Click on this link to see listings of Green Homes in the Puget Sound area.
In Seattle and the Northwest, “Rambler” refers to a one-level home, generally built during or after the mid-century period. Ramblers are a favorite of both first-time buyers because of their affordability, and of downsizers because of their lack of stairs. Many Seattle area ramblers are located in areas with water views as well as in dynamic urban neighborhoods and quiet suburban areas.
In the current market, statistics for the sub-market of one-story homes show very brisk activity as more downsizers enter the market. Just this month, I am noticing that developers in close-in areas are acknowledging the huge market for quality one-level homes, and are beginning to build them again, in the 2000+ SF range.
If you have a one-level home you are considering selling, please contact me, as I do have buyers!
In the market for a rambler? You can use the links below to browse the MLS for Ramblers in different areas.
Its no secret that low mortgage rates have been the Fed’s stimulus package. Now that the economy is beginning to recover in measurable ways, the rates are beginning to go up. Will this bring our real estate market more into balance?
Here is a summary of results of the latest National Association of Home Builders survey of buyer’s wants:
- As prices rise, buyers are very price sensitive.
- They prefer energy efficient features and appliances, but will not pay a big premium for them
- They prefer high-end amenities and will live is a smaller house to get them. However, splurging on too many of them (wine coolers) is out.
- Buyers like all kinds of locations, however the trend toward urban locations is waning.
I would be curious to see how these preferences differ with age groups in the survey.
Prices rise again in Seattle area as low interest rates, strong buyer demand, and very low inventory make a seller’s market once again. Here is this month’s MLS report:
NWMLS, KIRKLAND, WA, July 5, 2012 – June may have been cooler and wetter than normal, but weather did not seem to deter home buyers and sellers around western Washington. “Close-in Seattle neighborhoods have been experiencing the most intense buyer activity since 2006,” one broker remarked.
Figures just released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show 8,577 sellers accepted offers on their homes and condominiums last month. That volume of pending sales across 21 counties was 13.8 percent higher than the same month a year ago, according to the MLS report.
Closed sales also reflected signs of a recovering market, with upticks in both volume and prices. Through the first six months of 2012 closings are up 14.4 percent (29,777 versus mid-year 2011 figure of 26,034 closed sales).
MLS members reported 6,214 closed sales of single family homes and condominiums during June, an improvement of 11.7 percent from twelve months ago, and the highest total since September 2007.
Prices on last month’s completed sales increased more than 5.8 percent from a year ago, with the median price area-wide rising from $240,950 to $265,000. Single-family home prices (excluding condos) jumped 7.3 percent, while the median selling price on condominiums fell 1.7 percent from a year ago.
Northwest MLS directors credited several factors for contributing to brisk activity, with many of them mentioning inventory shortages. “Consumers bothered by the lack of inventory are ready to make sure they do not miss out on the shift in the market,” stated MLS board member Darin Stenvers, office managing broker at John L. Scott in Bellingham.
Frank Wilson, another MLS director, believes a unique aspect of this market is “artificially low interest rates” and said waiting to buy a home “could result in a double financial impact.”
“With inventory at such a low level, we are seeing buyers make multiple offers on well-priced homes as they come onto the market,” reported George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell. This lack of inventory is providing price support in many areas, and, he added, “giving sellers, who were originally on the fence, the confidence to market their home – something that has been lacking since 2008.”
Moorhead said buyers may not fully realize the favorable conditions. For example, he said the recent Fed action to purchase $270 billion more in long-term bonds resulted in more favorable mortgage rates to help offsetrising values. As one client told him, “that knocking at our door was opportunity, and we almost missed it!”
Inventory compared to a year ago is smaller by 10,326 listings. At month end, Northwest MLS inventory stood at 26,545 listings. That compares to 36,871 active listings for the same month a year ago, a drop of 28 percent. The sharpest drops occurred in Snohomish County (down 48 percent), King County (down nearly 42 percent) and Pierce County (down 31 percent).
MLS data indicate there is less than a two-month supply of homes in both Snohomish and King Counties, well below the figure of 5-to-6 months that many analysts use as a gauge of a balanced market.
