The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions.
What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.
The U.S. Economy
Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing. Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.
The U.S. Housing Market
Existing Home Sales
This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market. In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.
Existing Home Prices
We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017. In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.
New Home Sales
In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.
That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.
In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.
In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or leveling. We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.
I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.
There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating. In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.
That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.
Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.
Originally published on Inman News.
Whatcom County Real Estate Market Snapshot
As compared to Q2 average sale price dropped Year Over Year just under a percent but the average sales price in the 3rd quarter is up about $11,000 from quarter 2. List to sale time is right about the same and so is average price per square foot.
It’s always impressive to me to notice the different in total sales from the second to the third quarter- almost triple the amount of homes sell in the 3rd quarter than the 2nd!
Inventory is up about 60 homes from Q2 and, surprisingly, down almost 16% from Q3 last year.
Want the full report from Matthew Gardner? Download it here!
It is no secret that the real estate market in Whatcom County is red hot! If you’re wondering what the market looks like now in comparison to a year ago, take a look at the image below. The ongoing trend remains that inventory is low. If you’re thinking of selling your home, now might just be the perfect time to do it!
Key statistics from the Q2 Market Snapshot:
- Average sale price: $415,000 (+13.7% over last year)
- List to sale time: 36 days
- Average price per square foot: $222
- Total Q2 sales: 343 (down 5.5%)
- Number of homes for sale: 619 (down 15.2%)
The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
The Washington State economy added 96,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9%—still solidly above the national rate of 1.5%. Most of the employment gains were in the private sector, which rose by 3.4%. The public sector saw a more modest increase of 1.6%.
The strongest growth was in the Education & Health Services and Retail sectors, which added 17,300 and 16,700 jobs, respectively. The Construction sector added 10,900 new positions over the past 12 months.
Even with solid increases in jobs, the state unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%—a figure that has not moved since September of last year.
I expect the Washington State economy to continue adding jobs in 2018, but not at the same rate as last year given that we are nearing full employment. That said, we will still outperform the nation as a whole when it comes to job creation.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
- There were 14,961 home sales during the first quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 5.4% over the same period in 2017.
- Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the first quarter of 2017, with an increase of 16.5%. In most of the other markets, the lack of available homes for sale slowed the number of closings during this period.
- Listing inventory in the quarter was down by 17.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017, but pending home sales rose by 2.6% over the same period, suggesting that closings in the second quarter should be fairly robust.
- The takeaway from this data is that the lack of supply continues to put a damper on sales. I also believe that the rise in interest rates in the finalquarter of 2017 likely pulled sales forward, leading to a drop in sales in the first quarter of 2018.
- With ongoing limited inventory, it’s not surprising that the growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.4% to $468,312.
- Economic vitality in the region is leading to robust housing demand that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of new construction homes— something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. As a result, home prices will continue to rise at above-average rates in the coming year.
- When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County at 27.5%. Ten additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
- Mortgage rates continued to rise during first quarter, and are expected to increase modestly in the coming months. By the end of the year, interest rates will likely land around 4.9%, which should take some of the steam out of price growth. This is actually a good thing and should help address the challenges we face with housing affordability—especially in markets near the major job centers.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days when compared to the same quarter of 2017.
- King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 24 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain essentially static relative to the same period a year ago.
- In looking at the entire region, it took an average of 61 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year. This is down from 68 days in the firstquarter of 2017 but up by eleven days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
- Anyone expecting to see a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale in 2018 will likely be disappointed. New construction permit activity—a leading indicator—remains well below historic levels and this will continue to put increasing pressure on the resale home market.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle at the same point as fourth quarter of last year. Price growth remains strong even as sales activity slowed. All things being equal, 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for sellers but, unfortunately, not for buyers who will still see stiff competition for the limited number of available homes for sale.
