The number of homes available for sale declined in April and May for obvious reasons – there were health and economic concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since late May local home sales have been ahead of the same period last year. Buyer demand remains high but what is different about this year compared to last year is there are fewer homes for sale. The graph below, provided by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service for the Seattle Times, shows that new pending sales are well above the same period last year but new listings of homes for sale are 20% below the same period last year.
With barely a one month supply of inventory in many areas, homes are selling quickly. Multiple offers are more common, and many homes are selling above the list price. Buyers are finding more competition for the weekly supply of newly listed houses and condominiums coming on the market.
What’s driving this demand? Interest rates are at record lows making mortgages more affordable. Potential buyers can afford a larger home. And, after three months of quarantine, owners and renters whose homes offered adequate space when working off-site are seeking larger homes with more indoor space, a dedicated home office area and more outdoor live/play space. Buyers are ready to buy, but sellers don’t appear to be as motivated right now.
We’re 12 weeks into more experience dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and specifically the local real estate market. After a significant market decline in new listings, buyer interest and closed sales in March and April (not at all surprising) real estate came back strong starting in early May.
- the number of pending sales is trending higher and homes are selling quickly
- more new housing inventory is coming on the market reflecting prices comparable to February prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and Washington State’s stay home/stay healthy order
- sales prices in the last two weeks are also rising with multiple offers more common and homes selling above list prices
- buyer applications for new mortgages are on the rise – interest rates are at record lows making buying a home more affordable
Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate provides his weekly look at the economy and specifically the real estate marketplace in our area.
Recent real estate and design articles have speculated on the impact the coronavirus pandemic could have on future residential design. Features in the last decade have focused on spacious luxury owner amenities with indoor and outdoor common areas, lush gardens, fitness centers, media rooms, private dining rooms, pet spas and co-working spaces. Will residential developers adjust future design plans to create safer and more comfortable common areas?
The new normal may mean fewer pieces of equipment in cardio and weight rooms and more space between mats in yoga studios. Expect more hand sanitizing stations and stricter cleaning protocols. Capacity limits or equipment reservations may be required to provide equitable use and a safe environment. Lobbies, owner lounges and other common gathering areas may adjust decor to provide more chairs and fewer sofas to create a comfortable yet safe area for residents and guests.
Home office space has become one of the “must have” features. Whether full or part time, more people are working from home increasing the need for dedicated office or study space. We’ve quickly learned dining room tables and kitchen islands aren’t the best backdrop for video meetings.
Spending more time indoors has made the need for a properly functioning HVAC system more evident. Buyers may be just as interested in knowing whether a new community design includes systems that introduce more fresh outdoor air, recycle air more frequently and perhaps sanitize.
Spending more time in our homes over the past several months has made us more aware of our space, how we use that space, how well it functions and what we may need/want for the future.
Matthew Gardner offers insight into how the coronavirus pandemic may impact urban housing, condos, single family housing, suburbs, second homes and short term rentals.
It’s not surprising to know home sales declined in mid-March as we sheltered at home. Moving into mid-April both buyer activity and pending sales began increasing, all while home prices remained strong. Nationally median home prices rose in every region of the US in April.
Locally buyer activity and home values also gained momentum. Short market times and multiple offers were more common by late April, especially in affordable price ranges. Even the high end market, hit harder by the health crisis and volatile stock market, began to recover with more expensive homes coming back into the market.
What can we expect for the local condo market this summer? Over the last 30 days 131 condos in the Eastside marketplace have sold. The average time on market was just 15 days with an average sales price of $620,420. The average sale price vs. list price was 100.08% with 78 of those 131 homes selling at or over the list price. Condos currently under contract with sales pending have been on the market an average of just 14 days. As reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of Realtors®, buyer mortgage loan applications are up for the fourth consecutive week – a strong indication buyers are back in the market and ready to take advantage of record low interest rates.
Recovery of the local economy will have an impact on the real estate market as we move toward summer. Based on buyer activity and mortgage applications, as we find our “new normal” it’s clear buyers are ready to step into home ownership. Available housing inventory is still lagging behind compared to the same time last year. It remains to be seen if there will be enough housing inventory to meet buyer demand this summer. Low inventory will certainly keep pressure on prices resulting in fewer discounts in the marketplace.
During the shelter-at-home order in Washington State, board or HOA meetings are currently prohibited. This may create complications for homeowner associations trying to conduct business that needs a majority vote regarding matters impacting the HOA and owners.
Homeowner/community associations are required to follow their governing documents when handling association matters. This includes owners and directors voting on association matters which is most often done in person. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home order, the Governor of Washington has amended the Emergency Proclamation to address issues relating to homeowner/community associations.
