Real Estate – Why DATA is the New Black

Early Friday evening one of my favorite long term clients asked me this question: “Why is the market so slow these days? I have an alert for ($) houses in (zip code) and I barely get a couple of hits every week west of (the freeway). Almost always tear-downs.” (actual specifics from his email removed)

My first data set pulled was a line up the number of homes sold where I primarily work (North King County – North of I-90), by month, over the last 6 years from 2009 to 2014 YTD. This to answer only the first 8 words of his question “Why is the market so slow these days?” The easy answer would be “because it is past October 15th”. I test my knee jerk response by pulling all of the relevant data to be sure I am not answering like grandma in a rocking chair pulling some now irrelevant data from her long term memory bank. I also do this because I need to discover why this person’s current perspective may vary from the long term norm.

Something may recently have happened leading this person to believe that the standard progression is no longer the realistic expectation. I value his thought process as part of how I answer the question…by first pulling the data…lots and lots of data.

The line graph below documents the data pulled for the last 6 years. But as I almost always do when pulling stats, I went back 12 years because data expires! More on that in graphs 4 and 5. Since I almost never regurgitate already documented data from other sources, but rather only trust the data if I calculate it myself, I usually go back as far as my data source will allow, which in this case was 12 years.

First I test my perception that 2014 is not a low inventory year, even though there are tons of articles saying that inventory is low. Many articles talking about the frustration of buyers with “low inventory”. But look…no…my perception is indeed correct. The red line is the “low” or at least the first half of 2009 depicted in the red line. The green line of this year is not only NOT “low”…it is pretty close to the high over the last 6 years.

To be clear, I am using “homes worth buying” as “inventory” and the proof that they ARE homes worth buying…is someone actually bought them.

Volume 2009-2014

After I peruse some of the recent data as an attempt to start at the point where he may be coming from when asking the question, I dive into my own “expert opinion” perspective, which is my 2001 baseline. This information is really already carved in my brain, but since I turned 60 this year I figure it wouldn’t hurt to double check that my memory is still accurate. 🙂

Volume 2001 baseline

I actually did all 12 years before honing in on the actual answer to the question, which comes from comparing 2014 with 2013 and 2013 with both 2001 and 2005.

To determine which were the correct comparison years, I had to first pull ALL of the data that the data source would allow.

While yes…my knee jerk answer of “because it is October” would have been correct, by pulling all of the data I can see from the variance of the actual stats from 2013 against the baseline of 2001 exactly why the question made 100% sense from this person’s perspective at the time he asked it.

This person, along with every average homebuyer, is looking week to week over a period of 6 months to 18 months for a home to buy. They have no “baseline perspective”. Their expectations come from more recent history’s actual activity, and rightly so, with no way to tell if the last 6 months was exceeding or under performing standard market expectations.

The bar graph below explains where the expectation may come from. I have 2005 in there just because it is the one year over the last 12 years when the most number of homes were purchased (ipso facto “available” to be purchased), so highest inventory year. But the key to answering the question is in the 12% of June 2013.

If you look at every piece of data on this page which looks at all 12 months for all 12 years in 6 different comparative charts…12% of a full year’s total inventory being available to buy in one 30 day period is pretty much unheard of! That was June of 2013.

I had another client who started looking in early 2013 and did not buy the house they could-should have purchased in June of 2013. After that they were progressively and continuously disappointed with the number of homes that came on market for months and months afterward. They had no way to know that the volume of homes coming on market since they started looking were many more than the normal market expectation.

In hindsight every subsequent month looked pss-poor in comparison. Pretty much all activity if you started looking in April of 2013, and didn’t purchase by June-July of 2013, is looking relatively dim. BUT in reality inventory is not dim. Inventory, the number of homes you can expect to choose from, is in fact currently performing at or over market expectations adjusted weekly for seasonality. All this can be gleaned from the 12% spike in that bar graph, noting the rational explanation as to why your expectations may be “off” by comparing relatively recent actual data against 12 years of data comparisons.

Basically that makes us both right. I’m right at “because it’s October” and the person asking the question is right to consider the options dim based on more recent relative comparison.

