Headlines of fear always get more notoriety than good news but here’s the most recent news release from the Urban Land Institute. They surveyed Economists and analysts on the US Economy.
The report shows a persistently stable to robust economic expansion around the country. We have been on a prolonged skyrocketing trajectory that can’t be sustained, so look for stabilizing but not worrisome declines in our future economic data or real estate values. With the Northwest being at the epicenter of much of the US business growth, this is even better news for our local market.
Here’s their report
We’re all hearing headlines about a looming recession in the near future but what does this actually mean? In general terms recessions are defined as 2 consecutive quarters where the US GDP, Gross Domestic Product in our economy, declines. Since our great recession of 2007 to 2011 or 12, many fear hearing of this word. We need to remember economies and businesses have cycles; so a recession isn’t to be feared as much as expected. We’ve had 10 or so years of strong economic expansion, so we have to know or expect we’ll see some flattening or declines to come. The point being, most recessions are much milder than the our recent memories recall.
What happens to real estate in a recession?
Generally a mild pull back in prices occur but most often for a very short time frame. We’ve been seeing this pull back in prices since the summer of 2018 in many price ranges. Yes, we still see multiple offers in many areas and price ranges, but in the overall, the statistics show a decline in home values in most of King County, less so in Snohomish County and only minorly in Pierce County. More importantly, we are seeing interest rates declining, pretty sharply from last fall, so today we’re in the 3.75% range where last fall this was 4.875% or higher. This decline may well continue with the fears of recession, as the government tries to keep the real estate industry as active as possible. Again, an active real estate market is critical to an active and productive overall economy.
Can you tell which direction is “right”? Photo by Leo Foureaux on Unsplash
Real Estate is Local I can’t emphasize this point enough. Yes, we are seeing weakness in many economies around the world and yes we are not immune to these fluctuations. That said, our local economy is considered one of the strongest and most diverse in the US. Sure we have to worry about trade wars, prices of exports, tariffs, etc. but we also need to recognize the continuing strength and demand of companies to move, grow and expand in our region. More so than most any other area in the US, we have a very strong growth component here and very resilient companies expanding in our region. Millions of square feet of office space is pre-leased and under construction. This means tens of thousands of new jobs for our area. Is there a minor dip in prices now–you bet, but in most cases this is 5-7% or less. Fear of recession and ignoring of the broader picture are mostly to blame. The companies moving and expanding here are making long range plans, well after any “news-touted” recession comes and goes. This area has been more resistant and resilient to recession than other parts of the country and this growth will only reinforce this resilience.
Shouldn’t I wait for a bottom if prices and interest rates are lowering? As the adage goes, you can only see the peak or the bottom of a valley in the rear view mirror. Are you looking to buy a home for a longer range investment? I always encourage buyers to think and act long term. Buy when you have a true need or desire. If you’re looking to flip houses, our market has been tough for the past 5 years. If you’re looking for a home, we’re in the best market conditions we’ve had for at least 3 years. Inventory is up; buyer’s have selection. Sellers looking to stay in our area can finally find homes to buy before they sell. Financing options and market conditions are now available to help you transition to your new home. So yes, you can wait, hope to time the market to your best advantage but this means being constantly involved, diligent and immersed in the area you want to be in. Micro markets are the norm. You can’t generalize that $600K price range in Kenmore is the same as in Bothell, or one area of Kirkland, Bellevue or Redmond is the same as other areas of the same city. They most likely aren’t. What makes more sense is to determine what you really want to find; what style, size, neighborhood, price range, etc. works best for you and be prepared to act when an opportunity arises. Don’t be surprised to still be in multiple offers.
Fall is generally a very active market. Once kids are back to school and vacation season is mostly over, real estate activity normally increases. More new homes come on the market. Interest rates make them more affordable and price/cost conscious buyers are back to actively looking. People planning to work for Amazon when they make a bigger move to the Eastside, or Facebook, Google, Microsoft are looking now; not waiting until 2022 or 2023 when then know 50,00+ new jobs and workers will be here in the search. You can capture that future demand and home value appreciation by buying now. You’ll still be in that home in 3 years and smiling at your wisdom of looking while the pace was slower and the best interest rates in almost a decade were yours.
