Will COVID-19 Impact Where People Want to Live?
Recently, Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist released a video about the effects COVID-19 is having and/or could have on consumer tendencies in real estate. There seems to be quite the paradigm shift happening due to health reasons, appreciating simpler schedules, and the new phenomenon of many people working from home. Along with Matthew, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and Keeping Current Matters are reporting similar indicators due to COVID 19.
The Flight to the Suburbs: Many buyers are listing more open space and less density as one of their top features when looking for a new home. The larger yards and separation from neighbors found in the suburbs versus urban areas are appealing for health reasons, due to the need to socially distance. Higher density buildings and townhouses found in-city were more appealing due to shorter commute times, but the newfound option to work from home has encouraged some buyers to venture out and consider commute times as less of a factor when choosing where they want to live.
Many high-tech employers such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook have extended the work-from-home option until the end of 2020 despite the phasing to get businesses re-opened. Companies like Twitter told some employees they could work from home indefinitely. This will have some buyers in these types of jobs capitalizing on suburban living, which is typically less expensive than in-city living and includes larger homes and yards. Look at the weekly stats for both King and Snohomish counties below. This compares the number of pending sales per week this year versus the same week last year, and the more suburban and affordable area of Snohomish County is thriving!
Return of the McMansion: Millennials had already begun looking at the suburbs as they embarked on crossing the threshold of big life events such as getting married and starting a family. Now, with more people working from home and desiring more space, the larger square footage homes are becoming more appealing.
This affords more flex spaces for at-home offices, especially if more than one adult is working from home. Space to enjoy hobbies and passions such as an in-home yoga or craft studio or in-home gym are predicted to be popular. Further, private outdoor spaces are a hit, such as fire pits, play areas for children, and outdoor entertaining space which encourages recreation and distancing.
Second-Home Market Boom: With air travel severely reduced, the desire to have a second home within driving distance has increased. Many people’s commitments have simplified and their dreams have shifted to accommodate more down-time closer to home. The change of scenery a lake, beach, or mountain property provides along with space to distance is quickly becoming in-demand. The use of homes like this versus large travel budgets could make a comeback, especially if future rental income is considered. Overall, we have seen an increased value put on local access to nature to decompress and down-shift.
Single-Family Residential Rentals vs. Apartment Rentals: Again this comes back to density versus open space. Renters also desire more room, and some are also working from home, so they may opt for a single-family home over an apartment building with shared space. There could also be a push for college students to prefer renting a single-family home instead of living in a dorm, increasing the rental value of such investment properties in college towns.
Check out the video below to hear Matthew’s entire take on all of these possible changes in how and where we want to live based on COVID 19 and the life lessons were are learning as we navigate this new way of life. What I can tell you is that the real estate market is moving! Activity has seen a large uptick since the first of May, and in many areas and price points we are lacking available inventory to meet the buyer demand.
If you are curious how these new trends and the state of current real estate market relates to your personal needs and dreams, please reach out. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower storing decisions, especially during these unique times. Be well!
I am excited to share some updates from the Martha Perry Veggie Garden in Snohomish, WA! We have already purchased the vegetable starts to help support the Snohomish Garden Club, and have begun planting for the harvest. My office is working in socially distant groups, broken up by nine groups working over three weeks to get this acre of produce in the ground. By using starts instead of seeds we will be able to provide the harvest sooner and for longer throughout the season.
This is all possible thanks to your generosity! Our office raised $8,000 in under two weeks to benefit local food banks through our Neighbors in Need Program powered by the Windermere Foundation. A portion of that money was earmarked for this garden project and replaced our annual Community Service Day project that was done for the last four years in a large group of 50 people. This will provide local food banks with thousands of pounds of fresh produce throughout the summer and early fall and will be especially meaningful during this challenging time. Check out some of our first groups getting to work, making it possible for those in need to enjoy fresh produce instead of only non-perishable foods via the local food banks.
Are we Headed Towards a Repeat of the 2008 Housing Meltdown?
The pressure the COVID-19 global pandemic is putting on the economy is a reality. As a real estate broker, I take great pride in having the honor of being your trusted advisor when it comes to your investment in the housing market and protecting the value of your home. I have been asked several times, “Is this the Great Recession all over again?”
