Seafair, vacations, weddings, sunny weather, back-to-school shopping – the month of August is filled with distractions that cause buyers to take a break from their summer home search. Local condominium and house inventory is up (though there’s hardly a glut of available inventory), making this a great time to take advantage of having more homes to choose from, less competition from other buyers and the benefit of very favorable interest rates.
Searching for a home always comes with a list of needs/wants. An important thought to keep in mind . . . if a particular neighborhood or manageable distance to work or schools is important, that should be your priority and always at the top of your list, even if inside it isn’t your dream home. Location is everything, and it can’t be changed once you realize your commute is too long. Buyers should be open to making compromises on cosmetic finishes and fixtures. White appliances, a boring back splash or tired bath fixtures are easily updated. The “perfect” home may already have those sexy finishes and fixtures, but they will come at an added expense which may mean compromising on location to stay within your budget.
Keep location and condition (not updates) as your top home search priorities. If you start with the right location, and the home is well maintained (an inspection is always recommended), you’ll be way ahead of the game. Simple compromises on finishes and fixtures (easily be replaced) and maintaining the focus on location and access to amenities and services, will gain you more value and ultimately a better return on your investment. Don’t stretch your budget for stainless appliances, a glass tile back splash or cool pendant light fixtures. That boring white refrigerator will keep food, milk, beer and wine just as cool as a sexy stainless refrigerator and will serve its purpose until you can upgrade appliances, fixtures, etc. to fit your decor and your budget.
Robin Myers is a broker with Windermere Real Estate/East, Inc., specializing in condominium residences.
Living in communities close to workplaces, shopping, dining and other amenities is becoming increasingly important to buyers when searching for a home. A recent survey conducted on behalf of the National Association of REALTORS® found over half of the respondents preferred to live in a community that offered smaller or no yards but was within walking distance of local amenities and offered shorter work commutes.
Buyers no longer look at just the house – equally, or even more important, is the community and access to workplaces, shopping, dining, transportation, schools, health care and parks or open space. Women tend to put more importance on walk-ability and public transit than men but overall nearly 40% said having public transit nearby was important. Sixty percent of those surveyed would be willing to pay more to live within walking distance of parks, restaurants and shops.
In Bellevue the popularity of urban living was recently confirmed when the One88 condominium residences celebrated the grand opening and sales event. Over 80% of the homes sold in just weeks with buyers committing to reservations to purchase homes that won’t be available for two years. Several new Bellevue townhome communities have experienced the same robust sales activity with buyers committing to pre-sales for homes not scheduled for completion until late spring or summer. Resale condos and townhomes throughuot the eastside, walk-able to urban amenities and workplaces, are experiencing the same high level of buyer interest.
Earlier this month the Seattle Times reported on a recent Zillow Zestimate for a home in Belfair on the Kitsap Peninsula. The Mason County assessor’s value of the home was $283,000. The home recently sold for $225,000 (below market value because the home was headed for foreclosure). A Zillow Zestimate published the home’s value at $1.8 million – 700% higher than the county assessor’s office, several real estate companies and just about any local Realtor® who knows and understands the local market. This is an example of how algorithms can go wrong.
The Zillow real estate website is both loved and hated by buyers, sellers, appraisers and real estate professionals. This recent error in valuation is a classic example why Zillow’s Zestimates should be taken with a grain of salt. Zillow is a popular real estate data company that provides real estate data on millions of homes throughout the United States. Zestimates are created using algorithms, publicly available sales and market data. Zillow has no real estate brokers – no one from Zillow has ever visited the homes or neighborhoods for which their estimates of value are provided. Continue reading
Earlier this month I shared 2017 King County real estate market statistics supplied by the NWMLS. Median sales prices were up 15% county-wide (houses and condos) over 2016. Taking a closer look, here are the 2017 market stats for Bellevue condos:
- 759 condos sold in 2017 (resale and new construction), up from 746 in 2016 for a 2% increase
- The median Bellevue condo sales price was $500,550 in 2017, up 30% over 2016.
