2016 has been quite a year to live in the Pacific Northwest, especially if you spent some or most of it in the housing market. This year’s market was truly unique, record-breaking, and game-changing (see: Windermere’s W Collection). To close out the year here are a few of the most noteworthy Seattle-area superlatives related to real estate – and a few confirming just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful pocket of the world.
Nation’s Hottest Housing Market
Let’s get straight to the point – this year Seattle was named the hottest housing market in the nation! According to Geekwire home prices in our region rose 11 percent between September 2015 and 2016, putting us ahead of Portland for year-over-year growth.
We owe much of this recognition to our booming tech industry, which has been bringing people to the Seattle area in droves. “Droves” refers to the 86,320 residents (and counting) who moved to Greater Seattle between April 2015 and 2016, marking the region’s biggest population gain this century.
Many of these thousands of people who flocked here for tech jobs were probably also considering other tech hubs, but we were more alluring because tech salaries in the Seattle area are among the highest in the U.S. after cost of living adjustments. That means their salaries go much farther here than other tech towns, such as San Francisco, enabling them to have a better quality of life.
The Region’s Largest Property Sale
Of all of the multi-million dollar property sales in our region the largest was the 50-story Safeco Plaza in Seattle, which sold for $387 million. The buyer was a Munich-based company that had previously acquired an Amazon-occupied property in the thriving South Lake Union neighborhood.
Eastside’s Biggest Property Sale
The Seattle Times recently reported a pair of investors from the United States and China bought a major office complex in Bellevue for $202.2 million, making it the biggest transaction on the Eastside this year. The three-building, 480,000 sq. foot complex is fully leased and will be home to tenants such as BitTitan and CenturyLink.
Seattle No. 1 Choice for Foreign Investors
What’s one important thing buyers of both of these properties had in common? They were foreign investors. This year Seattle became the No. 1 choice for foreign investors after British Columbia enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign buyers in August, causing them to redirect their real estate searches to the Seattle area. To quantify this impact, as of November, Chinese money accounted for about 55 percent of all homes purchased by foreign investors in Washington.
Seattle No. 1 Place to Live If You Love Spending Time Outdoors
While this last ranking isn’t directly related to real estate, it’s definitely worth boasting about! Six Washington cities made Business Insider’s list of “25 beautiful US cities to live in if you love spending time outdoors.” Seattle topped the list and Bellevue came in at No. 5. Every day we are surrounded by the beauty of trees, mountains, and water with endless opportunities and ways to enjoy them.
Buyers spooked by a spike in mortgage interest rates gave rise to the busiest November for homes sales in over a decade. Prices rose accordingly. Case-Shiller ranked the area as the housing market with the fastest rising prices in the country. Sellers can expect to get a premium for their homes as we move into 2017, but they need to consider how an expected further increase in interest rates may impact the market.
There hasn’t been a stronger seller’s market on the Eastside in recent memory. Record-setting home sales, combined with record-low inventory, has resulted in a significant imbalance of supply and demand. It’s no surprise that home prices surged upward. The median price of a single-family home sold on the Eastside was $759,400, an increase of 13 percent over last November.
Home sales in King County soared nearly 30 percent over a year ago. With frenzied demand gobbling up inventory, most homes received multiple offers. Median home prices here were up 10 percent over the same time last year to $550,000. Brokers expect the market will continue to be extremely active through the winter.
A severe inventory shortage continues to make multiple offers the norm in Seattle. Even the uptick in mortgage interest rates has done little to moderate demand. The median home price here increased to $615,000 in November. If it’s any consolation for buyers facing sticker shock, that was just a 3 percent increase over the same time last year.
Snohomish County experienced the same boost in buying and bust in inventory as the rest of the region. Prices climbed at an even faster rate than in King County. Compared to a year ago, the median price of a single-family home was up over 14 percent to $400,000.
Not too long ago talk of million-dollar homes would conjure up images of lavish mansions owned by a small percentage of elite homebuyers – one percent, to be exact. Now, according to an article from The Seattle Times, seven-figure homes are becoming the norm across the Puget Sound region.
If you have been in the housing market recently, you have probably experienced the difficulty of finding a home under $1 million – especially if you are looking to find something significantly lower, such as around or under a quarter-million. That is because nearly 12 percent of all single-family houses sold in King County this year have sold for more than $1 million, which is double the average rate over the last decade. On the opposite end of the market spectrum, less than 5 percent of homes fit into the cheapest price bracket of less than $250,000. As of October the median cost of a single-family home in King County is $550,000, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner commented on the extreme shift stating, “It wasn’t that long ago, you start talking about seven figures, that was rarefied air. Now, it’s a more substantial market than we’ve ever seen before.”
Not surprisingly, Eastside neighborhoods have the biggest concentration of million-dollar homes, but they are also becoming more commonplace in several Seattle neighborhoods. The bulk of luxury home buyers are the expected tech executives, California and B.C. transplants, and foreign investors who are taking advantage of opportunities in Greater Seattle. However, the million-dollar market has also expanded to include home buyers outside of those sectors who never imagined they would be million-dollar homeowners – especially out of necessity. That being said…
How does this change how we define “luxury”?