MLS director Diedre Haines, regional managing broker in Snohomish County for Coldwell Banker Bain, said bank owned (REO) property listings are nearly nonexistent compared to a year ago and “buyers are losing interest in making offers on short sale listings” due to the extended time it takes for such transactions to close. She said nearly every sale is a multiple offer situation, “driving the price higher than the list price.”
A “critical shortage of listings” is causing multiple offers and escalating prices in all price ranges, especially under $500,000,” according to MLS director Mike Skahen, the broker who described buyer activity as the most intense he has seen since 2006. “It is not unusual for more than 50 buyers to come through open houses and it’s become common now to hold listings open on both Saturday and Sunday,” added Skahen, the owner/designated broker at Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle.
Skahen noted – with some amusement – a recent housing market report on the front page of a national newspaper.It gave Ballard a positive ranking and featured a 1930′s brick Tudor in that community that drew 10 offers and sold for 10 percent over the asking price. The publication referred to the home as being near a “historic maritime village,” which Skahen said made him smile.
Joe Spencer, area director for Keller Williams Northwest Region, cited two factors for continued low inventory.”Low interest rates are prompting existing owners to refinance, while the negative equity position of another 20-to-30 percent of homeowners makes them unable or unwilling to sell,” yet, he observed, the market continues to improve.
A “fear factor” is also contributing to the crimped inventory, suggests Haines, the broker from Snohomish County where inventory is nearly half of the year-ago levels. “Sellers who are interested in selling are reluctant to list their homes due to a fear of having few choices for replacement regardless of whether they are moving up or downsizing,” she remarked.
Several current conditions are advantageous to buyers, according to Northwest MLS brokers.
“Buyers have more buying power on their side, thus they feel more confident making offers on homes in a higher price bracket and in better condition than they could months ago,” Stenvers stated.
J. Lennox Scott, the chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, attributed the lively activity to a combination of factors. “The favorable conditions that initially attracted residential investors to the market place have now drawn a resurgence of exuberant local home buyers ready to take advantage of the lower adjusted prices and historically low interest rates,” he commented.
MLS figures indicate prices may have bottomed out, particularly in areas close to job centers. In King County, for example, 23 of the 29 map areas Northwest MLS tracks had year-over-year price gains – and 13 of those areas experienced double-digit increases.
“Prices have been stabilizing in most markets and increasing rapidly in others, so buyers need to know the statistics for where they are buying to avoid costly mistakes,” said Stenvers.
Northwest MLS director Frank Wilson, the branch managing broker at John L. Scott’s Poulsbo office, agrees. In Kitsap County, where his office is located, prices are up about 5 percent from a year ago. “This does not mean, however, that sellers should increase their prices by 5 percent,” he cautioned, noting prices in some areas are lagging.
Sellers can ensure getting a fair price by following some proven tips, Wilson advised. They include reviewing a comparative market analysis (CMA) with their broker and having it updated every 30 days. Buyers also need to “set the pride of their home aside” and” look at the home and its value through the eyes of a buyer.”
Especially important is that sellers “price and stage their home correctly right out of the gate,” Wilson emphasized, noting most activity and interest in a home typically occurs within the first week to 10 days after a home is listed.
Buyers need to be realistic during the market recovery, according to MLS brokers.
“Buyers are expressing frustrations with not getting a home with offers they thought would be acceptable to a seller,” Stenvers reported, adding “These buyers are misinformed and think all sellers are struggling and that is simply not true.”
Stenvers said the lack of the “shadow inventory” that was long predicted has not yet materialized and has led to a faster recovery for the conventional seller.
Haines agreed:”We have not seen the materialization of what has been called ‘shadow inventory’ of bank owned properties,” she commented, adding, “Moreover we don’t expect to see it anytime soon.”
A recent Bloomberg news report stated “the so-called shadow inventory of homes that are seriously delinquent, in the foreclosure process or owned by banks and not listed for sale tumbled in April to the lowest level in more than three years.”
