With real estate market activity picking up there will be more open houses to visit in the coming weeks. Are there rules of etiquette when visiting an open house? Common sense and courtesy should prevail, but it can be surprising what visitors think is acceptable when walking through someone else’s home.
So what is OK, and what isn’t when visiting an open house?
- If requested, remove your shoes or slip on shoe covers.
- It’s OK to open closet and kitchen or bath cabinets or take a peek at attic storage, but it’s not OK to open dresser or desk drawers. That’s private personal space and what’s inside has nothing to do with the features of the home.
- Do not use the bathroom – take care of that before you leave your house.
- If lights are on, leave them on.
- If you unlock/open a door, close and lock it.
- Never bring food or drink into a home.
- If you are visiting with your children keep an eye on them, or better yet, hold their hand while in the home. DO NOT let them wander freely through the home, run through the house, play with toys that are not theirs or turn on TVs or video games.
There’s no need to rush through an open house, but lounging on the family room sofa for 45 minutes to chat isn’t acceptable – move that conversation out to your car or your broker’s car. Be courteous when the end of an open house is approaching. The owners have vacated their home for several hours and they’re ready to come home. If you need more time have your broker schedule an appointment to see the home again.
The Golden Rule applies – try to put yourself in the shoes of the homeowner (you may be selling your own home soon). Think about how you’d feel if strangers went through your dresser drawers, pulled toys out or misplaced a TV remote.
Today’s Seattle Times (link to the article below) provided a review of the region’s 2019 real estate market comparing sales activity and property values to the prior year. While prices in the county were flat throughout the year, the last quarter of 2019 bucked that trend with inventory selling quickly and multiple offers more common.
There are currently only 26 condominiums listed for sale in all of Bellevue. Since January 1st, 11 new condos were listed for sale – all have sales pending and many received multiple offers. What’s driving the spring market?
Low mortgage interest rates. Fannie Mae conforming loan limits increased to $741,750 in King County. (Jumbo loans will have slightly higher interest rates.) Conventional and FHA loan programs offer low down payment programs (3%, 5%, 10%) for qualified buyers, making it easier to purchase a first or move-up home.
Amazon is scheduled to start moving employees into the former Expedia office tower in downtown Bellevue this summer. Amazon has also signed leases for several office towers currently under construction that will be completed in the next 9-24 months. Employees who know their jobs will move from Seattle to Bellevue are already searching for homes in Bellevue.
Buyers want shorter commutes, and they’re willing to make compromises for less car time and more personal/family time. There are dozens of condo communities within a 15 minute or less commute to Bellevue’s central business district as well as Kirkland and Redmond workplaces. Those communities are in high demand.
The “spring” market is off to an early and active start. The next few weeks should set the pace and reveal what buyers and sellers can expect in the coming months.
Today’s Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal reported that the 2020 real estate marketplace was likely to open fast paced with low inventory levels and high buyer demand following a robust December of residential sales. Without a significant increase in available housing inventory it could be a “red hot market” this year with a return to multiple offers and rising prices.
While most of 2019 was relatively flat for home sales and property appreciation in King County, the last quarter of the year ended up being the most active in recent years. The same was true for Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap Counties.
Downtown Bellevue’s condo market was no different – flat throughout most of the year with a flurry of activity in the last quarter. There were 258 downtown condo sales in 2019 reflecting a median sales price of $729,500, less than a 1% increase over the prior year. More notable is that 46 of those 258 condos sold during the last quarter and the median sales price for the last 90 days of the year was $869,500. There are currently only 16 condos listed for sale in the Bellevue downtown/98004 zip code.
More jobs are coming to downtown Bellevue this year and continuing for the next few years as companies plan to move to or expand their footprint in Bellevue. Employees, anticipating a move to the Eastside, are already searching for homes close to workplaces and transit. Location, location, location is still true in real estate, but of growing importance are transit options and access to those workplaces, schools, amenities, services, etc. Communities in and near downtown will be in high demand as buyers more on available transit options (light rail, bus, ride services, bike, etc.) to reduce commute time and regain quality of life. Location will always favorably impact value, but the word for this decade may be “transit” when it comes to property values and market desirability.
The Washington State Legislature has changed the way in which real estate excise taxes taxes (REET) will be calculated. This change will impact real estate sales beginning next year. Starting January 1, 2020, the real estate excise tax, currently a flat 1.78% of the sales price paid by the seller at closing, will be calculated on a graduated scale.
SALE PRICE TAX RATE
$0 to $500,000 1.6%
$500,000 to $1,500,000 1.78% (current rate)
$1,500,000 to $3,000,000 3.25%
Sample calculation for a sales price of $2,000,000:
1.6% for the first $500,000 = $8,000
1.78% for the amount between $500,000 to $1,500,000 = $17,800
3.25% for the amount between $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 = $16,250
Total tax in 2020 = $42,050
Homes sales priced under $500,000 will see a decrease in excise tax; homes priced up to $1,500,000 will see no change to the current real estate excise tax rate.
The tax rates listed above include the municipality tax of 0.50%. Some municipalities have different tax rates. For additional information about the real estate excise tax and local rates for each municipality, visit the Department of Revenue’s website.
- the median sales price was $900,000, up 2% over last year
- 20% of those homes sold above list price
- 45% of the homes sold in 15 days or less
- the Eastside currently has only 1.3 months of available inventory
- current inventory levels favor sellers
- continuing low interest rates favor buyers
Most of the Eastside condo sales activity was in downtown Bellevue and downtown Kirkland.