Just eight weeks into the new year stats haven’t changed much. There are just 20 condos available for sale in Bellevue. Newly listed condos are trickling into the market and selling quickly. So far this year 61 resale condos (vs. new construction pre-sales) have sold with an average market time of 15 days. Sales prices are averaging 5.5% over the list price.
This year has already seen an all time record condo sale in Bellevue. A penthouse at Bellevue Towers sold earlier this month for $11,950,000. Custom designed throughout, the home offers 6,398 SF of luxury interior living space plus multiple terraces that add 10,000 SF of outdoor space with 360 degree views.
No doubt the penthouse sale will hold the city/county/state condo sales record for some time, but sales data for the balance of the market is a bit more realistic. Of the 61 resale condos sold since January 1st, sales prices ranged from $202,750 for a 691 SF one bedroom/one bath to $2,237,500 for a 2,615 SF 2 bedroom + den/2 bath penthouse. The median Bellevue condo sales price so far this year is $558,568, but of those 61 sales, 17 (20%) sold for $400,000 or less. Condo values in and around the central business district will continue to command higher prices per square foot, but step just outside the downtown core and prices are far more affordable while still offering easy access to downtown’s workplaces, nightlife and arts and Bellevue’s sought after schools.
Available condos are going to be in short supply for the foreseeable future. A limited number of communities are in design review or under construction, but delivery of those homes is 2+ years away. A few recently completed new communities, mostly multi-level townhomes, are adding new homes to the mix but supply is limited with prices starting in the $700,000s and up. The supply of condos this year is likely to be found in the dozens of existing communities just outside the central business district. They offer a sought after Bellevue address and access to great schools. New construction is very sexy, and the amenities luxurious, but older communities often offer larger floor plans, more green space and more affordable prices. Trading a few blocks of location may gain you a lot of space and lifestyle for less money. Those resale condos are going to be in short supply this year too. If you’re ready to sell, be ready to move quickly. If you’re ready to buy, be ready to act quickly and work with a Realtor® who knows and understands the market.
The info-graphic above provides a quick look at 2017 King County real estate market statistics.
- nearly 3% more homes (condos and houses) sold in 2017 vs. 2016
- the median sales price was up nearly 15% county-wide
- at the end of 2017 there was less than a one month supply of available homes
- a 4 – 6 month supply is considered normal – we haven’t sen a “normal” level of supply for 2+ years
Six weeks into 2018 the stats haven’t changed much. Homes are coming on the market slowly and are selling quickly. Inventory still can’t meet buyer demand. The “spring” market generally opens up in mid-to-late February. Hopefully there will be more condos and houses available as the weather begins to warm.
The take away . . .
- Planning to sell? Buyer demand is high but condition and location are still important selling factors.
- Ready to buy? Position yourself to be a strong buyer. Meet with your lender and obtain a current loan pre-approval . Work with your Realtor® to educate yourself on neighborhoods, schools, recent sales prices and list vs. sold statistics, commute times, etc.
- Expand your options – maybe the home that fits your lifestyle isn’t a house. Don’t rule out a condo or townhouse which can offer a single family lifestyle with lower maintenance responsibility, a great alternative if you don’t want a lot of yard or exterior home maintenance.
2018 is expected to be another challenging real estate market for buyers and sellers. Be patient. Be flexible. Be ready to move quickly.
Robin is a Realtor® with Windermere Real Estate/East. She lives and works in Bellevue and specializes in the Eastside’s condo and townhome communities.
An article in the Puget Sound Business Journal this week compared the available local condominium inventory to New York City. Granted, NYC is a much larger and more expensive market, but currently NYC has 388 condos for sale priced less than $500,00. At the time the article was written there were only five condos available for sale in Seattle priced under $500,000. Here on the greater Eastside there are less than 100 condos available for sale – not nearly enough to satisfy demand.
