Deja Vu All Over Again…

After a year or so that felt something like a balanced market things are heating back up. Heading into the spring selling season we’re back in the grips of strong seller’s market. Buyers, who had taken a breather are back in force, along with record low inventory and interest rates. Add in a roaring local economy that attracts thousands of high earners to our area every month and you recognize the familiar picture. So, here are some thoughts and a couple of new resources to help you successfully navigate the current market. 

As a Buyer At most price points and in most neighborhoods you are going to have to compete for desirable new listings. This means working with an agent who knows their way around a deal and how to present the strengths of your offer in the best possible light. (Hint: It’s not always price!) At the top of the to-do list is putting your finances in order. If you are financing your purchase it’s a good idea to work with a lender who can go beyond the standard pre-approval and get your loan fully underwritten in advance.

I know lenders who will guarantee to a seller that you will close quickly. Some will even promise to pay the sellers thousands should your transaction fail to close on time for some reason. Others will actually close on your behalf if needed and then transfer the house to you when the loan comes through. These are powerful programs that show sellers that you are solid and serious, which can help you compete with all cash offers and win deals.   

As a Seller While things are tilted in your favor, buyers are still discerning and properties that are poorly presented or overpriced will sit on the market. Pricing is critical and the way to maximize your return is to price your home fairly, not aggressively. It is nearly impossible to under-price your home in this market and I can show you how and why to set the price for the best result and return.

Three of my recent listings have sold in a matter of days. All three sellers addressed any maintenance issues before listing and went the extra mile to stage their houses for the market. All three also reviewed the market data and were smart and fair when pricing their homes. The result in each case was multiple offers, clean deals and sales well above the asking price.
If the hassle and cost of completing pre-listing “chores” is a deterrent, I can introduce you to vendors to do the work and a program that will front you all of the upfront costs , including staging. These expenses are then repaid out of your proceeds at closing with no additional fees or interest. Now THAT is full service!

There are ways to find success in any market. Let me know how I can help. 

Back At It…

The final 2019 real estate stats are in and 2020 seems to be off to a brisk start. Below are some thoughts on navigating the current market and HERE is a link to all the facts and figures if you are so inclined.  
As far as values are concerned, prices in most neighborhoods are still just below the last market peak back in June of 2018. Prices are climbing slowly, however, and depending on where you live the value of your home probably increased +/- 5% during the past year. While not the 10-15% annual increases we got used to in the overheated market of a few years ago, if this level of appreciation is the new normal – and I think it will be for a while – we’ll probably all survive.
On the supply side, after seemingly turning a corner early last year we ended the year back near record low inventory levels and I don’t see this changing significantly any time soon. Some industry analysts are actually adjusting their definitions of a “balanced market” downward from the historical consensus of 4-6 months of inventory, which should tell us something.
Here are a few takeaways. Sellers have reclaimed the driver’s seat, but can’t get too bold. The market remains amazingly efficient and even at these inventory levels buyers are not exhibiting the same behaviors they did back in the frenzied days. They are willing to move quickly on prized listings in great neighborhoods, but are not pushing prices to ridiculous levels. Nor are they overlooking shortcomings or waiving contingencies as in the past. Multiple-offer scenarios are out there but not in the same numbers or intensity as before.
To be successful as a buyer take the time to educate yourself on the market dynamics in your target neighborhood(s) and be ready to act when the right opportunity presents itself. Air-tight financing and a good agent in your corner to protect your interests and guide you through the buying process are must haves in the current environment. First movers in today’s market can often negotiate certain deal terms and perhaps even price, but you have to be smart and professional in your approach in order to walk away with the prize.
Let me know if you’d like to talk more about the general market, your neighborhood or a specific property. A quick conversation is almost always worth the time… and I’ll buy the drinks!
Happy New Year! 

‘Tis The Season…

As the year winds down many of us are taking stock of where things stand and considering our plans for next year and beyond. If real estate might figure into your calculations it’s important to start with good information. Based on the folks I’ve heard from, last week’s Seattle Times article citing the MLS stats for the month of November raised more questions than it answered. Here’s my shot at clearing things up.

The article’s headline, “It’s a home seller’s market as King County sees ‘November surprise’“ trumpets a seller’s market, and the big “surprise” is lower inventory; two realities we’ve been living with for years. Their trouble is searching for a headline in a single month’s snapshot of data. The reality is that in most neighborhoods the local market continues to recover from the swoon we saw during the back half of 2018. (See “Taking Stock” post above from July.) Inventory fluctuates month to month, but is still quite low from a historical perspective, and prices in most areas have crept upward during 2019, although the graph is not a straight line.

