Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State finished the year on a high with jobs continuing to be added across the market. Additionally, we are seeing decent growth in the area’s smaller markets, which have not benefitted from the same robust growth as the larger metropolitan markets.

Unemployment rates throughout the region continue to drop and the levels in the central Puget Sound region suggest that we are at full employment. In the coming year, I anticipate that we will see substantial income growth as companies look to recruit new talent and keep existing employees happy.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 19,745 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2016—up by a very impressive 13.4% from the same period in 2015, but 18.7% below the total number of sales seen in the third quarter of the year. (This is a function of seasonality and no cause for concern.)
  • Sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with home sales up by 47%. There were also impressive sales increases in Grays Harbor and Thurston Counties. Jefferson County had a fairly modest decrease in sales.
  • The number of available listings continues to remain well below historic averages. The total number of homes for sale in the fourth quarter was down by 13.7% compared to the same period a year ago.
  • The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will continue to be a seller’s market. We should see some improvement in listing activity, but it is highly likely that demand will exceed supply for another year.

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HOME PRICES

  • Demand continued to exceed supply in the final three months of 2016 and this caused home prices to continue to rise. In the fourth quarter, average prices rose by 7.1% but were 0.4% higher than the third quarter of the year. The region’s average sales price is now $414,110.
  • In most parts of the region, home prices are well above historic highs and continue to trend upward.
  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County. In total, there were eight counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%. We saw a drop in sales prices in the notoriously volatile San Juan County.
  • The aggressive home price growth that we’ve experienced in recent years should start to taper in 2017, but prices will continue to increase at rates that are higher than historic averages.

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DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by 15 days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.
  • King County was the only area where it took less than a month to sell a home, but all markets saw decent improvement in the time it took to sell a home when compared to a year ago.
  • In the final quarter of the year, it took an average of 64 days to sell a home. This is down from the 78 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, but up from the 52 days it took in the third quarter of 2016. (This is due to seasonality and not a cause for concern.)
  • We may experience a modest increase in the time it takes to sell a home in 2017, but only if there is a rapid increase in listings, which is certainly not a given.

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CONCLUSIONS

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This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2016, I actually moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers, but this is purely a function of the increase in interest rates that was seen after the election. Higher borrowing costs mean that buyers can afford less, which could ultimately put some modest downward pressure on home prices in 2017. That said, the region will still strongly favor sellers in the coming year.

 

What’s In Store For The 2017 Seattle Housing Market?

By Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

2016 was another stellar year for the Seattle housing market, in which a surplus of buyers and a deficit of sellers drove home prices higher across the board. So, can we expect to see more of the same in 2017? Here are some of my thoughts on the Seattle/King County housing market for the coming year:

  1. Our market has benefited greatly from very healthy job growth, driven in no small part by our thriving technology companies. Economic vitality is the backbone of housing demand, so we should continue to see healthy employment growth in 2017; however, not quite as robust as 2016. Migration to Seattle from other states will also continue in the coming year, putting further pressure on our housing market.
  2. Are we building too many apartments?  The answer to this question is “maybe”. I believe we are fast approaching oversupply of apartments; however, this glut will only be seen in select sub-markets, such as South Lake Union and Capitol Hill. Developers have been adding apartments downtown at frantic rates with many projects garnering very impressive rents. In the coming year, look for rental rate growth to slow and for concessions to come back into play as we add several thousand more apartments to downtown Seattle.
  3. The Millennials are here! And they are ready to buy. 2016 saw a significant increase in the number of Millennial buyers in Seattle, and I expect to see even more in 2017. The only problem will be whether Millennials will be able to find – or afford – anything to buy.
  4. Home prices will continue to rise. But price growth will taper somewhat. The market has been on a tear since bottoming out in 2012, with median home prices up by a remarkable 79% from the 2012 low, and 14% above the pre-recession peak seen in 2007. Given the fact that interest rates are now likely to rise at a faster rate than previously forecasted, I believe price appreciation will slow somewhat, but values will still increase at rates that are well above the national average. Look for home prices to increase by an average of 7.5 – 8.5% in 2017.
  5. More homes for sale? I am optimistic that inventory levels around Seattle will increase, but it still won’t be enough to meet continued high demand.
  6. This is my biggest concern for the Seattle housing market. Home prices – specifically in areas with ready access to our job centers – are pulling way ahead of incomes, placing them out of reach for much of our population. This forces many buyers to move farther away from our job centers, putting additional stress on our limited infrastructure. We need to have an open discussion regarding zoning, as well as whether our state’s Growth Management Act is helping or hindering matters.
  7. New Home Starts/Sales. As much as I would love to say that we can expect a substantial increase in new homes in 2017, I am afraid this is not the case. Historically high land prices, combined with ever increasing construction and labor costs, slow housing development, as the price of the end product is increasingly expensive. This applies to single family development as well as condominiums. We should see a couple of towers break ground in 2017, but that’s about all. Vertical construction is still prohibitively expensive and developers are concerned that there will not be sufficient demand for such an expensive end product.
  8. Are we setting ourselves up for another housing crash? The simple answer to this question is no. While home price appreciation remains above the long-term average, and will continue to be so in 2017, credit requirements, down payments, and a growing economy will all act as protectors from a housing crash in Seattle.

