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Is There a Shortage of Inventory?

Wherever you turn lately, you’ll hear there’s a shortage of inventory in the Seattle housing market. Is it true? Absolutely!

Let’s take a look at some selected neighborhoods.
Greenlake – As of today there are 19 single family homes for sale. At the end of December there was .7 months of inventory (a balanced market has a 5-6 month supply). A new listing had open houses both days last weekend and had more than 100 groups come through. Clearly, demand seriously outweighs supply, showing there is a shortage.
West Seattle – Today there are 180 homes for sale throughout West Seattle, with year-end inventory at 1.9 months. Definitely more inventory than Greenlake, but still a shortage.
Queen Anne – One of Seattle’s highest demand neighborhoods, today there are 29 homes for sale. Year-end inventory is at 1.3 months. Still a shortage.
Mt. Baker – 10 homes for sale today, and 1.8 months of inventory at year-end. I know that at least one of those 10 homes will go pending today as I have clients who have submitted an offer; that home had 4 pre-inspections and so there are probably more offers than that.
I have clients who wanted to put an offer on a townhome in Magnolia. Came on the market Tuesday, by 6pm Wednesday it had 3 offers and had gone in to contract.
All of these is evidence that there is a serious shortage of inventory. In fact, builders and realtors are estimating it will take another 6 years or so for building to catch up with demand.
If you took economics 101 in high school or college, you probably recall the theory of supply and demand. When demand is high and supply low, the market will increase prices. We’re seeing that happen; on average Seattle saw a 13% price increase from 2012-2013.
If you’re at all considering selling your home, this is the time. Interest rates will creep up over the course of the year, decreasing buying power for buyers. Buyers are ready to buy – approved and anxious to close on their home. 
I am available to provide a complimentary market analysis of your home. No obligation, just a tool to help you figure out if this is a good time for you to sell. Give me a call or email to discuss.

Buyer Tips for Winning a Multiple Offer

In our fast-paced market with low inventory, it is inevitable that two buyers will see the same property, like the same property, and decide to make an offer to purchase at the same time, oftentimes within days – or hours – of a property coming on the market. This scenario is called a “multiple offer” situation.
Typically a buyer will quickly learn if his or her offer will be competing against others. If you are in this situation, there are several things you can do or include in your offer to make it more appealing to the seller. You might be surprised to learn the best offer is not always the highest offer!
Below are seven tips for buyers hoping to win a multiple offer situation:
Money talks  for many sellers it is all about the money.  It is your agent’s responsibility to educate you quickly on the market and where market values are so you can feel good about making a strong offer. In many cases the offer will be above “full price” (the price the property is listed at).  Be smart about how you make that offer and make sure your offer is as “clean” as possible.  Typically home purchase agreements can include “contingencies” (provisions in the contract which specify the contract would be voiced when certain events do or do not occur) which may include: financing (if the buyer cannot obtain a loan), inspection (if the buyer does not feel he or she can handle the inspection results such as when major repairs are needed), or even the sale of the buyer’s current home.  Limit as many conditions as you possibly can so your offer is cleaner than the competition’s.

Approval letter from lender – take the time to get pre-approved before you make an offer so the seller will be more comfortable in your ability to obtain a loan.

Pre-inspection– find out if you can do a pre-inspection (an inspection which occurs before an offer is made). This will enable you make an offer that does not have an inspection contingency.  However, this can be a gamble as the inspection will cost money and this is not a guarantee that your offer will be accepted.

Money down – when competing against other offers, consider increasing your down payment. This settles most seller concerns about your financial viability.

Earnest money – putting as much of your down payment into your earnest money deposit makes a very strong impression.  Sellers like high earnest money amounts because they feel that this ensures you won’t break the contract because you will be worried about losing this money.

Reports/disclosure – have your agent find out everything they can about the property and get copies of all reports and the seller disclosure up front.  Approve these reports and simplify the offer. 
Personal letter – if you really want the home, write the seller a letter indicating why their particular home is a good fit for your needs. You would be surprised at how many multiple offer situations are decided based on the letters that buyers have presented to sellers.



A combination of the above seven ideas can give you the edge you need when competing in a multiple offer situation. If you have been thinking it is time to make a move, give me a call at 206-790-0081 or send an email to jamieflaxman@cbbain.com. Together we can strategize how you can make a strong offer and secure yourself in the home you have been waiting for.

