Monthly Newsletter – June 2019

Changes are coming: The Washington State Legislature is changing the way in which real estate excise taxes (REET) are calculated. REET are different from your annual property taxes; they are the tax that a seller pays when they sell their home, based on the sale price.

Currently, the Washington State excise tax is 1.28 percent. Local municipalities add their excise tax on top of the state tax, with most cities in our area adding 0.50 percent, to total 1.78 percent. Effective January 1, 2020, Washington State will begin calculating real estate excise taxes based on a tier system. Below are examples of how this change will affect the different price points.

 

The majority of sellers will enjoy a slight savings once the new tax structure starts in 2020, however, sellers whose homes are worth $1.5M or more should pay close attention as the tiered system will cost them more in 2020. If you own a high-end home and have been considering downsizing, doing so inside of 2019 may be a winning strategy.

If you or someone you know is curious about the value of your home or you have considered a move, please reach out. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On June 7th, my office spent our annual Community Service Day with the Snohomish Garden Club constructing trellises, weeding and staking beds and planting and labeling a half-acre of produce!

The Snohomish Garden Club will harvest this half-acre, which will yield close to 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to be donated to various food banks and senior centers in Snohomish County. The land for the garden is generously donated by the Bailey Family Farm.

For more information on how you can lend a hand, please visit: SnohomishGardenClub.com

Windermere’s Community Service Day was established in 1984 to offer agents and staff a chance to volunteer an entire workday to give back to the neighborhoods in which they live and work.

 

 

The longer days and warmer weather means that your favorite movie is no longer relegated only to a dark stuffy room. Grab the folding chairs, blankets and popcorn, and check out a few of these fun outdoor movies. You’ll find classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Princess Bride, as well as newer releases like Mary Poppins Returns and Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Most of them are free, and many locations also offer fun, family-friendly activities before the movie starts.

Posted on July 16, 2019 at 2:57 am
Melody Benton | Category: Community Events, Monthly Real Estate NEWS, Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – April 2019

I am pleased to present the first-quarter 2019 edition of the Gardner Report, which provides insights into select counties of the Western Washington housing market. This analysis is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. I hope that this information will assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Click to view the full report

When you shop at a local Farmers Market, you’re buying outstanding freshness, quality and flavor. Knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it was grown provides peace of mind for your family. Plus, you’re supporting a sustainable regional food system that helps small family farms stay in business; protects land from development, and provides the community with fresh, healthy food. Find one near you!

We are collecting vegetable seeds and starts for the Martha Perry Garden, where volunteers grow thousands of pounds of fresh produce every year for local food banks.

My office will be spending a volunteer day in the garden for our annual Community Service Day in June. In addition to our labor, we will gift them all of the vegetable seeds and starts collected between now and then.

All seeds should be no more than a year old, although fresh seeds are preferred.
Wish List:

Basil, Beets, Cabbage, Carrots*, Cauliflower, Chard, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Herbs, Marigolds, Peppers, Radishes, Summer Squash, Snow Peas, Tomatoes, Winter Squash, Zucchini

*High Demand!

Starts of cucumbers, winter & summer squash, cole crops (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc) are especially welcome

Thank you!!

Thank you for another successful Shred Day!

Two full truckloads of paper were safely shredded and recycled.

We love providing this service for our clients, friends and neighbors, but what we’re really excited about is how you all gave back to the community. Your donations provided 534 pounds of food and $1,129 to benefit Concern for Neighbors food bank. Thank you!

Posted on May 5, 2019 at 9:18 am
Melody Benton | Category: Monthly Real Estate NEWS, Newsletter

Monthly Newsletter – February 2019

Most recently, we have experienced an uptick in market activity. In fact, in King and Snohomish counties we saw a 53% increase in pending sales from December to January. While it is seasonally normal to see activity increase at the first of the year, it was 16% higher than the previous January. This increase is being driven by multiple factors, such as our thriving economy and job market, price acceleration softening, and the recent decrease in interest rates.

Currently, rates are as low as 4.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage – 0.75 points down from the fourth quarter of 2018. In fact, the interest rate in November was the highest we’ve seen in five years!  The current rate level is the lowest we have seen in a year. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point increase in interest rate, a buyer loses ten percent in purchase power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate increases by a point during their search, in order to keep the same monthly payment, the buyer would need to decrease their purchase price to $450,000. Conversely, for every decrease in interest rate, a buyer can increase their purchase price and keep the same monthly mortgage payment.

Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! If you take the scenario I just described and apply it to the link above, you can see that the folks who choose to jump into the market this year will enjoy an interest cost savings when securing their mortgage. This lasts the entire life of the loan and can have a huge impact on the monthly cash flow of a household. This cost savings is also coupled with a slow-down in home-price appreciation. Complete year-over-year, prices are up around 8% in both King and Snohomish counties, but note that from 2017 to 2018 we saw a 14% increase. Price appreciation is adjusting to more normal levels and is predicted to increase 4-6% in 2019 over 2018.

As we head into spring market, the time of year we see the most inventory become available, the interest rates will have a positive influence on both buyers and sellers. Naturally, buyers will enjoy the cost savings, but sellers will enjoy a larger buyer pool looking at their homes due to the demand the lower rates are creating. Further, would-be sellers who are also buyers that secured a rate as low as 3.75% via a purchase or re-finance in 2015-2017, will consider giving up that lower rate for the right move-up house now that rates are not as big of a jump up as they were during the second half of 2018.

This recent decrease in rate is making the move-up market come alive. What is great about this, is that it opens up inventory for the first-time buyer and helps complete the market cycle. First-time buyers are abundant right now as the Millennial generation is gaining in age and making big life transitions such as buying real estate. According to Nerd Wallet, 49% of all Millennials have a home purchase in their 5-year plan.

Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, rates should increase into the 5’s in 2019. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 6.85%, increases are increases, and securing today’s rate could be hugely beneficial from a cost-saving perspective. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Note the 30-year average – it is reasonable to think that rates closer to that must be in our future at some point.

So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge plus in helping make that transition more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.

If you would like additional information on how today’s interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact me. I would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is my goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.

Celebrate Earth Day with us! Bring all your sensitive documents to be professionally destroyed on-site by Confidential Data Disposal. Limit 20 file boxes per customer.

We will also be collecting non-perishable food and cash donations to benefit Concern for Neighbors Food Bank. Donations are not required, but are appreciated.

Saturday, April 20th, 10am – 2pm.
4211 Alderwood Mall Blvd, Lynnwood 98036

*This is a shredding-only event. Only paper will be accepted – no electronics or recyclables.

 

I am pleased to present the fourth-quarter 2018 edition of the Gardner Report, which provides insights into select counties of the Western Washington housing market. This analysis is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. I hope that this information will assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Click to view the full report

Posted on March 4, 2019 at 2:01 pm
Melody Benton | Category: Monthly Real Estate NEWS

Monthly Newsletter

With a healthy increase in inventory since May, the need for buyers to have all their down payment funds immediately available, and a willingness to make offers with no contingencies has passed in most cases. It has been quite a relief, and is providing opportunities for many folks that have wanted to cash in on their well-developed equity levels, and either move up to a bigger home or down size (right size) to a home that better fits their current lifestyle.

For the first time in years we are starting to see an increase in contingent offers that are turning into pending transactions. A contingent sale is one where a buyer makes an offer to purchase their next home contingent on the sale of their current home. In some cases, the buyer’s current home may be already on the market, or in other cases they still need to launch their home to the market. Many buyers in this situation wait to find a home/seller that is willing to accept their contingent offer, and then they immediately launch their home onto the market.

The goal is a sale within 30-45 days, which will then provide the buyer with their down payment funds, and then close both properties within days of each other, making a smooth transition from one house to the next. We have not seen inventory levels the way they are now since late 2014, so the opportunity for successfully executing a contingent offer has not been an option for 4 years! It is a great time to seize this opportunity. With that said, let’s look at some statistics which highlight some of the gains there are to be had.

First and foremost, let’s look at year-over-year price appreciation. Over the last 12 months, we have seen an 11% increase in prices in both King and Snohomish Counties. Last year, the year-over-year price appreciation was 14% for both counties. This illustrates that price appreciation is slowing, or softening, if you will, due to the increase in inventory levels. This is a welcome trend as we move away from unsustainable appreciation levels, which is helping to stabilize affordability. Bear in mind that a historically-normal appreciation rate is 3-5%, so we are still a ways away from reaching that baseline.

