Category Archives: buyers

5 Reasons to Get Pre-Approved

Mortgage rates have recently been at a 12-month low. Depending on your credit and financial situation, you might currently be able to get a mortgage at around 4%. Here are some reasons why it’s critical you get pre-approved for your mortgage. I have a list of wonderful mortgage lenders, please drop me an email and I’ll be happy to forward to you.

Seattle Real Estate Market Update

Seattle prices continue to decline slightly for single-family homes, with a 4.6% decrease from the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. However, it’s important to note that we hit the peak of our market in spring 2018, so prices were near their highest point last March. Condos are where we’re seeing the biggest changes, with a significant amount of inventory on the market and a 9.6% decrease in prices. With our increased inventory we’re seeing that the number of days it’s taking a property to sell has increased substantially. But for properties priced properly, they are selling quickly, often on the first day it comes on the market and often with multiple offers. Yes, multiple offers are back, and not just 2 or 3 offers, but more than 10 on many properties.

What does this mean for you? If you’re a homeowner considering selling your property, do NOT overprice. Price is the number one determinant of buyers coming to see your home and placing offers. Overpriced homes will sit on the market.  And as we’re now in spring, the busiest time of the year for our real estate market, do not wait to list your home.

Buyers, this is a great time for you. With the increase in inventory, you have many more choices. Interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in the past 12 months, so your money will go further right now. It’s definitely the time to buy.

Let’s talk about your real estate needs. Give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email me.

It’s a Great Time for Buyers

If you’re considering whether it’s the right time to buy a property, the answer is definitely yes! There is a lot of inventory on the market right now, so that means that there is less competition among buyers. And interest rates have dropped substantially and are the lowest they’ve been in around a year, meaning your money will go further.

Whether it’s a condo, townhome, or house you’re considering, let’s talk about your buying needs. You can reach me at (206) 790-0081 or Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

The Internet Can’t Replace Your Agent

We live in the information age; the Internet offers advice on every topic and real estate is no exception. With more and more home buyers starting their home search online, they are bombarded with advice and information – it can be easy to think that you can learn everything you need to know just by reading articles online.

The truth is your real estate agent does much more than answer your questions and open doors with a special key. A professional real estate agent will be there every step of the way. They have the experience necessary to navigate the complicated home buying process and solve common hiccups that present themselves in every real estate transactions.

Your real estate agent is a local professional. They will start by presenting themselves to the other agent as someone who will work with them to see the transaction through to a successful conclusion. They have a network of professionals who will work as a team to help you through the process. These include such professionals as: lenders, title reps, escrow officers, transaction coordinators, home inspectors, contractors, and handymen, among others.

Most importantly, your agent is your ally in the home buying process. They negotiate on your behalf – armed with experience and understanding of customary charges, costs, and terms. They will ensure that the price you pay for the home is fair for the condition and neighborhood. They will negotiate repairs, if needed and make sure you are protected with the proper contingencies.

The Internet offers lots of great information, but the most important step you can take when buying a new home is hiring a local professional real estate agent. Their knowledge and expertise can’t be found by reading an article or two online.

Contact me at Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com or 206-790-0081 to discuss how I can help you with the real estate transactions.

What’s Going on With the Market

The greater Seattle real estate market continues to show signs of a healthier, balanced market. While prices were down in January, we began to see the return of multiple offer situations. A lot of homes that were sitting on the market for a long period of time (60+ days) went pending, which is a good sign, but also shows why our Days on Market increased significantly in January. For example, in Seattle 364 single family homes sold in January for an average of 53 days on market. Of those 364, 110 sold in 0-14 days, 44 15-29 days, 66 in 30-59 days, and 144 in 60+ days. 

What this is telling us is that homes that have been priced properly are still selling quickly and that homes that have been sitting on the market have either had price reductions or sellers have accepted lower offers in order to get their homes sold. We see this when we look at sales to list price ratio, which at 98.1% for Seattle in January, means that sellers are taking lower offers. Additionally, with so much of the older inventory selling, we are seeing less homes available on the market, and with inventory low, the market still favors the seller.