We are fortunate to live in a region where the economy is thriving, employers are hiring, housing is relatively affordable (compared to some other major metropolitan areas) and its a beautiful place to live with a temperate climate and year-round recreation options. Recent U.S. Census Bureau reports show that nearly 250 people move to the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area every week (for all the reasons just mentioned). Its also a great place to retire because of the mild climate, vibrant arts, entertainment and social scene and world class health care services, so people aren’t leaving in great numbers either. Because retirees stay in the area and because job opportunities bring hundreds of people a day to the area, it doesn’t appear there will be much change or relief to the tight inventory or escalating housing prices in the near future. Continue reading
It’s a common misconception that a minimum 20% down payment is required to purchase a home. Buyers, saving to put 20% down on a home purchase, could be missing the opportunity to buy a home, and instead are watching prices continue to escalate.
There are excellent loan programs available with 5% or 10% down (even as little as 3.5%), requiring less cash out-of-pocket for buyers. A lower down payment may likely result in a somewhat higher monthly payment, but when you consider that houses and condos in the Seattle/Bellevue area have increased in value 14% or more so far this year, and expected to continue to increase in value next year, waiting to buy could prove to be more costly. With rents also on the rise, it could make more sense to buy this year and start putting money toward building equity rather than toward another rent increase next year. Continue reading
How does commute time impact local home values and buyer’s decisions on neighborhood selection?
According to the US Census, Americans rank having a short commute second only to low crime rates when it comes to determining where to buy or rent a home. One study found that New Yorkers will pay nearly $60 more a month in rent to trim just one minute off their commute. That trend is the same locally – buyers are willing to pay more for a home if it offers an easier commute. As a result, areas in King County with shorter commutes have higher home values.
Urban locations close to employment centers can be expensive, but efficient public transit will level the playing field, providing a more reasonable commute that reaches more affordable housing choices. In our area, the future expansion of light rail on the Eastside and north along the I-5 corridor will have a positive impact on many neighborhoods. Finally, developers are starting to take a closer look at demographics and buyer wants/needs, planning mixed use and multifamily housing near future light ail routes and transit centers. Continue reading
With only 24 resale condos listed for sale in downtown Bellevue there are very few choices for buyers ready to purchase. (Add in the 39 developer owned units still available at Washington Square and the total is barely over 60 in the entire downtown marketplace).
Inventory is at historic lows, prices are at or near record highs, multiple offers are the norm, higher buyer demand continues and there's no new condo construction in site . . . this year may well be your best time to sell your home or investment property. Bellevue is continuing to grow, more companies are moving to the city than are leaving, the arts and social scene is thriving, some of the best shopping and dining north of San Francisco can be found in Bellevue and the city is in the center of an award winning school district. The city has so much to offer for a variety of lifestyles and budgets. Condo prices start in the mid $300,000s (yes, there are affordable condos downtown) and can skyrocket to several million for a view penthouse. Don't miss the opportunity to maximize your return on investment if you're ready to make a change, find more space, move up to a view or reinvest in another rental property. 2016 could be the year.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.25 percent this week, causing concern that increasing mortgage interest rates will follow, which could have a negative impact on the housing market. Its unlikely we'll see any significant increase in mortgage interest rates in the immediate future. Could they rise in the coming months, possibly, but not enough to create any cause for concern. The latest increase in interest rates will likely be felt first for revolving credit, (credit cards and home equity loans). For non-revolving loans, like mortgages, there should be little, if any, immediate impact. Any increase in mortgage interest rates makes buying a home more expensive, but its credit card debt, which may become more expensive, that could be of concern for buyers planning to purchase a home next year.
Here's a little perspective . . . many years ago I worked in the mortgage banking industry in Washington, DC. Mortgage interest rates were in the low teens and people still bought and sold homes. After that experience, any interest rate under 10% looks great to me! With current interest rates still so favorable, any slight increase isn't likely to have a negative impact on are home values.