The current market environment for both counties is still a seller’s market, sitting at 2.6 months of inventory based on pending sales for King, and 2.3 for Snohomish. A balanced market is representative of 3-6 months on inventory; we are currently just under that, but well above the extreme 0.5-0.8 months that we experienced over the last year or so. This has created more selection, which has minimized multiple offers and given buyers the opportunity to write offers with more comfortable terms, such as a home sale contingency.

Lastly, let’s talk interest rates! Currently, they are hovering around 5%. Yes, this is up from the 4.5% we saw earlier this year, but still well below the 30-year historical average of 6.7%. Money is still relatively cheap to borrow, and this should be taken advantage of as experts predict interest rates to rise as we head into 2019 and beyond. Your interest rate is typically fixed for the life of your loan, so rate plays into the long-term savings you can have on your asset if locked in at today’s levels.

If you have thought about making a move to a home that is a better fit for your current lifestyle, but have been stalled because you weren’t sure how to do it, now is the time to consider your options. Please reach out if you’d like a review of the current market conditions and how they relate to your goals. It is my goal to help keep my clients informed and empower strong decisions.

 

Choosing a color palette for your home can be a complex process. Whether you are refreshing the interior or exterior, identifying colors that you relate to and that are on trend can be a challenge. Check out this article from House Beautiful on the most popular color palettes for 2019 based on your color personality. I think there is a lot of fun to be had here, and remember – a couple coats of paint can be the most inexpensive way to refresh your home. If you need a painter or any other contractor, remember that I can be a resource, as I have a preferred contractors list that I can pull from.

 

#TackleHomelessness
Every play matters in the fight against homelessness! Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks for helping us raise $4,600 to #TackleHomelessness in their last home game against Los Angeles. That brings our season total to $9,200 and our cumulative money raised to $76,000! Good luck to the Hawks this weekend against the Chargers!

Posted on November 4, 2018 at 10:58 am
Melody Benton | Category: Monthly Real Estate NEWS, Newsletter

Seattle, What’s the Big Deal??

 

The headlines are everywhere proclaiming Seattle as the hottest housing market in the nation. Our humble city built on aerospace, trade, and influenced by a software engineer who donates millions, has found itself on the national map as the new darling of the tech world. Of course, this proclamation cannot go without mentioning the commerce juggernaut right in our own backyard, Amazon. I was told recently by Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, that Amazon occupies 20% of all Class A business space in Seattle – that is a lot! It seems you cannot drive down I-5 between Shoreline and the Sea-Tac Airport without spotting at least 15-20 cranes busily building more of that office space. So why, Seattle? In contrast to California’s Bay Area, the cost of living here (rents and real estate) is half – office space costs half and companies can provide the same wages. This combination puts more money in employees’ pockets and companies are not as expensive to run, making profits higher. This has driven many companies to relocate or expand from the Bay Area to Seattle or Bellevue, markedly increasing the demand for housing.  This has put an even tighter squeeze on inventory, putting us in the most extreme Seller’s market (0-3 months of inventory) we’ve ever seen. This has driven prices up, and values are hinging on commute times. Below is a chart that outlines the amount of available inventory based on pending sales measured in months and the median price in the month of March 2017.

 

As you can see, there is a direct correlation between proximity to job centers (Seattle and Bellevue), and home prices. If you have considered selling your home and making a move, now is one of the most favorable times to do so. If you are considering a purchase, the environment is competitive but there are opportunities. Aligning with an experienced and knowledgeable broker who can help you properly strategize, is key. One might think it is simple to sell your home in this market, but getting top dollar, strong terms, and a sale that will pass appraisal is the ultimate goal, and takes a high level of communication and nuanced negotiations. The same applies for buyers, along with education and a refined process, which helps empower buyers to make informed decisions and win. Our city is changing, and whether one thinks it is for the good or the bad is up to them, but this is our new reality. Seattle is beautiful, prosperous and full of opportunities for those who choose to call it home. Like any opportunity, it needs to be properly analyzed, considered, and ultimately seized. If you are curious how your home measures up in today’s market please contact me, I’d be happy to provide you a complimentary market analysis to help keep you informed, or sit down and chat about the steps of a successful home purchase.

 

Posted on May 17, 2017 at 2:09 am
Melody Benton | Category: Monthly Real Estate NEWS | Tagged , , , , , , ,