What to Expect in Housing Affordability

What to Expect in Housing Affordability | Windermere Blog | Windermere Real Estate

Posted in Economics 101 Videos and Market News by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

What keeps Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, up at night? Housing affordability. As the U.S. Population moves towards both coasts and the Southwest, putting upward pressure on land prices and the value of homes, we will see a greater cost of living, which could directly impact the work force and economies in those areas. Gardner weighs in on how West Coast cities can improve housing affordability through policy and infrastructure changes.

 

The Trump effect. How will it impact the US economy and housing?

Posted in Market News by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate 

The American people have spoken and they have elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Change was clearly demanded, and change is what we will have.

The election was a shock for many, especially on the West Coast where we have not been overly affected by the long-term loss in US manufacturing or stagnant wage growth of the past decade. But the votes are in and a new era is ahead of us. So, what does this mean for the housing market?

First and foremost I would say that we should all take a deep breath. In a similar fashion to the UK’s “Brexit”, there will be a “whiplash” effect, as was seen in overnight trading across the globe. However, at least in the US, equity markets have calmed as they start to take a closer look at what a Trump presidency will mean.

On a macro level, I would start by stating that political rhetoric and hyperbole do not necessarily translate into policy. That is the most important message that I want to get across. I consider it highly unlikely that many of the statements regarding trade protectionism will actually go into effect. It will be very important for President Trump to tone down his platform on renegotiating trade agreements and imposing tariffs on China. I also deem it highly unlikely that a 1,000-mile wall will actually get built.

It is crucial that some of the more inflammatory statements that President-Elect Trump has made be toned down or markets will react negatively. However, what is of greater concern to me is that neither candidate really approached questions regarding housing with any granularity. There was little-to-no-discussion regarding housing finance reform, so I will be watching this topic very closely over the coming months.

As far as the housing market is concerned, it is really too early to make any definitive comment. That said, Trump ran on a platform of deregulation and this could actually bode well for real estate. It might allow banks the freedom to lend more, which in turn, could further energize the market as more buyers may qualify for home loans.

Concerns over rising interest rates may also be overstated. As history tells us, during times of uncertainty we tend to put more money into bonds. If this holds true, then we may see a longer-than-expected period of below-average rates. Today’s uptick in bond yields is likely just temporary.

Proposed infrastructure spending could boost employment and wages, which again, would be a positive for housing markets. Furthermore, easing land use regulations has the potential to begin addressing the problem of housing affordability across many of our nation’s housing markets – specifically on the West Coast.

Economies do not like uncertainty. In the near-term we may see a temporary lull in the US economy, as well as the housing market, as we analyze what a Trump presidency really means. But at the present time, I do not see any substantive cause for panic in the housing sector.

We are a resilient nation, and as long as we continue to have checks-and balances, I have confidence that we will endure any period of uncertainty and come out stronger.