At Windermere, we have continued to rely on the expertise of Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist. Above is a chart he shared from Black Knight Financial comparing the housing market as we headed into this global health crisis versus the start of the Great Recession in 2007. Below is an 11-minute video going over the chart line by line. I urge you to watch the video and key in to his expertise versus what you might hear in the media. Matthew predicted the Great Recession and does not shy away from heeding the truth, even if it is not great news. I trust him and I hope you do too.
Bottom line, we are heading into this economic challenge with a much more formidable foundation based on more stringent lending practices, higher equity levels, and we are anticipating a shorter 1-2 year V-shaped recovery, compared to the long U-shaped recovery of the 5-year Great Recession. In fact, we have seen pending sales rise over the last three consecutive weeks, some even with multiple offers. Every neighborhood and every price-point has its own story. Please reach out with any questions or concerns. It is my goal to help keep you informed and empower strong decisions.
We’re on a mission to help our local food banks keep their shelves stocked during this uncertain time. For every dollar our office raises, the Windermere Foundation is matching up to $3,500 through May 5th! This is a part of a total of $250,000 in matching funds from the Windermere Foundation, with the goal to give $500,000 to food banks across the areas that Windermere serves.
The need has never been greater, so we’re partnering with the trusted Volunteers of America (VOA) of Snohomish County, who know how to stretch every dollar to its fullest extent and successfully manage many of the food banks and food pantries across the county. In addition, a portion of the total raised will go towards buying vegetable starts for the Martha Perry Veggie Garden (MPVG) managed by the Snohomish Garden Club (SGC) – which will supply local food banks with thousands of pounds of fresh produce throughout the summer and early fall.
Our team of agents at Windermere North will be planting close to an acre of starts on behalf of the VOA at the MPVG with the SGC the end of May into early June in small groups practicing proper social distancing. We have done this project for three years as a larger group and we are thrilled to creatively get it done this year. Food Banks have always coveted fresh produce and this effort will be more meaningful than ever this year.
If you are able to give, any amount will help make an impact and directly benefit our Neighbors in Need: gf.me/u/xy7ikd
Where this particular Seller’s market is unique, is that a decrease in new listings is not creating this environment, but very high buyer demand is. In fact, King County new listings were up 5% over the last year, but so were sales. In Snohomish County new listings were up 7% over last year, but sales were up 11%! Despite the increase in homes coming to market, demand has matched or outpaced, leaving us with the lowest inventory levels ever.
We can thank our local, thriving job market. So much so, that many people from out-of-state are relocating here to be a part of our economy and the quality of life the Greater Seattle area has to offer. We also have poised move-up buyers ready to cash in on their equity and first-timers ready for action. Combine the healthy local economy with strong equity levels and still historically low interest rates, and the audience for homes that come to market is huge!
Multiple offers are very common and prices are increasing. Median price is up complete year over year in King County by 13% and Snohomish County by 10%. This growth in equity has provided home owners the option to make the moves they have been waiting for, such as a move-up, right-size or relocating out of the area for retirement.
These graphs predict that we will see an increase in new listings as we head into the Spring and Summer months, which is needed to meet demand. If you are considering putting your home on the market this year I would advise the sooner the better, as buyers did not hibernate for the winter and will not be worried about flowers blooming in your front yard. Sellers that beat the second quarter increase in listings will enjoy a larger audience due to less competition.
The importance of both buyers and sellers aligning with a knowledgeable, well-researched and responsive broker is paramount. One might think that it is “easy” to sell a house in this market, but how the preparation, exposure, marketing, management of all the communication and negotiations are handled can make or break a seller’s net return on the sale. While market times are short, they are intense! Negotiations are starting as soon as the property hits the market by educating buyers and their brokers on exactly what a seller would like by the time offers are due. The goal is to bring the sellers I work with not only the highest price, but the best-termed offer that I know is going to close.
If you’re a buyer, it is overwhelmingly important that you are aligned with an agent that knows how to win in this market. Terms, negotiations, financial preparation, communication, responsiveness and market knowledge are what set a highly capable selling agent apart, and are required to prevail. While the market for buyers is fierce, we can assure you that with a well thought out and executed plan, we have helped buyers win.
If you have any curiosities or questions regarding the value of your current home or purchase opportunities in today’s market, please contact us. It is my goal to help keep you informed and empower strong decisions.