- Owners and directors in homeowner/community associations are permitted to vote on association matters by mail, electronic mail and proxy, even if the association’s governing documents do not permit them to do so.
- Owners and directors in homeowner/community associations may attend meetings by conference phone call or other similar communication that allows all participants to hear each other at the same time, even if the governing documents do not permit them to do so.
- The Emergency Proclamation prohibits homeowner associations from charging owners late fees and interest on delinquent assessments and from imposing fines on owners for violating their governing documents.
This proclamation expires at 11:59 PM May 17, 2020.
Demand for urban housing remains strong, and with Amazon’s projected growth in downtown Bellevue, along with other corporations’ expansion plans, high demand is expected to continue over the next few years. Before the coronavirus outbreak and Stay Home/Stay Healthy order that went into effect in mid-March, the local condo real estate market was off to a very strong start.
2019 DOWNTOWN BELLEVUE CONDO SALES
1/1/2019 thru 3/31/2019 4/1/2019 thru 4/16/2019
39 sales 16 sales
2020 DOWNTOWN BELLEVUE CONDO SALES
1/1/2020 thru 3/31/2020 4/1/2020 thru 4/16/2020
55 sales 13 sales
First quarter downtown Bellevue condo sales were up significantly compared to the same period last year. Moving into the second quarter, numbers for the first half of April are surprisingly similar year-to-date, despite the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. It’s possible this April’s sales stats reflect contracts written in early March just prior to (and perhaps to secure a home) before the anticipated shelter in place order.
Though well below normal for this time of year, homes continue to be listed for sale, and buyers are writing offers on some of those homes. Many sellers and buyers, for health and safety reasons, have chosen to put plans on hold until the shelter at home order has been revised or lifted and there is a better sense of what “normal” is going to look like. Like many businesses, it is expected the current strict restrictions on the real estate industry will be lifted gradually. What will the summer market look like? It’s tough to say, but based on activity during the first quarter, the high number of property and virtual tour views on websites over the past several weeks, and conversations with clients and potential buyers and sellers, summer may pick up right where the first quarter left off.
Condos are often the choice of empty nesters downsizing, or right-sizing, into a new lifestyle offering less maintenance, luxury amenities and a carefree lock-and-walk lifestyle. It can be an adjustment living with neighbors closer, sharing common areas and learning to cope with smaller spaces. Give ample thought to your lifestyle and how you will adjust to your new space. Is a separate office a necessity or can you create an office nook or multi-use area that serves as guest/office space? Will the kitchen and dining areas provide adequate day-to-day work/storage space but offer flexibility to expand to accommodate entertaining and family gatherings? Will the family pet adjust to an elevator ride to walk or find the pet relief area? Plan for lifestyle adjustments when making the move from a house to a condo. The two regrets I hear most often from people who have moved from a house to a condo are that they downsized too much (into too small a space) and they moved too many large furniture pieces from their former home.
I moved from a house to a townhome in downtown Bellevue a dozen years ago. I love the lifestyle. There were adjustments (still have unpacked boxes in storage) but I’ve never regretted the move. I missed my garden the first summer and the privacy of a fenced yard (so did the dog). The next summer I found I enjoyed the creativity and freedom of container gardening. The courtyard is perfect for intimate dining and the dog has enough space to lounge on the patio. Inside spaces are perfect for everyday and expand just enough to accommodate larger gatherings. The year round access and walk-ability to EVERYTHING was the best discovery. Walking provides a connection to the city. I love the ease of walking to shopping, dining and events, watching the changes to the skyline, meeting neighbors for impromptu coffee, greeting other dog walkers and discovering new public courtyard spaces tucked throughout downtown. My fitness, and the dog’s, has improved and we now have a cute new wardrobe of functional wind and waterproof attire.
Make your everyday extraordinary. Find the home that fits your lifestyle and embrace your new urban lock-and-walk lifestyle.
February statistics are in. Home prices, compared to February 2019, are up 9%. There’s less than a six week supply of available homes which is down 33% over the same time last year. Mortgage interest rates are historically low. Now is the time to maximize your home buying power. Open house traffic has been amazing. If you’re ready to sell, buyers are in the market and looking for homes. Amazon’s projected growth in downtown Bellevue over the next several years already has employees searching for homes in an effort to stay ahead of the competition.
Questions about the Eastside condo market? I’ve specialized in condos for most of my career. I have unique market knowledge, insight and experience to help you understand the market and help you meet your personal and financial goals.