The challenges presented by COVID-19 have been felt locally by every home buyer, seller and real estate broker. Residential real estate, which was moving at breakneck speed through February, came to a screeching halt for two weeks in March after the initial Stay Home order was implemented.
As soon as Governor Inslee declared real estate an essential business, the engines started to rev again. Despite job losses and a nosedive in general consumer confidence and spending, home buyers started to jump back into the market. Theories abound about why this could happen in the middle of a pandemic:
- With some exceptions, our local tech sector has generally performed well during COVID-19 and its employees may feel reasonably insulated from the worst of the economic fallout. For some, their stock options may have actually increased in value during the worst of the coronavirus.
- Many buyers were already feeling the squeeze of low housing inventory and the defeat of losing out in multiple-offer situations. Some likely saw the lower competition during the shutdown as an opportunity to finally gain a foothold.
- Mortgage rates in the early stages of the shutdown dropped to historic lows, with some 30-year fixed loans carrying percentage rates in the low threes.
- Renters and homeowners with sustained income security found themselves suddenly doing everything from home – working, schooling, exercising – which may have motivated them to pursue a change in space, moving from dreamers to active buyers.
- Lots of real estate “window shoppers” suddenly had a lot more time on their hands and spent hours perusing eye-candy listings online and watching more HGTV than ever, accelerating their property lust and their entry into the buyer pool.
Some of these theories have metrics behind them and some remain just theories. Regardless of the motivation, buyers are back “out” in force, touring prospective homes online, via livestream video with a broker or pre-produced 3D tours and videos. Brokers are showing them homes in person too – while following many safety precautions. Because of this strong buyer interest, prospective sellers are hearing from their brokers that now may be a good time to list.
For weeks now, we have seen multiple offers on homes in popular neighborhoods. Brokers, for whom business was put on hold at the end of March, are as busy as at any other point this year. Though the new normal is still not completely normal, the market in many neighborhoods and price points seems to be skipping along as if it were.
To learn how various sectors of our local real estate market are performing during COVID-19, we asked Windermere experts from Seattle and the Eastside what they are seeing.
Real Estate Across Seattle
Laura Smith, co-owner and principal broker of Windermere Real Estate Co., which operates multiple real estate offices in Seattle, has been busy helping brokers ramp up quickly and navigate a hefty transaction load along with new protocols for listing and showing homes. “It’s been a total whirlwind,” she said. “The market went from zero to sixty in a heartbeat.”
Smith explained that out of nine MLS areas in the city of Seattle, seven had less housing stock (measured as months of inventory) than what was available in May 2019, and the other two areas had the same inventory levels as last year. She noted that Seattle’s pending home sales during Week 3 of May already had reached 95% of the transaction count from the same week in 2019.
“Right now buyers want in,” Smith said, “and inventory numbers favor sellers.” Prices, as a result, have “stayed strong,” according to Smith, even in the midst of a health-related shutdown.
Bouncing Back on the Eastside
According to Matt Deasy, President of Windermere Real Estate / East, Inc., the volume of business has bounced back quicker than expected and brokers are busy helping buyers and sellers while following new practices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“After reentering the market, buyers are finding the competition as fierce as it was before COVID-19,” Deasy said. His analysis shows that while Eastside pending sales are still down from a year ago, by Week 2 of May they were at 73% of last year’s figure from the same week. “Each week we are seeing the market steadily catch up to last year,” Deasy observed, “and I think it will soon head north of 2019 weekly transaction yields.”
Deasy pointed out that low Eastside housing supply is a challenge for buyers rushing back in to the market. “There is so little for sale” he said, noting that of the Eastside’s eight MLS areas, all but one had extremely low levels of inventory. “In fact,” Deasy continued, “three Eastside areas have a month or less supply of homes.” As a result, he predicts that “prices in popular neighborhoods will continue to climb” for the foreseeable future.
The Luxury Market
Patrick Chinn, owner of Windermere Real Estate Midtown, regularly works with luxury brokers and their clients. He observed that the luxury market was proceeding at a seasonally appropriate pace prior to the shutdown but has appeared a little slower to come back online as restrictions on real estate lifted. “Luxury sellers are typically not in a rush,” Chinn noted, “and the safety considerations of listing a home during COVID-19 may have delayed” their entry into the market.