Volume 2001-2013-2005

Posting the data and graphs that helped formulate the above. Worth noting, while I brought forward the Red Line year of 2009 to note inventory low point, the graph below shows that the 12 months of low inventory started in the 2nd half of the gold line of 2008 and proceeded to the lowest point of Jan and Feb of 2009, which some of my readers may remember as “my bottom call” that made front page news at the time.

Volume 2005-2008

Looking above and below at the thick green line of 2014 inventory against the high inventory years of both 2004 and 2005 you can easily see why all of the articles calling 2014 low…and actually they were saying that last year in 2013 as well, are simply not true.

Volume 2001-2004

While my analysis will continue to use 2001 as a baseline, you may want to use the bar graph below to set your expectations. This is the average good homes on market based on the average of 12 years worth of data.

I use 2001, as many of the variances over the last 12 years are influenced by Tax Credit Incentives coming in and out and artificial interest rate jockyings…not to mention all of the massive changes in loan approval criteria over this same period. For that reason 2001 is still the purist baseline by which to compare and contrast other market influences as they come and go from time to time.

WHY IS THE MARKET SO SLOW THESE DAYS?

Getting back to the first 8 words of the original question…because based on normal seasonal activity you can expect that there will be HALF the number of homes coming on market that are worth buying by December than in May. “coming on market” activity is the month prior to the sold month. So highest SOLD volume in June will = highest number of instant alerts of new listings coming to your phone in May.

Expect the numbers to increase from December through May and then begin a decrease through year end before beginning the next climb.

Volume 12 year average

WHY IS DATA THE NEW BLACK?

Because it saves you time and reduces your stress to DRILL down the data from the general comparisons above and fine tune your actual parameters before you waste any time looking for something that doesn’t exist in the place where you are looking. That brings us to the 2nd and 3rd part of this person’s question ” I have an alert for ($) houses in (zip code) and I barely get a couple of hits every week west of (the freeway). Almost always tear-downs.” (actual specifics from his email removed)”

Only 25 houses were sold using a full $150,000 spread with your $ amount as the cap in the whole 6 months of “high season”. So expecting 2 a MONTH in low season let alone 2 a week…is an invalid expectation. Expect ONE really good one a month from here to February of 2015.

“Almost always tear-downs” means you are looking for a nice home at the price of the land alone. Again an invalid expectation. Changing your price to what that home will sell for there is not an option. Changing your choice of what to a tear down is also not a reasonable option.

The only answer to your dilemma is to change the where and not the price or the what.

(Required Disclosure: Stats in this post are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

VERY “Walkable”…but is it SAFE to walk there?

walkscoreI am very happy to report yesterday’s news that WalkScore has added a crime overlay, something I have been asking for since WalkScore first came about.

Local residents often roll their eyes when they see an awesome walk score attached to an area where it is simply not very safe to walk after dark AT ALL. Not a big problem for local residents, but what about the many people relocating to The Seattle Area who are relying on various internet tools to guide them in their search for a home in their new City?

I have not tried the new tool out extensively, but from what I have seen the crime grade does NOT reduce the walk SCORE, so a previous score of 87 will still be a score of 87. BUT if you take the time to study the color coded crime map after viewing the score, you will be better able to judge an area now than ever before. Previous to this change I have always recommended that people use Homefacts.com to pull the crime data and photos of local registered sex offenders. Not sure if the changes to walk score will replace that need or not, but I am very happy to see that they are finally acknowledging that some very “walkable” neighborhoods as to their scoring…are in reality sometimes not very safe to walk in at all.

Try it out, as I will, and let me know what you think.

How much for stainless appliances?

Stainless has become a preferred color option. Most people who say “stainless” are not always talking about expensive Stainless STEEL. As long as the color is the same, most people don’t care. Easy way to tell if it is Stainless “Look” is to carry a fridge magnet when you are shopping for appliances or houses and if the magnet doesn’t stick to the front door then stainless is the color and not the material used.

For this post I am pricing out some basic upgrades for a client. Earlier today I did the carpet cost and now am moving to the appliances. We’re looking for relatively low prices for standard sized everyday appliances. The type you might use if you were selling a property or upgrading a modestly priced home. A quick change in the look from white or black and basic clean and new appliances. Nothing too fancy.