We still live in a seller’s market. Buyers are actively seeking homes in all neighborhoods and price ranges, but they are being more selective. In order to sell a home quickly in this market, pricing, preparation and marketing are more critical than ever. So don’t sweat the month-to-month market fluctuations. The market in our area remains one of the strongest in the country. And when you do see the local paper turn – or click – straight to the sports page. The rest will just drive you nuts!

Finally, I want to thank all of you who helped make this another great year for me in this crazy business. I love what I’m doing and I’m grateful for your confidence in letting me help you with your real estate dealings and for all your referrals of family and friends. Have a great holiday and I hope to see you soon.

YEAR END OPPORTUNITIES…
Low inventory, slowly rising prices and longer time on market have become the norm in much of our local real estate market. There is more balance between buyers and sellers, which has the market exhibiting more “normal” behavior — if there is such a thing. For example, seasonal cycles, which were less pronounced in the feeding frenzy market of recent years, are back and can create opportunities for savvy buyers.                 
Much of the typical year-end slowdown is the result of buyers simply taking a break. But for those willing to stay focused and in the game the slower pace creates opportunities by reducing competition for existing listings. Add sellers to the mix who for tax or other reasons may be eager to complete a deal this calendar year and smart, persistent buyers can find themselves faced with some attractive options. 
Right now there are plenty of active listings in desirable areas and in all price ranges that have been on the market for a while and could be poised for deals. So get me your wish list and we’ll put the plan in place to make it happen. 

Change Is In The Air

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR…
In case you haven’t noticed, the days are getting shorter and a little wetter. The Huskies are back to their winning ways. (All streaks start with one in a row!) And the local real estate market has awakened from its summer slumber.

If a change could be in your future it’s a good idea to get ahead of the process by putting some pieces in place now, well in advance of any move. The local market is behaving rather “normally” lately, meaning there is some balance between buyers and sellers. Buyers are much more discerning and are taking the time to carefully consider offers – including contingencies – when bidding on properties. Smart sellers are adjusting to the market’s new equilibrium by dialing in asking prices and going the extra mile in preparing their homes for sale. Since a move requires most of us to be both buyers and sellers, here are some thoughts to help prepare from both perspectives.

As a buyer:
Talk with an agent well BEFORE you’re actually ready to make a move. Discuss your ideal target neighborhoods and have your agent take you to see some homes there. It’s critical to understand the nuances of a new neighborhood and to have a handle on exactly what your money will buy there before you are in the heat of a search for your next home. A good agent will also be able to work the back channels with potential sellers and other agents to gain intel and potentially early access to upcoming listings.

As a seller:
A good agent (Are you seeing the trend here?) can be a great resource as you consider your options and begin working through the selling process. There are many variables other than price to consider as you think through getting your house on the market. Timing, addressing deferred maintenance, making updates, etc. can all affect how quickly a home is sold and at what price. I can help you understand which improvements add value and which just add expense and I’ll also help with resources to get the needed work done quickly and inexpensively. Taking these steps in advance can make a big difference in the final outcome.
There are great opportunities out there right now for both buyers and sellers willing to do their homework and be prepared for current market conditions.

Let me know how I can help. 

Taking Stock…

Far be it for me to take a contradictory point of view :-), but reading the papers lately could give one the impression that the local real estate market has been in a steady state of decline for a year now. I don’t see it.

Market stats for the month of June came out this week and halfway through the year is a good place to stop and take stock. The Seattle Times and others dutifully reported that home prices for the month of June were off 3.9% vs. the same month a year ago, which is accurate but misleading. Pull back to 20,000 feet and you’ll see that while prices were declining during the second half of last year, in most neighborhoods prices have actually climbed slowly but steadily through the first half of 2019.

We haven’t completely erased the declines from the back half of last year, but the trajectory is actually positive and our economic forecasts look good moving forward. Some of the actual numbers are below and can also be seen in the graph included in the Times story.

Median Home Price (Eastside)
June ’18 $977,759
Dec. ’18 $908,762 (-7.0%)
June ’19 $950,000 (+4.5%)
June YOY -2.8%

Median Home Price (Seattle)
June ’18 $812,500
Dec. ’18 $739,000 (-9.0%)
June ’19 $781,000 (+5.6%)
June YOY -3.9%
* Source: NWMLS

Obviously, these numbers don’t tell the whole story and there are subtleties at play depending on your neighborhood, price point, time frame, etc. You’ll want to have everything on the table before making any decisions, so let me know if I can help shed some light on your specific situation.

Enjoy the summer!

Opportunity Knocks…

After some adjustment during the second half of last year, the local real estate market remains strong and continues to roll along. Frustrated buyers have cooled demand just a bit, leading to an increase in inventory and a more balanced feel in the market in many neighborhoods and at many price points. Overall, it’s still a seller’s market and a great time to sell a home, but the move toward balance is creating great opportunities for smart buyers as well.