So are we headed for a recession? Who cares isn’t the right answer, but neither is seeking shelter from any fallout. We are and will continue to be fine, resilient and leaders of any turn around and rebound in the economy. If your job is secure, chances are your wages are up and your future is brighter than the doomsday headlines. Don’t be frightened by what won’t happen. Look at what is actually happening and believe in these actions and activity.
Technology and outside businesses, mainly backed by financial firms and venture capitalists, are fiercely competing and investing to get deeper into the real estate business. For the past 10 to 15 years these efforts have had minimal success. With their focus now more narrowly set on the amount of money involved in the US residential real estate market, the number of entrants and entrepreneurs involved is growing and some of their efforts are starting to take hold and create opportunities for them and for you as a home owner, seller, buyer or investor. I thought I’d offer some perspective and recap on these latest efforts and coming opportunities. Most of these programs are not yet available in the Seattle market or throughout much of the country, but they likely will be soon, covering most metropolitan markets in the country over the next few years.
A Brief step back in time:
Roughly 20 years ago “Big Data” became a business mantra and the collection, study and mining of this data has created huge businesses. How this relates to you is often by simple, voluntary efforts or moves on your part. You went on Zillow, Redfin or other such sites to see what some algorithm, right or wrong, said your home was worth. You plug in your home’s data, maybe some information about yourself and improvements you’ve made to the home to improve the valuation and this data is then collected, shared, bought, sold and studied; and you get some valuation data point.
Other companies scour public records for data on individual properties, sales records, prices and area turn-over rates. Some real estate Multiple Listing Services also share or shared their data on sales; size of homes, yards, loan amounts, financing types, etc. Combined, this information became a rich data source for companies to “mine” to generate trends, improve their algorithms and valuation tools, so you’d come back again for a new valuation. It also led to a new technology, Predictive Analytics. How soon will you sell your home? This technology was then marketed to agents to “farm” the most likely home sellers in any neighborhood or region of the country. Right or wrong, this is considered a more accurate “target” for agents to buy the data on and make contact with you, the home seller. This system has worked for some agents and companies but not to the degree that most financial-firm backed companies needed to see to get more money from investors to find you and get you connected to them.
These predictive analytics, along with programs like Zillow’s “make me move” helped these companies create larger groups of home owners who were likely to sell, have inquired about their home’s value and stated a price at which they’d sell their home. This refined database, created by Big Data companies, is then used to solicit more capital from investors to create more new real estate companies to meet you.
Enter the I-Buyer
Now the i-Buyer, instant or Internet home buyer arrives. Today, several of these companies and their private investors exist, many run out of companies based in the Seattle area but not offering these services here yet. If you want or need to sell your home, you’ll go on their site and they will tell you in an instant, how much they will pay for your home. No questions, no frills, no hassles; they buy your home.
This convenience may be worthwhile to some home sellers, but, of course, most of us ask, “but at what price?” That varies with the property, the company and the seller. What this isn’t, though, is a negotiation. They don’t offer you a price to which you counter and go back and forth. This is a price, take it or leave it. Most of these companies admit they only buy about 10% of the homes they bid on. However, in the process of this conversation and bidding, they now know you, your property, it’s improvement details, when you want to be sold and moved, etc. A great data collection tool; information you willingly gave them, even though you didn’t end up selling your home to them. They got value from you; you got frustration from them.
Now comes the next step. They have all of your contact and property data and can now refer you to an agent in their company to help you market and sell your home on the open market, or they can now sell your information to any agent willing to pay for it, to farm, prospect or pursue you to sell your home. Big data has gathered and entwined you in their data web, as you provided more data about you, your circumstances and the property, which makes their improved data more valuable. This is a key goal for these new entrants; to be a giant lead generation system for them to use or to sell to anyone and you voluntarily stepped into it by innocently asking what’s my home worth or what would they pay for it.
So What’s the Concern?