2013 Seattle Market Summary

Last month I posted my predictions for 2014 real estate. The data for 2013 is now in, and here’s a summary of how the Seattle housing market did last year. I’m happy to provide you with a neighborhood or other city report if you’d like; just send me an email and what are you’d like market data for.

2013 was a very successful year for real estate in Seattle. Inventory of homes, while still low, improved significantly, resulting in a 16% increase in closed sales on single family homes and 15% on condos. A balanced housing market would have 5 to 6 months of inventory of homes, and Seattle is still lagging far behind that, at 1.6 months in December. January is a fabulous month to bring a home on the market, before the typical spring increase, as buyer demand is high. With high demand and low inventory, it is definitely a sellers’ market. Just two weeks into January, anecdotal reports are huge numbers of people attending open houses (even during Seahawks games). Single family home prices citywide were up 13%. While condos didn’t see as much appreciation, they are selling significantly faster, down from an average of 98 days on the market to 65. Lastly, foreclosures and short sales are disappearing, only 9% of single family home sales and 18% of condo sales. This decrease is due to homeowners’ increased equity, and is expected to continue through 2014.

Tied for the most expensive home sold in Seattle in 2013 at $6,500,000 were two homes, one in Denny Blaine and the other in Laurelhurst. On the other hand, the lowest priced sold home in Seattle was $65,000, a bank-owned property in the Rainier Valley. A penthouse condo in Escala downtown was the highest priced condo sold, at $6,200,000. A studio co-op had the lowest sold price for a condo, at $55,000. 

Seattle Single Family Homes (including townhomes), 2012-2013

12/31/13 12/31/12 Change
Average Sales Price  $520,829 $460,667 + 13%
Median Sales Price  $444,950 $399,500  +11%
Homes Sold  7,753 6,656  + 16%
Average Days on Market  36 61  – 41%
Selling to List Price Ratio 100.9% 99.1%  + 1.8%
Foreclosures & Short Sales – Number 704 1217  – 73%
     % of all sales  9% 18%  – 50%
Months of Inventory 1.6 2.3 – 30%

Average price per square foot increased 11% in 2013, from $226 in Dec. 2012 to $251 in Dec. 2013.

Seattle Single Family Condominiums, 2012-2013

12/31/13 12/31/12 Change
Average Sales Price  $340,924 $333,504 + 2%
Median Sales Price $280,000 $247,000 + 13%
Homes Sold 2,535 2,203 + 15%
Average Days on Market 65 98 – 34%
Selling to List Price Ratio 99.3% 97.9% + 1.4%
Foreclosures & Short Sales – Number 462 611 + 24%
     % of all sales 18% 28% – 36%
Months of Inventory 2.3 3.5 – 34.2%

Average price per square foot increased 4% in 2013, from $340 in Dec. 2012 to $353 in Dec. 2013.

As always, please feel free to contact me at anytime with questions or for more detailed statistics. I am here to help you and your friends/family in purchasing or selling their real estate. I appreciate all your referrals, thank you!

2014 Predictions for the Real Estate Market

Each year I take time to review what has happened during the year and to look forward to predicting what is in store for real estate.  Below are my predictions for the 2014 real estate market, based on data that was available at the time this was written.  Fifteen of these predictions relate to residential real estate; two are specific to non-residential properties; three have to do with interest rates and lending and the final five pertain to the economy.

Here’s what I’m seeing for real estate in 2014:

1. Housing Inventory – There are a number of factors affecting housing inventory levels.   Low interest rates are attracting investors from hedge funds and private equity firms that are purchasing real estate for rentals.  The economy is improving and improved consumer confidence has brought more buyers back into the market.  Foreclosures are down and short sales are rapidly going away because they do not exist in an inclining market.  New construction is still not where it needs to be so inventory challenges will continue throughout 2014.  The increase in investor demand is forcing inventory numbers down to record low levels.  These investors include Baby Boomers who are investing in second home properties and rental properties. All of these factors will contribute to a housing inventory shortage in 2014 in many areas and in many price points.   

2. Market time –Market time began to decline quite rapidly in the late spring of 2013.  Multiple offers returned with a vengeance as short sales and foreclosures began to decline and incoming inventory slowed to a trickle.  Market times continued to decrease until the government shutdown.  Since then market times have stayed steady.  In 2014 market times will decrease because demand remains strong in many price points and in many areas.  Lack of new construction inventory, record low interest rates, the return of consumer confidence, household formation purchases and investor buying will cause market times to decrease even greater than they did in the spring of 2013.

