Market Mondays: 2015 Economic Forecast

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This week I have decided to step back briefly and look at the market from a macro level as well as discussing predictions for 2015 that were shared at a recent conference.  It’s interesting and exciting to see where the housing market is headed, as well as the economic health of the real estate market as we head into 2015.  Before I dive into that information, as of October 27th, 2014 King County is at about 2.6 months supply of inventory while Snohomish County is hovering around 3.1 months supply of inventory.  Those numbers are a 4.2% increase from October 2014 in King County and a 6.2% increase in Snohomish.  With interest rates at a 16 month low, it is a great time to get in there and take advantage of this market if you are thinking of buying or selling your home.

What is the state of the real estate market?  Well, we are currently down 10.6% nationally from peak values in 2006, however, we are slowly making our way back up as demonstrated by the graph below.

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As demonstrated above, all but one top 30 metro areas show annual home value appreciation.  Seattle Metro leads the Puget Sound in annual home value gain at 8.3%, while other areas of the country who were drastically impacted by the recession are seeing a big jump in annual appreciation as well.

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Seattle Metro is currently down 11.5% from it’s peak, compared to the national average of 10.6%.

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Although Seattle Metro is slightly below the national average, what we are seeing is a steady increase in inventory, resulting in a healthier and more sustainable market as well as softening the rate of appreciation (which is still significant, regardless).  The nature of markets are to rise and fall (think rolling hills), however, slow and steady is preferred over sharp inclines and falls.

Are you ready for some good news?

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According to the National Association of Realtors and as demonstrated by the Zillow Real Estate Research for Professionals tool, negative equity has declined steadily since quarter 1 of 2012, which is great news for home buyers and home owners alike.  However, negative equity remains at 17% nationally and is highest in the bottom value tier.  The number of homes underwater is above 25% nationally and 30% in the Seattle area.  The middle value tier is 13% and the top value tier is 6% in the Seattle area.  Although these numbers are declining annually, there are still many homeowners who are underwater, especially in the bottom value tier.

As we move into 2015, mortgage rates are expected to rise, with interest rates expected to reach the 5% mark (which is still fantastic, historically), while rent affordability is below the historical average on a national level.  Renter households are forming faster than owner households for the first time since the late 1980’s and the market is responding with higher rental rates and a shortage of available rentals while the market struggles to keep up with the demand.  (translation: don’t rent if you can buy!)

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Below are some year over year percent change forecasts for Snohomish County, by city.  Appreciation rates are expected to continue to gain, however, slightly less than in 2014.  With rental rates skyrocketing, as well as a shortage of available rentals and low interest rates, now is a great time to get into a home for a first time home-buyer.  Investment properties in the bottom value tier to generate rental income are also a great option, it’s an exciting time in the real estate market around the country.  Please contact me with any questions you have at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com or call/text 425.324.0302.  I am available to help with any of your real estate needs.

And in other Simple Tranquil Living news, the holidays are quickly approaching! Okay, so that may not be news to you, but here at Simple Tranquil Living we have a lot of fun with holiday festivities so stay tuned for a special Halloween post and perhaps another GIVEAWAY! Happy Monday everyone!  

Finance Friday: Improve Your FICO Score Quickly!

With mortgage interest rates hovering near record lows, you may want to either refinance your mortgage or purchase a new home before rates go higher again.  There is no better time than now to buy a home, interest rates are expected to climb which can have a big impact on the amount of home you can purchase!

The question is — can you qualify for refinancing or a purchase loan?

Since the recession, lenders have tightened loan qualification standards and their most widely used tool to determine if you qualify for a loan and at what interest rate are your credit scores. Credit scores are determined by a software algorithm that analyzes your credit and payment history.

These “FICO” scores run between 300 and 850, with the highest numbers considered to be the best scores. The 47% of Americans with credit scores of 720 or higher receive the best interest rates, according to MyFICO.com.