This can be seen as sinister; entrapping you and your data; selling it to others to pursue you and your property. These companies see it as a way to control owners, sellers, buyers and property. Under the guise of convenience for you, they’re collecting huge amounts of data or ownership on homes around the country. Several of these companies now own thousands to tens of thousands of homes in various markets. They also now have a database of homes they know people want to sell. This provides them lures to attract buyers by marketing these on or off-market homes to buyers searching on their websites. They don’t need to be listed for sale by an agent, company or in a Multiple Listing Service. The company controls the data. If a buyer is interested in a home, the more valuable that piece of data becomes. Need financing to buy one of their homes? They’ll send you financing quotes with the click of a button and a bit more data from you. Want to “trade” your home for one of these new homes? They’ll offer you an instant buy out for your home and you get to buy the home they own. It’s quick, hassle free and you get to avoid talking with a real estate agent.
Now that they have all this data on you as a buyer, seller or both, they also know what “normal” expenses, steps and services you might also need or want. Home movers, cleaners, craftsmen, painters, plumbers, roofers, landscapers, electricians, security and insurance companies, title and mortgage services, etc. Venture capitalists back these companies that are buying into or outright ownership of these providers and services. They are signing up thousands of service providers to send your way—as long as the service provider pays them a fee to find you.
Amazon just partnered with the largest real estate parent company in the country to provide $500-$5,000 worth of services and products to every home buyer who works with one of these brokerages, depending on the price of home you buy. That’s not a great buyer incentive but it is a small loop to have you step in to gather more data on you. The more of these services and products you buy, the more data is collected on you and your buying habits. The role of the real estate transaction or even your innocent inquiry into “what’s my home worth” has spiraled into an amazing tie-in of data and possible revenue. Real estate has the most tentacles into all businesses in the economy. It’s a central role that large financial firms and big data companies now want to be a bigger part of.
Again, this isn’t meant to be read as sinister or even unusual or unique to the real estate industry. It’s just to enlighten you as to why, how and where the payoff for these new companies is coming from. You are the bait; that part is real and undeniable. These venture-capitalized companies claim to care about you but if their market price offers are so fair, why are only 10% of them accepted? Some of these companies state their Investors aren’t expecting a return on their money, seeking to just revolutionize our antiquated industry! Really? They invest $200-300M with no expectation of a return on their money? Zillow claims to be losing $2-3K per house right now, but expect to make that up by the collection and sale of their data and other services going forward. As a Realtor for 33 years, I’m bothered by this idea of my clients as bait. I am always happy to offer you an honest valuation for your home or property; for free, no big data collection, just honest conversation about your goals and options to help you get there. Can I buy your home today or this week? No, but I can help you find real alternatives that focus on you and your goals. The point being, my focus is on helping you solve your problem; their focus is on your data.
These are big purchase and/or sale decisions and the majority of people still want experienced, competent help, guidance and advice with this process. An Instant Offer may be a solution but just be aware what their real focus is, your data vs. your problem. They’ll make money from your data regardless of the outcome or concern for your goal or needs. If you’d rather the focus be on you, your options and real solutions to your problems, give me a call. There are always nuances in the market and you will benefit from understanding them and how they affect you.
After a 20% run up in market values early this year, we’ve settled back to a more normal 4-8% gain in home prices over 2017 values for most of our region. Buyers and agents have been asking when will we see a return to a more normal market for the past 3 years. It’s here now! Open your Christmas present!
I don’t expect 2019 to be a blockbuster year for home appreciation; likely in line with where 2018 finished for an overall rate of appreciation. Many economists are expecting 2019 and in to 2020 to be a business cycle slow down. We have stock market uncertainties, new Congressional uncertainties and a normal business cycle slow down all upon us. It’s not bad news or even a bad thing, but it does mean slower, steady appreciation.
That said so much of our local market operates by “herd mentality”, where if you’re not buying then maybe I shouldn’t either, that many will watch this opportunity pass them by. This is the time to be stretching in to your dream home or location. The gap between where you are and where you want to be is likely closer now than it will be in and beyond 2020. For first-time buyers or those really wanting to scale down, prices are more affordable than they have been since 2016. Why not act now?
