Happy almost spring! As far as I’m concerned, it can’t come soon enough! In this post, I thought I would talk a little about mortgage interest rates and how, as rates rise, affordability decreases. Rates for a 30 year fixed mortgage are currently hovering around 4.32%. In the first quarter of 2013, the same 30 year fixed rate averaged 3.5%. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, rates are projected to be about 5.2% by next spring. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac forecasts are also in that range at 5.0% and 5.3%, respectively. If you are thinking about making a move and can’t decide whether to do it this year or next, let’s look at an example of house payments with the different rates.
A $400,000 loan last year at 3.5% would have equaled a monthly principle and interest payment of $1,796. That same $400K loan right now would be $188 more per month at $1,984. A year from now, if the projections hold, that same payment at 5.2% will be $2,196 per month, which is $212 per month more than right now. In other words, it will cost you $2,544 more per year if you wait until next year, and that equals $76,320 over the life of the loan, if you hold it the full 30 years. And to put icing on the cake, the price of homes between now and the spring of 2015 are projected to increase 3.8%-5.6% as well, thus further decreasing your purchasing power.
First and foremost, it is most important to make a move when the timing is right for you and your family. But if the timing isn’t as critical, you may want to consider making that move sooner than later if you will be financing the purchase with a mortgage.
I hope everyone enjoyed our beautiful Pacific Northwest summer! While I've been able to enjoy some of it myself, I've also stayed very busy as the housing market continued to be strong over these past two months. I thought it might be a good time for a market update so below you will find a few data charts for King and Snohomish Counties combined. These charts are a good representation of what's going on in north King and south Snohomish Counties including cities like Lake Forest Park, Kenmore, Shoreline, Bothell, Brier, Mountlake Terrace, and Edmonds.
The inventory of active homes for sale is finally higher than at any point last spring or summer. However, it is still historically low at only 2.2 "months of inventory" which means it technically remains a seller's market. New listings and closed sales fell off a bit compared with July, but pending sales (homes placed under contract) did increase slightly from last month.
This graph shows the pop up in months of inventory to back over 2 months. Will it stay there or fall back down like it did last year going into the fall months?
Sold prices have appreciated very slightly from July to an Average of $466,000. This is up 12.8% compared to last August. More interesting is that the average Active asking price is coming down into more reasonable territory after a somewhat irrational exuberance by some sellers in the spring.
The average dollar per square foot value held basically flat since last month at $210/sqft.
The average selling price as a percentage of the original listing price is holding steady at 99%. There are still many multiple offer situations but that trend is cooling a bit.
The average consecutive days on market remains steady as well at 34 days.
To conclude, the market is still very strong, although it did level off in the late summer. The early fall months typically bring a new crop of buyers and sellers out who want to make a move before the holidays and the end of the year. It'll be interesting to see if that trend holds true once more. Stay tuned!
Is the housing market in a state of rational exuberance? Since the beginning of this year, activity, sentiment, and even prices, have taken a turn for the better. And it does seem that a solid case can be made that the housing market finally bottomed in late 2011 into the beginning of 2012. BUT, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and let’s not get too excited that prices are going to skyrocket and go up at a bubble inducing 10% per year again. However, if you look at the past 2 months in King County, “asking” prices are indeed skyrocketing up while sales prices have only increased a modest amount. Take a look at this chart for average For Sale and Sold prices in King County over the past 15 months:
The average listed price (the green line) is currently $693,000. That is up 5.5% over last month alone and up 19.5% from May 2011! The red line is the average sold price and you can see that it has bumped up a bit since the beginning of the year, but it is only up $1,000 from April and is still actually down nearly 2% from last May. Here’s the same chart over the past 9 years:
To me, that recent blip in asking prices seems a bit irrationally exuberant to me, given what we’ve been through. However, if you dive a little more deeply into the numbers, inventory numbers are very low under $500k and staying low up to the $1million mark. So it looks like a good part of this widening of the gap between bid and ask is that the lower priced and more affordable homes are just selling quick and often. Higher priced homes are staying on the market longer and therefore the average price of “for sale” homes is simply a higher average price. If you’ve been looking to buy a home lately, you’ll know that inventory is very tight, to nonexistent, under $500k and when something does come on the market, especially in desirable neighborhoods, it’ll often be met with a bidding war.