3. House prices – House prices will increase dramatically in 2014 in part due to shortages in inventory.  Other factors that will add to the increase in house prices include high demand from investors buying single family homes to hold as long term rentals, a decline in foreclosures and short sales and an increase in buyer demand.  The median expected house prices should rise over 12% nationally while the State of Washington should rise 12 – 14%. Home prices will see a strong upswing in an overwhelming majority of metropolitan cities. City life is luring Baby Boomers and Gen X’rs, and buyers are rushing to buy properties closer to urban centers, causing an increase in prices and dramatic decline in inventory.  Therefore, house prices will increase by over 20% in many markets like Seattle and surrounding areas.  Prices will increase as high as 30% in some harder hit areas like Las Vegas, Arizona and Florida.

4. Housing Affordability rate – The affordability index measures the relationship between median home prices, median household incomes, and interest rates.  An affordability index of 100 means a household earning the median household income would pay exactly 30% of their monthly income toward the principal and interest of their mortgage.  Above 100 is more affordable, while below 100 is less affordable. With home prices rising quickly (up 12% nationally from last year) and mortgage rates inching up (up a full percentage point from spring of 2013) housing affordability has decreased and has now dropped to a five year low.  The affordability rate will continue to decline as interest rates increase and home prices rise. 

5. House Price Index – According to the Federal Housing Finance Agencies (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI), in the third quarter 2013, nationally house prices rose 2% from the previous quarter and up 8.4% since the third quarter 2012.  This is the ninth consecutive quarterly rise.  Many housing markets have now stabilized and home builders are beginning to plan upcoming projects.  Of the nine census divisions, the Pacific division experienced the strongest increase in the last quarter with a 4.2 percent price increase and a 19.2% increase since last year.

6. Pending home sales – Due to the improving job market, rising rental rates, continued low interest rates and continued housing affordability, pending home sales will increase dramatically in 2014.  There will also be an additional increase in pending home sales as investors purchase homes as long term rentals.  Lack of inventory in new construction will prevent pending sales from reaching higher levels.  Pending home sales would have been higher in the fall of 2013 had it not been for the government shutdown.

7. House price appreciation for high-demand areas and high-demand housing styles – House price appreciation in many high-demand areas and high-demand housing styles will reach over 20% in 2014.  Specifically ramblers, urban hubs, smaller properties with high-end finishing, homes for Baby Boomers with aging parents, and homes for Baby Boomers with boomerang children will continue to be in high demand in 2014.    Home values will appreciate as high as 20% in some areas with 2014 average appreciation to rise from 7.2% to over 8%.  Average annual appreciation from 2014 – 2018 could reach over 8% per year with a cumulative appreciation to 2018 of over 25%.

8. Median house prices – The median existing single-family home prices rose in 88 percent of measured markets in the third quarter, 2013, with 144 out of 163 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showing gains.  Fifty-four areas had double digit gains and 19 had price declines.  The national median home price was $207,300 at the end of the third quarter compared to $184,300 during the third quarter of 2012, which is an increase of 12.5 percent.  This represented the strongest year-over-year increase since 2005. In 2014 I am predicting that the median home price will increase in over 150 of these metropolitan areas.  I also predict that the national median home price will increase by over 16%.   

9. New construction demand –   There will continue to be a severe shortage of new homes in 2014. The US needs approximately 1.2 – 1.5 million new homes each year to accommodate a growing population and the demolition of decayed properties.  The drastic decline in new construction from 2006 through 2012 created a dramatic shortage in new construction product.  New construction in 2013 was not high enough to make any kind of dent in the shortage of supply.   It will take years to make up for the lack of new construction we have experienced in the past 6 years.   It will take 7 years to make up that deficit if the current rate of building stays the same as it is now.  New construction inventory shortages will cause resale house prices to continue to rise in 2014 because of the shortage of new construction inventory.  New home demand will also continue to increase in 2014.

10. New Home Sales – New home sales in 2014 will be high relative to the inventory available of new homes.  New home sales continue to increase.  The lack of inventory is keeping the new home sales numbers down.   As new construction increases and available new homes come onto the market, the new home sales number will increase.  This number is directly tied to current inventory which is still too low in relation to the demand.

