With demolition complete, excavation has begun at the Avenue Bellevue site located at the northwest corner of Bellevue Way NE and NE 8th Street. (This is the former Cost Plus site, or if you’ve been around Bellevue for a while, the former Albertsons grocery store.) The mixed use project will include 85,000 square feet of retail, the Pacific Northwest’s first Intercontinental Hotel and 322 luxury condominiums positioned in two towers. Completion is projected for mid-to-late 2022.
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 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 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.
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.
Interest in rentals remains strong, but there’s been a noticeable slight decline in area rents this year. Even in high demand urban areas, rents have dipped slightly. With thousands of new apartments recently completed or nearing completion, and hundreds more under construction, rental supply may have begun to outpace demand.
If you own a rental property there will be more competition the next time you negotiate a lease renewal. Hundreds of new apartments are available offering modern finishes, new appliances, high tech features and a long list of community amenities and services. Tenants may not be as quick to accept a rent increase or lease renewal when, for the same money, or attractive lease-signing incentives, they can move into newer digs.
If you’ve owned your investment property for a while, this may be the time to sell and maximize your return on investment. Available inventory for sale is at historic lows and buyer demand is at an all time high – the perfect storm if you’re a seller. Properties sell quickly, often with multiple offers. Renting or selling, your property needs to be in good condition, but any minor cosmetic investment will translate to a major return when you sell.
Need market information? I’ve lived and worked in downtown Bellevue for over 30 years – there isn’t much I don’t know and love about the city. A Realtor® and condo specialist for over two decades, I combine my knowledge of the city with years of condo experience to advise and guide clients through the process of buying or selling a home.
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