The Gardner Report: First Quarter 2018

The Gardner Report: First Quarter 2018

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.

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy added 96,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9%—still solidly above the national rate of 1.5%. Most of the employment gains were in the private sector, which rose by 3.4%. The public sector saw a more modest increase of 1.6%.

The strongest growth was in the Education & Health Services and Retail sectors, which added 17,300 and 16,700 jobs, respectively. The Construction sector added 10,900 new positions over the past 12 months.

Even with solid increases in jobs, the state unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%—a figure that has not moved since September of last year.

I expect the Washington State economy to continue adding jobs in 2018, but not at the same rate as last year given that we are nearing full employment. That said, we will still outperform the nation as a whole when it comes to job creation.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 14,961 home sales during the first quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 5.4% over the same period in 2017.
  • Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the first quarter of 2017, with an increase of 16.5%. In most of the other markets, the lack of available homes for sale slowed the number of closings during this period.
  • Listing inventory in the quarter was down by 17.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017, but pending home sales rose by 2.6% over the same period, suggesting that closings in the second quarter should be fairly robust.
  • The takeaway from this data is that the lack of supply continues to put a damper on sales. I also believe that the rise in interest rates in the final quarter of 2017 likely pulled sales forward, leading to a drop in sales in the first quarter of 2018.

Annual change in home sales

Home Prices

  • With ongoing limited inventory, it’s not surprising that the growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.4% to $468,312.
  • Economic vitality in the region is leading to robust housing demand that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of new construction homes— something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. As a result, home prices will continue to rise at above-average rates in the coming year.
  • When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County at 27.5%. Ten additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
  • Mortgage rates continued to rise during first quarter, and are expected to increase modestly in the coming months. By the end of the year, interest rates will likely land around 4.9%, which should take some of the steam out of price growth. This is actually a good thing and should help address the challenges we face with housing affordability—especially in markets near the major job centers.

Annual change in home sale prices Q1

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days when compared to the same quarter of 2017.
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 24 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain essentially static relative to the same period a year ago.
  • In looking at the entire region, it took an average of 61 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year. This is down from 68 days in the first quarter of 2017 but up by eleven days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • Anyone expecting to see a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale in 2018 will likely be disappointed. New construction permit activity—a leading indicator—remains well below historic levels and this will continue to put increasing pressure on the resale home market.

Average Days On Market

Conclusions

Market SpeedometerThis speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle at the same point as fourth quarter of last year. Price growth remains strong even as sales activity slowed. All things being equal, 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for sellers but, unfortunately, not for buyers who will still see stiff competition for the limited number of available homes for sale.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Local Market Update – April 2018

Local Market Update – April 2018

Despite the typical seasonal surge in new listings, supply in our area continued to fall far short of demand in March. With just two weeks of available inventory in every market, competition for homes is intense. The result was another month of double-digit price increases as compared to a year ago. The region has now led the country in home price increases for 17 months in a row. The prediction for the spring market: HOT with no signs of cooling.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home was up 6 percent over last March to $926,000, down slightly from the record-setting price last month. Sales were brisk at every price, including the luxury market. Sales of homes priced at $2 million or more were up 23 percent in the first quarter of 2018 as compared to the previous year.

King County

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A booming economy combined with insufficient inventory propelled prices to an all-time high in March. The median price of a single-family home in King County jumped 15 percent to $689,950. Multiple offers remain the norm. Buyers here need to plan on moving very quickly and working with their agent on strategies to navigate bidding wars.

Seattle

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The median home price in Seattle set a new record of $819,500 in March, up a whopping 17 percent from a year ago. Homes are selling within days of being listed. Only 19 single-family homes are currently on the market in Ballard and just 24 in Queen Anne. South Seattle, traditionally the most affordable part of the city, has seen the greatest increase in prices.  Home values in these neighborhoods have nearly tripled since the recession ended, while home values in the rest of the city have doubled.

Snohomish County

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Once a less competitive market than King County, Snohomish County now has the lower amount of inventory of the two. The median price of a single-family home grew 12 percent over a year ago to $475,000. Prices here remain significantly lower than in King County and many buyers priced out of that market are trading a longer commute time for the opportunity of ownership.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Local Market Update – January 2018

Local Market Update – January 2018

2017 closed out the year with historically low inventory and record-breaking price gains. A strong local economy and brisk population growth has helped fuel a steep discrepancy between supply and demand. As long as this imbalance remains, 2018 is on track to remain a very strong seller’s market.

Eastside

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Defying the usual winter slow-down in home prices, December broke new records on the Eastside. The median price of a single-family home soared 17 percent over a year ago to $938,240 – an all-time high for the region. Appreciation in higher-end areas, like West Bellevue and Mercer Island, topped 20 percent. Homeowners, especially those considering downsizing, may want to take advantage of the sharp increase in equity.

King County

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King County recorded the lowest inventory since records began in 2000, and demand just keeps rising. As a result, the price of a single-family home jumped 15.5 percent over the same time last year to $635,000. Those looking buy a condo as a more affordable option were out of luck. The median price tag of $402,000 is a relative bargain when compared to a single-family home, but there are only about 200 condos on the market, another record low.

Seattle

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While below the high point last summer, the median price of a home in Seattle jumped 14 percent year over year to $725,000. Supply and demand is again the culprit. There are just two weeks of available inventory on the market. Not only are homes here selling quickly, but fewer people are putting their homes up for sale. Most economists are predicting a moderate slowdown in cost increases here in 2018, with prices still rising but not as sharply as they did in 2017.

Snohomish County

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Prices in Snohomish County continue to rise at a rapid pace. The median price of a single-family home here grew 12.5 percent from a year ago to $449,950. With less than a month of available inventory, prices are projected to remain high.

This post was originally published on the Windermere Eastside blog.