Q3 Market Insights

Pulse of the Market…

As you probably know, the real estate market around here has been beyond resilient since the COVID outbreak hit in March. (Yes, it’s been that long! The National Emergency was declared on March 13 and the Washington State Stay Home, Stay Healthy order was issued on March 23. Time flies…) The big technology companies that dominate the local economy are not just surviving in the current environment – they are THRIVING. Many companies are shedding employees, but they continue to hire, and their share prices are through the roof. Add in historically low mortgage interest rates and you get the picture: the demand side of the real estate equation is stronger than ever.

At the same time, historically low housing inventory keeps the market out of balance, pushing prices higher. According to the Case Shiller Home Price Index for July, home prices across the Seattle metro area were up 7% vs. a year ago. (See an interactive graph and all the numbers HERE) Transaction volume is also up. The number of new Pending transactions (i.e. listed homes going under contract) plummeted immediately after the stay at home order was implemented both in Seattle and across the Eastside. It climbed back quickly, however, and has been hovering about 30% ABOVE pre-COVID levels for the past three months. Amazing.

It seems counterintuitive, but while new listings continue to sell very quickly in all price ranges, a thriving market for private sales is also flourishing. Sellers worried about having their homes on the market during COVID or just not wild about the idea of listing their homes are being matched with eager buyers frustrated in the open market. So, if you have a wish list as either a buyer or a seller, let me know. I have quietly matched off-market buyers and sellers in some great deals over the past few months and would love to do the same for you.

Come On Autumn!

We’re about a week away from the official end of the “Summer of Love” here in Seattle and most agree that this summer will look best when it’s in the rearview mirror. In our new normal bars, restaurants and beaches are mostly closed, mini-weddings are all the rage, our masks are doing COVID/smoke double duty, NFL and MLB stadiums are empty, the Huskies aren’t playing at all, and classrooms have taken root in garages and bonus rooms everywhere. It might be funny if it weren’t all true!
Meanwhile, from the “challenges beget opportunities” file, many are using their current reality as impetus to take the blinders off, adjust their perspective and consider new options and opportunities. I’ve heard from lots of people who are re-evaluating their plans for everything from employment and commuting to caring for family members and retirement.
If you are among those considering new options (or even considering considering new options) it might be a good time to take stock of your real estate situation. While generally holding up quite well, the local market can be a bit tricky to navigate these days. Historically low inventory levels have brought back offer review dates and multiple offer scenarios at many price points and in many neighborhoods. It is nearly impossible to underprice a property in the current environment, as properly priced homes will attract eager buyers and be bid up, if worthy. That said, the market remains very efficient and overpricing a home will leave you sitting on the sidelines wondering why your property is not selling in this hot seller’s market.
I like to say that a quick conversation with a good realtor to get all your real estate goals and options on the table is almost always worth the time. This statement has never been truer than it is today. It remains as important as ever to get all aspects of the home selling process right in order to achieve the best possible result. 
Let me know how I can help.

Strange Days, Indeed…

When I wrote back in April that these were “strange days, indeed” I had no idea. No idea that we’d still be largely locked down heading into June. And no idea that we’d see protests hijacked by violent rioters across the region and across the country. Strange days, indeed. I’m not here to make political commentary, but if you’re ready for a 5-minute break from the madness, the virus, the news videos and the blackouts I’m here for you with a quick dose of free real estate chatter.

So far, our local real estate market seems remarkably unfazed by everything going on around us. Last month I highlighted the fact that despite the COVID-related business closures, stay at home orders and general economic upheaval, King County real estate activity was “only” down 25-30% depending on your neighborhood. The analysis compared the weekly volume of new real estate contracts to the same week a year ago. The Eastside was a bit slower due to some sluggishness at the higher price points, but this generally seemed like incredibly robust activity.

Fast forward one month to the week ending 5/27 and the volume of new contracts is actually AHEAD of where it was a year ago in all 3 geographies (see charts below). Interestingly, all price points are now contributing, with five West Bellevue homes priced over $4M going under contract in the past 2 weeks alone. Two of them sold in less than a week. Amazing. 

Obviously, there is no guarantee that the current activity levels will hold. Headwinds, including new listings not keeping up with demand and major structural damage to the economy from a prolonged shutdown could still slow things down. But so far things are full speed ahead. We’ve figured out how to list and show properties safely and according to the state’s guidelines and we’re helping buyers and sellers are navigate their way to listings and through transactions. If you’re considering a move don’t wait for things to “get back to normal”. The strange days may be with us for a while and right now there’s no time like the present! I’ll keep you poste

Click HERE and I’ll leave you with the best thing I saw yesterday. Stay safe and be kind, everyone.

Open For Business…

It’s been about 6 weeks since the Covid stay-at-home order went into effect here in Washington and most of the people I talk to are settling into new routines and figuring out how to safely go about their own essential activities. On the whole we’re a pretty resilient bunch!

Until recently, news from the real estate front was understandably well down on most priority lists. But recently I’ve been surprised by the relative strength and activity level of the local market and by the number of questions I get about what the market is doing. So here goes.

First, the all-important caveat: Predictions are tough right now since no one knows exactly how or when the economy will pull out of the current mess. Our market, however, continues to chug along thanks largely to the solid fundamentals in place before everything was shut down. And while activity (new listings, pending sales, etc.) has slowed, it has by no means stopped. In fact, the weekly number of new properties under contract compared to a year ago tells an interesting story of resiliency. The market was screaming along heading into springtime, jammed on the brakes and now seems to be slowly accelerating again. New contracts are down “only” 32% across King County and 25% in Seattle. Given all we’ve been through those numbers are incredible to me. The Eastside is a bit slower due to sluggishness at the higher price points.

As restrictions are lifted, I’m confident that the market will continue to strengthen, aided by pent up demand, low interest rates and an overall improving economy. We’re not out of the woods yet, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it doesn’t appear to be an oncoming train!

So hang in there and we’ll get through this. In the meantime, have some fun. Pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t talked to in years. Better yet – Facetime them. I have both made and received such calls in the past couple weeks and it’s a hoot. Let me know how it goes!

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.