While this may not sound like great news for home sellers, the reality is we are still 25+% over 2016 home prices. Smile, be grateful for your wisdom to have bought when you did and sell now, if that’s really what you want to do. If you can wait another 2 years, you may be in a stronger negotiating position; but if you’ll be staying and buying in this general area, you have more flexibility in negotiations now than you will then. If you want to maximize your present home’s value and 2019 won’t be the year for you, spend some time making improvements to your home now to maximize it’s value in 2020 or beyond.
All of the local employers are expanding their building spaces and making plans for more employees by 2020 and beyond. There are millions of square feet being added which means 15,000+ new employees will be coming here. Now and into early 2019 is a Christmas gift opportunity to be opened. Who cares about the herd. If you have a need or desire to buy, we have and will have more homes for sale than we’ve had in 4 years. More choices, better prices and less competition. Why wait?
You think prices will fall even further? Possibly, but our rise in interest rates will quickly take away even another 10% drop in home prices. Interest rates are rising, not terribly but upward is the now and the trend for the future. Your payment will likely be higher, even if the home price is lower. I never encourage you to move just to “time the market”. This is no exception; but as I said, if you have a need or desire, then make now your time to do it. Good condition homes still sell quickly; maybe not in 24 hours with 24 offers but in 2-3 weeks with strong buyers. It’s still a great market for sellers who want to sell.
If you want to buy an investment home or start planning a home for your retirement, this coming year is a great opportunity. Not for flipping houses, but investing in them. We will see a steady increase in new hiring as the year progresses and all of the new office buildings come to completion in late 2019 and into 2020. These new hires will likely be coming from out of the area, needing a home and driving up demand and prices. Closer in, more urban properties will bounce back more quickly, so current prices have the most room to bounce back up. Our luxury market will be slower to come back. We have a tremendous amount of $1.5M+ homes on the market and likely more resales coming in 2020 and beyond. This could make 2019 a good window to capture your gains in and smile at your wisdom.
The local economy is strong and resilient. I don’t see big problems or concerns regarding housing or employment for any of us in our region; but for some the sun is shining on an opportunity that too few are recognizing. Call me if you want to discuss your plans.
There are no major surprises to the latest sales numbers for Seattle’s Eastside communities from Renton to Bothell; East of Lake Sammamish to Kirkland & Lake Washington. Prices are mostly up, modestly in most areas but a few with price reductions over 2017 prices. Inventory levels have doubled their 2017 levels and the sales pace has varied from stable or slightly higher to as much as 25% off 2017 levels. That said, sales pace has been above the 10 yr average in all areas. With the winter season upon us, it’s likely we’ll see continued slowing in the pace and flat to lowering prices. With the amount of economic growth in our overall region and the Eastside cities in particular, these numbers are “the break” in the market that most buyers have been asking for since 2015. Inventories typically decline as we get further in to winter but I expect we’ll see a quicker bounce back up in homes for sale after the New Year. Let me know if you’d like more specific market details on areas of interest to you.
Take a look at the numbers and some of the Giving Back that Windermere has done in 2018 and some of the stats that show Windermere is still the most respected and dominant real estate company in our region. I’m grateful to have called it home since 1989.
We’ve all seen the headlines: home sales slowing, prices dropping, inventories rising. Unfortunately, too many people are getting the wrong impression about the actual market conditions. Yes, the headlines can be stated as factually accurate, even if statistically exaggerated, but they leave out major pieces of information that must be considered.
Real estate is fundamentally driven by change; personal, economic and professional. Let’s look at the latter two first and see if there is any reason not to be excited by our current real estate market. Even in the face of the recent declines in the stock market, by all economic measures, all our economies are doing phenomenally well. Corporate profits and earnings are terrific. Company growth projections are all strong. Unemployment is at something between a 50 year and all-time low, given the growth in our population, locally and nationally. Consumer confidence and corporate confidences are at or near record highs. In our region, every major employer and many small employers are scrambling to find and lock down new employees as well as space to grow their businesses in. Start-ups, angel investors, innovators, disruptors all want to be in our local area. Our largest employers are asking for, building and tying up huge amounts of new or yet-to-be built office spaces in Seattle and our Eastside cities; to the tune of multi-million new square feet. This is besides the major remodel/expansion Microsoft is doing and the construction of the Eastside’s Spring District. With that much growth, new employers and employees will be needed and are jumping to be here.
