Washington State NWMLS Market Snapshot for September 2019

Northwest Multiple Listing Service brokers reported year-over-year gains in pending sales, closed sales and prices, but its report summarizing September activity also showed an 18% drop in inventory compared to a year ago.

At the end of September, MLS brokers reported 15,982 total active listings, down more than 18% from the same month a year ago when the selection totaled 19,526 listings. Only three of the 23 counties served by Northwest MLS – Clark, San Juan and Whatcom – had year-over-year gains in inventory, while 18 counties had double-digit drops. Thurston County reported the sharpest shrinkage, at nearly 35%.

The median price for single family homes and condos that sold last month in King County was $593,750, down from the year-ago figure of $610,000 and the first time it dipped below $600,000 since January. Three other counties, Okanogan, Pacific, and Clallam, also reported year-over-year price drops. Joining Pierce County with double-digit price increases from a year ago were eight other counties.

System-wide, prices were up 5%, rising from $400,000 a year ago to $420,000. The volume of closed sales increased about 4.4% from a year ago (7,962 versus 7,630).

The latest report from Northwest MLS shows pending sales were up about 9.8% from a year ago, with mutually accepted offers rising from 8,913 to 9,785. In the four-county Puget Sound region, Snohomish reported the largest gain at 18.3%, followed by Kitsap at nearly 11.9%, King at 9.8%, and Pierce at 5.4%.

Brokers were unable to replenish inventory to match demand as the volume of pending sales (9,785) outpaced new listings (9,435).

Source: NWMLS 10/7/19

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FHA Updates Condo Rules

FHA updates condo rules that should boost financing options on condos

Long-awaited updates to Federal Housing Administration condo rules will take effect October 15, 2019 under revised guidelines issued last month. Housing officials praised the change, saying the FHA loan program will now be more “flexible and responsive to market conditions.”

FHA said it is bringing back spot approvals and taking other steps to loosen requirements for FHA-insured condominium financing. The move is expected to allow more buyers to obtain low downpayment mortgages on affordable housing options.

An estimated 20,000 to 60,000 more condo units per year are expected to qualify for financing, according to the FHA. That represents a substantial increase from current provisions, with only 6.5% of the more than 150,000 condo projects approved for FHA financing.

Once implemented, the guidelines will mean an individual condo unit in a building of 10 units or more may be eligible for spot approval if no more than 10% of the units are FHA-insured. In smaller buildings, with fewer than 10 units, no more than two units can be FHA-insured.

The new rules will also:

  • Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.
  • Insure more mixed-use projects so approved projects can now have up to 35% of their square footage dedicated to commercial or other non-residential uses.
  • Loosen restrictions on owner-occupancy rules, allowing projects to be just 50% owner-occupied.
  • Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals-often known as spot approvals-which will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the property does not have FHA approval.
  • Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building.

NAR President John Smaby applauded the ruling, saying it culminates years of collaboration between NAR and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He expects the ruling will help reverse recent declines in condo sales.

“Condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” Smaby noted.

FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery said the agency has been working alongside stakeholders for three years to update its condo policies. NAR has sought rules changes since 2008, specifically to allow the owner-occupancy level to be determined on a case-by-case basis, and to extend the approval period for project certification to five years.

“It had become clear for many years that we needed to update our condo project approval regulations so that, while not exposing the agency to more risk, they are more flexible and less prescriptive and more reflective of the current market than the previous condominium project approval provisions,” Montgomery said on a call with reporters and the HUD secretary.

“This new rule allows FHA to meet its core mission to support eligible borrowers who are ready for homeownership and are most likely to enter the market with the purchase of a condominium,” added Montgomery, who is also HUD Acting Deputy Secretary.

In a press release announcing the updates, HUD stated, “In an effort to promote affordable and sustainable homeownership, especially among credit-worthy first-time buyers, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) today published a long-awaited final regulation, and policy implementation guidance, which establish a new condominium approval process.”

Source: NW REporter 9/9/19

Buyers Give Fireplaces the Cold Shoulder

Fewer new homes are being built with a fireplace, a sign the cold-weather amenity is falling out of favor with home buyers. A record low percentage of newly constructed single-family homes—41%—last year included a fireplace, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from the National Association of Home Builders. The share of single-family homes with fireplaces has been declining since 2015, the NAHB reports.

“An obvious explanation for the declining trend is that builders are foregoing fireplaces in some of their homes so they can bring them in at prices their customers can afford,” the NAHB reports on its Eye on Housing blog. “Keeping new homes affordable has become a considerable challenge lately.”

Fireplaces are usually considered a desirable amenity but not a must-have, the NAHB notes. Fifty-five percent of buyers rate gas-burning fireplaces as desirable, while 48% say the same of wood-burning fireplaces as desirable, according to the survey. That places such features in the middle of the list of decorative features most sought-after in terms of desirability, according to the NAHB’s “What Home Buyers Really Want” survey. However, only 16% of buyers say either type of fireplace is essential in a home purchase.

Fireplaces are the most uncommon home feature in the lower price points of the market. For example, just 7% of new single-family homes started in 2018 that were priced under $150,000 had fireplaces. On the other hand, more than 60% of homes priced at $500,000 or above had a fireplace.

Source: “Share of New Homes With Fireplaces Drop to Record Low,” National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog (9/16/19)

6 Lessons Monopoly Can Teach About Home Buying

  1. Patience

MONOPOLY: So your family has decided to play Monopoly? Refill your beverage, grab a snack and change into comfortable clothes. You’re going to be there a while.

