Opportunity Knocks…

As many predicted, the spring real estate market is heating up and things are starting to look an awful lot like last year. The market remains heavily tilted in favor of sellers, and multiple offers and quick sales are the norm in many price points.
I continue to get lots of “where would I go” questions from folks thinking about selling their homes and considering their next moves. The most popular destinations seem to be Kirkland, downtown Bellevue and a few neighborhoods in Seattle. An increasing number of people are also thinking about selling, taking some money off the table and renting for a year or so while pondering their next move. This is an attractive financial model for lots of folks, and it also removes the timing pressure.
There are plenty of good options out there. You just have to know where to look and how to dig for them. Let me know if I can help. And should you decide to make a move have no fear, none of my clients have been left “homeless” yet!

Think different.

Home prices continue on their upward trajectory across our area (September prices were up 10.3% vs. a year ago both in Seattle and on the Eastside.) and the inventory picture remains tilted in favor of sellers. But subtle changes are afoot, creating interesting opportunities for clever buyers looking to make a move. I’ve waited until mid-October to say it, but it’s now clear that after the feeding frenzy of last spring and early summer the market’s normal summer slowdown is bleeding into fall.

There have definitely been fewer multiple-offer situations in the marketplace over the past 90 days and many of those that do occur are less competitive. In addition, more listings are remaining on the market past their “offer review” dates (i.e. without offers). Frustrated buyers seem to be taking an extended break from their searches and many sellers are getting overly aggressive in pricing their homes. The end result is that there are opportunities out there for buyers willing to “Think Different” as Steve Jobs might say. Here are a couple thoughts:

** Buy first. Take advantage of the market’s fluctuations and buy your next home now while things are a bit quieter. Then sell your current place after the first of the year when things heat back up. (Yes, I think they will.) I can introduce you to resources who will provide you with a financial “bridge” to the sale of your current home, if needed. This scenario allows you to avoid the stress of the classic “nowhere to go” scenario, and may also be less expensive than leasing an interim home. You will only have to move once and would have time to make some repairs or upgrades to your new place before moving in.

** Find the road less traveled. Work with someone who knows the market and can identify and negotiate with the motivated sellers. There are properties that have been on the market for a while or are no longer listed that just need the right offer to trigger a deal. Don’t waste time and raise your blood pressure in competitive situations that don’t make sense for you or trying to educate less than reasonable sellers. Life is too short!

The deals are out there if you know where to look. Give me a call and let’s talk about how to take advantage of both the current lull and the coming frenzy! It can be done…

The Beat Goes On…

We’ll find out soon whether the market has cooled a bit or if it’s just another installment of the August doldrums. In the meantime, here’s an interesting round up of local real estate metrics from our friends at SeattleBubble.com http://seattlebubble.com/blog/

Stay cool…

Market Update…

The real estate question du jour seems to be whether or not our local market is approaching “bubble” territory. I’m no fortune teller, but I don’t see it. One of the clearest explanations I’ve seen recently of what’s behind our increasing real estate prices is HERE. Turns out it boils down to simple supply and demand. According to the article, the population of the Seattle area has grown 2.2% over the past year. If you do the math, at this pace 236 people are being added to the local population every day. Since much of the growth is coming from our booming tech sector, lots of these new neighbors are well educated high earners looking for homes in the most popular Seattle and Eastside neighborhoods.

In a nutshell, low inventory + additional high-end buyers = rising prices. And until one or the other changes that’s where we are. Add low interest rates, high rents and lots of international buyers to the equation and, you get the picture.

For you, all of this just means that this remains the best time EVER to sell a home around here. Over the past 90 days in King County the average time on market for a single family home was 23 days and the average selling price was 102% of asking price. That’s the definition of a seller’s market and barring something crazy, properly priced and marketed properties should continue to sell briskly right through the fall.

On the buy side, have no fear! I’ve represented 10 buyers in the past 6 months who have successfully navigated the competitive marketplace and come away with the property they wanted. (Program note: Lori and I have nearly completed the master plan and are under contract on a home in Madison Park that is exactly what we were looking for.) It can be done!

Going Small…

It is probably a byproduct of my advanced age, but it seems like every day I talk to a friend or client who is either thinking about, talking about, or actively in the process of “downsizing”. The motivation usually comes from a desire to reduce the size of the house, the yard, the mortgage, the upkeep, the property taxes, or all of the above. The conversation invariably comes around to the question of what the options look like for interesting smaller homes.

Below are a few ideas that are probably not in the conventional consideration set.

Let me know what you think, and as they say, “Go small or go home.”

21st Century Urban Living

1200 Howell Street, Seattle

People camped out in line last week for the privilege of putting down a deposit on one of these condos, which are not scheduled to be complete until 2019. The building’s amenities and common areas are amazing, but the units priced in the $300,000s are under 500 square feet.