The influx of million-dollar listings and homeowners has spurred a rebranding of “luxury” in our market. One Windermere agent reports, “What we used to consider luxury listings was anything over $2 million, and now that has scooted up to $3 million.” Windermere has responded to this redefinition with the W Collection, our newest brand in ultra-luxury that features homes worth at least $3 million. Our president OB Jacobi describes the program as “a sophisticated, yet humble, brand that evokes the understated expression of wealth that is unique to the Pacific Northwest.”
Find the full article at The Seattle Times.
Home sales outgained new listings again in October, further squeezing already tight inventory and pushing prices higher. Since new listings traditionally decrease in the fall, that inventory shortage is expected to last until spring. Sellers willing to put their home on the market now can expect plenty of interested buyers, and a highly favorable chance of getting the best possible price for their home.
Home prices on the Eastside took a big leap in October, fueled by record low inventory. The median price of a single-family home sold that month was $768,000, a jump of 15 percent over the same time last year, and the fastest price growth in several months. With the market so strongly favoring sellers, brokers are hopeful more consumers will opt to list their homes.
The amount of inventory in King County fell to levels not seen since the 1990s with just one month of available inventory. With supply falling well behind demand, prices jumped significantly. The median price of a single-family home sold in October jumped 15 percent over a year ago to $550,000.
There is no place where the supply of homes is tighter than Seattle, particularly in areas close to the city center. Just three weeks of inventory has kept this market in solid multiple-offer territory. Prices in October increased accordingly. The median price of a single-family home in Seattle rose 13 percent to $625,000.
Inventory in Snohomish County dropped more than 20 percent from a year ago. With just over a month of available inventory, prices climbed. The median price of a single-family home was up 6 percent over last year to $386,599. Even with that increase, buyers continue to be drawn to the area by home prices that average 30 percent less than King County.
Anyone who has spent time in the Seattle area in recent years has likely seen for themselves how much the city has changed. Thanks in large part to the booming economy, growing tech sector, and increasing international appeal, Seattle is no longer a sleepy little city tucked away in the far corner of the United States. With this changing landscape has come an infusion of wealth that has seen the area’s high-net-worth population explode. And with it, so too has the ultra-high-end real estate market.
In order to meet the specialized needs of this burgeoning market, Windermere has launched W Collection, a new ultra-luxury brand specifically designed for homes priced at $3 million and above in Western Washington. OB Jacobi, President of Windermere Real Estate, says that Seattle’s population of “global affluent” is on the rise and they greatly value real estate. The proof is in the numbers.
Over the past five years there has been a significant increase in the number of home sales in the $3 million+ market. In 2011 there were only 45 such sales in King County, while in 2015 there were 131. “Windermere agents represent anywhere from 40-60 percent of the $3 million+ sales in the Seattle area, so we felt we were in the ideal position to build a brand that could provide enhanced marketing support to the growing number of ultra-luxury homes,” said Jacobi.
W Collection is its own standalone brand with a separate website, WByWindermere.com, signage, presentation materials, and specialized advertising opportunities. When developing W Collection, Jacobi said that the goal was to create a sophisticated, yet humble, brand that evokes the understated expression of wealth that is unique to the Pacific Northwest. “Our clients are not largely drawn to the shows of excessive wealth that you see at other companies and in other parts of the country. This is reflected in the W Collection brand,” said Jacobi.
The development of W Collection began a little over a year ago, and according to Jacobi, was a highly collaborative process with Windermere agents playing an integral role in every step, “Over the past 44 years some of Windermere’s best ideas have come from our agents who are totally in tune with the needs of their clients and the shifting demands of the market; W Collection was born from this same agent ingenuity.”
This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
At a time of year when sales traditionally slow down, September saw particularly strong sales growth. Home prices rose yet again compared to the same time last year, but they remain below the peak of several months ago. And inventory, while still low, is at its highest level in two years. The local real estate market continues to be one of the hottest in the country, but there are signs that prices may be rising more slowly than they did in the first half of the year.
Home prices on the Eastside remain very strong. The September median price of $750,000 was a healthy 10 percent increase over last September. Inventory remains very low with just over a month supply of homes. Demand in this sought-after market continues to overwhelm the number of properties available for sale.
Home prices are typically lower in the fall, and that was the case in King County for September. The median price of homes sold in September was $538,000, down from the market peak earlier this summer. That number reflects a 10 percent increase over a year ago, which represents a significantly higher appreciation rate than the national average.
Inventory in Seattle remains very tight, but is up slightly from a year ago. While multiple offers are still common – particularly for entry-priced homes — some agents are reporting fewer offers than in the past. The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $630,000 in September, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.
Home prices in Snohomish County climbed 11 percent in September as compared to a year ago. The median price of a home was $395,000, just below the all-time high of $405,000 set in July. The area continues to see an influx of buyers trying to find a more cost-effective option to the comparatively high housing prices in King County.