LESSON: Buying real estate is a process. There’s pre-approval for a loan, interviewing agents, searching for homes, submitting an offer, maybe submitting another offer, the home inspection, the appraisal, and final loan processing before you get the keys. Needless to say, buying a home can take some time. Instead of getting frustrated, focus on all of the great reasons you decided buying a home was right for you. Staying in close communication with your agent throughout the process will help, too.

  1. Neighborhood matters

MONOPOLY: Everyone starts the game with one corner in mind: Boardwalk and Park Place. The high-priced properties have the best returns on investments, and the players who snag them first tend to do well in the game.

LESSON: Location is often a major consideration in real life as well. Home values, your lifestyle and so much more are factors in your neighborhood choice. Work with your agent to learn all you can about the neighborhoods that pique your interest.

  1. Keep an open mind

MONOPOLY: Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue have a bad reputation because they’re the cheapest properties on the board, but they also present opportunity. Add a few houses and hotels and your return could be bigger than the one on nearby Connecticut Avenue.

LESSON: Keep an open mind when shopping for a home. An up-and-coming neighborhood may have appeal you didn’t see before, and more value for your budget.

  1. Be prepared

MONOPOLY: You’re a Monopoly mogul! You have a handful of desirable properties and a steady stream of income from your houses and hotels. Then comes the Chance card: “Make general repairs on your property – for each house pay $25, for each hotel pay $100.”

LESSON: You never know what card you’re going to draw. But unlike Monopoly, the real world has home insurance available to help you prepare for unexpected repairs and disasters. A variety of plans, customizable to any budget, are available. Some homebuyers also opt for warranties covering potential appliance issues after move-in.

  1. How to win a bidding war

MONOPOLY: Trading properties keeps Monopoly exciting. And there are no strict rules as to how a seller determines to accept an offer. Sibling rivalry, bribes involving candy or even business sense can play into a player’s decision.

LESSON: Sellers don’t always accept the highest offer. Writing a letter about why you fell in love with their home can sometimes sway their decision in your favor.

  1. The importance of strategy

MONOPOLY: Monopoly is a game of strategy, but few players are inclined to study ways to win. What if you had a coach sitting next to you, advising how much to bid for a property, where to look next, and whether or not mortgaging a utility to buy Boardwalk is a smart idea? You would be unstoppable!

LESSON: Buying a home is an infrequent occurrence; for some it happens only once in a lifetime. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have someone on your side that is up-to-speed on laws for your state, knows which neighborhoods would best fit your lifestyle and helps you navigate a bidding war? That’s the value an experienced agent provides.

RE/MAX National Housing Report for August 2019

Year-Over-Year Home Sales Slip 1.6% After Largest Inventory Decline in 13 Months

August 2019 existing home sales slipped 1.6% from a year ago, despite buyer demand exceeding available housing supply, according to the RE/MAX National Housing Report. Following July’s year-over-year sales increase of 2.3%, the slight August decline marks the sixth month of 2019 that produced fewer sales than 2018.

Buyer demand outpaced homes listed for sale in August, causing the largest inventory decline in 13 months. An analysis of the report’s 53 metro areas shows August inventory shrank 5.5% year-over-year, the largest drop since 7.8% in July 2018. August’s inventory contraction followed July’s year-over-year inventory decline of 1.5% after nine consecutive months of year-over-year inventory growth. Months Supply of Inventory decreased to 2.8 compared to 2.9 in July 2019 and eclipsed the previous August low in the report’s 11-year history.

Read the full article

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Washington State NWMLS Market Snapshot for August 2019

Depleted inventory continues to frustrate would-be buyers in Western Washington. Many of these potential homeowners are expanding their search beyond the major job centers in King County, according to market watchers who commented on the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The MLS report summarizing August activity shows less than two months of supply system-wide, and only about 1.6 months of supply in the four-county Puget Sound region. The sparse selection is pushing up prices. For last month’s sales of single family homes and condos across the 23 counties served by Northwest MLS, prices rose nearly 6.2% compared to a year ago.

A comparison of year-over-year statistics for August shows the volume of new listings dropped nearly 13% system-wide and 18.5% in King County. Last month’s total number of new listings (10,488) declined 6.3% from July’s volume (11,193).

Brokers reported 10,602 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) during August for a 4.9% increase from a year ago. Pending sales rose nearly 6.6% in the Puget Sound region, led by Snohomish County with a gain of 15.8%. Six counties had double-digit gains while an equal number had declines.

The median price for the single family homes and condos that sold last month in King County was $615,000, slightly higher than the year-ago figure of $610,000. In Snohomish County, last month’s median sales price was $470,000, up about 1.8% from the year-ago price of $461,832. The Pierce County price of $369,000 is $246,000 lower than King County. It’s up 6.1% from a year ago.

For all counties combined, prices are up nearly 6.2%, rising from the year-ago figure of $405,000 to last month’s figure of $429,925. Compared to January’s area-wide median price of $381,900, prices are up nearly 12.6%. Brokers reported 9,392 closed transactions during August, a slight 1.12% improvement over the same month a year ago.

2019 Real Estate in a Digital Age

Did you know that the three most popular information sources home buyers used in the home search were:

  • Online website (93%)
  • Real estate agent (86%)
  • Mobile/tablet website or app (73%)