Due to their high net worth, luxury buyers on the other hand may have been “less adversely impacted by the very real economic impacts of the shutdown,” Chinn said. But he also observed that fluctuations in the stock market usually make for “a restless luxury market, despite greater potential access to capital.” Chinn expects the pace of new high-end transactions and inventory to remain below what it was pre-shutdown, at least until there’s a clearer economic picture in sight.
Chinn did note that if a singular property is listed during an economic downturn such as the one we now find ourselves in, there can still be great urgency by luxury buyers to purchase. He gave as an example a Medina property listed during the topsy-turvy days just before the shutdown that quickly went under contract at its asking price of $11.75 million. “Iconic homes on iconic streets will still generate lots of enthusiasm, even during a downturn,” Chinn said.
He reported that one of his brokers went full speed ahead to list a one-of-a-kind beachfront property in Magnolia. Even during the lingering impacts of COVID-19, “there’s no time like the present for listing incredible homes,” Chinn explained.
Continuing New Construction
Joe Deasy, co-owner of Windermere Real Estate / East Inc., says that the early phase of the shutdown created significant waves for residential builders. Initially both the building and listing/showing of all residential new construction projects were stopped due to the Stay Home order.
As builders start building again and brokers start showing finished units, “the early pace will naturally be a bit slower,” Deasy said. He explained this as a result of builders needing to rehire furloughed workers and buyers’ agents implementing safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“I expect things to accelerate pretty quickly as we move forward,” Deasy predicted. His reason? “There’s so little inventory out there, both new construction and resale,” he explained. “The product that is available looks pretty attractive right now, since it’s brand new and no one’s ever lived in it.”
Deasy remains positive about the region’s new construction market. He pointed out that leading into the Stay Home closure, Windermere’s King County new construction business was through the proverbial roof. “Even factoring in the shutdown, our year-to-date unit sales are up 41% over last year,” he noted, “and our sales volume is already at $700 million.”
Looking ahead, Deasy predicts that demand for new construction homes will remain strong and that supply will have the biggest impact on the sector’s overall market performance. “Low inventory may influence 2020 sales more than the shutdown,” he explained, “which, all things considered, was relatively brief.”
This post originally appeared on GettheWReport.com
The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may 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!
Employment in Washington State continues to soften; it is currently at an annual growth rate of 1.7%. I believe that is a temporary slowdown and we will see the pace of employment growth improve as we move further into the new year. It’s clear that businesses are continuing to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. This is, of course, in addition to the issues that Boeing currently faces regarding the 737 MAX.
In the fourth quarter of 2019 the state unemployment rate was 4.4%, marginally lower than the 4.5% level of a year ago. My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2020 will rise 2.2%, with a total of 76,300 new jobs created.
- There were 18,322 home sales registered during the final quarter of 2019, representing an impressive increase of 4.7% from the same period in 2018.
- Readers may remember that listing activity spiked in the summer of 2018 but could not be sustained, with the average number of listings continuing to fall. Year-over-year, the number of homes for sale in Western Washington dropped 31.7%.
- Compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, sales rose in nine counties and dropped in six. The greatest growth was in Whatcom County. San Juan County had significant declines, but this is a very small market which makes it prone to extreme swings.
- Pending home sales — a barometer for future closings — dropped 31% between the third and fourth quarters of 2019, suggesting that we may well see a dip in the number of closed sales in the first quarter of 2020.
- Home price growth in Western Washington spiked during fourth quarter, with average prices 8.3% higher than a year ago. The average sale price in Western Washington was $526,564, 0.7% higher than in the third quarter of 2019.
- It’s worth noting that above-average price growth is happening in markets some distance from the primary job centers. I strongly feel this is due to affordability issues, which are forcing buyers farther out.
- Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in San Juan County, where home prices were up 41.7%. Six additional counties also saw double-digit price increases.
- Home prices were higher in every county contained in this report. I expect this trend to continue in 2020, but we may see a softening in the pace of growth in some of the more expensive urban areas.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped four days compared to the third quarter of 2019.
- For the second quarter in a row, Thurston County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 29 days to sell. In nine counties, the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in four counties and two were unchanged.
- Across the entire region, it took an average of 47 days to sell a home in the fourth quarter. This was up nine days over the third quarter of this year.
- Market time remains below the long-term average across the region, a trend that will likely continue until we see more inventory come to market — possibly as we move through the spring.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.