11. Housing Starts – From 1995 to 2003 the average housing starts were 1,256,000 starts.  In March of 2009 we hit a 20 year low of 353,000 which is well below what is needed to sustain demand.   In August of 2012 we hit 535,000 which is a dramatic 52% increase from the 2009 low.  In 2013 those numbers have surpassed 600,000 which is still well below what is needed to sustain our new construction demand.   Based on this demand and the expectation that builder lending will loosen in 2014, I expect 2014 starts to increase by over 20%.  

12. Remodeling – The demand for traditional remodeling and for lifestyle remodeling will continue to increase in 2014.  This is due to the demand for floor plans and homes that can accommodate multi-family living.  Due to our aging population, bathroom remodeling will continue to exceed kitchen remodeling in 2014.

13. Household Formation Needs – Household formation is a big part of what drives the real estate market.  Household formation refers to the number of homes we need to accommodate the different types of households.  This includes married couples, people living with parents or children, single people, divorced individuals etc.   For example, divorce drives household formation needs up because instead of living in one home together they live in two homes once separated.  Single people as well as those waiting to get married later in life also drives this number up.  Bad markets and recessions bring household formation numbers down (as adult children may choose to live with parents instead of on their own or people may wait to get married due to economic uncertainty). Additionally, other factors such as immigration and migration affect household formation.  2014 will see an increase in household formation purchases because as the market improves so does consumer confidence which means more individuals who were living together due to financial issues are now moving out on their own.

14. Second Homes Market – Second home sales will continue to have a strong increase in 2014 due to the passing of wealth from the Silent Generation (those born 1925 – 1945) to Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964).

15. Seriously Delinquent Mortgages – At the end of November, over 734,000 homes were still in some stage of the foreclosure process which is down almost 25% from a year earlier.  Completed foreclosures are down 30% from last year to 470,000.  Almost 70 percent of all homes in some stage of foreclosure are on mortgages taken out between 2004 and 2008.  This declining number is due to more homeowners being able to pay their mortgage payments because of rising home prices and steady job growth.  Foreclosures hit over a million in 2010 and have been declining since.   Short sales will disappear in 2014 because short sales do not exist in inclining markets. 


16. Commercial – This market will only improve slightly in 2014.  Positive influences will include job creation, modest economic growth, and the easing of commercial lending standards.  There is still concern that the commercial recovery will be unsteady because of increased concern over issues including the healthcare and government issues including the debt ceiling.  The commercial market in 2014 will have modest growth.

17. Multi-family – Demand for multi-family housing will continue to increase in 2014.  The demand for rental properties has increased dramatically creating a strong demand for multi-family housing.  From 1995 to 2003 there was an average of 331,000 multi-family housing starts with that number plummeting to 82,000 in 2009.  Multifamily housing starts in 2013 finished around 260,000 units.  I anticipate a modest increase in 2014.


18. Interest rates – The Federal Reserve intends to keep the funds rate near zero until the economy is stronger.  This will ensure that short term rates remain low through 2014.  With this rate at a historic low (between 0 and 0.25%) since 2008, the short term Fed funds rate should not raise much before 2015.  Longer term rates will rise in 2014 due to increased activity in the housing market and because of a stronger global economy.  Treasury rate to rise to 3.1 – 3.3, and 30 year mortgages currently at 4.45% could rise to 5 – 5.5% by the end of 2014.   

19. FICO Scores – FICO scores for closed loans had increased substantially from 2007 – 2012.  This meant it was harder for a person to get a loan.  FICO scores on closed loans will reduce in 2014 due in part to easing up of lending which will result in another surge of buying in 2014. In 2014 FICO scores on closed loans will average below 690.

20. Credit Availability for Builders – With the demand for new homes, lenders will soften their lending requirements for builders in 2014.  Builders that previously could not get financing will be able to qualify in 2014 under new builder programs.  Bank profitability equals available credit for builders.


21. Unemployment Rate – State of Washington – The unemployment rate in Washington State is 7.0%, down from a high of 10.2% at the end of 2009. By the end of 2014, the State of Washington should see unemployment rates as low as 6.4%. National Unemployment Rate – Nationally our unemployment rate is down from the 10% high we hit in October of 2009. We are currently at 7.0% (November, 2013) and by the end of 2014 we could hit as low as 6.8%.

22. Inflation – The annual US inflation rate for 2012 was 2.1% which was lower than 2011’s 3.2% and higher than 2010’s 1.6%. The historical annual US inflation rate is 2.97%.  The inflation rate in 2014 should increase as the economy improves and should tick up slightly to an average of 1.8 or 1.9%. 