The MLS directors who commented on the latest market report also acknowledged some challenges, including:
- Problems with low appraisals.”It appears the appraisers have not yet caught on to what is actually happening in the marketplace,” said Diedre Haines.
- Artificially low interest rates, as noted by Frank Wilson. “Usually when we see real estate markets recovering, the economy is also improving, which means interest rates are usually adjusted upwards to stave off inflation. Today’s interest rates are being held down due to world economic conditions as well as political reasons,” he stated. This will not last forever, he believes, explaining when interest rates move up by as little as one half of one percent (.5%) the monthly payment will go up by about 6 percent. “Waiting to buy a home could result in a double financial impact. A home price increase combined with an interest rate bump will add a significant cost to your monthly payment,” he stated.
- Buyer hesitancy and changing expectations. “What we find interesting today is the move away from a home being just an investment, but rather a long-term look at a specific neighborhood and how it complements a lifestyle,” remarked George Moorhead, noting buyers are looking more at costs for utilities, maintenance, and taxes. “Everyone we have interviewed still feels real estate is one of the best investments one can make, but they also realize it too has a downside. Therefore, you just cannot throw caution to the wind anymore,” he commented.
- Homes in less than move-in condition.”Many of the properties that are currently on the market in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range are in need of repair,” Haines reported. “The sellers have little room monetarily for making those repairs, most of which are required by the lenders to be completed prior to closing. This is leaving buyers in a position of having to decide if they want to invest money in a home that they do not yet own.”
- Newly built homes. “New homes construction is beginning to develop in some markets but is needed in all markets to benefit buyers and sellers and to create a healthy housing environment,” said Darin Stenvers.
Although the housing recovery is a slow process, Stenvers expects it will continue the rest of the year and through 2013. “Being an election year should help with stable interest rates and allow for growth in the job markets; this too should continue for the next 16-to-25 months,” he believes.
Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 21,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington state.
The relatively new occupation of Senior Move Managers is a growing trend. I have worked with a couple different ones in Seattle, and am happy to provide a list.
Following is a recent article on Realtor Magazine.
Senior move managers help older adults and their families with the often overwhelming process of downsizing and moving to a new home. How did this profession come into being?
The Internet made it possible. In the late 1990s, a few people around the country were already quietly helping older adults move from their longtime family homes into assisted living facilities or apartments. They found each other online. In 2002, 22 of them got together for a meeting in one of their living rooms in Arlington, Va., which led to the formation of the National Association of Senior Move Managers [of which Buysse now serves as executive director].
How do clients typically end up working with a senior move manager?
About half the time our members hear directly from an older adult or his or her adult child. The other half of the time, it’s someone else like a family physician or a geriatric care manager or elder law attorney. Without a senior move manager, the first instinct of some adult children is to grab a box of garbage bags to get rid of things over a weekend. That’s not serving a parent with dignity. People have a lifetime of possessions. They should be disposed of with the same sort of thoughtfulness with which they were acquired.
Who’s really the client of a senior move manager?
The client is the person in transition, even if the adult child makes the call or is the one paying. When possible, we want the older adult to do all the decision-making.
What are the misconceptions about this industry?
That it costs a lot of money to hire someone. The bulk of our member companies charge between $60 and $80 an hour. The total bill is usually no more than $2,500. Families determine which parts of the job they need help with. They might only want help donating stuff they’re not bringing with them or selling it at an estate sale or on eBay. Another misconception is that older adults think their grown kids want all their stuff. But kids typically don’t want the porcelain Lladró collection or those kinds of valuables. They may only want a childhood blanket or a school yearbook.
How large is NASMM and what are the backgrounds of members?
We’ve grown to about 700 members in 10 years. Most come to this work through the personal experience of moving a family member. We have engineers, MBAs, social workers, and professional organizers. It’s a great opportunity for real estate professionals who can offer this kind of one-stop shopping to their older clients. Our members must set up a company and carry liability insurance. They get involved in any part of the process except packing; we recommend they leave that to moving companies.
What’s hardest about the job?
