British chaos means interest rates will stay low for longer

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Savers will suffer longer with zero returns on their accounts. Home buyers, companies and governments will keep on borrowing cheaply. And questions will grow further about whether central banks are creating bubbles in financial markets by keeping interest rates near or below zero.

The British vote to leave the European Union shook up markets and lowered growth forecasts for Britain and, to a lesser degree, the other 27 members of the European Union. Economists say that means central banks are likely to have to keep in place for even longer their massive, extraordinary stimulus efforts that have helped keep the global economy afloat in the wake of the 2008-9 financial crisis. Some central banks might even have to unveil new stimulus or rate cuts.


Posted on June 30, 2016 at 7:15 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Homeownership Trends, Mortgages, Selling |

Seattle housing: Is it a bubble?

Seattle area single-family home prices in March were up 10.8 percent from a year ago, behind only Portland, where prices have shot up 12.3 percent, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller data. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Seattle area single-family home prices in March were up 10.8 percent from a year ago, behind only Portland, where prices have shot up 12.3 percent, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller data. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times)

Single-family house values in Seattle shot up 10.8 percent year-over-year in March, the second highest in the nation after Portland, according to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller index.

It’s a new record, surpassing the previous peak in the summer of 2007 — and we saw how that turned out. Nationally, the increase was 5.2 percent. Here, it’s especially good news for homeowners and bad for buyers.

Perhaps, but probably not.

The old bubble was a nationwide phenomenon, stoked by subprime mortgages, Wall Street hustles, high leverage, and compromised regulators. While the latter two always bear watching, the same dangerous confluence of factors from 2007 don’t apply to today. The Case-Shiller 20-city index remains below its 2007 levels.

Instead, the biggest price increases are tied to low supply, high demand and strong economies in certain very desirable cities, such as Seattle, Portland and Denver. Elsewhere, it is a natural consequence of the recovery.

Black swans do appear. So, for example, an economic meltdown in China, a trade war under President [real-estate developer], earthquake or volcano eruption could ruin your whole day. The more likely outcome is a slow moderation caused by higher interest rates, deflation of a tech bubble, slowed jobs growth or, in some places, new inventory of housing coming online.

Even then, if San Francisco is an example, prices will soon begin marching up again.

The issue of high prices doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There’s not a linear connection between housing costs and the very diverse problems lumped under the sometimes-misleading term homelessness. But economists have found that less affordable housing is a factor behind rising inequality.

House prices have been disconnected from median incomes since the early 2000s. So the issue is not merely housing affordability but stagnant or falling incomes. And bubble pops only make this worse.

This article originally appeared on The Seattle Times website.


Posted on June 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Homeownership Trends, Local Market Update, Selling |

Multigenerational homes are back in style, with more breathing room

Bob and Myrna Conrad, both 65, share a house with their son Wade, 41, his wife, Dana, 42, and their grandson Bryce, 21. Isn’t it crowded? Don’t they cramp one another’s style? Actually, no.

“We just set some ground rules, and it’s been working great,” said Wade Conrad, who has been living with his extended family since late 2013 in a NextGen multigenerational home, built by Lennar in Spanaway.

The number of Americans living in multigenerational households — defined, generally, as homes with more than one adult generation — rose to 56.8 million in 2012, about 18 percent of the total population, from 46.6 million, or 15.5 percent of the population, in 2007, according to Pew Research. By comparison, an estimated 28 million, or 12 percent, lived in such households in 1980.

“People lost jobs, and with tighter household budgets, a lot of homes consolidated,” said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Seattle-based housing website Zillow. “We’re seeing more children living with their parents, and elderly parents moving in with their adult children.”

Most multigenerational families live in ordinary houses, but the homebuilding industry is responding quickly to this shifting demand by creating homes specifically for such families.

The Lennar homes don’t offer just a spare bedroom suite or a “granny hut” that sits separately on the property or a room above a garage. The NextGen designs provide a separate entranceway, bedroom, living space, bathroom, kitchenette, laundry facilities and, in some cases, even separate temperature controls and separate garages with lockable entrances to the main house.

Family members can live under the same roof and not see one another for days if they so choose.

Wade Conrad acknowledged he was initially skeptical when his father suggested they buy a home together. Conrad, along with his wife and two children, had twice moved back home with his parents during job transitions — the most recent lasting a year in 2007 — and it did not go well, he said.

