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.
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.
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 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.
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.
House hunters looking for relief from soaring rents continued to snap up homes at a record pace in May. By one analysis, 80 percent of the homes coming on the market in King and Snohomish counties sold within the first 30 days – many within the first week. With a severe lack of inventory in prime buying season, sellers are getting record prices for homes.
The Eastside, already the most expensive area in King County, saw home prices set a new record in May. Median home prices on the Eastside were up by over $100,000 compared to last year, reaching an all-time high of $760,000. With just a month of inventory available, most new listings here drew multiple offers. Even with soaring prices, buyers should plan to act quickly and count on navigating multiple offers.
With 20 percent fewer homes on the market here than last year, competition among buyers remained fierce. Tight supply and high demand sent prices surging. For the fourth straight month, King County set a new record, with the median price of a single family home sold in May jumping 16 percent over last year to $560,000. The market is in dire need of new homes to ease the inventory crunch.
Seattle has the 4th fastest growing population in the country. That growth has fueled demand. Seattle trails only Portland on the list of markets with thefastest-growing home prices. A single family home here cost $641,250 in May, an increase of 14 percent over the same time last year. While slightly higher than the median price last month, that figure is down from the peak in February.
Since the close-in neighborhoods in Seattle and Bellevue have priced out most first-time buyers, they continued to look to Snohomish County as a more affordable option. The median price of a single-family home increased 11 percent over last year to $389,950. That price is slightly above the pre-recession peak in 2007. However, at 30 percent less than the median price in King County, it’s a relative bargain.
The supply of homes for sale in April was up over March, indicating that more sellers are deciding to list their homes. But with less than a month of inventory available in the area, it’s still a seller’s market. While prices were up over last year, the increases aren’t as lofty as they were in the first quarter of this year. Buyers looking for affordable housing continue to push their search outside the more expensive urban cores.
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At $730,000, the median price of a home on the Eastside was up 11 percent over last year. That figure was down slightly from February and March, suggesting that prices may be moderating. Competition for homes has not moderated. Brokers continue to report homes on the Eastside selling very quickly and often for over asking price.
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After breaking records for home prices in February and March, King County reached a new record-high in April. The median price of a single-family home was $540,000, a 12 percent increase over the same time last year. The more affordable areas in the south and north ends of the county saw the greatest increases, with home prices climbing almost 20 percent in these outlying areas.
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Seattle continues to have the tightest inventory of homes in King County. An influx of young, well-paid technology workers has fueled demand for homes close to the city. The median price of a single-family home increased 15 percent over a year ago to $637,250. But like the Eastside, that number was down slightly from February and March.
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Snohomish County posted more moderate price gains than King County. The price of a single-family home increased just 4 percent over last year to $375,000, down from a median of $385,000 last month. With prices here a third less than in King County, some buyers are willing to trade a longer commute for a more affordable home.
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.
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.
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?
2015 closed out the year with home prices hitting new highs, and inventory hitting new lows. The market is tough for buyers who are competing for a dwindling number of homes, but it’s also the greatest seller’s market in recent memory.
What’s in store for 2016? Here is what Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner forecasts.
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.
The hot real estate market shows little sign of slowing down. Home prices continued to move upward. With the number of pending sales exceeding the number of new listings, the supply of homes is falling well short of demand. The inventory of homes in the Puget Sound area is 23 percent less than a year ago.
Strong sales continue to whittle down a dwindling supply of homes. The lack of supply to meet demand kept driving home prices upward in September. While the Puget Sound area saw steady appreciation over a year ago, there are signs that the frenzied level of growth may be starting to moderate – good news for a market that was starting to look unsustainable.
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The Seattle market continues to be very hot. Homes are snapped up as soon as they come on the market. As a result, the city has under a month of available inventory, the lowest in the region. Home prices climbed 10 percent over last year to a median of $571,000. That increase hasn’t seemed to decrease demand from buyers, who have become accustomed to facing multiple offers on newly listed homes.