 

 

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

The Gardner Report | Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Annual employment growth in Washington State slowed somewhat in the third quarter of this year, but still remains well above the long-term average. Additionally, the jobs that are being created are primarily quality, high-paying positions, which is important for the health of our economy.

Unemployment in the state remains at levels that are somewhat higher than I would like to see, but this continues to be impacted by a growing labor force and modestly slowing job growth. I still expect to see the rate drop a little further as we move through the final quarter of the year.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 24,277 home sales during the third quarter of 2016—up by an impressive 7.9% from the same period in 2015, and 6.8% above the total number of sales seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • Skagit County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with transactions up by 25.6%. There were also impressive increases in home sales in Thurston, San Juan, Pierce, and Grays Harbor Counties. Sales fell slightly in Jefferson and Kittitas Counties.
  • Overall listing activity remains low with the total number of homes for sale at the end of the quarter 11.2% below that seen a year ago. That said, I’m happy to report that listings have been slowly trending higher in 2016.
  • I’ve been thinking about how sales can continue to rise while inventory remains so low. I believe this is due to an uptick in first-time buyers. These buyers have no home to sell, so they don’t add to the number of listings; however, they do cause sales to increase when they buy. This is a good trend to see!

HOME PRICES

  • As demand continues to exceed supply, we are continuing to see upward pressure on home prices. In the third quarter, average prices rose by a substantial 10.2% and are 3.2% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • The current rate at which homes are appreciating cannot continue, and I anticipate that we will see a “cooling” start to take place in 2017.
  • When compared to the third quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County. In total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10% and prices were higher across the entire region when compared to a year ago.
  • Although supply levels are slowly starting to creep higher, we are still solidly in a seller’s market. Rising inventory levels should start to do a better job of meeting demand next year, which when combined with modestly higher mortgage interest rates, will see the region move closer toward becoming a balanced market.

DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by twenty-two days when compared to the third quarter of 2015.
  • All the counties that comprise this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop.
  • In the third quarter of 2016, it took an average of 52 days to sell a home. This is down from the 74 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, and down from the 67 days it took in the second quarter of this year.
  • King and Snohomish Counties remain the only two markets where it took less than a month to sell a home. Even though King County saw days on market rise slightly from 18 to 20, it remains the hottest market in the region.

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the third quarter of 2016, I am moving the needle very slightly toward the buyers. This is entirely due to the recent increase in inventory levels that I believe will continue through the rest of the year. That said, the region remains steadfastly a seller’s market.

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Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. 

Market News from Matthew Gardner

Historically low inventory levels, how we got here, and what to expect in the coming year

The housing market is performing remarkably well, with the exception of incredibly low inventory levels in many areas throughout the country. Why is this happening? Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains why and offers his predictions for what we can expect in the future.

Western Washington Gardner Report Q1 2016

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ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Washington State has seen very robust growth over the past 12 months with the addition of 102,600 new jobs, which is 224,000 more jobs than seen at the previous peak in 2008. With this robust growth, it is unsurprising to see the unemployment rate trend down to 5.8%—well below the long-term average of 6.4%. As pleasing as it is to see the unemployment rate drop, it is equally pleasing to see that the decrease comes in concert with growth in the civilian labor force, which continues to grow at a very solid pace. I continue to believe that there is no risk that we will see a statewide decline in the employment picture in 2016.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 13,841 home sales during the first quarter of 2016, up by 3.8% from the same period in 2015. Sales activity continues to slow as a function of inventory constraints. Any spring “bounce” in listings has, thus far, failed to materialize.
  • The growth in sales was most pronounced in Grays Harbor County, which increased by 35% (but represented a real increase of just 63 units). Robust increases were also seen in Kittitas, Mason, Pierce, Snohomish and Island Counties. Sales declines were seen in San Juan, Jefferson, Cowlitz and King Counties.
  • Overall listing activity was down by 30.1% compared to the first quarter of 2015, and this continues to put upward pressure on home prices (discussed below).
  • Economic vitality in the region, combined with interest rates that continue to retest historic lows, is driving buyer demand that simply cannot be met. I hope that we will see more inventory come online as we move through the year, but believe that any reasonable growth in inventory will still be insufficient for the demand in the market.