Back then, they butted heads over everything: food, parenting decisions, furniture choices and even TV programs. All these irritating memories came rushing back as Conrad pondered his father’s suggestion.

But once he saw the NextGen home, he was sold. Conrad moved his family from their crowded 1,000-square-foot town home into the 5,000-square-foot NextGen home.

They set some rules: No TV in the large common area, food is bought separately, all other expenses are split down the middle.

For the grandparents, who had been living in St. Louis, the spacious new home was an ideal way to reconnect with family. “It ended up being the best decision we could ever envision,” the elder Conrad said. “And my son can watch all the ‘Walking Dead’ episodes he wants.”

So what’s driving this trend?

The 2008 recession, high student-loan debt, rising rents and a tough job market for millennials caused many people ages 18 to 34 to delay leaving home, said Alex Barron, founder of the Housing Research Center. And then there are boomerang children, who return to their parents’ home because of a job loss, divorce or other reason.

On the flip side, baby boomers are living longer than previous generations. Many are planning ahead in hopes they can devote more attention to their children and grandchildren — and spend little, if any, time in a nursing home. Multigenerational living is “growing in popularity,” said Robert Curran, a managing director at Fitch Ratings. With roughly 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day for the next 17 years, interest in such arrangements is unlikely to wane anytime soon.

 

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times. To read more, click the link.


Posted on April 24, 2016 at 7:42 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Uncategorized |

6 Deck Renovations That Really Pay Off—and 1 That Doesn’t

nice deck

Charles Schmidt/iStock

 

If there’s one thing that unites this great country—especially once the weather starts getting warmer and barbecue season gets ever so tantalizingly closer—it is our passionate, even obsessive love for our outdoor decks. Truth be told, just about all of us desire a perch from which to survey our backyard (or rooftop) kingdom, lazily hang out, or busily entertain.

One story behind the origin of decks is that they were inspired by boat decking. But unlike new yawls or yachts—which will depreciate in value by an average of 24% in just three years—a brand-new wooden deck addition to your home will net you a 75% return on investment when you decide to sell, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report.

That’s why in honor of summer’s sweet approach, we take a look at the ROI for decks in our latest installment of Renovations That Really Pay Off. Whether you are building one from scratch or just want to make the one you have bigger and better, here’s how to get your deck on this summer in ways that will pay off awesomely down the road.

Gratis guidance

Before you pick up a hammer, review the wildly useful free deck guide from the American Wood Council. Did we mention it’s free? Here you’ll find safe construction specs so you can get your rim joists and ledger boards just so. This should also be when you decide on deck size—a 200-square-foot deck will run you about $4,836—keeping in mind an addition could jack up your property taxes and insurance. Getting those hard numbers will help you figure out your overall budget (handy deck cost calculator here).

Getting started

The average contractor charges $35 per square foot to build a deck, but where the cost can vary enormously is in the material. Hollow-core PVC can cost as little as $7.50 per square foot, cedar even less at $3.50—while the Brazilian hardwood ipe goes for a nosebleed-inducing $22 or more  (compare prices here).

A great way to save money? “Design your deck for standard lengths of lumber: 6-, 8-, 10-, or 12-foot boards,” says Chris Peterson, author of “Deck Ideas You Can Use.” This will eliminate any wasted wood from cutoffs. Peterson also suggests buying secondhand. “Organizations like Habitat for Humanity sell reclaimed wood from demos, as do some local salvage shops.” In addition to possibly scoring unique hardwoods, “the savings can be significant.”

Protect your investment

Your deck is constantly exposed to sun, rain, snow, and the occasional melted Creamsicle. Peterson advises “waterproofing wood decks regularly to ensure longevity … even if you’re letting the cedar or redwood age naturally. Water can cause direct damage in the form of rot and indirect damage like mold.”

Harry Adler of Adler’s Design Center & Hardware in Providence, RI, recommends protecting vulnerable surfaces with a product such as C2 Guard, a nontoxic waterproofer designed for use on unsealed wood and concrete surfaces.

Beyond wood

Pure, quality wood is the gold standard for decks. But there are other options, according to Bill Leys, aka The Deck Expert.

“Wood decks need yearly maintenance, and those costs can rapidly add up over the 20 years they’re expected to last,” Leys says.

James Brueton of EnviroBuild recommends using a quality wood composite, “which initially has a slightly higher cost. But without the need to treat the deck every year, you’re soon saving money over traditional wood.”

TimberTech is the only premium wood composite decking that is capped with a protective polymer on all four sides. Better yet, all TimberTech decking comes with a 25-year limited residential warranty.