The housing market ended the year on a high note, with transactions and prices picking up steam. I believe the uncertainty of 2018 (when we saw significant inventory enter the market) has passed and home buyers are back in the market. Unfortunately, buyers’ desire for more inventory is not being met and I do not see any significant increase in listing activity on the horizon. As such, I have moved the needle more in favor of home sellers.
As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.
In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.
This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.
Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, answers the most pressing question on everyone’s minds: Will there be a recession in 2020? Here’s what he expects to see.
Originally posted in on Windermere.com’s Economics 101 Videos and Market News by Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate
A decrease in inventory coupled with an increase in sales activity led to fewer options for home shoppers in August. There is some good news for would-be buyers as mortgage rates have dropped to their lowest level in three years. Demand remains high but there simply aren’t enough homes on the market. Brokers are hoping to see the traditional seasonal influx of new inventory as we move forward.
The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was $935,000 in August, unchanged from a year ago and up slightly from $925,000 in July. New commercial and residential construction projects are in the works. Strong demand for downtown condos has prompted plans for yet another high-rise tower to break ground next year.
Home prices in King County were flat in August. The median price of a single-family home was $670,000, virtually unchanged from a year ago, and down just one percent from July. Southeast King County, which has some of the most reasonable housing values in the area, saw prices increase 9% over last year. Inventory remains very low. Year-over-year statistics show the volume of new listings dropped 18.5% in King County.
Homes sales were up 12% in Seattle for August, putting additional pressure on already slim inventory. There is just over six weeks of available supply. There are signs that prices here are stabilizing as the median home price of $760,000 was unchanged from a year ago and up less than one percent from July. With its booming economy, demand here is expected to stay strong.
Buyers looking for more affordable options outside of King County pushed pending sales, mutually accepted offers, up nearly 16% over a year ago. Home prices have softened slightly. The median price of a single-family home in August was $490,000, down slightly from the median of $492,225 the same time last year.
This post originally appeared on GetTheWReport.com
The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. I hope that this information may 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.
Washington State employment jumped back up to an annual growth rate of 2.4% following a disappointing slowdown earlier in the spring. As stated in the first quarter Gardner Report, the dismal numbers earlier this year were a function of the state re-benchmarking its data (which they do annually).
The state unemployment rate was 4.7%, marginally up from 4.5% a year ago. My current economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2019 will rise by 2.6%, with a total of 87,500 new jobs created.
Home Sales Activity
- There were 22,281 home sales during the second quarter of 2019, representing a drop of 4.8% from the same period in 2018. On a more positive note, sales jumped 67.6% compared to the first quarterof this year.
- Since the middle of last year, there has been a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale, which is likely the reason sales have slowed. More choice means buyers can be more selective and take their time when choosing a home to buy.
- Compared to the second quarter of 2018, there were fewer sales in all counties except Whatcom and Lewis. The greatest declines were in Clallam, San Juan, and Jefferson counties.
- Listings rose 19% compared to the second quarter of 2018, but there are still a number of very tight markets where inventory levels are lower than a year ago. Generally, these are the smaller — and more affordable — markets, which suggests that affordability remains an issue.
Year-over-year price growth in Western Washington continues to taper. The average home price during second quarter was $540,781, which is 2.8% higher than a year ago. When compared to first quarter of this year, prices were up 12%.
- Home prices were higher in every county except King, which is unsurprising given the cost of homes in that area. Even though King County is home to the majority of jobs in the region, housing is out of reach for many and I anticipate that this will continue to act as a drag on price growth.
- When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Lewis County, where home prices were up 15.9%. Double-digit price increases were also seen in Mason, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, and Skagit counties.
- The region’s economy remains robust, which should be a positive influence on price growth. That said, affordability issues are pervasive and will act as a headwind through the balance of the year, especially in those markets that are close to job centers. This will likely force some buyers to look further afield when searching for a new home.
Days on Market
- The average number of days it took to sell a home matched the second quarter of 2018.
- Snohomish County was the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of only 21 days to sell. There were five counties where the length of time it took to sell a home dropped compared to the same period a year ago. Market time rose in eight counties and two were unchanged.
- Across the entire region, it took an average of 41 days to sell a home in the second quarter of 2019. This was the same as a year ago but is down 20 days compared to the first quarter of 2019.
- As stated above, days-on-market dropped as we moved through the spring, but all markets are not equal. I suggest that this is not too much of an issue and that well-priced homes will continue to attract attention and sell fairly rapidly.