Summer Patio Makeover Tips

I think it’s important to make one home upgrade a year if possible. My improvement for 2017 (and 2018) was a backyard landscape remodel. I had the landscaper do it in two phases to spread out the financial investment. In December 2017, the old grass and most plants were removed. New dirt was brought in and new flowerbeds were defined and grass seed installed.

In the last couple of months, the gardens have been planted as phase two. The transformation is truly amazing. I love looking out the windows into the yard to see this amazing change. It's the last big home improvement for me that I know I will enjoy for many years now that its completed! I love having a sprinkler system and uplighting under the trees which allows me to enjoy this beautiful garden at night! Implement these simple touches to spruce up your patio for the summer:

Tidy up: Before you start your patio makeover, take a look around and clean up anything that may have become dirty during the fall and winter seasons. Power-wash walkways, remove dead foliage, wash windows, and clean outdoor lighting fixtures.

Add decoration: Decorate your patio with garden planters, new furniture and framed pictures to create a more inviting and homey feel. Fill the planters with flowers that will bloom during the spring and summer seasons.

Patio lighting: Adequate exterior lighting is a key component of your home security. Adding string lights not only provides safety but also adds a warm and inviting ambiance for you and your guests.

Add entertainment: Build a bar or bonfire pit for a fun reason to get together. But don’t forget to include a few other activities such as cards, ping pong or croquet to keep your guests happy and entertained all summer long.

Improving Inventory Creating Opportunities for Buyers

Member brokers of Northwest Multiple Listing Service added 14,524 new listings during May, the first time that volume topped 14,000 since May, 2008. Total active listings snapped a streak of 44 months of negative numbers during May when the year-over-year comparison showed an increase of 3.8 percent. 

King County has more than a month's supply for the first time since September 2017, and only the third time since October 2016. For the MLS area overall, there is 1.44 months of supply. Brokers welcomed the figures showing healthy gains in inventory, but some say they are keeping a watchful eye on rising prices and interest rates, as well as on buyer profiles, including retiring boomers.

There was never a "spring market" this year like what was experienced in the past four years. This could be due to rising interest rates, lack of inventory, increased home prices, frustration with presenting multiple offers without success, requirements for larger down payments, and an increase in the cost of living as reasons.

The good news for home buyers in King County is that compared to last month, there were almost 1,000 more homes for sale. On the flip side, home prices in the county are up 16 percent year-over-year, which, when combined with rising interest rates, is forcing some buyers to expand their search to Pierce and Snohomish counties so they can find something they can afford to buy.

While there is slightly more inventory available, the market time for most listings is less than a month, and multiple-offer situations occur daily even though there may only be five offers instead of 10 or more.

In King County, the median sales price on all homes rose just over 16 percent, from $560,000 to $650,000. The median price for a single family home rose 14.64 percent, from $633,500 to $726,275.

The condo market showed signs of improvement with inventory growing by nearly 21.4 percent, boosted by the addition of 1,803 new listings during May (up 11.3 percent from a year ago). Even so, there is less than a month's supply system-wide.

I'm hearing of more boomers and friends planning to move to states where housing costs less with the increased home values and property taxes go up.

Improving Supply Unlikely to Reverse Rising Prices

It's an interesting world in real estate right now. Buyers may be cheered by an uptick in inventory, but the improving supply is unlikely to reverse rising prices. Of the 23 counties in the Northwest MLS service area, only six of them reported year-over-year gains in inventory compared to a year ago. King County was the only one in the Puget Sound region to notch a gain, up 13.6 percent from a year ago.

Area-wide there is 1.3 months of supply, with 4-to-6 months used as a gauge of a balanced market. Three counties - King, Kitsap, and Snohomish -- reported less than a month of supply. The condo component remains very tight with slightly more than three weeks (0.87 months) of supply.

Prices are still climbing at double-digit rates in most counties. Year-over-year prices for single family homes and condos combined jumped about 15.3 percent overall, from $360,000 to $415,000. Within the four-county Puget Sound region, King County notched the biggest gain at nearly 18.2 percent. Prices there rose $100,000 from a year ago, from $550,000 to $650,000.

While prices are still increasing, both inventory and the number of expired listings are also rising. The rising interest rates are having a "moderate impact" with buyers, forcing some to look at homes in lower price points. Buyers still want a good home in a good area but some are reconsidering just how much they want to pay, saying they don't want to be "house payment poor."

Sellers are beginning to realize the amount offered over list price may not be bankable unless buyers are willing to make up the difference. Consequently, they are being more discretionary with the offers they consider. Using local, proactive lenders, increasing and/ or releasing the earnest money, preferring verifiable cash offers or conventional over VA or FHA, higher down payments, shorter closing times, and setting some future date when they will review all offers are examples of common practices in offers.