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HOME PRICES

  • Given the demand factors mentioned above, I am not surprised that prices are up by an average of 10.1% year-over-year. This is up from the 9.3% average growth in prices that was reported in the fourth quarter 2015 report.
  • When compared to the first quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Jefferson County, and all but three counties saw prices increase by double digits from the previous year.
  • Interestingly, there were eight counties that actually saw a drop in average sale prices between the last quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. I believe this was caused by seasonal factors, but will keep an eye on it.
  • Very straightforward supply and demand factors are pushing prices higher. While this certainly favors sellers, I believe that there are some buyers who are starting to suffer from “buyers’ fatigue”. Rampant growth in inventory would sort this out but it is unlikely to occur this year.

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DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by sixteen days when compared to the first quarter of 2015.
  • As was seen in the Q4 2015 report, there were just two markets where the length of time it took to sell a home did rise, but again the increases were minimal. Skagit County saw an increase of three days while San Juan County rose by nine days.
  • It took an average of 86 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year—up from the 78 days it took to sell a home in the last quarter but this is simply due to seasonality.
  • Sales activity remains most brisk in the Central Puget Sound counties. Given their proximity to the major job centers, this is not a surprise.

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CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the first quarter of 2016, I have moved the needle slightly more in favor of sellers. content_16088_WWA_GardnerReportQ1_SpeedometerInventory constraints persist and this is now starting to affect sales activity, with growth in pending as well as closed sales starting to trend down. However, price growth remains well above average and interest rates are still close to historic lows.

ABOUT MATTHEW

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

This blog was originally posted on the Windermere.com.

The Gardner Report: Fourth Quarter 2015

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The Washington State economy has added almost 370,000 jobs since the lowest point of the recession at the start of 2010. Additionally, total employment is 176,000 jobs higher than seen at the 2008 peak. With a vast majority of our metropolitan areas having fully recovered from the job losses seen during the recession, I expect to see somewhat more modest job growth in the coming year. That being said, our economy will continue to expand, which will be a benefit to our region’s housing market.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

  • There were 16,895 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2015, up by 4.6% from the same period in 2014. Sales activity is starting to slow somewhat but this is due to inventory constraints.
  • The growth in sales was most pronounced in Cowlitz and Lewis Counties and double-digit growth was also seen in Thurston County. Sales declines were seen in Grays Harbor County and Skagit County, but only minimally.
  • The number of home sales grew in all but two counties, with the average number of sales up by almost 6% from the same period in 2014.
  • I am not surprised to see some decline in sales start to appear. Listing activity was down by 28% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, and there were no counties where there were more homes for sale in Q4-2015 versus Q4-2014.

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HOME PRICES

  • Prices in the region rose by an average of 9.3% on a year-over-year basis but were
  • 0.4% lower than seen in the third quarter of 2015.
  • Unsurprisingly, no counties saw a drop in average home prices compared to fourth quarter last year.
  • When compared to the fourth quarter of 2014, San Juan County again saw the fastest price growth with an increase of 37.6%. However, this county is notorious for extreme swings given the huge variations in prices in the San Juan Islands. Double-digit percentage gains were also seen in five other counties.
  • As long as inventory constraints persist, it is likely that price growth will continue.
  • That said, modest increases in interest rates, in combination with declining affordability conditions in several markets, will likely slow price appreciation.

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DAYS ON MARKET

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by nine days when compared to the third quarter of 2014.
  • It took an average of 78 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter of this year—down from the 91 days it took to sell a home in fourth quarter of last year.
  • There were just two markets where the length of time it took to sell a home did rise, but the increases were minimal. Jefferson County saw an increase of eight days while Mason County rose by two days.
  • King County remains the only market where it takes less than a month to sell a home.

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CONCLUSIONS
content_15322_WWA_GardnerReportQ4_SpeedometerThis speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the fourth quarter of 2015, I have left the needle at the same position as the previous quarter. In as much as the market is still very heavily in favor of sellers, I fear that some markets are reaching price points that will test affordability. Furthermore, while inventory levels are likely to see some growth in 2016, it will not be enough to satisfy demand, adding further upward pressure to prices.

