Increased inventory, slower sales and more price reductions all point to a balancing market—welcome news for price-shocked buyers. Sales prices are up from last October and down from the all-time high reached this spring. Despite the slowdown, it’s important to point out that we’re only moving back toward what a normal market looks like. King and Snohomish counties each have over two months of available inventory. While that is double the inventory of a year ago, it’s far short of the four to six months supply that is considered a balanced market. Sellers looking to list their home now can be sure there remains plenty of interest among home buyers.
The median home on the Eastside sold for $890,000 in October, up 5 percent from a year ago and unchanged from the previous month. While year-over-year price increases were in the single digits for the Eastside overall, several areas, including Kirkland, Woodinville and Mercer Island, experienced double-digit price gains. Buyers are still having to pay a premium for desirable Eastside properties. However, with more choices and less buyer urgency, sellers need to price their home correctly to maximize their chances of getting the best possible return.
Inventory in King County for all homes, both single-family and condominium, soared 102 percent over last October. The increase was due to an influx of new listings and the fact that homes are now taking longer to sell than at the peak of the market this spring. While buyers now have more breathing room to make their decisions, the 2.4 months of inventory in King County is still far from a balanced market. The median price of a single-family home in October was $670,999, an increase of 7 percent from the same time last year, and virtually unchanged from August and September. South King County showed larger increases, with prices rising more than 10 percent from a year ago in Auburn, Kent and Renton.
In October, the median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $750,000, up 2 percent from last October and down slightly from last month. While inventory doubled over a year ago, Seattle falls behind most areas of King County in supply with just under two months of inventory available. Demand is predicted to stay high, with Seattle’s population projected to grow at twice the national rate next year. That said, buyers are in the position to be able to negotiate. A recent analysis named Seattle as one of the top markets in the country where it makes the most sense to buy this winter.
Inventory in Snohomish County soared 65 percent in October as compared to a year ago. The area now has 2.4 months of inventory, about the same relative supply as King County. As with most of the Puget Sound area, the increase in inventory was due to a higher number of sellers listing their homes and fewer sales. Year-over-year, the median price of a single-family home sold in October in Snohomish County grew 8 percent to $473,000. The median price in September was $485,000.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside Blog.
Interest rates are changing. Here is a great article written by Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner about how this may affect the Real Estate Market.
Interest rates have been trending higher since the fall of 2017, and I fully expect they will continue in that direction – albeit relatively slowly – as we move through the balance of the year and into 2019. So what does this mean for the US housing market?
It might come as a surprise to learn that I really don’t think rising interest rates will have a major impact on the housing market. Here is my reasoning:
1. First Time Home Buyers
As interest rates rise, I expect more buyers to get off the fence and into the market; specifically, first time buyers who, according to Freddie Mac, made up nearly half of new mortgages in the first quarter of this year. First-time buyers are critical to the overall health of the housing market because of the subsequent chain reaction of sales that result so this is actually a positive outcome of rising rates.
2. Easing Credit Standards
Rising interest rates may actually push some lenders to modestly ease credit standards. I know this statement will cause some people to think that easing credit will immediately send us back to the days of sub-prime lending and housing bubbles, but I don’t see this happening. Even a very modest easing of credit will allow for more than one million new home buyers to qualify for a mortgage.
3. Low Unemployment
We stand today in a country with very low unemployment (currently 4.0% and likely to get close to 3.5% by year’s end). Low unemployment rates encourage employers to raise wages to keep existing talent, as well as to recruit new talent. Wage growth can, to a degree, offset increasing interest rates because, as wages rise, buyers can afford higher mortgage payments.
There is a clear relationship between housing supply, home prices, and interest rates. We’re already seeing a shift in inventory levels with more homes coming on the market, and I fully expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. This increase in supply is, in part, a result of homeowners looking to cash in on their home’s appreciation before interest rates rise too far. This, on its own, will help ease the growth of home prices and offset rising interest rates. Furthermore, if we start to see more new construction activity at the lower end of the market, this too will help.
5. National versus Local
Up until this point, I’ve looked at how rising interest rates might impact the housing market on a national level, but as we all know, real estate is local, and different markets react to shifts in different ways. For example, rising interest rates will be felt more in expensive housing markets, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Orange County, but I expect to see less impact in areas like Cleveland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and Detroit, where buyers spend a lower percentage of their incomes on housing. The exception to this would be if interest rates continue to rise for a prolonged period; in that case, we might see demand start to taper off, especially in the less expensive housing markets where buyers are more price sensitive.
For more than seven years, home buyers and real estate professionals alike have grown very accustomed to historically low interest rates. We always knew the time would come when they would begin to rise again, but that doesn’t mean the outlook for housing is doom and gloom. On the contrary, I believe rising interest rates will help bring us closer to a more balanced real estate market, something that is sorely needed in many markets across the country.