Here are a few myths occurring in our market

  • "Seller has to take the highest offer"  - the seller can accept any of the offers that are presented.
  • Similarly, "if multiple offers are made, the seller has to take or work with the first one first," is also untrue. A seller can address any of the offers in any order.
  • "Cash is always king." - if the cash is not verifiable to the seller's satisfaction, a conventional offer may actually have a better chance of success.
  • "Pre-approval with a lender is the same as pre-underwritten," is another misbelief. The farther down the path a loan application can go, the more likely it is to be approved.

Buying or selling a home can involve nearly two dozen people so it continues to remain important that buyers and sellers work with a broker who is well-versed in the process and able to coordinate all the participants to assure a successful closing. 

First Quarter Pacific Market Report Details Continued Strong 'Frenzy' In Region

Seattle and surrounding areas continued to show brisk homebuying activity, according to Coldwell Banker Bain's comprehensive Q1 2018 Pacific Market Report released this week. The 20-page report, which covers regions all over Western Washington and Portland, Oregon, predicts a 'Spring frenzy' for Seattle and Eastside markets, as demand continues to outpace supply.  Highlights of the report include:

  • The average single-family home price - across all Seattle communities climbed well over $800k
  • Seattle's luxury market sales, $2.3 million and above, showed strong interest
  • The Seattle neighborhoods of Madison Park and South Lake Union/Queen Anne demonstrated the highest average overall sales prices in the city
  • Seattle's average condo sale price surpassed $500k
  • The average single-family home price – across all Eastside communities – surpassed $1 million for the first quarter $1,045,136. This represented a 16.5% increase over Q1 2017
  • Just outside Seattle, Bainbridge Island's average sales price exceeded $1 million dollars



Pricing Is Still Important in Today’s Market

MLS figures for March show a surge in both new listings and pending sales compared to February as the spring market heats up. Prices overall are up about 13.2 percent from a year ago, and even more so in the four-county Puget Sound region. Among these four counties, Kitsap had the largest year-over-year increase at 19 percent, but King County homes are still the priciest. The median price for last month's sales of single family homes and condos combined in King County is $625,000, up 17.9 percent from a year ago. For single family homes, excluding condos, the median price for last month's sales was $689,950.

The market continues to trend hot with no apparent end in sight. Northwest MLS member brokers continue to scramble to replenish supply. They added 10,595 new listings during March, slightly more than a year ago when they added 10,321 properties to the selection. Last month's additions marked a big gain from February when 7,284 new listings were added.

We have returned to an extremely intense market for each new listing due to extremely strong job growth and eager buyers who want to purchase before interest rates go higher. The housing market is back to a pressure cooker situation and we are witnessing high levels of sales activity intensity for each new listing coming on the market.

The tri-county area comprised of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties added essentially the same number of new listings during first quarter 2018 as the same period a year ago, while the actual number of sales dropped slightly. Why? Because there are too few properties for sale and rental rates are through the roof. People are desperate to find a home. Housing inventory remains well below "normal" ranges based on a level of 4-to-6 months of supply used as an indicator of a balanced market. Area-wide, Northwest MLS figures show there is about 1.2 months of supply, with four counties reporting less than a month's supply. Snohomish has the sparsest selection at 0.67 months, followed by King (0.83 months), Kitsap (0.95 months), and Pierce (0.99 months).

Pricing in this market is still extremely important. In March we saw more listings where sellers pushed the price envelope causing the property to go past their offer review date with no offers in hand. It is not uncommon for buyers to consider a property on the market over 10 days as having something wrong with it. Many buyers are returning from taking a break during the winter after having lost out on several attempts to win in the multiple offer competition. Throwing caution to the wind, these seasoned veterans of the multiple offer bidding wars are pulling out all the stops (contingencies) to win.

Instead of competing in today's market, some current owners are opting to remodel. What this means on the larger scale is a continued lack of inventory coming on the market to feed the voracious appetite of the buyers in our marketplace.

Western Washington Market Continues to be Hot!

Interest rates are creeping up, inventory is still squeezed, and some feared revised tax laws would have a chilling effect on home sales, but Northwest Multiple Listing Service leaders say the local market remains competitive. Instead, the local market has been even hotter and more competitive than last year at this time.

Northwest MLS figures for last month show a slight year-over-year decrease (about 2.8 percent) in overall pending sales, a likely consequence of inventory being down nearly 12.9 percent. Other key indicators of the market - new listings, closed sales, and selling prices - all showed gains in February compared to 12 months ago.

Among the four Puget Sound area counties, Snohomish had the largest year-over-year price increase at 18.8 percent. Its countywide median price for February's sales spiked to $460,000 from $387,250, but that is $130,000 below the $590,000 median price for transactions that closed in King County last month.