REFRIGERATOR

I would say $1,000 or less including tax and delivery. I found a few good ones for about $750 which are sometimes $685 or so on sale. There are many in the $800 to $900 range. The property has a standard opening from the 1970s, so 18 cubic feet or so at 65″ high and 30″ wide will probably fit better than a 21 or 22 cubic foot fridge that requires more height between the floor and the upper cabinet of about 70″. For the family I’m doing this for, the $750 fridge on sale for $685 shown in the picture below should be fine. This would work for any full sized 30″ wide opening. The opening is usually 32″ to 34″ and the 30″ has a little room on both sides.

RANGE

In this case we will be using a standard 30″ wide electric range in mostly stainless and partly black. I will post all the photos together at the bottom so the client can see how they look side by side. For some reason the power cord is often sold separately and the total cost should come in at around $650. The lower priced ones are black or white and we want to stay with a full stainless steel or stainless look result in the kitchen.

DISHWASHER

All of the appliances are white and we are replacing with stainless, but worth mentioning that the current appliances are all in working order and can probably be sold on Craigslist for a few hundred dollars for all of them or donated to charity for a write off. Most people just let the company bringing the new appliances haul them away. But I do have a few resourceful clients that sell everything, like the young man who actually sold his old carpet that he tore out. 🙂 I haven’t had to replace a dishwasher when selling a home…well pretty much ever. So I’m pricing these off of Home Depot. In this case I used a $600 Dishwasher in the photo. You can get a cheaper one in the same black and silver version as the range…but this all stainless dishwasher is so much better looking and impressive in person for a little more cost. I recommend you not skimp on this appliance and not get the one with some black plastic on it. You need some black on the range for the knobs and digital display. But not on the dishwasher. Speaking of which the fridge can have black sides and sometimes better to have that as fridge magnets will adhere to the sides usually if they are black. Since the range is mixed silver and black, that usually makes a lot of sense.

MICROWAVE

I’m showing a picture of a $260 over the range microwave. You can find them a little cheaper or pricier, but we’re just trying to get a total price to move out the white appliances and bring in Stainless Steel or Stainless Look appliances. I thought this one was as showy as the dishwasher, and when the nicer looking one is only $60 more…why skimp? USED TO BE you would just put a range hood there, and nothing wrong with that. BUT the last time I tried to do that with stainless vs white or black…it cost an arm and a leg! Might as well go with a Microwave that has a vent fan. You can look at both, but I wouldn’t pay the same for a plain vent as I would for a Microwave. YMMV

So we’re looking at $700 to $800 for the Fridge. $650 or so for the Range including tax and power cord, $600 or so for the dishwasher and another $250 for a microwave or $2,200 to $2,500 total. Roughly the same price as the carpet in the other post. So let’s say we are at $5,000 for all new appliances in the kitchen and all new carpet in the house. Not bad.

First pictures of the kitchen appliances, then I’ll move to washer and dryer which can be simple full sized white top load washer and front load dryer. Note that I just cut and paste these pictures together. I didn’t put model numbers or brand names as you want to be sure they are matching color. Usually best to stick to one brand name for that reason or at least see them together in a store. If you buy the full 4 piece appliance package in the same store you can usually get a better deal of about 20% off.

appliances

I’m just going to throw in the washer and dryer at $1,000 for both. People have been getting carried away with washers and dryers costing $3,000 or more for both. But for the purpose of this modestly priced home and knowing the clients as I do, they actually can probably do all of this including the washer and dryer, kitchen appliances and all new carpet for $5,000…$6,000 tops.

Seattle listed as 2nd hottest housing market for 2014

The new Zillow predictions for the 2014 housing market show Seattle as the second hottest market in 2014.

They also predict only 3% increase in prices overall, so “hottest” could be kind of cool. 🙂

Personally I think it all depends on how many sellers come out to play this year. You will have your same average turnover for must sell reasons. Relocations as example. But with most sources predicting a slower increase in home prices and possibly a slight turn down, perhaps those sellers waiting for a better housing market will succumb to the fear that it might not get any better than this.

No one knows how “hot” the market will be, but the more sellers there are the “better” it will be whether there is growth or not. Zillow is also predicting rates will get to 5% by year end, but that looks more like someone trying to create a sense of urgency whereZC there really isn’t one.

