiple offers are common.

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 10:58 am
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends, statistics

Housing Economics 101 – Q1 2016

Historically low inventory levels, how we got here, and what to expect in the coming year

The housing market is performing remarkably well, with the exception of incredibly low inventory levels in many areas throughout the country. Why is this happening? Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains why and offers his predictions for what we can expect in the future. 

Posted on May 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate, statistics

4 Reasons to Sell Your House Now

Blank Real Estate Sign & New Home

 

1) Sale prices are at all-time highs.

Home prices in King County hit new highs last month. The median price of a single family home sold in King County in February was $514,975, a whopping 20% increase over a year ago. The median price in Seattle was up 24% to $644,950. The Eastside’s median price was up 20% to $739,975. You may be surprised at how much your home is worth today.

home-prices-high

2) Competition among buyers is driving prices even higher.

Despite increasing prices, there is intense competition among buyers because inventory is at all-time lows. That means multiple offer and bidding wars, increasing the likelihood that your home will sell above your asking price.

3) Homes are selling fast.

With such limited inventory, homes in King County are selling rapidly – sometimes in days. If you list your house now, chances are you’ll get a buyer quickly.

4) You can make the sale work to your needs.

With competition for homes so fierce, you have the freedom to make the deal that works best for you. Many buyers are paying cash. They’ll also make concessions. Do you want stay in the home a few months after the sale? Want a large earnest money payment? You’re in the driver’s seat, and many buyers are willing to do what it takes to get the home they want.

It’s a seller’s market.
Are you ready to take advantage of it?

Posted on April 12, 2016 at 11:27 am
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate, statistics

2016 Economic & Housing Forecast

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.  He shared the following report.

The National Economic Forecast

1.The U.S. will continue to expand with real GDP growth of 2.3% in 2016.

Although a positive number, the forecasted rate of growth suggests that we will be modestly underperforming in 2016.  On a positive note, oil prices are likely to remain well below long-term averages, which puts more money into consumers’ pockets in terms of disposable incomes.  However, I believe that consumers are likely to continue to save rather than spend which will constrain growth.  That said, there is certainly no recession on the horizon – at least not yet – and a strong dollar will act as a bit of an anchor.

2.Employment will continue to expand but the rate of growth will slow. Look for an increase of 1.6% in 2016.

We are rapidly approaching full employment (generally considered to be when the unemployment rate drops below 5 percent).  As such, growth in employment has to be driven more by population growth rather than a return to employment. 2015 saw an average of around 210,000 jobs created per month and I believe that this is likely to slow to an average monthly gain of 190,000 new jobs.

3.The U.S. unemployment rate will continue to drop and end 2016 at 4.8%.

As mentioned above, we are heading toward full employment and, as such, the national unemployment rate cannot trend much lower.  That said, the less acknowledged U-6 rate (which includes those working part-time and those marginally attached to the workforce) will remain elevated at around 8%, signifying that there is still some slack in the economy and room for the rate to drop a little further.

4.Inflation will remain in check with the Consumer Price Index at 1.9%.

The Federal Reserve has begun the long-awaited tightening of monetary policy and we will likely see the Fed Funds Rate continue to move higher over the next two years. Inflation has yet to respond to the low unemployment rate, but it will.

The core rate of inflation should remain in check and the overall rate could stay below long-term averages as a function of stubbornly low energy costs. Should we see a shift in OPEC’s position relative to oil supply, the overall rate of inflation could rise more rapidly.  Oil prices, therefore, will remain in focus during 2016.

The National Housing Market Forecast

5.Mortgage rates will rise, but we will still end 2016 with the average 30-year fixed rate below 5%.

I am taking the Fed at its word when it says that monetary tightening in 2016 will be gradual and heavily data dependent. Accordingly, I expect only a modest uptick in long-term rates in 2016. Furthermore, as long as the Federal Reserve continues to reinvest the dividends that it is receiving from their bond holdings – which is highly likely – the yield on the key 10-year treasury will remain low and hold mortgage rates in check. This is only likely to change after the general election, therefore suggesting that rates will remain very attractive relative to their long-term averages.

6.Credit Quality – which had been remarkably stringent – will relax a little.

Access to credit, specifically mortgage instruments, has not been easy for many would-be homebuyers but that is set to change.  I believe that we will see some improvement, specifically for borrowers with “near-prime” credit. This will be of some assistance to first-time buyers; however, credit quality will still be higher than it needs to be.

7.Existing home sales will rise modestly to an annual rate of 5.53 million units with existing home prices up by 4.7%.

I anticipate that we will see some improvement in overall transactional velocities in 2016, but unfortunately, demand will still exceed supply. Prices will continue to rise, but at a more constrained pace than seen over the past few years. This will be a function of modestly rising interest rates as well as slightly improving levels of inventory. I anticipate that we will see more listings come online as more households return to positions of positive equity in their homes.

8.New home sales will jump and be one of the biggest stories for 2016.  Look for a 23% increase in sales and prices rising by 3.4%.

I believe that builders will start to build to the entry-level buyer, filling a huge void.  Additionally, I see the total number of new home starts increase quite dramatically in 2016 as banks start to ease lending and builders start to believe that the downward trend in homeownership has come to an end.  This will help to absorb some of the pent-up demand currently in the market.

9.Foreclosures will continue to trend down to “pre-bubble” averages.

Any story regarding foreclosures will be a non-story as the rate will continue to trend down toward historic averages. However, we will see the occasional uptick as banks work their way through their existing inventory of foreclosed homes. Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.

10.The Millennials will start to enter the market.

There are several substantial reasons to expect an increase in Millennial buyers. Firstly, early Millennials are getting older and starting to settle down, and even with modestly higher mortgage rates, rents are likely to continue to trend upward, and this will pull many into homeownership.

Secondly, more favorable mortgage insurance premiums, additional supply from downsizing boomers, and growing confidence in the housing market will lead to palpable growth in demand from this important – and substantial – demographic.

To conclude, it appears to me that 2016 will be a year of few surprises – at least until the general election! Because it is an election year, I do not expect to see any significant governmental moves that would have major impacts on the U.S. economy or the housing market.

Posted on January 11, 2016 at 1:48 pm
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate, statistics

State of the Market

Last year’s real estate market was primarily driven by low rates, low inventory and an abundance of buyers.  In 2014, home prices rose 6.1% in Seattle and 8.7% in Bellevue as sellers took advantage of multiple offers and quick sales. 

The buyers who were fortunate enough to purchase, did so at an average 30 year fixed mortgage rate of 3.87% per Freddie Mac, very close to the historic lows.

With 2014 in the rear view mirror, we’d like to share with you what we expect in 2015.

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Posted on January 21, 2015 at 7:09 am
Stephanie Kristen | Category: economy, interest rates, market trends, real estate | Tagged , ,