Managers have to develop an unusual degree of intimacy with clients. They get into the nooks and crannies of clients’ lives that even close relatives may not see. Often, they’re called in during a time of crisis. The job isn’t primarily about what happens on moving day. It’s about getting ready for that day and helping people get established in their new home.
This work requires both creativity and enormous sensitivity. Do you have an example of how move managers have solved a tough problem for a client?
One woman in New York had a collection of 82 teapots that she cherished. She was moving from her 3,000-square-foot home to a 400-square-foot assisted living facility. The manager had the client pick her three favorite teapots to take with her. The manager took photos of the rest and had them printed and framed. And now the whole collection hangs on the client’s wall in her dinette.
Contact me for a current list of Senior Move Managers in the Seattle area.
Are you getting ready remodel you home, and know you are not getting any younger?
The nice thing about remodeling is that it’s your chance to have the details in your home just the way you them. The practice of universal design is growing, and we are seeing architects, designers, and contractors who specialize in this.
At the link below is an article in Senior Housing News that explains the options available for kitchen remodeling :
These are for SERIOUS downsizers! Houses/sheds/spheres from 89 to 500SF, Plus a unique bed that rises to the ceiling to create living space underneath. Includes links to manufacturers if you want one
I think this one from local Modern Shed is the best looking, and the Zero House (#7 in the slide show) is amazing in it claims to be completely self-contained off the grid, including water and waste.
AARP does a good job covering housing choices for retirement living.
Visit their housing page here, and check out “Gimme Shelter” a high-quality video report that covers it all: Co-housing, aging in place “village” movement, interest-based retirement communities, and remodeling for the long run.
Great news for downsizers! As I was showing homes the other day I noticed that builders are now offering build-to-suit opportunities on infill lots.
For many years now, downsizers who wanted new ramblers have found they have to travel far from Seattle to find them. All of the infill construction close-in has been multi-level homes because builders needed to build larger houses so they could pay competitive prices for land and still make some money.
This has changed with the re-set economy, and builders are realizing that offering flexibility and choices sells more more new homes now, plus downsizers are a big part of the current market. The result is opportunities to have a custom home in an established neighborhood in a close-in area. Imagine the possibilities! If the lot is big enough, a detached accessory unit is possible.
Another option for rambler buyers in this market is to look at rehabbed ramblers. Many of yesterday’s builders are now buying foreclosed homes, rehabbing them and reselling them. I realize the “flippers” do not have the best reputation, but some of the builders are producing product of very high quality and design.
If you are interested in these possibilities, let me know and I can send you some listings.
Do you have a mobile lifestyle? Travel frequently, or live in two or more locations? Many downsizers do, and are faced with the challenge of making their home secure when they are gone.
An obvious solution is a condo, especially one with inside hallways. The main entry door and its security system provides a big first layer of protection from the outside world.
You’re not a condo person you say? How about a townhouse? Townhouses usaully do not provide that double layer of security, but there are neighbors close by who can still keep an eye out for your place.
Even with a single-family home there are lock-and-leave options. One solution is to have an accessory apartment in your home. That way some one is there when you are not. Another answer is to hire a house sitter for when you are gone, or even do a house swap. House swaps are easy to do now with websites that specialize on matching people up.
Whatever lock-and-leave option works for you, I would be glad to help you find it!
Homes in Washington state are at record high affordability, thanks to the combination of lower prices and record-low mortgage interest rates.
A report on the Housing Affordability Index (HAI) for third quarter 2011 showed a statewide index of 160.7, which means a median income family had 60.7 percent more income than the minimum needed to qualify to purchase a $225,300 home (the estimated median-price).
Comparing counties, the HAI ranged from a low of 96.4 in San Juan County, where the median priced home sold for $345,000, to a high of 459.4 in Wahkiakum County, where the median price for third quarter sales was estimated to be $62,500.
The index, prepared by the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, assumes a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year mortgage.
The HAI for counties served by Northwest Multiple Listing Service shows a range of 96.4 (San Juan County) to a high of 243.4 in Pacific County. As revealed in the chart, first-time buyers remain challenged, with the statewide index pegged at 87.4.