Overall, 2015 was a stellar year with sales volumes and home prices moving higher across the board. In 2016, I believe we’ll see some growth in sales activity, as well as continued price growth – just at more modest levels than last year. Interest rates are going to rise moderately through the year, but still remain very competitive when compared to historic averages. In other words, any increase in interest rates should not be a major obstacle for home buyers.

Looking forward, I believe 2016 will be a year of few surprises. Because it is an election year, I do not expect to see any significant governmental moves that would have a major impact on the U.S. economy or the housing market.


content_MatthewGardner_colorMatthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. 

This blog was originally posted on the Windermere Blog.

2016 Economic & Housing Forecast

The National Economic Forecast

1.The U.S. will continue to expand with real GDP growth of 2.3% in 2016.

Although a positive number, the forecasted rate of growth suggests that we will be modestly underperforming in 2016.  On a positive note, oil prices are likely to remain well below long-term averages, which puts more money into consumers’ pockets in terms of disposable incomes.  However, I believe that consumers are likely to continue to save rather than spend which will constrain growth.  That said, there is certainly no recession on the horizon – at least not yet – and a strong dollar will act as a bit of an anchor.

2.Employment will continue to expand but the rate of growth will slow. Look for an increase of 1.6% in 2016.

We are rapidly approaching full employment (generally considered to be when the unemployment rate drops below 5 percent).  As such, growth in employment has to be driven more by population growth rather than a return to employment. 2015 saw an average of around 210,000 jobs created per month and I believe that this is likely to slow to an average monthly gain of 190,000 new jobs.

3.The U.S. unemployment rate will continue to drop and end 2016 at 4.8%.

As mentioned above, we are heading toward full employment and, as such, the national unemployment rate cannot trend much lower.  That said, the less acknowledged U-6 rate (which includes those working part-time and those marginally attached to the workforce) will remain elevated at around 8%, signifying that there is still some slack in the economy and room for the rate to drop a little further.

4.Inflation will remain in check with the Consumer Price Index at 1.9%.

The Federal Reserve has begun the long-awaited tightening of monetary policy and we will likely see the Fed Funds Rate continue to move higher over the next two years. Inflation has yet to respond to the low unemployment rate, but it will.

The core rate of inflation should remain in check and the overall rate could stay below long-term averages as a function of stubbornly low energy costs. Should we see a shift in OPEC’s position relative to oil supply, the overall rate of inflation could rise more rapidly.  Oil prices, therefore, will remain in focus during 2016.

The National Housing Market Forecast

5.Mortgage rates will rise, but we will still end 2016 with the average 30-year fixed rate below 5%.

I am taking the Fed at its word when it says that monetary tightening in 2016 will be gradual and heavily data dependent. Accordingly, I expect only a modest uptick in long-term rates in 2016. Furthermore, as long as the Federal Reserve continues to reinvest the dividends that it is receiving from their bond holdings – which is highly likely – the yield on the key 10-year treasury will remain low and hold mortgage rates in check. This is only likely to change after the general election, therefore suggesting that rates will remain very attractive relative to their long-term averages.

6.Credit Quality – which had been remarkably stringent – will relax a little.

Access to credit, specifically mortgage instruments, has not been easy for many would-be homebuyers but that is set to change.  I believe that we will see some improvement, specifically for borrowers with “near-prime” credit. This will be of some assistance to first-time buyers; however, credit quality will still be higher than it needs to be.

7.Existing home sales will rise modestly to an annual rate of 5.53 million units with existing home prices up by 4.7%.

I anticipate that we will see some improvement in overall transactional velocities in 2016, but unfortunately, demand will still exceed supply. Prices will continue to rise, but at a more constrained pace than seen over the past few years. This will be a function of modestly rising interest rates as well as slightly improving levels of inventory. I anticipate that we will see more listings come online as more households return to positions of positive equity in their homes.

8.New home sales will jump and be one of the biggest stories for 2016.  Look for a 23% increase in sales and prices rising by 3.4%.