Credit scores make a significant impact. For every 20-point credit score increase, according to Zillow, the average low APR declines 0.12 percent, a savings of $6,400 on a $300,000 home over 30 years.

Improve your credit scores

FICO scores are based on your credit history. Each credit reporting bureau, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax calculates its own score, so you may have three scores.

The first thing you need to do is review your credit reports for errors and get them resolved as quickly as possible. Visit freeannualcreditreport.com to get copies. You can then purchase your credit scores for approximately $14.95 from each agency or all three at myfico.com.

FICO scores change with every new piece of information that comes into the credit reporting bureau, so the credit score you receive today can be improved quickly by following some dos and don’ts.

 

Don’t close credit card accounts. FICO scores utilize a credit utilization ratio that turns against you because it appears that you might be overusing your available credit.

Don’t max out or consolidate credit cards. Credit card companies like it if you only use about 30% of your available credit on your card. You’re better off having small balances on multiple cards than a large balance on one card.

Don’t apply for new revolving credit or transfer balances. If you’re buying a new home, it’s tempting to buy some new furniture, but don’t open that account until after your loan closes. You don’t want “inquiries” to be raised in the scoring algorithm.

Don’t change jobs right before you apply for a home loan, although job changes within the same field are considered more favorably in scoring.

Do pay all bills on time and with at least the minimum payment due. Lenders like on time payment histories.

Do pay down your debt, as lower income-to-debt ratios are attractive to lenders. Start by reducing credit card balances first, beginning with the balances that generate the highest interest rates. Revolving credit is considered riskier debt than installment loans such as student loans or car payments.

Do shop lenders simultaneously. Credit score software takes into account several inquiries from mortgage lenders as normal, but if you space rate-shopping out over weeks or months, that could impact your credit score negatively.

Remember, mortgage lenders are most interested in your ability to repay their loan. The most important factors are job and debt payment history. Job security — long-term employment in the same field and on-time.

There are literally thousands of people renting that could be saving money by owning their own home, and like I mentioned earlier, there is no better time than now.  If you are wondering if this applies to you, contact me at rachelwagner@johnlscott.com and I can connect you with a lender who can educate and begin the process.

Market Monday’s: Kirkland Condos

I’ve been watching what’s happening in the Kirkland condo market closely as of late, it’s fascinating that such a desirable location can have A LOT of affordable condos still on the market for people looking to make a great investment in their future, or get into their first home. Not only that, the rental market is creeping up in the area making it challenging to find an affordable place to live, which makes buying a condo even more appealing.  So, what’s happening? As of August 18th, 2014 there are 65 active condo listings ranging between $105,000 to over $6 million! The median list price is $315,000 while the average list price is $525,000, it’s pretty clear that the big listing prices are skewing the data.  There were 127 condos sold in the past 90 days in Kirkland, with the sale price being 98% percent of the list price.  This means that people are paying the list price, and in some cases more depending on the property and demand for that location.  

The graph below demonstrates the for sale/sold/pending condos through July 2014:

As of August 18th, 2014 the Kirkland condo market is at 1.54 months of inventory based on closed sales.  This is down slightly from 1.8 months of inventory in July of this year.  Interest rates dropped slightly last week, making buying a home even more appealing as well as affordable.  

The list/sale price ratio has been fairly consistent since last year, being close to 100%.  Again, this data is skewed slightly due to the million dollar + condo listings that aren’t seeing that kind of ratio (the million + residential home market, however, is seeing a 100% + list/sale ratio).

Months of inventory was up slightly in July to 1.8 months, although August is currently looking at 1.54 months of inventory.  This is definitely a hot market, with no signs of it slowing down anytime soon.  It is a great time to get into a condo either as a  first time home buyer or as an investment property.  The listing below is one of the many great condos available in Kirkland…

 

 

 

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Stay tuned for a post on financing and a big announcement this week! I have partnered with Full Circle organic produce delivery for an opportunity to give my followers! So, if you haven’t already…follow my blog via email for a chance to win some awesome, organic produce delivered to your door! Have a great week everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spruce Up Home Value: Low Cost Bathroom Updates!