Selling a Home in King County 2014

Selling a home in King County has been fairly easy to do for most people since early 2012 when the market started taking off again. We don’t have the same momentum in first quarter 2014 as we did in first quarter 2013. There are still many more home buyers than home sellers, so supply and demand hasn’t changed much. What has changed is there is not the same sense of urgency to beat out interest rate increases.

In early 2013 interest rates were as low as 3.25% in many cases and there was a lot of talk about them going up to over 4%. They in fact did go up to 4.5% – 4.625% by mid 2013 and no one is talking seriously about them going up further from here to over 5%. So same supply and demand factors…decreased sense of urgency. (chuckling as I just got an email while typing this that rates went down from 4.5% to 4.375% confirming no worries that rates will increase much if at all from 4.5% or at least that worry is not being factored into the market.)

There has been a LOT of confusing talk about “low inventory” for quite some time now and even some recent talk that inventory is improving for home buyers. Not really the case IMO and as you can see from the arguing going on in the comments on that post. Most people are not buying that there are or will be a better selection anytime soon for most home buyers. That is continued good news for sellers and more frustration for home buyers. New on market if priced right…IF PRICED RIGHT the key phrase here, will still sell quickly in multiple offers. So not a lot of change in 2014…just a little less chaos.

Now let’s talk about how inventory can be UP a bit on an overall basis and still be non-existent for MOST home buyers. The graph below illustrates this fairly well. Until you get to a million dollars, EVERY segment is running at less than 2 months of inventory. I would venture to say that probably 80% of those are homes no one wants…or someone would have bought them, except for the 20% or so that are very new on market and some of those are coming out the gate overpriced as well. Most sellers can still sell their homes in a week or less if they really put the right effort into selling their home, and keep the price at no more than 5% over the comps. So it goes without saying that for most buyers…there is nothing to buy.

As soon as something good that is priced right comes on market…still multiple offers after the interest rate increase to 4.5%. I haven’t witnessed it first hand so far in 2014 given it is early in the year, but that was the case throughout the 4th quarter of 2013, so no reason to expect that to change now. With less than 2 mos of inventory starting out the year, not likely we will get to any type of equilibrium as to sellers and buyers at all in 2014 except in the highest of prices. Even then…not so much in places like Clyde Hill where highest of prices still sells very well. More on that in the third price graph.

kc.absorption.2014

To better understand the absorption rate bar chart and why the price breakpoints appear to be “odd”, see the pie charts below. First using 2013 sold homes I broke the market into 5 pieces. So the first column above represents 20% of King County buyers. Each of the second, third and fourth columns also represent 20% of home buyers.

That puts 80% of buyers in the 1.25 to 1.63 months of inventory range. 80% of people looking to buy a home are looking at less than a two month supply of inventory and in many cases a 2 week to 5 week supply of inventory. Subtract the houses that no one wants…and you basically have NO inventory for 80% of the people looking for homes.

ALL of the last FIVE columns represent a breakdown of only the top 20% of the market. This in an effort to see where the inventory actually starts moving up.

It is not until you get to TWO MILLION and up that you actually see a buyer’s market. Everything up to $2 Million is a Seller’s Market at less than 4 months of inventory and for more than 80% of buyers less than a 2 months supply of inventory. Now let’s drop down to the last graph and check on home prices.

kc.2013.2014

One of the reasons I check the stats at the beginning of each year is to test both my perception and also things I have been hearing and reading.

My perception was that Bellevue 98004 and 98005 were taking off like a rocket last year! To check that I added stats for just those two zip codes to my King County median price line graph. It is the purple line at the top with the light blue squares, and yes, my perception was correct. Up way out of proportion to the rest of the market. But the earlier part of the graph also showed a steeper decline which looked like “the bigger they are the harder they fall”. Still…almost back to peak pricing in 98004 and 98005.

The County as a whole also way up toward all time highs. Not quite there, but looking pretty “recovered” for now. As usual I am not really just “writing a blog post”, I am doing my own early work for my business. So in that regard I have to see how Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond are generally faring compared to the County as a whole.