Pricing properly is the key to getting your hold sold quickly and when you work with me, I will be analyzing the market daily to determine the best price at which to list your property.

For buyers, interest rates seem to have settled down, and even gone down a little. The Fed has said they don’t plan on raising interest rates again for awhile. This, coupled with lower sales prices, means it’s a great time for you to get in the market. 

For additional information or for a complimentary market analysis of your home, please call or text: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com

Year in Review and Predictions for 2019

There were three themes that drove the real estate market in 2018—Supply, Demand, and Affordability. Although these are always at play, the increased pressure from all three were intense in 2018 and will continue throughout 2019. Let’s look at what makes up each of these areas and how they will impact the market in 2019. Our market did cool down in 2018, but not to the extreme that you may have heard in the media. In fact, as we look at year over year statistics from 2017 to 2018, prices were up 8.1% in King County and 10.1% in Snohomish County.

The big change we saw was an increase in inventory, yet we are still solidly in a sellers’ market with inventory at 1.7 months in King County and 1.5 months in Snohomish. A sellers’ market has less than 4-6 month in inventory.

As we look at Supply, Demand, and Affordability with these statistics in mind, we see that affordability is the most significant factor at play.

Supply – There are only three ways we get new inventory – existing resale homes, new homes, and foreclosures. The number of years we are staying in our homes has reached an all-time high of 10 years which is one of the main contributors to the inventory shortage (plugging up the resale pipeline). However, another contributor – and this is a big one – is the continued lack of new construction. We also don’t have many foreclosures to add to our inventory levels. Therefore, all three inventory supply sources are drying up instead of flowing.

Demand – Our economy is humming along. Unemployment is at almost historic lows, GDP is up, Consumer Confidence is up and Millennials are ready to buy. Therefore, demand has been high and will continue to be so. If it wasn’t for the affordability issues we are experiencing, Millennials would be buying up a storm.

Affordability – High demand for housing is causing prices to soar out of a comfortable price range for buyers. The cost for builders to build (land, labor, materials, and regulatory demands) are all rising at a pace that makes new construction less affordable. Interest rates are on the rise. All of these factors affect affordability and home sales.

These three factors are in a push-pull relationship which was very evident this past year when home prices peaked in May. The market then quickly reacted with an adjustment in inventory. There was an initial surge of new listings concurrent with a moment in which buyers had had enough and affordability reached a tipping point. That surge caused buyers to step back and assess the situation instead of moving forward, which caused another moment in which sellers were ready to sell but buyers were no longer willing to pay the inflated prices. Buyers figured out quickly that the market had hit its peak and they did not want to buy at the peak of the market. This led to even more inventory coming on the market with demand pausing as supply surged. Now that surge is receding – sellers who couldn’t get the price they wanted are taking their properties off the market and savvy buyers are working with sellers, allowing both parties to make their next move.

What can we expect in 2019?:

Housing Inventory – I believe the inventory surge that we will begin the year with will be absorbed as sellers get realistic about their prices or take their homes off the market. We will then see the spring and summer return to a more reduced inventory market. I expect buyers to also hop back into the market, trying to capitalize on interest rates that are expected to rise throughout 2019.

Housing Starts/New Construction – Our builders have not been able to keep up with the demand for new construction. Historically, we have needed 1.5 million units each year. That has recently increased to 1.62 million units. However, we are only on target to build 1.25 million units this year and next which means we are continuing to add to our deficit. Local issues in many areas such as zoning and water rights are also capping new construction opportunity. The cost of building supplies, labor, land, and regulation are causing problems for our builders and I expect these problems to worsen in 2019.

Home Price Growth – In Western Washington, we saw year-over-year median sales price grow 9.1% to $409,752, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS), and you can see from the charts on page 1 and this page how prices changed in King and Snohomish Counties as well as Seattle and Edmonds. Since I expect the pace of our market to downshift after the spring (with more balanced inventory than last year), I predict that median sales prices will continue to grow but at a smaller pace.