Operating in the white hot seller’s market of the past few years, many who were considering a move worried about selling and then not being able to find what they were looking for on the other side. In today’s less frenzied environment it can be much less stressful to be a buyer, especially with a good agent in your corner. For example, listings that have been on the market for a while can be fertile ground for deal making. With a little research and some conversation with the listing agent I can often gather enough useful information to kick start a deal. Below are a few listings in popular neighborhoods that have been sitting on the market for a while. Someone is going to buy them, and probably get a good value. As Russell Wilson might say, “why not you?”.

KIRKLAND CONDO

MADISON PARK HOUSE

BELLEVUE TOWERS CONDO

There are plenty more listings – and ideas – where these came from. Just say the word and I’ll be happy to go to work on your wish list.

Market Snapshot…

The March numbers are in and everyone from the Seattle Times to the NWMLS is putting their spin on them, proving that figures lie and liars figure. Here’s my take on what’s really going on.

Across King County, the first quarter ended with about double the inventory we had at the same time last year. While this sounds impressive, depending on where you live, the increase was from about a half a month of available inventory a year ago to about 1.2 months today, which historically is still really meager supply. And keep in mind that it takes four to six months of inventory to be considered a balanced market. We had a taste of what a balanced market feels like during the second half of 2018, but in many popular neighborhoods things have swung back in favor of sellers at most price points. Finally, even after last year’s slow second half, prices across the area are flat to down just a few ticks vs. a year ago. Not all sellers have accepted this reality, but as a buyer there are opportunities out there and deals to be made.

The numbers are instructive, but for a better look at what’s really going on, you should look at real examples of available properties in popular neighborhoods like Bellevue, Kirkland and Madison Park. It’s easy to find nice homes in great spots that have been on the market long enough that they might entertain offers below the asking prices.

Just say the word and I’ll send you some examples. I’d also be happy to provide you with an analysis of what your current home is worth in today’s market. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Welcome To The New Year…

By all accounts, our high-flying real estate market cooled a bit during the second half of 2018. Buyers took a hiatus, fed up after years fighting a heavily tilted seller’s market. As a result, homes at all price points took longer to sell, driving inventory higher and prices lower. The good news is that depending on your specific neighborhood, despite the grim reports of rapidly falling prices and coming market crashes, your property’s value probably finished the year about even with where it was a year ago. Across the Eastside, the median price of a single family home in December 2018 was down 3% vs. a year earlier. For Seattle the median price was up 2% for the year.

As we work our way through January, the anecdotal “evidence” indicates that the real estate market is emerging from its 6-month funk. (That’s a technical real estate term!) Working with both buyers and sellers since the first of the year, I’ve noticed increased activity and pace in the market. Buyers are returning and writing offers and new listings are hitting the market, which increases buyer interest and contributes to the improving cycle. In just the past two weeks I have encountered a couple of multiple offer situations and more recently I’ve come across two new listings with “offer review dates”. Neither of these scenarios were common during the second half of 2018.

I don’t like to make sweeping predictions…but maybe just this once. I think we’re heading for an active spring that will feel more like a healthy, balanced market than anything we have seen in years. There will be enough inventory to give buyers a choice of homes to visit and bid on, without the steep price appreciation or the crazy bidding wars of the past few years. The market is smart, however, and will remain very efficient. This year both buyers and sellers will have to be on their games.
Let me know how I can help.

My Take…

The latest market data bears out the fact that the local real estate market is taking a bit of a “breather”. After becoming accustomed to the booming seller’s market of the past few years, the fact is that now is the best time in the past 5 years to be a buyer! Here’s why.

According to the latest MLS data, inventory levels for October across our area were roughly double what they were a year ago. According to the stats, West Bellevue has actually left “seller’s market” status and is now behaving like a “balanced market”. I do believe that the underlying fundamentals of our market point to better times ahead for sellers, but if you’re a buyer in the current environment there are great properties out there to look at right now. Since much of the increase in inventory is due to homes staying on the market longer, in many cases buyers are able to negotiate off the asking price.

Much of the current market adjustment is being fueled by lower demand, meaning that there are just fewer buyers out there looking at and competing for listed properties. The result is a more “normal” negotiation process and less frenzied transaction pace for buyers. On average, the houses that sold in October 2018 across King County took 33 days to sell. A year ago that number was 23 days. That’s a 43% increase in time on market and believe me, you can feel it!

In addition, mortgage lenders have been working hard over the past few years to come up with programs to help their clients to look more like cash buyers when competing for properties. Many of these programs also work for buyers who would prefer to buy their new home before selling their current one. I can introduce you to some good lenders if you are interested.

Whether you are buying, selling or just pondering future possibilities, in a shifting market like this it is more important than ever to understand the dynamics of the market and to get all your options on the table. Give me a call if you’d like to talk. A quick conversation is almost always worth the time, especially if I buy the coffee.