There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.
Five reasons to move:
1. Your current location just isn’t working.
Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.
2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.
Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.
3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.
If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.
4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.
This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.
5. You don’t like remodeling.
Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of loosing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, countertop, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.
Five reasons to remodel:
1. You love your neighborhood.
You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.
2. You like your current home’s floor plan.
The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.
3. You’ve got a great yard.
Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.
4. You can get exactly the home you want.
Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.
5. It may make better financial sense.
In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.
Remodel or move checklist:
Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.
1. How much money can you afford to spend?
2. How long do you plan to live in your current home?
3. How do you feel about your current location?
4. Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?
5. Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?
6. Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?
7. Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?
8. If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.
While homes prices were up by double-digits compared to a year ago, the market frenzy that has affected most of this year is showing some signs of moderating. With the exception of the Eastside, prices for most of the region were down from their peak. Home sales generally outpaced the same period a year ago, but a shortage of inventory continues to tip the advantage in favor of sellers.
Bucking the trend of moderating prices, the Eastside saw the median home price soar 14 percent over last year to a new record high of $769,000. That eclipses the previous peak of $760,000 in May of this year. Very tight inventory in this highly desirable market was reflected in flat sales growth compared to a year ago.
King County saw home prices moderating for the second month in a row. The median price of homes sold in August was $550,000. That represents an increase of 10 percent over last year, but a drop from the high of $570,500 in June.
The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $625,000 in August. While down from the record high of $666,500 in June, that represents a healthy 9 percent increase over the same time last year. Demand continues to exceed the supply of inventory, particularly for entry-level homes.
Snohomish County’s August median home price of $400,000 was just shy of the record-high of $405,000 set in July. The median price here is $150,000 less than King County, making Snohomish County a more affordable option for buyers willing to trade a longer commute time for lower housing costs.
Many of us dream of getting a better job. But when a promotion or new job opportunity comes with a request to relocate, the result can be very disruptive to your home life. There’s a lot to consider when making this kind of move, such as do you have a home to sell? Are you planning to rent or buy when you relocate? Is your employer covering some of the costs of your relocation? Should you hire a moving company or handle the move yourself? Following is an overview of some of the most important factors you should take into consideration when relocating.
Assessing the situation
The idea of moving to a new area and into a new job can be very exciting, but you’ll want to assess the situation carefully:
- Do your best to make sure the job is a good fit, the boss is a good personality match (and plans to stay long-term), and that you’ll be comfortable in your new role for at least three years.
- Meet with a human resources manager to make sure you understand all the details of the relocation package.
- Thoroughly research your destination to ensure it’s a good fit for your entire family, and that there are other potential employers in the area in the event your new job doesn’t work out.
- Use one of the online cost-of-living calculators to determine if there’s a significant difference between what you pay now (for rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, gas, insurance, and more) and what you can expect to pay in the new location.
- If your spouse works or is planning to enter the workforce, he or she should apply for jobs in the area to test the employment conditions.
- Ask your real estate agent to perform a detailed market analysis to estimate the value of your current home.
- If you live in an apartment, review your lease carefully to determine if you are facing any penalties for moving out.
Renting versus buying
Once you have made the decision to relocate it’s time to consider your housing options—not only where you live and what type of home you want to live in, but whether to rent or buy.
Financially speaking, it makes more sense to buy today than to rent in most markets. According to the latest research on the subject, it costs 15 percent less to own a home than to rent an apartment in the current economy. That said, renting may be a better option if:
- You can’t decide where you want to live.
- You don’t qualify for a home loan.
- You need to keep your current home and can’t afford a second home.
- You’re moving to an area where home prices are extremely high (e.g., New York City, San Francisco, Orange County).
- You’re not yet certain whether you’ll want to stay long-term in the new location.
Moving your belongings
Fewer and fewer companies are offering to pay employee moving costs today, which means it may be up to you to arrange for one of the following options:
- Hire out the entire process (the moving company does all the packing, loading, driving, and unloading). Expect to pay between $6,000 to $8,000, on average.
- You pack all the boxes while the moving company does all the loading, driving and unloading. Expect to pay between $3,500 and $5,500, on average.
- You rent a truck and do all the packing/unpacking and driving. Expect to pay between $2,000 and $3,000, on average.
Making the move easier
Relocating can be exhilarating, but also extremely stressful—especially if you have school-age children or teens. Here are four tips to make the process easier:
- Get everyone in the family talking about their feelings and concerns. And make sure you’re doing as much listening as talking.
- If you have children, include them in the planning and packing work to make them feel more involved. You may want to hold a going-away party for your children, to show that the move is worth celebrating.
- If you have pets, ask your veterinarian, your moving company, and your airline (if you’ll be flying) to provide you with information, tips and any regulations.
- To protect yourself from identity theft, only work with trustworthy moving companies; submit a change-of-address form to the post office about two weeks before your move; consider moving financial records and other personal files yourself.
Last year, the overwhelming majority of people (77 percent) who decided to move for work reported they were happy and had no regrets.