Eye on entertaining

Outdoor entertaining should be the key focus of any deck design, Brueton says.

“Especially when reselling your home, any new buyer will immediately see the appeal of barbecue days and summer nights” on a deck, he says. Since all these revelers will need a place to sit, one easy way to add that is a built-in bench made out of the same wood as the deck itself. It generally offers a strong ROI.

This look is not only streamlined but also relatively budget-friendly, costing $500 to $1,500, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a national home improvement franchise. Best of all, such seats will withstand the elements as well as the flooring underneath.

That said, don’t throw style and comfort under the bus. Make sure to add cushions and choose at least one statement piece of furniture with a “pop of color to reflect your personality and design taste,” suggests Sassano. Like this bright yellow chair for $140.

Light the way

If you plan to hang out on your deck well after sunset, fireflies aren’t going to cut it as a light source. Modernize—a website that empowers homeowners to get home improvement projects done—suggests simple ground lights ($28 each) to stringing fairy lights (starting at $15) to solar lights.

Don’t play with fire

Built-in or portable fire pits are warm, cozy, and “the source of deck fires. Whether embers blow out of the pit or the heat from the pit ignites the wood deck, the result is often tragic, with homes burned to the ground,” says Leys. Er, not such a great ROI. Place your fire pit in the backyard far from anything flammable. And to safely heat things up on your deck, buy a patio warmer ($150 to $400) says Sassano.

—————-

This article originally appeared on Realtor.com


Posted on April 10, 2016 at 11:18 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Home Maintenance, Homeownership Trends |

Scarce listings drive King County home prices to new highs

 

The median price of single-family homes sold in King County hit a new all-time high last month — $514,975 — amid record-low inventory, heralding even more intense bidding wars ahead in the typically busy spring home-buying season.

Ominously, the more affordable Snohomish and Pierce counties also face a historically low inventory level, according to a Seattle Times analysis of data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

 

 

 

One widely-watched gauge of supply — the ratio of active listings to pending sales — hit its lowest level since at least 2003 in all three counties in February, according to the Times’ analysis. King and Snohomish counties each had less than a month’s supply, while Pierce had just over a month’s supply.

The historic shortage of homes for sale, combined with a recent drop in interest rates, has caused the dramatic run-up in prices, experts say. In February, King County had 1,923 homes listed for sale, the MLS reported, but a greater number of pending sales that hadn’t yet closed: 2,299.

“We cannot continue to sell more homes than we list,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate. “When are we going to start seeing some listings? That scares me more than anything else.”

Single-family home prices in the city of Seattle jumped 24 percent over the year to a median $644,950. Despite an older housing stock, Seattle is ground-zero for the region’s job growth.

Expedia and Weyerhaeuser are moving their suburban headquarters to Seattle. Amazon.com recently opened its new high-rise campus in South Lake Union. And Silicon Valley titans like Facebook and Apple have established satellite offices here.

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times. To read more, click here.


Posted on March 24, 2016 at 3:51 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Uncategorized |

Seattle metro-area home prices up nearly 10 percent in a year

Seattle-area home prices surged in December, posting the fourth-highest annual gain among 20 metros, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index released Tuesday.

The average price of existing single-family homes sold in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties climbed 9.9 percent over the year in December, its fastest pace in 2015. In the 20-city index, Seattle trailed only Portland (11.4 percent), San Francisco (10.3) and Denver (10.2) in annual price increases.

Nationally, prices in the 20-city index climbed 0.8 percent over the month in December, slowing a bit from a 1 percent increase in November. The index recorded a 5.7 percent annual gain.

Home prices in all but one city are rising faster than inflation, said David Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee. Some might take that as a sign of trouble, especially given the stock market’s turmoil this year and the current age of this economic expansion.

“The recovery is 6 years old, but recoveries do not typically die of old age,” Blitzer said in a statement.

Higher home prices are encouraging builders: “Housing construction, like much of the economy, got off to a slow start in 2009-2010 and is only now beginning to show some serious strength,” he said.

Average prices in the Seattle metro area in December were less than 3 percent below the peak set in summer 2007, according to Case-Shiller data. The 20-city index is still about 12 percent off its 2006 peak.

Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Seattle-based Zillow, the real-estate website, said in a statement that the nation’s housing market faces a few challenges this spring: Low housing inventory is a factor in nearly every market now. Low oil prices are a drag on job growth in the Dakotas, Alaska and Texas. And the stronger U.S. dollar will affect demand from foreign buyers, while keeping mortgage-interest rates low.