See details HERE

The Love Boat

2339 Fairview Avenue E, Seattle

This stunning 1,367 square foot house boat has one bedroom, one bathroom, cool outdoor spaces and views forever. It recently sold  for $2,000,000. Did I mention that it FLOATS?

Click HERE for more pics and details.

It Takes a Cottage

13324 111th Ct Redmond, WA

1,380 square foot cottage on two levels close to downtown Kirkland and Redmond. Amazing architecture and detail. Common grounds and clubhouse.
Recently sold for $640,000
Click HERE for more pics and details.

Update from the front…

Regular readers of this blog (and you know you are one) may remember that last month Lori and I embarked on an awesome adventure, selling our home in Clyde Hill and planning a move to Madison Park (See http://blog.ripwarendorf.com/ ). Well I’m back to report that our westward migration is well underway. Here’s a quick update and a few learnings from the real estate front lines.

As sellers, we took the time needed to get our house ready to sell. Then we hired a stager (and did what he said), priced it right, put the marketing in place and then got out of Dodge for a few days. The result was multiple offers, a quick closing, and we’re still here thanks to an expertly-negotiated free “rent-back” from the buyers. The seller’s market is real!

We’ve now turned 180° and put on our buyer’s hats. Using some of the same strategies that have worked recently for my buy-side clients we have uncovered some promising prospects in Madison Park and are working to convert one of them into a deal. Here are a few ideas from my recent experience on the buy side.

“Money talks…” Have your cash/financing completely locked and loaded so you can make a clean, non-contingent offer when the right place becomes available. Making an offer with as few contingencies as possible and a quick close works wonders.
Pre-inspect. In competitive situations, sellers see home inspection contingencies as the giant OUT CLAUSES that they are. It will cost you a few bucks, but doing an inspection before submitting your offer may allow you to waive the inspection contingency, making your offer much stronger and giving you a competitive advantage.

Talk is cheap…and effective. Persistent networking works for clients and it seems to be working for us too. Conversations with anyone who will listen, snail mail, email, social media, etc. can all play a part. It’s amazing where valuable leads and connections come from.

Find a way station. Instead of trying thread the needle and time everything perfectly from the sale of your home to identifying and closing on a new one, consider a short term lease in your target neighborhood. We’ve found one in a great location with room for the kids when they come around, and removing the timing pressure improves the odds of closing one of the opportunities we’ve uncovered.

So, still happily married, enjoying the hunt and settled in for a fun summer in the new ‘hood. So far, so good. Stay tuned…

A Bit of My Own Advice…

I recently took the opportunity to heed some of my own advice. Home prices at new highs, inventory at all-time lows, a seller’s market entering its fourth year, and a desire to change things up a bit all combined to push Lori and I into action. Step one of the process (hopefully the process of downsizing to a new home in Madison Park) was to sell our home in Clyde Hill. Check.

That oversimplifies both the decision-making and selling processes, but not by too much. It feels good to kick into action and once you do the process seems to fall into place. Here are a few of the early takeaways from our very much ongoing adventure.

A dose of your own medicine. All realtors should be required to take some of their own advice periodically; just as management consultants should periodically have to stick around and execute one of their own plans. It’s really eye-opening to see the world first hand from the other side.
It’s a process. Don’t try to get your house ready to sell in a day or a week. We started chipping away at it right after the holidays and managed to be ready to go by March first. Take as long as you need to do it right.
Seek professional help. Preparing your house for sale can range from doing the dishes and putting a sign in the yard to curating a museum exhibit. Understand that you are too close to it all to be objective. Get some outside input on which projects to do and which not to do. Then hire a professional stager to make prepping your house less personal. (Hint: Apparently, Mom’s antiques and the shrines to your kids can go to storage.)
Run away! Get everything ready and then GO AWAY, at least for the first weekend you are on the market. It’s not about you. It’s about letting buyers have access. Turn things over to your realtor and let them me work it.
Gut Check. For years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that “you can’t underprice your house in this market”. It’s true. Hit the market at a reasonable price and if your home is worth more you will get more. The “shoot for the moon” pricing strategy is tempting when things are hot, but it often leaves beautiful homes sitting on the market. Everyone gets this idea conceptually, but it’s a real “gut check” when the time comes to make the call on the final price.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Let your agent know what, in addition to price, is important to you in a transaction (quick closing, rent back, inspection terms, financing, etc.). Remember, you are selling in a seller’s market so you might as well ask.
If you’re interested in more detail or in putting your own plan into action give me a call anytime. I’d be happy to help get you started.

With a little luck, next month I’ll have some interesting (and happy) tales to report from the buy side. Wish us luck!