WCRER’s report shows a three-year downward trend in prices, including a 9.5 percent drop in the statewide median sales price for Q3 compared to same period in 2010. Prices range from King County’s high of $350,000 to a low of $62,500 in Wahkiakum County.
The WCRER was created in 1989 by the WSU Board of Regents to achieve the university’s tripartite mission of education, research and service in real estate. The Center strives to provide a wide range of useful and understandable information, analysis and knowledge using academic methods in practical context while reporting findings in common language.
HOUSING MARKET SNAPSHOT
State of Washington and Northwest MLS Counties – Third Quarter 2011
|County||Home Resales (units)||Building Permits (units)||Median Resale Price||Housing
|SAAR||% Change||#||% Change||$||% Change|
|(last qtr)||(year ago)||(year ago)||(year ago)|
- Home Resales are WCRER estimates based on MLS reports or deed recording (Real Market Data LLC)
- SAAR means data presented at Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rates allowing quarter-to-quarter comparison.
- Building permits (total) are from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census
- Median prices are WCRER estimates. Half the homes sold at higher prices, half lower
- Affordability index measures the ability of a typical family to make payments on median price resale home. It assumes 20% downpayment and 30-year amortizing mortgage. First-time buyer affordability index assumes a less expensive home, lower downpayment and lower income.
I was encouraged to see this. This is the time of year when us Realtors pay our annual bill for our association. It’s not cheap, but its comforting to know that we are getting our money’s worth. The fact is that the housing industry is such an important part of our economy, and that finding ways to facilitate its recovery can leverage huge economic growth for the entire country. Following is the press release:
Immediate policy solutions are needed to stabilize housing and support an economic recovery, the National Association of REALTORS® stated as it unveiled a five-point housing solutions plan.
NAR worked with two well-regarded policy think tanks that organized and conducted a policy meeting in October, when the plan was formulated. The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) and the Economic Policies for the 21st Century (e21) convened policy leaders, industry representatives, members of Congress, thought leaders and the media to present ideas and make actionable recommendations.
The bipartisan recommendations, framed around the title “New Solutions for America’s Housing Crisis,” are intended to “stimulate the growth necessary for a sustained recovery in housing and extend an ensuing positive effect on job creation and the broader economy.”
In introducing the five-point plan, NAR emphasized, “It’s no secret our nation’s housing markets remain depressed and continue to suffer.” Reiterating its belief that a robust housing industry is key to the nation’s economic strength, NAR stressed that “swift action is needed now from Congress and the Administration that could directly stimulate a housing recovery.”
Following the meeting, NAR sent letters to the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, President Obama, and Congress, in which it urged prompt consideration of the five recommendations and pledged its readiness to work with Congress and the Administration to help restore housing and grow our economy.
Recommendation 1: Do Not Risk Weakening Our Nation’s Housing Markets Any Further
NAR called for recrafting the Qualified Residential Mortgage rule mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act and said requiring a 20 percent down payment coupled with stringent debt-to-income ratios and rigid credit standards would be detrimental to prospective home buyers, especially first-time and middle income buyers.
The group also recommended restoring higher loan limits supported by FHA and the GSEs, noting recently adjusted limits has had a harmful impact on the fragile housing recovery. NAR also urged policymakers to resist proposals that call for changing the tax rules that apply to homeownership now or in the future.
Recommendation 2: Restore Vitality to Our Communities and Neighborhoods by Reducing the Foreclosure Inventory
Included in this recommendation were calls to support S.170, The Helping Responsible Homeowners Act, along with bipartisan Senate efforts calling for improvements to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). NAR also favors directing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and servicers to prioritize short sales above foreclosures, and to support all necessary foreclosure/loss mitigation efforts to keep American families in their homes.
Recommendation 3: Open Opportunities for Private Capital to Return to the Mortgage Marketplace to Foster New Demand among Responsible Homebuyers
This would include opening up the FHA Section 203(k) rehabilitation loan program to investors to encourage purchasing of foreclosed property, and requiring the GSEs to temporarily suspend investor financing limitations, thereby giving small, private investors the opportunity to absorb some of the excess inventory.