This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times.


Posted on March 3, 2016 at 9:29 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Homeownership Trends, Local Market Update, Selling |

Lack of inventory “a game changer” for home buyers

Depleted inventory is contributing to "overwhelming" traffic at open houses, shifts in strategies for both buyers and sellers, and escalating prices, according to officials with the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Dick Beeson, a former chairman of the MLS board, said the lack of inventory in almost every county is, "without question, a 2016 game changer." He described traffic at open houses as sometimes simply overwhelming. "There haven't been any battle royals on the premises, but it could happen any day now," quipped Beeson, the principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma.

The latest figures show a drop of nearly 28 percent in the number of active listings in the MLS database compared to a year ago. Members added 6,670 new listings during the month across 23 counties in the MLS service area. That's down nearly 4.6 percent from twelve months ago. At month end, members reported 12,357 active listings, which compares to 17,082 at the end of January 2015.

Measured another way, there is just under 2.5 months of inventory which compares to 3.8 months the MLS reported for January 2015. Supply was especially tight in King County, at 1.4 months of inventory, and Snohomish County, with just under 1.6 months.

Condo inventory (excluding single family homes) fell sharply, from 1,793 active listings a year ago to last month's total of 1,145 at month end, a plunge of 36 percent. In King County, the inventory of condos dropped 42 percent. 

For the area overall, there is just 1.7 months of condo inventory, with Snohomish County reporting the tightest supply (1.1 months) followed by King County (1.2 months).  

The inventory shortage took a toll on last month's sales. The number of pending sales (mutually accepted offers) fell about 5.3 percent area-wide during January, although half the counties in the report tallied increases compared to a year ago. The 5.3 percent drop marked the first negative change in year-over-year comparisons since April 2014.

Member brokers reported 7,253 pending sales last month, down from 7,658 for the same month a year ago. Despite January's downturn, industry leaders remain upbeat.

"Only three other Januarys since 2000 had more homes go under contract in the four-county region area of King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties," noted Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. "This, in the face of stock market scares, shows the viability of real estate as the better investment for both homeowners and investors," he suggested.

Commenting on last month's activity in King County, MLS director Joe Deasy said sales are down nearly 15 percent compared to last January because inventory is down more than 31 percent. "Demand is still really strong based on multiple offers and high-volume open house traffic," added Deasy, the co-general manager of Windermere Real Estate/East.

Other industry leaders agreed. "We're selling virtually all new listings, many with multiple offers in all the market areas of King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties in the price range where 90 percent of the sales activity is happening," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott.

Scott also said his analysis of the number of homes selling in the first 30 days is double what a normal, healthy market would look like.

"The Greater Seattle area housing market remains out of equilibrium," stated OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. He said sales will continue to suffer at the current pace of transactions without adding new inventory. "At the same time, prices will continue to appreciate and could outperform our expectations if inventory levels and mortgage rates remain at current levels."

MLS director Frank Wilson said the Kitsap County market is "taking off again right out of the gate," adding, "We are seeing an increase in open house activity as well as more multiple offer situations."

Wilson said Kitsap County, where there is only 2.4 months of inventory, is "deep into a seller's market." He expects the market will become more unbalanced throughout the first half of 2016. "First-time home buyers are probably being hit the hardest in this type of market," observed Wilson, the branch managing broker at John L. Scott's Poulsbo office. In general, he said financial resources are thin for this segment, their confidence is low, and the types of loans they use are often not as favorable.

A strong fourth quarter in 2015 is reflected in January's closed sales of single family homes and condos (combined), which rose 11.6 percent from a year ago. Members reported 4,985 completed transactions; a year ago, they tallied 4,467 closings. The year-over-year median price on these sales increased 7.5 percent, rising from $279,000 to $300,000. Ten counties reported double-digit gains.

Single family home prices (excluding condos) jumped 7.6 percent from a year ago for the area overall. For the four-county Puget Sound region, the median price for a single family home rose 12 percent, from $325,000 a year ago to last month's figure of $363,975. Snohomish County reported the largest increase at 16.6 percent. A comparison of prices by county shows King County tops the chart with a median sales price of $490,970, up 11.2 percent from a year ago.

Condo prices spiked 16.3 percent from a year ago, rising from $219,900 to $255,750.

Rapidly rising prices and low inventory are worrisome, according to some brokers. 