For single family homes (excluding condos), prices rose 13.7 percent overall, from $343,000 to $390,000. Within King County, the median price was $649,950, with three areas (Mercer Island, Bellevue west of I-405, and Kirkland-Bridle Trails) reporting median prices of more than $1 million for single family homes.

There is about 1.4 months of supply area-wide, but both King and Snohomish counties have less than a month's supply. For condos, there is only 0.88 months of supply - and even less than that in King, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties.

The arrival of daylight savings usually triggers a burst in new listings. New construction could also help ease some of the pressure, suggests Mike Grady, president and COO at Coldwell Banker Bain. "Even though Commerce Department data show purchases of newly built single-family homes nationwide fell 7.8 percent in January after dropping 7.6 percent in December, and purchases have declined for four of the past six months, we are not seeing that trend in the Northwest."

The challenge is that the number of buyers is near record highs. The right plan, including help from a skilled broker, can help buyers find success in this fast-paced market. Buyers are coming to the harsh reality that high home prices are here to stay and they need to consider smaller homes or longer than hoped-for drive times.

30-year mortgage rates climbed slightly for the seventh consecutive weekly increase, but these small increases are not yet creating too much of a stir. Conversations with buyers are more around the cost of commuting and time away from home versus floor plan and home size. History tells us that the real estate market is cyclical, but no guess on when this cycle will change.

                                                                                                                                                                                                       - NWMLS

Home Buyers Still Competing for Sparse Inventory 

The Seattle area real estate market hasn't skipped a beat with pent-up demand from buyers stronger than ever. The report on January activity shows a slight year-over-year gain in pending sales, a double-digit increase in prices, and continued shortages of inventory. Sellers that have put their properties on the market early this year have less competition and are seeing multiple offers. Open houses are experiencing heavy traffic.

For the MLS overall, last month's 7,820 pending sales marked a slight increase compared to January 2017 when members reported 7,724 mutually accepted offers, a gain of 1.24 percent. The number of total active listings at month end stood at 8,037 homes and condos, down nearly 17.6 percent from a year ago when the selection totaled 9,750 listings. Measured by months of supply, there was only about 1.5 months overall, well below the 4-to-6 month level many industry experts use as a gauge of a balanced market.

Condo inventory is especially tight in Snohomish County (0.8 months of supply) and King County (0.92 months). System-wide there is under a month's supply (0.93 months). For the four-county Puget Sound region, there were only 427 active condo listings at month end, down almost 31 percent from a year ago.

March can't come soon enough for home buyers. In March, the number of new listings usually bumps up substantially from the low number of new listings typical for winter months. 

Within the four-county Puget Sound region, King County had the largest year-over-year gain. Prices for homes and condos combined shot up 20.3 percent in that county, rising from $475,000 to $571,250. Pierce County reported a jump of 15 percent, followed by Snohomish County at about 12.2 percent and Kitsap County at nearly 3.5 percent.

Builders are trying to respond to the pent-up demand. Seattle and the Eastside are seeing a growing number of infill homes in the core areas, some on lots as small as 3,000 square feet. Builders are doing smaller releases and setting offer review dates, and then determine price ranges for the next phase.

The luxury market is also off to a quick start in 2018. The luxury market is gaining positive momentum due to the wealth effect of the stock market, the strength of the U.S. economy, and homebuyers from the Pacific Rim, especially China. Northwest MLS figures show sales of homes selling for $2 million or more are far outpacing year-ago activity. Last month, member-brokers reported selling 55 residences at this price threshold. That's up 66 percent from the same month a year ago when brokers sold 33 such homes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        - NWMLS

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Article featured in the Residential Specialist Magazine 

Won’t you be my neighbor?

Imagine a grown-up version of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and that’s what Roger Morris, CRS, REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, has done. “I wanted to do more than post property videos, which is what a lot of agents do,” Morris explains. “So I had this idea for On the Road with Roger. I’m in my car with a videographer, driving through different Seattle neighborhoods, and I talk about what makes the neighborhood unique.” The key, Morris emphasizes, is that “the neighborhood has star billing and I’m on camera a limited amount.”

  1. Each video follows a four-part template and a two-minute limit.
  2. Morris identifies himself and where he works.
  3. The featured neighborhood is geographically identified.
  4. Brief vignettes zoom in on unique neighborhood attributes.
  5. Not everything is filmed from the car. “For a portion of each video, I try to be out of the car, showing unique features of that neighborhood. I usually start and end the video from inside the car, and in between I am showing the lake, park or neighborhood feature, being part on-camera, part off-camera,” Morris says.