I believe that builders will start to build to the entry-level buyer, filling a huge void.  Additionally, I see the total number of new home starts increase quite dramatically in 2016 as banks start to ease lending and builders start to believe that the downward trend in homeownership has come to an end.  This will help to absorb some of the pent-up demand currently in the market.

9.Foreclosures will continue to trend down to “pre-bubble” averages.

Any story regarding foreclosures will be a non-story as the rate will continue to trend down toward historic averages. However, we will see the occasional uptick as banks work their way through their existing inventory of foreclosed homes. Move along.  There’s nothing to see here.

10.The Millennials will start to enter the market.

There are several substantial reasons to expect an increase in Millennial buyers. Firstly, early Millennials are getting older and starting to settle down, and even with modestly higher mortgage rates, rents are likely to continue to trend upward, and this will pull many into homeownership.

Secondly, more favorable mortgage insurance premiums, additional supply from downsizing boomers, and growing confidence in the housing market will lead to palpable growth in demand from this important – and substantial – demographic.

To conclude, it appears to me that 2016 will be a year of few surprises – at least until the general election! Because it is an election year, I do not expect to see any significant governmental moves that would have major impacts on the U.S. economy or the housing market.

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Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. 

 

 

 

The Gardner Report: Third Quarter 2015

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Economic Overview

After a period of above-average growth, Washington State has seen a modest slowing in employment growth, but we continue to add jobs at a respectable rate. The State unemployment rate was measured at 5.3%, marginally above the national level, but it is trending in the right direction.

Although growth continues to be uneven across the state, there are some encouraging signs which suggest that all of our main metropolitan areas should see positive job growth for the foreseeable future.

Home Sales Activity

• There were 22,207 home sales during the third quarter of 2015, up by 14.1% from the same period in 2014.
• For the first time in several years, there were no counties that saw annual decreases in home sales.
• The growth in sales was most pronounced in Kittitas County, and all but two counties saw double-digit percentage increases from the same period last year.
• The lack of available inventory in the region continues to be a concern. Listings in the third quarter were down by 18% from the second quarter, and down by 24.5% from the third quarter of 2014.

Home Prices

• Prices in the region rose by an average of 6.3% on a year-over-year basis and were 9.6% higher than seen in the second quarter of 2015.
• The only county where home prices fell on an annualized basis was in Kittitas County, but the drop was a minuscule 0.5%. Kittitas County saw sale prices grow by 5.8% between the second and third quarters of this year.
• When compared to the third quarter of 2014, San Juan County showed the fastest price growth with an increase of 14.6%. Double-digit percentage gains were also seen in four other counties.
• As long as inventory constraints persist, it is likely that price growth will continue. However, if interest rates rise in 2016, as they’re expected to do, we will likely see price growth slow.

Days on Market

• The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by nine days when compared to the third quarter of 2014.
• It took an average of 74 days to sell a home in the third quarter of this year—down from 84 in the second quarter.
• There were just two markets where the length of time it took to sell a home did rise, but the increases were minimal. Jefferson County saw an increase of eight days while Mason County rose by two days.
• King County remains the only market where it takes less than a month to sell a home.

Conclusions

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the third quarter of 2015 I have moved the needle a little farther in favor of sellers. Although sales did slow between the second and third quarters, I attribute this to a lack of inventory rather than any other factors. Additionally, interest rates dropped between the second and third quarters, which made buying more favorable.

The persistently low levels of inventory in the region remain a concern. Such an imbalance between supply and demand is unsustainable. When I look at the ratio between listings and pending sales there are some counties with less than two months of inventory, which is troublesome. Any number below four months is certainly considered to be a seller’s market and, in my experience, a prolonged period of time with less than six months of inventory results in an unstable market.

In normal housing market cycles, when such an imbalance exists we could expect home builders to fill in the gap with inventory, but this has not happened thus far. Unless we see a rapid escalation in construction activity, the market will remain remarkably tight well into 2016.

About Matthew Gardner

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Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

You’re welcome to download and view the full PDF report for more information. This blog was originally posted on the Windermere Blog.