Wages have been rising and even with some flattening of that in recent months, the present and upcoming demand coupled with our low unemployment means upward pressures and movement in wages and incomes in our area. Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are competing to keep, find or recruit top talent. Wages will be a key factor. With all of these companies increasing their presence, in huge ways on the Eastside, there is nothing but optimism to be had for local economics. Support, ancillary and spinoff businesses will continue to blossom and grow too.
So why is there concern instead of jubilation that home prices have come off their peak values? We should see this as a fantastic opportunity for anyone with a need or desire to change their housing situation. If you’d stay in your new home for the next 5+ years, then what is your real fear? Buying a house should be driven by your personal needs, not by trends. Yes, the present trend may be downward but for those with a sense of vision, you’ll see the soon-to-be increasing demand for housing in our area and the certainty of home prices rising back to and above the peaks we saw this past spring. Visionaries will also see the increasing interest rates we’ve had and will continue to see for mortgages. I’m not fearful of a major change upward on rates, but another ½ to 3/4 percent is likely by the end of next year. For our local loan amounts that’s $200-$300/month. Why not capture these savings if you can?
Headlines create fear but looking behind the headlines shows a very bright future coming our way. Current circumstances allow home owners to make contingent offers and still negotiate terms for their purchase. Prices have come down in most areas and price range by 10-15%. Yes, it’s possible they could go lower; it’s also possible you could negotiate your own offer lower. What is also likely is that the quantity of homes for sale, available options for you to call home are the best we’ve seen in 3 years. The gap between your present home and your dream home, or even next-step home, up or down, is more affordable now than it’s been in the last 2 years. Why would you be afraid to act when the opportunity you’ve been asking, even begging for, is here? Because you think the home prices may drop further? Are you selling all your stocks because their values took dramatic drops this week? Of course not. Those with vision are determining where and what to buy even further in on. That’s the same mentality and perspective you should be having with the housing market. Now, not last spring, is the time to be a buyer; even if you need to sell before you buy.
Oh, your home value has dropped so you’d rather sit still than capture a value higher than at any time except March to May of this year? You should question why you’d really want to sell. If you’re going to stay in the local area, then selling and buying off the peak prices is a great opportunity; not one to mourn you’ve lost out on.
All real arrows are pointing up for our local economic and housing trends. Don’t be afraid to step away from the herd and capture the opportunity you want; there’s never been a better time to lead your way forward. Visionaries see the true and future realities while others wait to be led by trends. Which are you?
While the headline stories seem cataclysmic, the reality is still that we are seeing a shift from our escalating home values. We’ve come off the peak numbers by 3-5% but much of this is from buyers bidding over the asking prices. Where list prices were and where they are today are only 1-2% different. Home values have still risen in a year over year comparison. That said, there are definitely opportunities for buyers that we’ve not seen in the last few years. While some see no reason to buy, thinking the market will continue to drop, we still have amazingly strong growth in the general Seattle area for population, jobs and wages. This means any “drop” is more likely driven by mentality than reality factors and can therefore shift back upwards or flatten quickly. This means when you find that new home opportunity, you should make your move on it now. You won’t be selling in 1-2 years, so any fluctuation is somewhat meaningless; just as you don’t sell a stock you bought last week, just because it dropped 2-3% in value this week. Buy your opportunity while others hesitate.
For home sellers, the peak values are likely behind you but we’re still at ascending values when compared to a year ago and well above values of 2,3,5, 8 years ago. Don’t put your life on hold because you wanted 2-3% more for your home. Appreciate the gains and wisdom of your investment and if it’s time to move, then make the move with confidence that you achieved an investment goal you likely hadn’t planned to turn out as well as it has. Next January to March should be a strong market for Sellers, so if moving NOW isn’t the priority but soon is, then make this your time frame target.
Here’s the latest area stats for your review.