23. Deficit Spending– Deficit spending is the amount of spending that exceeds revenue.  A deficit occurs any year that the government takes in less revenue than it spends.  The United States gross national debt is currently more than 17 trillion.  I do not expect there will be much change to this number in 2014.

24. Consumer Confidence – Consumer confidence, which rolls the facts and feelings about how we are doing as a country into one neat package, hit a high not seen in five years of 82.1 in June.  It dipped after June and after the government shutdown issue sank to 70.4. I predict the consumer confidence index will hit 83-85 in 2014.

25. Consumer Spending –  Consumer spending is on the rise as consumers begin to feel more confident about the economy.  Consumer spending drives over 70% of the economy with the biggest spending done in housing and transportation.  If consumer spending drops off, economic growth will slow, prices will decrease, and the economy can go into a recession.  Inflation occurs when consumer demand for products and services is greater than the ability to provide the goods and services; this causes prices to go up.  The Federal Reserve’s mandate is to ward off inflation.  Consumer spending in 2012 and 2013 was up. I predict consumer spending will also increase in 2014.

Questions or comments, give me a call or email.

STAY TUNED . . . in January I’ll bring you a report on how the real estate market did in 2013.

Holiday Real Estate Buying and Selling Guide

If you’ve always thought that December is a bad time to buy or sell real estate, you might be surprised!  While most people are crowding the malls looking for the perfect Christmas gift, the smartest buyers know that now is one of the best times to find their dream home and the smartest sellers are taking advantage of less competition in the market.
If you are a buyer looking for something specific or with a long list of needs you should continue your search during the holidays. Real estate doesn’t stop just because there are wreaths on the front door as there are constantly new listings coming on the market. Savvy buyers continue their search because you never know when that “just right” home becomes available. With fewer competing buyers out there making offers the chances of landing the home of their dreams increases dramatically.
The number of available listings on the market traditionally falls in December.  Sellers who have been actively listed usually request that their homes come off the market so that they don’t have to show them during the holidays as schedules can be problematic during this time. Also, many agents are winding down their business in December and are not adding listing to their books.  Many agents even advise against listing during this time, based on false assumptions about the holiday season. 
However, these two factors allow for a fantastic opportunity to dominate the market during December.  As competition diminishes for both buyers and sellers, you end up one of the chief suppliers, or consumers, of the available product. 
What a perfect marriage of smart buyers and smart sellers!
December is not just an incredible time to buy and sell real estate, but also to negotiate.  Sellers who have been sitting on the market for months may be more willing to listen to offers they may have passed over during the summer and fall. There is something about having affairs settled by the new year that can be very attractive and can encourage sellers to put pen to paper.
December is also a great month for getting one’s tax situation settled.  Some people must sell by December 31 due to financial reasons.  These people can be willing to do amazing things with the price of their home during December if you are able to close prior to December 31.  If you’re a buyer, you should be out looking as soon as possible and offering a quick close.
Mortgage and title companies may even be more willing to jump through hoops to get your deal closed to bring up their numbers for the month and even the year!

If you’re serious and smart about buying or selling real estate, can be loaded with opportunities. For statistical data on homes that sold in your neighborhood last December or that are available now, just give me a call at 206-790-0081 or send an email to jamieflaxman@cbbain.com.  

Shopping for a Home? Check the Roof!

Replacing a roof can be one of the most expensive repairs a homeowner can face. However, most homeowners rarely traverse their own roofs, let alone know the warning signs for when a roof is in  trouble resulting in leaks which can affect the support structure, insulation, drywall, and even furnishings and finishes within the home itself. This is why it is crucial to have a home inspector do a thorough roof inspection before a home is purchased. Not only will you learn about the pros and cons about the particular type of roof you have, but you can also ask questions about the type of ongoing maintenance you should plan for.
Below are the most common types of roofs and the minimum recommended maintenance required which includes removing debris among other things. Of course, your particular roof may require additional maintenance depending on the type of material and your environment.  

Shake –these are usually rectangles of wood that overlap. The life expectancy of a shake roof is usually about 30 years and up depending on the materials. Homeowners should have leaves and debris removed every year and an anti-moss agent applied and then maintained every few years to wash off any built up moss or mildew and then re-oiling if recommended for the type of material.
Asphalt Shingles – This is most common type of roofing material in our country due to its high durability and low cost. This type of roof usually lasts between 20-30 years depending on the material. Should be maintained by removing debris and applying an anti-moss agent on a regular basis.   

