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Rebecca Carlson's Seattle Blog

By Rebecca Carlson | Broker in Seattle, WA
  • Pending Sales up in Most of Seattle by Rebecca Carlson

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Buying in Seattle, Home Selling in Seattle  |  June 6, 2011 5:11 PM  |  1,623 views  |  No comments

    According to the NWMLS, pending sales of residential homes was up in May 2011, compared to May 2010, for most of the main neighborhoods in Seattle.  One of the ‘hottest’ areas was MLS area 380 – which encompasses Mt. Baker, Columbia City and Seward Park (among others).  Pending sales were up 61% in May 2011 compared to the same month in 2010!   71 units were pending in area 380 in May this year, versus 44 units  in 2010.  Area 390 (Capitol Hill, Madison Park, Madrona) was a close second at 60% increase year over year in May.  And, in third place is West Seattle (area 140), with 48% increase and the highest number of units (151 units pending).  It’s also interesting to note that the average days on market of these pending sales is lower in 2011 than in 2010 in two of the three mentioned areas above (area 140 & 390).  This matches the sentiments of many Realtors this past month who have seen multiple offers on many properties, some selling in just a day!  In fact, this surge in pending sales has left many buyers out there frustrated by the lack of good options right now.  While buyers are still very ‘picky’, well-appointed homes are selling quickly.  If you are a seller hesitant about the market, you might want to reconsider! 

  • Rent vs Buy in Seattle? Recent Article says "Buy"!

    Posted Under: General Area in Seattle, Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Buying in Seattle  |  May 24, 2011 2:07 PM  |  1,662 views  |  No comments

    A few months ago, I wrote about how the rental market is tightening up in Seattle.  Since then, a few new stories have surfaced reinforcing the fact that it's harder for renters to find what they want.  In a March 15th Seattle Times article entitled "It's landlord's time in rental market" by Elizabeth Economou, she states that vacancy rates are now at 2007 levels.  And, as prices go up, incentives are going down.  "The rental market is changing quickly from a renter's market to a landlord's market...Vacancy rates in highly desirable neighborhoods, such as Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and Fremont, are about 3 percent, the lowest in Seattle..."  There are many things contributing to the tightening rental market.   One of the contributors is the lack of new apartment developments under construction, as well population growth.

    In a recent CNNMoney.com story, they looked at 10 cities across the country to determine which cities were better to buy or which ones were still best to rent.  Seattle was rated as a "buy"!  Based on our historical average price gains in homes, and the price reductions in homes over the past few years, they believe that renters should considering buying than renting.

    Of course, no matter how great the real estate market may be for buyers, not everyone should become a homeowner.  Beyond the obvious things, such as bad credit, or unstable work situation, if you don't plan to live in the city you are currently at for more than two years, renting is the best way to go.  If you are not sure what to do, a reputable lender can help you look at all of the costs to determine the best scenario for you!

  • Seattle #10 travel destination in US!

    Posted Under: General Area in Seattle, Quality of Life in Seattle  |  May 5, 2011 9:09 PM  |  1,603 views  |  No comments

    Each year, TripAdvisor.com picks its favorite destinations around the world. This year's 2011 Traveler's Choice Awards picked Seattle as it's #10 best destination in the US. Other top picks are New York City, and Hawaii. What makes Seattle stand out?  The short article on Seattle highlights the Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and watching boats go through the Ballard Locks.   I would add shopping and dining in the Pike/Pine area of Capitol Hill, taking a float plane to Friday Harbor (via Kenmore Air) and watching the sun reflect off the downtown buildings at sunset from Hamilton Viewpoint Park in West Seattle.

    If you were a tourist for a day in Seattle, what would you do or see?

  • Why the recent Case-Shiller report on Seattle isn't actually about Seattle

    Posted Under: General Area in Seattle, Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Selling in Seattle  |  April 27, 2011 10:39 PM  |  1,648 views  |  No comments

    It seems like everyone loves to hear about how bad the real estate market is doing.  And, for a lot of people out there, they believe that the Case-Shiller reports are the 'Bible' for real estate trends.  But, no one really points out that the market areas they use far exceed the city in which they quote.  In a recent article about homes prices, they state that Seattle home prices are going down.  Unfortunately, they don't tell you is that they really aren't talking about just Seattle in their data.  In fact, their data includes Pierce, King and Snohomish counties!  Each of these counties have very different markets; and the cities within these counties also differ widely.

    In the Case Shiller Report, it states that  "Seattle" home prices have gone down 1.9% from January to February.  In actuality, when we look at just Seattle single family home sales, prices have actually gone up by 2% during this time.  And, in looking at February to March, prices went up again by 2.7%. (see chart below)  Am I saying that the market is has completely recovered?  Definitely not!   And, in fact, prices are down by 7.2% in Q1 2011 compared to the same period in 2010.  No doubt the first quarter of 2010 was primarily fueled by the tax credit, which expired in April.  However, the market in Seattle in 2011 is not as bad as Case-Shiller makes it out to be. 

    Now, let's look at the Everett / Mukilteo market during the same time period.  Prices went up by 15% January to February, 2011.  However, from February to March, prices have gone down 6.9% and Q1 of 2011 compared to Q1 of 2010, prices have gone down 14.6%, double what they did in Seattle. (see chart below)  Interestingly, the tax credit didn't drive prices as high as they did in Seattle (as a percentage). 