It is essentially a sellers market in the Seattle area right now, especially in the lower price ranges. However, that does not mean you can ask 20% more for your home than you could have last year, it just means that you can lean toward the top end of your price range rather than have to settle at the bottom of the range to undercut your nearest competition like we’ve had to do the past few years. Right now, you may not have any competition in your neighborhood because it has all sold.
The moral of the story is that sellers can be rationally exuberant about selling right now, but just don’t be too irrationally exuberant when it comes to pricing your home. The same laws apply: if you price it fair, present it right, and your home is in top condition, you will sell quickly.
The latest NW Multiple Listing Service press release titled ‘Washington Homebuyers Realizing “Market may have Reached Bottom of Cycle”‘ suggests that confidence in a market bottom is increasing across the Puget Sound. Very low inventory and very low interest rates contributed toward a huge pending sale increase in February. For example, the release states: “Within King County, pending sales were particularly robust in the Lake Forest Park/Kenmore neighborhoods (up 73 percent), Kent (up 61 percent), Burien/Normandy Park (up 58 percent) and central Seattle (up 56 percent). The northeast portion of Snohomish County also experienced strong sales (up 63 percent from a year ago).” You can read the full article here.
So far, the theme of 2012 is that there is definitely a lack of inventory. The housing market has been extremely busy in the low to median price ranges, but the upper middle to higher price ranges are starting to pick up steam too. The fact is, many buyers literally can’t find good homes to buy! Low prices and extremely low interest rates have pulled a lot of buyers off the fence in the first two months of the year. More homes will come on the market as we get into spring but that should be met with more buyers as well. So, it is reasonable to expect brisk activity for at least the next several months.
Since pictures can often tell a better story than words, take a look at this “heat map” for King and Snohomish Counties. It shows how most every MLS area has gone from a “balanced market” with 3-6 months of inventory in February 2011 to a “seller’s advantage” with less than 3 months of inventory as of the end of February 2012. Ignore most of the national news when it comes to housing because real estate truly is local. If you’re thinking about making a move, Call a Realtor with experience who knows your neighborhood to get specific professional advice for your situation.
When we think of selling a home, the services a REALTOR® can provide usually seem worth the cost of their
commission, but what about as a buyer? What can a REALTOR® do for you as a home buyer, and is the commission
worth the services they can provide? Remember, even though the commission is usually paid by the seller, hiring a REALTOR® as a buyer’s agent means your interests will be represented and protected.
Here are five great reasons you should hire a REALTOR® when you are in the market for a new home!
- REALTORS® Can Help You Determine Your Budget—With a few simple pieces of information, a REALTOR® can help you pre-determine what kind of budget you may be looking at for your new home, and can match you with potential lenders that are right for you.
- REALTORS® Have Access To Resources You Don’t—While a lot of real estate listings are available online, there are still
resources and listings that are only available through a REALTOR®. If you are looking for something very specific, having their insider knowledge may be crucial to finding that perfect home.
- REALTORS® Can Read Between The Lines Of Listings—There are a lot of catchy phrases that often appear in home listings, and your agent can tell you what they really mean.
- REALTORS® Increase Your Negotiating Power—A REALTOR® can not only increase your ability to negotiate things like price, they can also give you advice on things like contingency contracts and required paperwork.
- A REALTOR® Can Help You Navigate Through The Closing Process—The closing process can be a complicated process, and a REALTOR® can make sure all the details are addressed and that you are making a good financial investment.
Purchasing a home is a huge financial investment, and having a professional REALTOR® looking after your interests through the process is very important.