Recommendation 4: Support a Secondary Mortgage Market Model that Includes Some Level of Government Participation
NAR opposes proposals that call for full privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying it would not be in the best interest of the nation’s housing policy or the consumer.
Recommendation 5: We Call on the White House to Hold a National Housing Summit to Articulate a New National Housing Policy and Move the Provision of Housing to the Front of the Nation’s Domestic Agenda
“We urge caution against dismantling or eliminating vital resources for housing that provide important economic, social, and societal benefits,” NAR stated in calling on the White House to foster a national housing policy to address varying needs across the nation, “whether it’s homeownership or rental housing, production or preservation.”
Baby boomers are part of a growing trend of assisting children or grandchildren become home buyers, according to a new national survey. The research shows one in five baby boomers has already gifted, loaned or co-signed a loan to support their children or grandchildren in purchasing a home, and more than two-thirds of baby boomers want to provide this type of support in the future.
“With historically low interest rates and competitive listing prices, now is a great time to invest in real estate for those in a position to do so,” said Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, which commissioned the study. “However,” she acknowledged, “In today’s economy, saving enough money for a down payment can be a struggle for young adults. Baby boomers are a unique generation that has driven the economy for the past 30 years. Our data shows that they are using what they’ve earned and what they’ve learned to invest in the future and help their children and grandchildren realize the American dream of homeownership.”
Aside from the good investment rationale, baby boomer respondents indicated the willingness to provide financial support to their children and/or grandchildren was out of love. By providing financial support to assist in the home buying process, respondents stated that they could ensure their children and/or grandchildren would benefit from their estate and fulfill a large part of achieving the American dream.
“We have always understood the value of homeownership and our readers’ passion for making their homes serve their lifestyle needs,” says Jill Waage, editorial director of home content at Better Homes and Gardens magazine. “We’re thrilled to see that younger generations’ interest in homeownership is so strong and that their baby boomer relatives want to help them reach this significant milestone.”
Key findings from the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate baby boomer survey include:
- One in five baby boomers have already gifted, loaned or co-signed a loan to their children or grandchildren for a down payment on a home.
- Looking ahead, one in 10 baby boomers say they will “definitely” provide their children or grandchildren with financial support for a down payment on a home, and at least half hope to do so.
- In total, more than two-thirds (68%) of all baby boomers said they want to provide future financial support for their children or grandchildren to purchase a home.
- Those who have already provided past support are also most confident that they will do so again.
- Highest interest in providing support is reported among younger (age 45-54), more affluent (household income of $75,000+) baby boomers who have at least one adult child (age 18-34).
- Baby boomers are driven to provide financial support primarily by their belief in the overall investment value for them and/or their children or grandchildren, and the role homeownership plays in fulfilling the American dream.
- Older (age 55+) and more affluent ($100,000+ household income) baby boomers are more likely than their younger or less affluent counterparts to have previously provided financial support.
- Across prior support and future interest, baby boomers show more interest in “gifting” or loaning money; they are least interested in co-signing loans.
About the Survey
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, in partnership with Meredith Research Solutions, surveyed more than 1,000 adults ages 45 and older for this study. Data were collected from those who qualified as a baby boomer and who had at least one child or grandchild over the age of 18.
Washington state ranked as the second best state to make a living. If you want to make a living — in other words, make enough after tax and fixed expenses to prosper — your chances of getting a job that pays enough to live in comfort varies dramatically based on the state where you live and work. MoneyRates.com pulled unemployment rates, average wages, tax rates and cost of living from all 50 states and found that the best places to find a job were not necessarily the best places to make a living. MoneyRates rankings are based on their analysis of what you have left to spend, after adjusting for paying your state taxes and dealing with the comparative cost of buying groceries and keeping a roof over your head, among other things. MoneyRates noted that Washington state has a higher cost of living than the average, but so is the average wage and the state imposes no income tax. Adjusted average income is $41,456. Illinois was ranked as the first or best state to make a living, and Texas followed behind Washington.