Windermere Real Estate North
With Seattle’s robust job market and high housing costs, there has been a lot of talk lately about the cost of living in the Greater Seattle area. In fact, Seattle is now the 5th most expensive city to rent in the country according to a new study from Nested.com. The average monthly rental price for a one bedroom apartment in the city of Seattle is $1,790 according to Zumper.com, up 8.5% year-over-year; and a two bedroom is $2,470, up 6% year-over-year! With rising rental rates, still historically low interest rates, and home prices on the rise, the advantage of buying versus renting has become clear for folks who have a down payment saved, good debt-to-income ratios and strong credit. Currently, the breakeven horizon (the amount of time you need to own your home in order for owning to be a superior financial decision vs. renting) in the Greater Seattle area is 2.4 years according to Zillow research.
An additional study by Nested.com outlines the monthly rental costs for a single person or a family of four, as well as the yearly income required. In Seattle, it costs the average single person $1,288.76 a month to rent, which requires an annual income of $53,328.00. The average family of four costs $2,665.34 for monthly rent, and an annual income of $101,186.48. That is a lot of money one would be paying towards someone else’s investment.
There are several factors to consider that will lead you to make the best decision for your lifestyle and your financial bottom line. One of the biggest factors is interest rates! Currently, the rate for a 30-year fixed, conventional, conforming loan is hovering around 4.25%. That is amazingly and historically low, making the advantage of securing a mortgage huge. What is nice about having a mortgage is that the payment stays the same over the term of the loan. With renting, rates can be increased at any time, and you are paying down someone else’s asset, not your own. Owning gives the homeowner control over their overhead while getting to make their house their home. What is also so great about owning, is that once you have hit the breakeven horizon, every month that ticks away thereafter is building your nest egg in value. The long-term benefits of owning are abundant, including the stability of not being asked to move. These are important factors to consider for everyone, but especially the younger folks who are enjoying the benefits of Seattle’s attractive job market.
Where folks are having to compromise most due to affordability is commute times, and settling in less urban neighborhoods. Worth pointing out, is the average home price in South Snohomish County is 46% less than Seattle Metro – that is a huge savings! Some people, mainly millennials, have not been willing to give up living in the more core urban neighborhoods that have high walk scores and shorter commute times. That should be apt to change as rents are rising fastest in those areas. The advantages of moving out a little further and securing a home will start people on the track of building long term wealth.
If you or anyone you know is currently renting and is considering a change, please let us know as we would be happy to get their questions answered to help them make an informed decision.
Windermere Real Estate North
The headlines are everywhere proclaiming Seattle as the hottest housing market in the nation. Our humble city built on aerospace, trade, and influenced by a software engineer who donates millions, has found itself on the national map as the new darling of the tech world. Of course, this proclamation cannot go without mentioning the commerce juggernaut right in our own backyard, Amazon. I was told recently by Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, that Amazon occupies 20% of all Class A business space in Seattle – that is a lot! It seems you cannot drive down I-5 between Shoreline and the Sea-Tac Airport without spotting at least 15-20 cranes busily building more of that office space.
So, why Seattle? In contrast to California’s Bay Area, the cost of living here (rents and real estate) is half – office space costs half and companies can provide the same wages. This combination puts more money in employees’ pockets and companies are not as expensive to run, making profits higher. This has driven many companies to relocate or expand from the Bay Area to Seattle or Bellevue, markedly increasing the demand for housing.
This has put an even tighter squeeze on inventory, putting us in the most extreme Seller’s market (0-3 months of inventory) we’ve ever seen. This has driven prices up, and values are hinging on commute times. Below is a chart that outlines the amount of available inventory based on pending sales measured in months, and the median price in the month of March 2017.
As you can see, there is a direct correlation between proximity to job centers (Seattle and Bellevue) and home prices. If you have considered selling your home and making a move, now is one of the most favorable times to do so. If you are considering a purchase, the environment is competitive but there are opportunities. Aligning with an experienced and knowledgeable broker who can help you properly strategize, is key.
One might think it is simple to sell your home in this market, but getting top dollar, strong terms, and a sale that will pass appraisal is the ultimate goal, and takes a high level of communication and nuanced negotiations. The same applies for buyers, along with education and a refined process, which helps empower buyers to make informed decisions and win.
Our city is changing, and whether you thinks it is for the good or the bad is up to you, but this is our new reality. Seattle is beautiful, prosperous and full of opportunities for those who choose to call it home. Like any opportunity, it needs to be properly analyzed, considered, and ultimately seized. If you are curious how your home measures up in today’s market please contact us. Any one of our agents would be happy to provide you a complimentary market analysis to help keep you informed, or sit down and chat about the steps of a successful home purchase.