- $884,000 Downtown Bellevue median condo sales price in November
- there are currently only 20 condos for sale in downtown Bellevue; 35 in all Bellevue zip codes
- $617,500 Downtown Kirkland median condo sales price in November
- there are currently only 14 condos for sale in downtown Kirkland; 46 in all Kirkland zip codes
It’s a great time to buy a home. Low interest rates (under 4%) make it an ideal and affordable time to purchase a home. There are great loan program options for qualified buyers offering as little as 3% down for conventional or FHA financing.
It’s a great time to sell. With little inventory for buyers to choose from, January will be an ideal time for homeowners to put their homes on the market and stay ahead of the competitive spring market.
Condominiums are an important part of the housing market, especially for first time buyers. Often buyers have the income and credit score needed to purchase a home but lack a substantial down payment which can make entering the housing market prohibitive.
In an effort to promote affordable homeownership for credit worthy buyers, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has issued new guidelines that make FHA condo financing an easier, more streamline process. Once a huge part of the first time buyer market, FHA’s strict guidelines made financing a condo difficult, at best. FHA updated its condominium financing rules, effective October 15th, which will loosen requirements for financing condos.
- Low Down Payment Still Available. Buyers can still purchase a home with as little as a 3.5% down payment.
- FHA Loan Limit. In King County the maximum FHA loan amount is $726,525.
- Single Unit Approvals (“spot loans”) Return. If a condo community wasn’t on the approved FHA list, it was difficult, at best, to obtain FHA financing. New guidelines now make it easier for an individual unit to be approved for FHA “spot loan” financing in a community that doesn’t have current FHA approval.
- FHA Certification and Recertification. Many condo communities have applied for and maintained their FHA certification. Having FHA certification makes a community more desirable to buyers and FHA financing much easier. The FHA condo certification now lasts 3 years vs. 2 and the recertification process has been streamlined.
- Owner/Occupancy Requirements Eased. FHA now requires a condo community be just 50% owner occupied.
- Commercial/Non-residential Space. The amount of permitted non-residential space (retail, commercial, parking, etc.) has been increased from 25% to 35%
These updated FHA loan guidelines will now allow thousands more condominium units to qualify for FHA financing, opening homeownership opportunities to many more qualified buyers. Opening the window to homeownership will encourage more owners to buy and occupy homes resulting in fewer investor owned/rented units, higher owner occupancy levels and stronger communities.
Condominiums are an important part of the housing market for first time buyers. Too often buyers have the income and credit score needed to purchase a home but lack an adequate down payment which can make entering the housing market prohibitive.
In an effort to promote affordable and sustainable homeownership, especially among credit-worthy first time buyers, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has recently issued new guidelines making obtaining FHA financing for condominiums an easier and more streamline process. FHA has issued an update to its condo rules, effective October 15th, that will loosen requirements for financing condominiums. Here are some of the more important changes effective this month:
- Low Down Payments Still Available. Buyers can still purchase a house or condominium with as little as a 3.5% down payment
- FHA Certification and Recertification. FHA requires a condominium community to have obtained FHA certification. It is a detailed process and there is an expense to the HOA involved, but once complete, having FHA certification makes a community more desirable to buyers and FHA financing much easier. The FHA condo certification now lasts 3 years vs. two and the recertification process has been streamlined.
- Single Unit Approvals (spot loans) Permitted. In the past, if a condominium community wasn’t on the approved FHA list, it was difficult, at best, to obtain FHA financing. The new guidelines now make it easier for an individual unit to be approved for FHA “spot loan” financing in a community that isn’t FHA approved as long as no more than 10% of the units in the community are FHA insured. (A buyer must use a FHA approved lender.)
- Owner Occupancy Requirements Eased. FHA now requires that a condo community be just 50% owner occupied.
- Commercial/Non-Residential Space. The amount of permitted non-residential space (retail, commercial, parking) has been increased from 25% to 35%.
These updated FHA loan guidelines will now allow thousands more condominium units to qualify for FHA financing, opening homeownership opportunities to many buyers. Homeowner associations are encouraged to obtain and maintain FHA certification. Opening the window to homeownership will encourage more people to buy and occupy homes resulting in fewer investor owned units, higher owner/occupancy levels and stronger communities.
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
The “Complete the Circle” project at the Downtown Park is underway with work scheduled to be completed in time for this year’s Fourth of July celebration. The nearly year long project includes completion of the last section of the circular canal and tree lined promenade, creating a new entry and water feature at the south side of the park, upgrading the playground to create a universally accessible Inspiration Playground, adding landscaping and terraced seating and enlarging the parking lot on 100th Avenue NE.
Construction of the park’s new south entry and pedestrian crossing caused the temporary closure of the intersection at NE First Street and 102nd Avenue NE. The intersection is expected to open again mid-to-late April.
The Downtown Park is a 21 acre oasis in the heart of the city and the centerpiece of the Bellevue Parks System. There’s something for everyone . . . a half mile level tree-lined promenade, canal, waterfall and reflecting pond, a ten acre lawn area, playground, picnic areas and formal gardens . . . all framed by views of the city’s skyline and Mt. Rainier. Its going to be exciting to see the improvements and have the park open again this summer.
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.