Puget Sound Housing Market Regaining Balance

Windermere’s president OB Jacobi delivered great news for would-be home buyers in a recent article on Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS): “We might actually be starting to move very slowly back toward a more balanced market.” While the Puget Sound region is still seeing rising home prices, we’re also seeing an increase in inventory and record-breaking numbers that should make us feel optimistic.

Previously, many potential local home buyers were discouraged by inventory shortages. Not only did shortages lower their chances of finding their dream home, but they created more competition and higher prices. Now is a good time for those people to resume their search as the MLS report summarizing last month’s activity shows active listings are at the highest level since September 2015. Additionally, the Puget Sound area had a record-breaking July with over 8,500 pending sales.

Home buyers should also be aware that even with these improvements, the region still has less than two months of supply and surrounding regions are still facing limited inventory and multiple offer situations. Even so, it is important that we acknowledge positive shifts when they occur to keep us hopeful for the future and encourage us to take opportunities as they arise.

Read the full article from the NWMLS.


VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on August 18, 2016 at 9:51 am
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Veterans in Real Estate

Home Prices Soar Across Washington State

When you think about the Washington housing market, you probably focus on Seattle. After all, the Emerald City is home to several prominent companies that have brought home buyers to the city en masse, and two weeks ago it was recognized for officially having the hottest housing market in America. Previously people who wanted to live in Washington but weren’t too attached to city life could move to a number of suburbs just outside of Seattle. According to The Seattle Times, that may not be an option for long, as home prices are rapidly soaring across the entire state.

According to CoreLogic, Washington home prices in April rose 10.6 percent compared with a year ago. That’s the biggest jump of any state in the nation for the third month in a row – and it’s happening everywhere, from Bellingham to Spokane. Some attribute this spike to the steady flow of transplants from the Puget Sound region looking to escape traffic and higher costs.

The Seattle Times notes that many of these cities tend to have lower wages and fewer job opportunities, making it difficult for long-term residents and potential home buyers to cope. For example, Grays Harbor has an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, third worst in the state and nearly double that of King County. It is also among the cities experiencing soaring housing costs. Director of the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies Peter Orser says, “There’s no reason to believe that this is going to stop anytime soon.”

Read the full article here at The Seattle Times


VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on June 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Veterans in Real Estate

VAREP’s Third Annual Policy Conference

SharwoodLincolnEarlier this month I had the privilege of traveling to Washington, D.C. with the Veteran’s Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) for the third annual policy conference. The conference gave me a chance to speak to Congress on behalf of Veterans to convince them to improve the VA loan because, while it is the best loan available to a Veteran, it hasn’t changed much since it was established in 1944. Additionally, our organization has made it so that in the near future, loan officers will be required to ask potential borrowers about their military service. This is significant because, to date, over 60 percent of Veterans were never asked, which led to many of them not being aware of their VA benefits and/or taking advantage of the loan.

As a former United States Marine and a Veteran of Foreign Wars, I have a deeply personal connection to the VAREP. I have the honor of being the president of The VAREP Seattle chapter, so I am incredibly proud of these accomplishments and the progress we’ve made in empowering Veterans to live their best lives upon returning home from service. For those of you who are less familiar with the organization, here’s some insight into what we do.

VAREP is a 501-C3 non-profit and a national organization that seeks to empower industry professionals such as realtors, lenders, title/escrow, etc., with the knowledge to serve and help Veterans while guiding them through the home buying process. This is important because as more servicemen and women come home, we need to recognize that one of the best ways to welcome them back is by making sure they receive the benefits that they earned through their valiant service to our country. Those benefits include VA loans, which enable Veterans who haven’t had the advantage of building credit or savings to more easily purchase a home. They are one of many ways VAREP makes a huge difference in the lives of Veterans.

If you’re interested in learning more about VAREP or the VA home loan, contact me or visit our website.

SharwoodVAREP

Posted on June 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Veterans in Real Estate

We’re In “Silicon Seattle” Now

In a recently published article by the Wall Street Journal, we were labeled "Silicon Seattle" due to our booming technology scene, and of course, high home prices that are making it difficult for home buyers to purchase their dream home.

Our record high home prices combined with record low inventory and frequent bidding wars have turned the Seattle area into the new San Francisco, according to the online article. "Seattle still lags behind San Francisco, where the median home value is $781,600, but buyers in both cities—many in the tech industry—are competing for a limited pool of properties."

For comparison, home-sale prices in the metro Seattle area rose 9.5% from 2014 to 2015, putting the median home value at $385,300, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s below the limit for government-backed loans for the area, which currently is $540,500. But Seattle buyers who want a dream home in a desirable neighborhood will probably need a jumbo mortgage.