Mr. 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 more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
In recent years there has been a lot written about millennials and their impact on the housing market. Because of this, there are also a lot of misconceptions about what this generation wants from a home. To start, it’s important to know that there are more than 71 millennials, which are defined as those aged 22-37. They also represent 34 percent of all home buyers which makes them tremendously important to the real estate market. We were curious if what we’ve read about millennial home buying habits is true and here’s what we found.
Simple, Functional, Minimal Maintenance
Millennials do not appear to be drawn to fixer uppers in the same way as prior generations. They want something that is “move-in” ready with minimal maintenance. They also value simplicity and function over extravagance which means they’re drawn to spaces that serve dual purposes and furniture that doubles as storage. The old adage “less is more” takes on new meaning for millennial buyers.
Similar to older generations, millennials place a great deal of importance on location. The convenience to their job, friends, family, entertainment, and shopping is a must. But the rumor out there that they only want to live in city dwellings is a myth. Millennials are getting older and starting to have families, so like prior generations, many of them are moving away from the hustle and bustle of the city and into nearby neighborhoods with good schools and family-friendly amenities.
Millennials have grown up surrounded by technology, so smart home technology is a high priority for these buyers. And they’re willing to pay more for it: a survey conducted by Wakefield Research states that millennials are willing to pay a 20 percent premium for smart home technology, such as voice assisted devices, smart phone-controlled security systems, electronic door locks, and doorbell cameras.
Experience over Luxuries
One of the main things we’ve learned about millennials is that they are not prone to conformity. They’re a practical bunch who places a very high priority on experiences and quality of life. Studies show that millennials would rather have discretionary income to pay for things like healthy food, gym memberships, and international travel than blowing their budget on an expensive home. In other words, they’re happy with a modest space so they have money left to spend on their quality of life.
In the end, millennial buyers aren’t that different from prior generations. They’re clearly a pragmatic group that sees their home more as a functional space than a symbol of their success. Technology definitely plays a far greater role for them than their baby boomer parents, but ultimately they still want a home in a nice neighborhood with good schools and access to friends, family, and nearby amenities.
Earlier this week, nearly 200 Windermere brokers came together at Windermere’s monthly luxury breakfast at Overlake Golf Club in Medina, WA. The featured speakers were Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and Zillow Senior Economist, Skylar Olsen. Matthew interviewed Skylar on a number of topics related to the housing market and economy, including interest rates, inventory levels, Millennials, and where they predict Amazon will open their second headquarters (they both are betting on Austin, TX).
The two economists discussed the overall health of the housing market. Both predict sales to soften a little this year, but still remain strong overall. When asked about interest rates, Skylar stated that she believes they will land just below 5 percent by the end of 2018 and rise to around 6 percent by early 2019. They noted that luxury home prices have slowed a little in certain cities, with the exception of places like Seattle and San Francisco, where the economies and job growth are very strong.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Matthew and Skylar addressed first time buyers – and more specifically – Millennial home buyers. Both say this generation will play an increasingly important role in the health of the housing market, but their biggest obstacle is saving enough money for a down payment. Skylar stated that more than 25 percent of first time buyers end up borrowing from the “bank of Mom and Dad” in order to be able to afford a home. With rapidly rising prices in many cities across the US, both agree that there probably isn’t much relief in sight in the near term for these buyers.
It was an honor to have two such well-respected economists on hand to provide their insights into the housing market. For more information about Matthew Gardner, and to read his analysis of regional markets throughout the Western. U.S., please visit: https://www.windermere.com/economics.
The Washington State economy added 104,600 new jobs over the past 12 months. This impressive growth rate of 3.1% is well above the national rate of 1.4%. Interestingly, the slowdown we saw through most of the second half of the year reversed in the fall, and we actually saw more robust employment growth.
Growth continues to be broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than aerospace due to a slowdown at Boeing.
With job creation, the state unemployment rate stands at 4.5%, essentially indicating that the state is close to full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report show unemployment rates below where they were a year ago.
I expect continued economic expansion in Washington State in 2018; however, we are likely to see a modest slowdown, which is to be expected at this stage in the business cycle.