Kardashian, Trump and Beyond…

As always, this time of year brings an assortment of year-end wrap ups and New Year predictions. This year is no different, with prognostications on everything from the Kardashians to Donald Trump to the economy. While the K’s and the Donald are tempting subjects, I’m going to stick a little closer to home.
All indications are that we’re in for another solid year in the local real estate market. Tight inventory on the supply side, combined with a strong local economy that continues to attract educated, high-earning workers to the region will keep upward pressure on home prices.  Rising rents, builders actively searching for suitable lots, and now the reality of creeping interest rates all add fuel to the fire on the demand side of the equation.  Below are two interesting perspectives that point to the unique nature of our local market.
We’ve all read that 2015 was the stock market’s first down year since 2008. The Dow was off about 1% for the year, but if you focus more locally the numbers tell quite a different story. The chart below shows the 2015 performance of some of our area’s leading companies and it’s these numbers, not the broader market indices that are driving the local economy and in turn our real estate market.
(See the full Seattle Times article HERE)
Another take on things comes from Redfin, who analyzed a variety of data to compile a list of the most competitive real estate markets in the nation by neighborhood. It’s no surprise that a booming tech economy was a strong indicator of markets with bidding wars and quick sales. But that 13 of the 30 most competitive neighborhoods in the country for 2015 were in the Seattle metro area came as a bit of a shock! Click HERE to see their full analysis and list of the “hottest” neighborhoods.
So it’s true that things really are a bit “different” around here. And barring unforeseen events all indications are that they should stay that way on the real estate front in 2016. Thanks for making 2015 a great year and feel free to give me a call if I can answer any real estate (or Kardashian or Trump) questions for you moving forward.

Spring Market Snapshot

Memorial Day is behind us and the spring real estate market is in full swing. Since I’ve sworn off griping about the lack of inventory I thought I would provide a snapshot of recent activity here on in the eastside. The numbers below show closed sales for the past 60 days in both the single family and condo markets in Bellevue and Kirkland.

Bellevue & Kirkland Closed Sales — Last 60 Days

Boiling it down, it’s still amazing how fast things are selling. In Bellevue over the past 60 days, two thirds of the single family homes that sold for less than $2M sold in less than 10 days. For homes under $1M in Kirkland it was 53%.

Our new construction market is also rolling. Ric Mangialardi and I recently sold the two Medina listings HERE and HERE. Both were over $3M and sold in less than 3 days. (Don’t worry,there’s more where those came from!)

The local condo market is also very competitive as downsizers make their presence felt in what has traditionally been a younger market. It’s also surprising to see how similar the numbers are for the Bellevue and Kirkland condo markets.

The market dynamics are similar throughout the area, but let me know if you would like to see the numbers for another market or neighborhood. You’d be surprised how quickly deals come together from a quick conversation.

The New Normal

I’m through complaining about the lack of inventory in the local real estate market. The number of houses for sale in our area is at its lowest level in more than 20 years and that’s just the way it’s going to be for a while. And while I can’t easily decipher Janet Yellen’s musings I think the same can probably be said for the low interest rates and for our strong local economy. Say hello to the new normal!

Much like the weather around here, the “spring” real estate market seems to be heating up a bit early. Here are a few interesting stats that illustrate what’s going on.

With that backdrop here are some things to consider if you are thinking about buying or selling in this seller’s market.

FOR SELLERS
• Even in this seller’s market, if you shoot for the moon and overprice your home it will sit on the market. The market remains very efficient (and brutally honest). By contrast, it is virtually impossible to under-price your home in this market. Go a little low and if your home is worth more buyers will bid it up to its rightful level. Get a professional (non-Zillow) price opinion from someone who is not just telling you what you want to hear and don’t get greedy.
• Since you will likely be able to dictate some of the terms of your sale, make sure your agent understands the deal terms other than price that are most important to you (i.e. closing date, pre-inspections, financing terms, remaining in the house after closing, etc.). Properly communicating your preferences to buyers up front can help during negotiations and really streamline the process.
• As you get ready to sell don’t spend “dumb” money on projects that won’t increase the value of your home in the eyes most buyers. The goal is to do the things that will make your home appeal to the broadest possible buyer pool. A quick conversation about what to do, what not to do and why is always worth the time. Call me.

BUYERS
• Get someone good on your side. In a hot market like ours you need to have an agent working for you who can give you that “unfair advantage”. A good agent’s intimate market knowledge and a strong personal and professional network can give you a first mover advantage, strengthen your negotiating position and ensure that your offer stands above the crowd. (Despite the urban myths, few ever “outfox” the market and in times like these the number is actually zero!)
• Make sure your financial house is in order. Unless you are an all-cash buyer with the full amount of your purchase sitting in the bank, make sure you consult with a mortgage professional to figure out all your options and get pre-approved for a loan. A good mortgage person will propose options you had not considered and when the time comes will help make your offer as strong as it can be.

So that’s the view from here. Let me know how I can help.