Interest Rates – The Federal Reserve has been trying to return the country to neutral for interest rates. The Fed raised interest rates in December but said they are not sure what they will do in 2019. I do expect that rates may rise as high as 5.75% by year-end. Rates had been as high as 4.94% last November for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, but the rate slid back and as of December it was at 4.63%.

There are several “wild card” issues in 2019 which could affect the real estate market in a way that cannot be foreseen. Issues such as immigration reform, political uncertainty, the national debt, global issues such as Brexit, possible trade wars, and even the true impact of the tax reform changes may cause shifts in the real estate market that are unpredictable. That being said, I am excited for what 2019 has in store!

For additional information and how these issues may affect you, please call or text: (206) 790-0081 or send an email to Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.




On-Line Security

I recently have had several credit cards compromised. On one, there were fraudulent charges. On another, someone called in to the credit card company and was able to be approved as an additional authorized user and was sent a credit card. This last one has scared me. The person who called in knew enough about me to convince the person at the bank that they were me. They knew my social security number (or at least last 4 digits) and my birthday.

So much information is online – someone could probably figure out my best friend’s name (from Facebook), where I was born (by searching public records), what high school I went to (again from Facebook), my mother’s maiden name (also in public records), and a host of other words I would use in security questions.

Here’s what I’m doing to protect myself.

  • Changing my user name and password on all websites
  • Making up a new BFF
  • Talking to the credit bureaus about protecting my ID
  • Making sure my privacy settings on Facebook and other social media sites are at the highest level possible
  • Purchasing a new wallet with RFID protection

If you have other ideas of things I or others can do, please let me know.

When you go to buy a home, your credit is critically important, don’t let it get messed up by people affecting your accounts. If you’d like further information, please call me a (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com.

The Danger of Waiting

Affordability is one of the major factors driving our real estate market. We saw an increase in interest rates in 2018 from around 4.15% in January to a high of nearly 5% in November and with the year ending around 4.55%. We expect that interest rates could reach 5.75% in 2019. What does this mean if you are considering buying a home (or selling and buying a new home)?

As interest rates increase, your buying power decreases. Let’s say your lender has qualified you for a home purchase of $700,000 with 20% down. Today your monthly payment would be around $2,837 with a 4.5% interest rate. If rates rise as expected in 2019, the payment later this year at 5.5% would be $3,180, or $343/month more. Your lender may no longer qualify you to purchase a $700,000 home but instead more likely around $625,000 to keep your payment around the $2,837/month. If we see a 5% (being conservative) increase in prices this year, your $700,000 home would sell around $735,000 by year end. By waiting, you are likely to decrease the amount you can pay for a home.

If you’re considering buying a property this year, the time to move is now. Give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com so we can talk about your plans and needs. (The chart above shows you various principal and interest payments at different interest rates. However, you should talk with a lender to verify the accuracy of these numbers. I have several wonderful lenders who would be happy to speak with you.)

Down Payments – How Much Do You Really Need?

Gone are the days when anyone could buy a home with just a promise and signature. No documentation loans allowed virtually anyone to buy a house with no money down with just a simple credit check. After the mortgage meltdown, this all changed. Lenders tightened guidelines and down payments were back.

But how much do you actually need? Must you always find 20% down? The answer might surprise you; there are many ways to buy a home with less than 20% down payment.

  • 0% Down – There are still two loan programs which allow one to buy a home for no-down payment; the VA loan and the USDA loan. The VA loan requires the borrower to be a qualified service person or veteran and the USDA loan is for certain areas under the Department of Agriculture.
  • 5% Down – Conventional loans with loan limits can allow one to buy a home with as little as 5% down. These loans do have PMI (Private mortgage insurance) which can be eliminated when the loan amount falls below the 20% threshold.
  • 3 ½ % Down – FHA offers first time home buyers a good home loan for only 3.5% downpayment. Again these loans have loan limits and PMI but offer a faster entry into the housing market. Buying a home doesn’t always mean 20% loan. If you’re considering buying a new home, talk to your lender about your options.

If you’re thinking of buying, give me a call at (206) 790-0081 or email Jamie@JamieFlaxman.com. Let’s talk about your needs. I can also refer you to excellent local mortgage lenders.