HOME SALES ACTIVITY
- There were 22,325 home sales during the final quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.7% over the same period in 2016.
- Jefferson County saw sales rise the fastest relative to fourth quarter of 2016, with an impressive increase of 22.8%. Six other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. A lack of listings impacted King and Skagit Counties, where sales fell.
- Housing inventory was down by 16.2% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, and down by 17.3% from last quarter. This isn’t terribly surprising since we typically see a slowdown as we enter the winter months. Pending home sales rose by 4.1% over the third quarter of 2017, suggesting that closings in the first quarter of 2018 should be robust.
- The takeaway from this data is that listings remain at very low levels and, unfortunately, I don’t expect to see substantial increases in 2018. The region is likely to remain somewhat starved for inventory for the foreseeable future.
- Because of low inventory in the fall of 2017, price growth was well above long-term averages across Western Washington. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12% to $466,726.
- Economic vitality in the region is leading to a demand for housing that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of newly constructed homes—something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. This means home prices will rise at above-average rates in 2018.
- Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County, where home prices were 18.8% higher than a year ago. Eleven additional counties experienced double-digit price growth as well.
- Mortgage rates in the fourth quarter rose very modestly, but remained below the four percent barrier. Although I anticipate rates will rise in 2018, the pace will be modest. My current forecast predicts an average 30-year rate of 4.4% in 2018—still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by eight days, compared to the same quarter of 2016.
- King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 21 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain static relative to the same period a year ago.
- Last quarter, it took an average of 50 days to sell a home. This is down from 58 days in the fourth quarter of 2016, but up by 7 days from the third quarter of 2017.
- As mentioned earlier in this report, I expect inventory levels to rise modestly, which should lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. That said, with homes selling in less than two months on average, the market is nowhere near balanced.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as third quarter. Price growth remains robust even as sales activity slowed. 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for housing.
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 more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
Your kids have moved out and now you’re living in a big house with way more space than you need. You have two choices – remodel your existing home or move. Here are some things to consider about each option.
Choice No. 1: Remodel your existing home to better fit your current needs.
- Remodeling gives you lots of options, but some choices can reduce the value of your home. You can combine two bedrooms into a master suite or change another bedroom into a spa area. But reducing the number of bedrooms can dramatically decrease the value of your house when you go to sell, making it much less desirable to a typical buyer with a family.
- The ROI on remodeling is generally poor. You should remodel because it’s something that makes your home more appealing for you, not because you want to increase the value of your home. According to a recent study, on average you’ll recoup just 64 percent of a remodeling project’s investment when you go to sell.
- Remodeling is stressful. Living in a construction zone is no fun, and an extensive remodel may mean that you have to move out of your home for a while. Staying on budget is also challenging. Remodels often end up taking much more time and much more money than homeowners expect.
Choice No. 2: Sell your existing home and buy your empty nest dream home.
- You can downsize to a single-level residence and upsize your lifestyle. Many people planning for their later years prefer a home that is all on one level and has less square footage. But downsizing doesn’t mean scrimping. You may be able to funnel the proceeds of the sale of your existing home into a great view or high-end amenities.
- A “lock-and-leave” home offers more freedom. As your time becomes more flexible, you may want to travel more. Or maybe you’d like to spend winters in a sunnier climate. You may want to trade your existing home for the security and low maintenance of condominium living.
- There has never been a better time to sell. Our area is one of the top in the country for sellers to get the greatest return on investment. Real estate is cyclical, so the current boom is bound to moderate at some point. If you’re thinking about selling, take advantage of this strong seller’s market and do it now.
If your current home no longer works for you, consider looking at homes that would meet your lifestyle needs before taking on the cost and hassle of remodeling. Get in touch with Tracie Gulit to discuss the best option for you.
Windermere is fortunate to have Chief Economist Matthew Gardner on staff to provide valuable analysis of the economy and housing market. Matthew recently completed his national forecast which details his predictions for the 2018 housing market.