"A true conundrum exists," said George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties. "For sellers there is no better time in history, but the concern we hear is there's no place to move." He said since most sellers are looking to move up to larger homes, the ripple effect is "more like a tidal wave as it rolls back to the first-time buyers in the market who are quickly getting priced out of the possibility of purchasing a home."

Moorhead, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors, reported doing a recent search of homes for sale in Bellevue with asking prices between $500,000 and $800,000. That search yielded only about a dozen properties in the database, a result he described as "staggering" and well below the norm.

Despite such challenges and complaints by buyers, Moorhead said buyers are still presenting offers that are very aggressive.

The increasingly competitive market is prompting hesitation among some would-be sellers, reported Bobbie Chipman, principal managing broker at John L. Scott in Puyallup. She said potential sellers are expressing reluctance to list their existing home prior to finding a home to move into due to limited inventory.

"A strong strategy is for sellers to list their home, sell and close, and move into temporary housing," suggested Chipman, one of the MLS directors. "This approach allows offers to be written that are not conditioned upon their sale closing, and it strengthens their position as a buyer," she explained.

Echoing the notion of being flexible, Frank Wilson said a seller's decision to accept an offer does not come down to sales price alone. "Type of loan, lender, closing time, amount of earnest money, and other concessions like closing costs and offer price all play into a seller's decision," he stated. "On top of that, a seller can choose any offer for any reason, even a lower price offer if other variables are favorable. Escalation clauses, back-up offers and finding funds or a bridge loan are all tools that buyers will need to employ to be successful in today's market."

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.

This was a news release from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.


Posted on February 18, 2016 at 7:18 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Homeownership Trends, Local Market Update, Selling |

King County Had Almost Half of 2015’s 30 Most Competitive Neighborhoods in America

 

We probably don’t need to tell you that 2015 was a crazy year in real estate, especially in our city. Bidding wars and listings lasting mere days on the market is something we’ve all grown accustomed to. But it turns out we’re not alone. Redfin recently came out with a list of the 30 most competitive neighborhoods from all across the U.S.. What’s the most mind blowing thing about this list? Of the 30 neighborhoods listed, 13 of them are in King County.

Top30Competitive-Neighborhoods-Table2

Seattle neighborhoods that made it onto this list are Roosevelt (4th), Phinney Ridge (9th), Stevens (11th), Greenwood (12th), Victory Heights (16th),Green Lake (17th), Madrona (20th), West Woodland (22nd). I mean, we all knew it was stormy out there, but this felt like a snow storm in Waikiki. It’s hard to say exactly what 2016 has in store, but our very own Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, has a few ideas (such as expecting that housing in Seattle will continue to appreciate in value, but at a slightly lower rate than 2015).

Read more on Seattle Curbed.

This article originally published on Windermere Seattle's blog.


Posted on February 11, 2016 at 7:59 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Homeownership Trends, Selling |

2016 Housing Forecast: “Very Strong” for Sellers

2016-forecast-header

According to a recent REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey Report, 2016 is projected to be a very strong market for local area sellers.

With inventory at historic lows, prices at or near record highs, and multiple offers the norm, it’s an exceptional time to get top dollar for your home.

Washington is one of only three states in the country projecting a “very strong” market for single family home sales.

single-family-forecast

This information was originally posted on Windermere Eastside's blog. Read more here!


Posted on January 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Local Market Update, Selling |

Buyers pay cash in a third of Seattle home sales

This story originally appeared on King5.com

The number of home-buyers paying cash rose to more than 31 percent of transactions, according to RealtyTrac, which released data for November 2015 in Seattle.

Also in December, the median sale price rose to $508,000 — that's 15 percent higher than a year earlier.

"It's a downer," said Tony Aguilar, who was touring open houses in Ballard on Saturday with his girlfriend. "We've come into a few places, thinking about putting in an offer. We found others are already putting in a cash offer. That makes it way more competitive for us."

"I think it's really frustrating for normal people who want to get financing," said Kim O. Dales, a real estate agent showing a $1.8 million home in Laurelhurst. Dales and other agents say buyers are paying cash across the price spectrum.

Cash buyers are sometimes builders or corporate buyers, but they're also wealthy individuals from the Bay Area, investors from China or younger people borrowing money from their parents to compete in a red-hot market, says Dales.

 


Posted on January 14, 2016 at 10:32 pm
Denni Shefrin | Posted in Buying, Local Market Update, Selling |