Make sure you read the full article from the Wall Street Journal for more information on how a jumbo mortgage, creative bargaining, and even a pre-inspection can help you land your dream home.


VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on April 28, 2016 at 4:34 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Local News, Veterans in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Kirkland And Bellevue Named Most Livable Cities in US

 

The Fiscal Times recently released their list of the top 25 "most livable" cities in the U.S. and Washington State was well represented with three cities making this list! Olympia came in at No. 20 while Kirkland and Bellevue came in at No. 25 and No. 2, respectively.

With a strong economy and a housing market beginning to balance out, it is so exciting to see our Eastside cities making national news! We all know how fun the cities are and it's great to see others agree.

Here's why Kirkland made the cut: On the coast of Lake Washington, Kirkland offers a host of enviable features from a charming downtown to an abundance of trails and a dynamic economy. Residents enjoy pools, community centers, nearby wineries and fine restaurants.

According to The Fiscal Times, Bellevue ranked high on this list due to boasting some of the best schools in the country along with Bellevue College and City University of Seattle. The city offers a small-town environment but many entertainment options and events, such as the annual Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair. It often hosts technology companies which has helped develop its downtown.

Make sure you read the full list from The Fiscal Times!


VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on February 29, 2016 at 1:31 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Home Selling, Local News | Tagged , , , ,

Seattle’s Population Density Makes Top 10 List

For the first time ever, Seattle is among the top 10 most densely populated big cities.

With our high increase in population from those fleeing Silicon Valley and the number of technology jobs calling many to Seattle, density in our area seems to be an unavoidable fact of life according to Gene Balk with The Seattle Times.

Balk's article quotes that we had 7,962 people per square mile in 2014 pushing us ahead of Baltimore to the No. 10 spot on the list of the 50 most populous cities in the country. That's an increase of nearly 10 percent since the 2010 Census. If this rate continues, we could bypass Los Angeles (No. 9) within five years.

Urbanites see density as a relatively positive thing while suburbanites struggle with the idea of anything good coming from an increase in population density. However, density doesn't mean every place has to look like downtown Seattle. Capitol Hill is arguably one of the more sought-after neighborhoods and as one of the densest parts of Seattle, they "pack in about 55,000 people per square mile."

Balk finishes his article with the message that no matter what, newcomers will continue coming to Seattle. With our strong economy and high quality of life, our region is an incredible place to be. We will have to accommodate the increasing density to keep the area remotely affordable.

For more information, read the full article from The Seattle Times.

VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on February 11, 2016 at 10:41 am
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Why is the Fed Likely to Raise Interest Rates Next Month?

It looks like the improving job market is having a big impact on what the Fed is planning on doing with interest rates next month. But the latest report isn't the only thing helping with this decision.
 
According to Time Magazine, after a few lackluster months, payrolls and wages jumped in October. That's one less reason for them to leave interest rates near zero.
 
“Last Friday’s national jobs report triggered an instant recalculation of the odds of a December interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve,” notes USAA’s Wasif Latif. “Where it had been roughly 70-30 against an increase, now it’s about 70-30 in favor of one.”
 
However, it isn't just this one jobs report that's causing this change. The two main focuses of the Fed's mandate are the current state of employment and inflation.
 

Jobs

Thanks to the October surprise, which included a 2.5% year-over-year jump in hourly earnings, conventional wisdom has shifted.

The number of long-term unemployed – those without a job for 27 weeks or longer – has been declining dramatically since the recession and continues to make up a smaller percentage of the total unemployed. Yet there are still more long-term unemployed than there were eight years ago before the recession.
 
You see this dynamic across a number of jobs metrics. The so-called quits rate has stalled out, and still rests below pre-recession levels. (If more people leave their job, it shows that they think they can get a better one.) The same is true with the U-6 unemployment rate, a broader gauge of unemployed that includes those who are working part-time when they want full-time hours. The U-6 rate now rests at 9.8%, compared to 8.4% in October 2007. And a smaller percentage of those in their prime-working years (25 to 54) are in the workforce now.
 

Inflation

Core inflation – which strips out volatile food and energy movements – sits at 1.9% now, and has sat below the Fed’s 2% target since February 2013.
 
While hourly earnings jumped in October, after healthy showings in August and September, the rate of growth is still well below pre-recession levels. The economic cost index shows a similar trend. This metric – which looks at the cost of employee benefits in addition to wages – grew 2.1% in the third quarter of 2015. Despite a spike in the first three months of the year, the ECI hasn’t risen above 3% since the middle of 2008.
 