Metal – Metal roofs can last up to 70 years depending on the materials. Debris should be removed on a regular basis and inspected every few years to make sure no repairs are required.

Slate – Depending on where the slate was quarried, a slate roof can last up to 200 years! As the slate naturally flakes, the roof deteriorates. Slate roofs should be inspected every few years or after heavy weather both on the outside as well as the inside for water leakage, and individual slate pieces which have deteriorated should be replaced.

Tile – Tile has been the roofing material of choice for Asia, Europe, and South America for hundreds of years and with regular maintenance, can last several hundred years. Inspect regularly, looking for chipped or cracked tiles and replace. Have a professional wash or brush once a year depending on where you live. Seal the roof every few years as recommended by your roof repair company.  

There are also a wide number of other materials available on the market today from interlocking composites to copper and more! And different types of roofing can impact resale value. 

Beware of Brokers Promising a High Sales Price

You know the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? Homeowners, take heed!  This theory also applies to “pie in the sky” price ranges some real estate agents may recommend when discussing an impending home sale with a seller.
When it is time for a homeowner to sell their home, he or she may decide to interview several real estate agents to learn the different types of services they offer before making a hiring decision.  And although services such as photography and property marketing may be discussed, the seller often makes their decision based on where the agent recommends the property should be priced. This could be a monumental mistake. 
An agent may try to “buy” a seller’s listing by agreeing to an unrealistic price up front and hoping for an aggressive price reduction later. Alternatively, I often see situations in which the agent doesn’t know how to tell a seller that their home is not worth as much as the seller might think it is, not wanting to hurt their feelings. In either case, that is not the kind of agent you want representing you and your home. 
A good agent knows their numbers and they have a home selling system that they follow which gets results. An effective agent does not simply name a random price on the property that the seller gets excited but that can’t get the property sold. 
So remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Ultimately the home price should be in line with what other similar properties are on the market for so it will sell quickly and get top dollar.

Wondering where your home value stands in relation to the market? I would love to share that information with you. Just give me a call! 206-790-0081 or send me an email to jamieflaxman@cbbain.com and I will be happy to put together a report. 

Market Update

September Activity for the City of Seattle
September tested the housing market’s resilience around Western Washington with fluctuating mortgage rates, record-setting rains, and persistent inventory shortages in some areas. By month’s end, however, both pending and closed sales outgained the same period a year ago, according to the latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Prices also increased compared to 12 months ago, but fell slightly from the previous month. Year-to-date figures through nine months show prices for homes and condominiums that have sold in the 21 counties served by the MLS are up 12 percent from a year ago.
Northwest MLS director John Deely said the Seattle market shows no signs of slowing down and house-hunters seem undaunted by soggy weather. “Buyers continue to flood open houses and multiple offers rain down on competitively priced properties,” he commented.
Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said one newly listed home had 25 potential buyers show up at a midweek brokers open house to get a first glimpse at it. “Multiple offers are still prevalent,” he said, citing an example of one appropriately priced listing receiving 11 offers, and ultimately drew a bid of more than 20 percent above list price. Other new listings in Seattle are experiencing similar activity, according to Deely. “Buyers with all cash have decreased and financed offers now outpace cash offers,” he stated. (Note to reader – The listing that John Deely is referring to is my listing on Queen Anne. John is my Principal Managing Broker.)
MLS figures show mixed activity across its service area:
  • September’s volume of new listings increased nearly 17 percent compared to a year ago, pushing the total number of active listings slightly ahead of 12 months ago (up 2.1 percent). However, of the 21 counties the MLS serves, 11 reported having fewer listings than a year ago.
  • Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) rose 4.6 percent area-wide; 14 counties had double-digit gains, while three counties reported declines.
  • Closed sales for September increased 21.2 percent year-over-year, rising from 5,536 to 6,711.
  • While selling prices area-wide are up 8.7 percent from a year ago, prices were below year-ago figures in five counties. Conversely, seven counties notched double-digit gains. The area-wide median price for last month’s closed sales was $278,000, up 8.7 percent from the year-ago figure of $255,745, but $5,000 less (down about 1.8 percent) from August.
  • Prices on closed sales of single family homes (excluding condos) rose 8.2 percent, while condo prices surged 12.3 percent.