Over the past few decades, the kitchen was the average home buyers focal point when buying a home.  That is not the case anymore, in 2014 bathrooms are more important to buyers than kitchens.  That being said, an additional bathroom, even a half bathroom, adds significant value to your home.  Growing up with a real estate Appraiser as a father, I heard horror stories about homeowners irate over the news that their special remodel project added ZERO value to the resale of their home.  Many times, it’s hard to differentiate between what we think is value based on our emotional involvement vs. what the market wants, the difference is sometimes surprising!

For starters, A half bath may add up to 10.5 percent to a home’s value, while a full bath can tack on an additional 20 percent. Of course, the amount of additional value you will receive varies according to the home’s other features.

Tip: If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford a bathroom addition, give the existing bathrooms a little TLC with a few of the following suggestions.

Install a Dose of Tile

Install a dose of tile! Give your bathroom sink an upgrade with some intentional detailing. Rather than tiling a whole tub surround or wall, add just a border of tile above the sink vanity. Here, elegant blue, white, and brown tiles introduce color and pattern into the bathroom. The small mosaic tiles make the vanity area look luxurious and rich.

Update Cabinet Hardware

Cabinetry’s handles, hinges, and doorknobs are the final touches and style setters for any vanity. Luckily, they’re simple to replace whenever you want a fresh look — and cabinetry hardware is available at any price point. Give your cabinet doors and drawers a good cleaning before installing new hardware. Or freshen them with paint or stain to best display the new accents.

Install Wainscoting

Give bathroom walls interest by adding wainscoting. Crisp white-painted wainscoting provides contrast to the sunny yellow hue used on the upper portion of these walls. For humid rooms such as the bathroom, look for paints treated with mildewcide to eliminate worries about mildew.

Update Light Fixtures

Refresh a tired bath by replacing outdated light fixtures with modern versions. Online you’ll find hundreds of sconces that cost less than $100. For an even thriftier change, look for replacement shades to update the fixtures you have. If you like the style of what you have but the metal finish doesn’t work with your decor, tape off the surrounding areas and give the fixtures a fresh coat of metallic spray paint!

Replace Fixtures

Swap outdated light fixtures, medicine cabinets and faucets for up-to-the-minute versions. Fashion-forward fixtures will make your bath feel fresh and fabulous, and they can draw attention away from less-desirable areas of the bath.

There are so many inexpensive ways to update your bathroom, a fresh coat of neutral colored paint goes a long way and don’t forget to check the fan! That’s a simple update that can add functional value to your bathroom, skimping on quality can hurt in the long run.

Market Mondays: Woodinville

 

 

 

The city of Woodinville is most well known as Seattle areas “wine country” and is increasingly known for its local wineries, which showcase wines from grapes grown in Eastern Washington including Chateau Ste. Michelle (well known for their popular summer concert series), Columbia Winery and dozens of other smaller ones. The Woodinville Tourist District is also home to the Redhook Ale Brewery and several fine restaurants including The Herbfarm “destination” restaurant. The downtown area includes Molbak’s Garden and Home, a nationally acclaimed garden center! All that being said, Woodinville is a sought after place to live and has seen only a slight change in market statistics over the past year.

As of July 28th, 2014 there is 2.5 month supply in inventory based on closed sales, which is up slightly from June of this year.  What is interesting is that when the current pending sales are added to the mix, months supply of inventory drops down to 1.5.  Woodinville itself is a consistently stable market, the months inventory fairly stable over the past year, hovering somewhere between 1.5-2.3 months supply except for a spike in January of this year, which is to be expected during the “slow” season. This makes Woodinville unique when compared to some of it’s neighboring cities, it’s stability and high desirability make Woodinville a safe place to buy a home.  The median sale price of homes over the last 90 days was $525,000 while the median current listing price is 475,000.  The median sale price and listing price have seen only a slight increase since July 2013.