So, Why Raise Interest Rates Next Month?

It might just be time. According to Time Money, "the Fed may raise interest rates in December because it just feels weird keeping the rate at zero for so long, and the economy has recovered enough to support a slight uptick."

Read more from the original article on Time Money.

Posted on November 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying

Home Affordability Improves to Two-Year Low

RealtyTrac, the nation's leading source for comprehensive housing data, and Clear Capital, the leading provider of commercial and residential real estate valuations, data and analytics, and more, yesterday released a joint report showing that buying a home was at the most affordable level in two years in the first quarter of 2015 despite the average U.S. home price increasing at more than twice the pace of the average weekly wage nationwide over the past year.

RealtyTrac analyzed recently released average weekly wage data from the first quarter of 2015 and average prices for single family homes and condos derived from publicly recorded sales deed data. Clear Capital analyzed data from its Home Data Index to determine counties at highest risk and lowest risk based on affordability and potential for price growth. The results were very positive for those who are still looking for a sign to get into the housing market right now.

"Affordability is a key metric in determining the overall health of a housing market as it largely represents the barrier to entry for first time homebuyers. First time buyers represent the 'fuel' for which overall market growth is determined due to the fact that this demand segment starts a chain reaction that allows existing home owners to sell and move-up thereby churning the housing market and price growth," said Alex Villacorta, Ph.D., vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital.

Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner shared his insight on these changes and what they mean for some our local market. "There is no question that when interest rates start to rise it will impact home sales, but I expect wage growth to offset any pronounced negative effects in the Seattle market," said Gardner. "That being said, over the next year, I predict interest rates will rise to 5 percent, which in conjunction with the strong growth in home prices, could make affordability an even bigger issue than it already is, especially for first time buyers."

For more information, read the full article here.

VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on October 1, 2015 at 2:13 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Housing Market Statistics | Tagged , , , , , ,

Average US Rate on 30-Year Mortgage Drops

According to The Seattle Times, the average long-term U.S. mortgage rates declined this week following the Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates at record lows–for now.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.86 percent from 3.91 percent the previous week. The rate on a 15-year mortgage fell to 3.08 percent, being 3.11 percent the week before.

Rates have stayed below 4 percent for nine straight weeks. This is great news for anyone who is thinking about making their next home purchase. The window for low rates has been extending but won't last forever, so if you're ready to make the jump, now is the time.

The Seattle Times continued to report that "Fed policy makers announced last Thursday they had decided to keep a key short-term interest rate close to zero in the face of threats from a weak global economy, persistently low inflation and unstable financial markets.

Rates may still creep higher before the end of the year and into next year, so if you're ready to make a decision soon, give me a call!

Read more from The Seattle Times.

VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 3:59 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Housing Market Statistics | Tagged , , , , ,

Home Construction Dipped, But Does It Matter?

It seems that home starts might be dropping a bit, but there are still plenty of reasons builders and potential home-buyers should keep their heads up.

According to statistics on new residential construction released on Thursday by the Commerce Department, a slowdown in housing starts after a fast-paced 2015 has been confirmed.

Realtor.com has reported starts on single-family homes—nearly two-thirds of those on the market—dropped to 739,000, while multifamily units like apartments and condominiums dropped to 387,000.

The bright side: The pace of starts is still nothing to sneeze at. Year over year, it’s actually up 17%, said Realtor.com's chief economist, Jonathan Smoke. And single-family starts are up 15%. Meanwhile, Smoke cautioned against placing too much of an emphasis on the new numbers.

Both home prices and rents are rising at well above normal levels, Smoke added, “and that market signal is exactly what builders and developers need to find confidence to start new construction again.”

In fact, builders are getting more confident all the time. The National Association of Home Builders reported on Wednesday that its confidence index rose in September to 62, the highest level since the precrash era in November 2005.

Take that to heart, home-buying hopefuls, and enjoy this tidbit of happy data: New applications for permits were up 3.5%, to 1.17 million, and the rise was both for multi- and single-family construction. More new homes are, in fact, on the horizon.

Read the full story on Realtor.com.

VA Loan

Are you ready to buy a home and qualify for the VA loan? Let me help you out! As a local real estate broker in Bellevue, WA and a Veteran of foreign wars, I am committed to help you find the home you deserve through the VA loan.

Posted on September 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm
Steve Harwood | Category: Home Buying, Housing Market Statistics, Veterans in Real Estate | Tagged , , , , ,