“We are currently experiencing a mini power surge of sales activity, the third such event this year,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. He attributes the bursts to interest rates. “With interest rates suddenly coming off their peak for the year, we’re having another surge of activity, which is keeping the inventory at the shortage level in both King and Snohomish counties.”
MLS figures show King County has less than two months of supply (1.95 months). Snohomish County is slightly better at 2.32 months. System-wide, there is 3.32 months of supply, well below the level of 4-to-6-months that is generally accepted as an indication of a balanced market.
In Kitsap County, where there is a more balanced market (4.3 months of supply, up from 3.4 months in August), the pace of sales and price appreciation are both moderating. Well-priced properties are still drawing considerable activity.

“As is typical at this time of year, September’s pace slows a bit compared to August as families focus on back to school and all the activities that go along with that,” observed Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott in Poulsbo.

“We continue to see buyers who are negotiating against several other buyers on a house they like,” said Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. He noted well priced homes are drawing offers in the first few weeks of being listed, while listings that are getting no showings most likely mean they’re at least 5 percent high on pricing. “Homes that are priced correctly will receive showings and offers,” he emphasized.
Northwest MLS director George Moorhead, the branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell, said market activity “waned just a bit” towards the end of August and during September, a pattern he said is normal with students going back to school and last-minute vacations. He expects interest rates will climb to 5 percent by summer 2014, and says the big message is “If you want to capitalize on the current lower interest rates, don’t delay any longer.”
City of Seattle, Median Home Prices

What Happened to the Curtains?

Do the curtains stay?

Whether you are a buyer or seller, there may come a time when you are either touring a home or about to sell one when you look around and wonder if that amenity should come with the house or not. For example, it may seem logical that items such as curtains which were specially made for the room and match the carpet, chandeliers, certain appliances, or even barstools that were custom made should stay with the house. However, it all comes down to what the buyer and seller specify in the purchase and sale agreement.

Listing agents need to point all of the ambiguous items out during the tour with the seller and determine which the seller is willing to part with or include in the listing. If a seller is willing to include all the high-end chandeliers, that can become a strong selling point – if the buyer wants them.

If a buyer doesn’t want certain items that the sellers intended to leave behind (such as outside play equipment, hot tubs, freezers, etc), then it is important to include in the contract that those items are to be removed by the seller – or else the buyer may be surprised at the walk-through if they thought they would travel with the seller.

However, fixtures that are attached, such as fountains that are cemented in, doors, etc are generally thought of as part of the home. But, if you see a stained glass window that is inset to a standard window, it is best to specify whether it is staying or going.

The key is to include everything in the contract – that the seller intends to leave and what the buyer wants. Negotiation can happen from there. Never assume that something is staying…or going.

It’s the First Day of School

For those of us who live in Seattle, it’s the first day of school today. My son is now a high school sophomore, but as in years past, I reminisce today about that first day of kindergarten. We had bought our house six months earlier, so that we would be in the area of one of the best schools in the city. The school bus would pick Sam up just a couple blocks from our house – I remember meeting the bus “pros” at the bus stop, parents who had been doing this year after year. I remember the excitement I felt picking him up at school that first day, waiting to hear about all the wonderful things he learned at school and about all his new friends.

Jump forward to 10th grade. Sam drove to school today for the first time. No more school buses or Metro. He left the house 20 minutes earlier than he needed to, he was so excited to get to school, to get his schedule, to see his friends. I’m feeling similar excitement to that kindergarten day, wanting to know about his classes, his teachers, his friends.

Schools are one aspect of neighborhood and community. For those with children, it’s a critical component. As you choose a neighborhood to live in, many people are concerned about the schools. Is it a “good school?” How will my child get there? Are there after school activities or child care?

Today I’d like to answer the question, “is it a good school.” There are many different definitions of a good school. For many, they look at test scores or classroom size. Others look at on-line rankings such as those provided by Great Schools. But there are other factors to consider. Teacher retention rates? Principal longevity? Involved parent group? Welcoming atmosphere whenever you enter the building? Ability to work with students with different learning styles? Necessary support services or after school care?

As I’ve learned over the past years, there is no formula to determine a good school. If I had to pick the most important factor, I’d say community – the parent group, the welcoming atmosphere, the support services. Test scores are numbers, people make up community. Relationships with fellow parents, with teachers, and with administration is critical. Feeling welcome and respected is critical.

From our experience, the school with the best test scores was not the best fit for Sam. The best schools are the ones who create a community.

As my tagline says, “Building Community. One Home at a Time.” Let me help you find that right community.