    Bottomline:  real estate is city and neighborhood specific.  To lump a whole region together and call it "Seattle" is not only misleading, but inaccurate.  I'm all about honesty in reporting.  But, as I mentioned earlier, real estate is local.  A trend in one area is not necessarily the same in another area.  And, there are neighborhoods within Seattle that are doing really well.  For example, MLS area 390 (Capitol Hill, Madison Park, Washington Park, Madrona, Central Area):  Sales prices have gone up steadily since January, and went up 22.9% between February and March of this year.  In addition, prices have gone up 20.9% March, 2011 compared to March, 2010.  A far cry from the downward trend of over 7% Case Shiller reports!

  • 2010 a good year for Seattle Lake Washington Waterfront Sales

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Buying in Seattle, Home Selling in Seattle  |  March 7, 2011 2:57 PM  |  1,638 views  |  No comments

    One of the main reasons people are drawn to living in Seattle is the water.  And, luckily, we have a lot of it!  With the economic downturn over the past few years, sellers have been wary to sell their high-priced properties, and more importantly, many buyers have been reluctant to buy.  (both out of fear of continuing falling prices, and less access to loans at the higher price points)  But, desirable, well-priced Lake Washington waterfront properties have been selling well, especially in 2010.   Case in point:  3008 Webster Point Rd NE in Laurelhurst was on the market for just 4 days.  It was listed for $.2875M and sold for $2.985M in December.  Another property in Seward Park was on for just 11 days and sold for 96.55% of its ask price.  Pretty good at the $1.6M price point!

    In 2009, only 18 homes sold, compared to 38 homes in 2010.  The median price of the sold homes in 2009 was $1.22M compared with $1.366M in 2010. (see chart below for trend data on average price per sqft)  Currently, there are only 16 waterfront homes available on the Seattle side of Lake Washington, from Rainier Beach to Matthews Beach.  The average list price of these homes is $2.4M; the median is $1.275M.  Since the beginning of 2011, we have had four homes sold at a median price of $1.41M.  (there are currently 3 homes pending sale)  Could this increase in median sales price be a trend over last year?  Certainly, it's too early to tell.  Yet, many Realtors believe that waterfront prices will start to go up again this year.  This is partly due to an increase in consumer confidence, and the fear of interest rates continuing to rise over the next year.   Couple that with low inventory and there's a high probability of seeing prices back up!

  • What's going on with Ballard? It's hot!

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Selling in Seattle, In My Neighborhood in Seattle  |  February 23, 2011 7:52 PM  |  1,656 views  |  No comments

    I've noticed lately that desirable, well-priced homes in the Ballard area (including Crown Hill, Sunset Hill, Loyal Heights & Whittier) are selling like hotcakes!  In the past 10 days, 8 homes came on the market and had offers in less than a week. (some in just a day!)  Out of the pending homes who are past the inspection process, 11 had offers in 7 days or less.  This accounts for 1/3 of the pending homes in this area right now.  The price point that seems to be the hottest is $550K and under.  The average price of the pending inspection homes in this area is $476,842; the average price of pending homes is $428,919.  There are 83 pending homes and 51 pending inspection homes right now.  (as of 2/24/11)   This activity has left only 68 homes currently 'active' in this neighborhood.  Given the number of pending sales right now, there is low inventory given the demand.  For those of you considering selling your home this year, it's definitely a great time to sell in this 'hot' neighborhood!  For you buyers out there, make sure you've got a Realtor who is on top of this market and keeping you updated every day on what's new.

  • Is 30% down the new 20%?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Seattle, Home Buying in Seattle  |  February 13, 2011 9:14 AM  |  1,614 views  |  No comments

    It could be....By now, we all have come to recognize that the financial crisis and housing 'bust' over the past few years was a necessary event to stop the excessive, and often times illegal, purchasing practices of individuals and corporations.  The desire to have more and live beyond our means and buying a house with no skin in the game made us a highly leveraged country.  (ok, so we still are in many ways!)  Now, both individual lending institutions and the large federal organizations, Freddie and Fannie Mae, are making it harder to buy a home with little or no money down.  Case in point, effective March 1st, Freddie Mac is once again changing their lending requirements and adding additional fees for those who put less than 30% down and have a lower credit score.  Yes, that's right, 30% could be the new 20%!  They have a new Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio table which breaks down the new fees.  For example, after March 1st, 2011, a person with a credit score greater than 740 and putting down 75-80%, will have to pay a .25% fee for a 20 or 30 year conventional loan, which wasn't required previously. 

    The reality is, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may not be around forever.  The Obama Administration recently announced

     that they plan to wind down Fannie/Freddie's involvement in the mortgage lending business.  Essentially, the goal is to get the government out of mortgage lending for most people, but perhaps to assist the poor and provide for some stability during times of crisis.  Whether or not you agree with the changes, the point is that things are going to change.  And, it will get harder to buy a home with bad credit and little money down.  But, isn't that a good thing?  Yes, the doors might close for some people now, or people will have to buy homes that are smaller or perhaps not in the neighborhood they had hoped.  Yet, we as buyers have control of this.  If you are a first-time home buyer, it may mean skimping on the daily lattes, or going out to dinner less to save the money, but you can do it.  Also, it is more important than ever to not only know how your credit score but ways in which you can improve it during the time you are saving for your down payment.  And for those of us current homeowners considering 'buying up', we may need to hold onto our home for a few more years to ensure we have at least 30% down for the next house, after our selling fees.

    In a way, we're going back to the 'good 'ol days', where people saved and saved until they had enough for a good down payment, and stayed in their homes for decades, rather than the previous trend of moving every 4-7 years.

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