I need to study what is going on with Kirkland stats. For the Eastside line (green with pink squares) I combined 98033, 98034, 98011, 98052, 98004 and 98005. Not all of “The Eastside”, but a good balance of representation. It might make more sense to throw in more of the Bellevue Zip Codes instead of one of the three Bothell Zip Codes, but you can’t do that if you are going to track prices back to 2007. Kirkland, the blue line with the light blue squares, starts running under the main Eastside line. This because most of the large land mass annexed by Kirkland in 2011 was lower priced than the Kirkland before annexation. You see that dip between first quarter 2011 and first quarter 2012 when the median price went all the way down to $401k.

Considering that dip…for Kirkland to be back up to $510,000 is really quite amazing. I thought maybe the higher priced 98033 was carrying all of the increase similar to the big swing in 98004 and 98005. But not so. I tried to add that line here, but it just made the whole chart too confusing with all of the numbers overlapping. But the amazing part of the increase in Kirkland (which looks like a decrease because of the added properties) is that much of the increase happened in the annexed areas, especially in that part of Kirkland 98034 that used to be Bothell 98011. Back to why I added Bothell 98011 instead of more Bellevue Zip Codes. The later stats for Kirkland would automatically pull in some of what used to be Bothell 98011 prior to 2011, so the best answer was to keep all of 98011 in all the way through.

A little more explanation and graphs including Absorption Rate Data for Kirkland 98033, 98034, Redmond 98052 and Bellevue 98004 and 98005 in these links. Again just stuff I was working on for my own client reasons.

median price

Teaching Realtor Clock Hour Classes in Washington State: Getting Started

I’m writing this post because I am often asked how to get started teaching Realtor clock hour classes.  There are a million ways to answer this question.  Do you want to know what the state requirements are? I can easily point you in the direction of Washington State’s required forms but the form won’t tell you how to get up and running. This form will tell you how to get yourself approved as an instructor.  Getting up and running is a different question and that’s the question I will answer in this post.  I have found that the best way to help people is to start at the end.

What’s your end game? Do you want to teach Realtor clock hour classes because you want to make a lot of money? Maybe you don’t care about the money because you have some other job where you already make pretty good money but instead want to use the classes as a way to get in front of Realtors so you can show them how awesome you are…so they will refer business to you.  I have found the latter to be the most common reason why people want to begin teaching Realtor clock hour classes. But let’s talk about money first.

Money

There isn’t a whole lot of money in teaching live classes because…well…because there are so many vendors who are willing to teach low quality CE classes for free.  There are also many large companies willing to send one of their full time employees to teach classes and at conventions for free. These instructors have full time jobs in management, sales, law, tech, etc., and teach classes or at conventions as a public relations maneuver for free, or for a very, very low fee. There’s a word for it. I call it sales-ucation.  Big conventions only pull out big paychecks for the big name draw convention speakers.  I’m assuming you’re not a big name convention keynote speaker if you’re reading this article so I’m going to tell a secret to the rest of you who are not sales-ucation speakers.  There always IS a budget of some sort and they always WILL pay you something—if you ask.

Money, continued
Three Puzzle Pieces: Teaching, Writing, Warm Butts

If you are looking to teach Realtors as a career, AND you can write your own classes you’re on your way. The last piece of the puzzle will be—how are you going to get warm butts in chairs?  You need to be able to do all three: Teach a kick-ass awesome class, constantly write new material, and have a marketing machine that delivers students into the classroom.  Most people who want to teach….want to teach and that’s it.  They want to walk into a classroom filled with students and walk out with a paycheck.  If that’s all you want to do, your value to a real estate school is really, really low.  But that’s okay, and there are real estate schools out there who may hire you but don’t expect to be paid much per hour or per class.

Vendors and The Numbers Game

Maybe you’re a vendor and…well, now don’t be offended if I call you a vendor.  You might be thinking…..I’m a loan originator! I’m an appraiser! I’m an attorney! I’m an escrow officer!  I hate to be the one to break the news to you but to a Realtor you’re just another vendor. Check your ego over there on the edge of the computer screen and don’t get offended if I call you a vendor.  So vendors typically want to use the classroom as a way to grow their business.  It’s a numbers game.  You get in front of X number of Realtors each month will translate into X number of referrals which will translate into X number of leads which will translate into X number of deals which will translate into X number of closed transactions which, on average, will net you X number of before-tax dollars per month.

This is a great strategy and it is doomed to fail. I will hire no one to work at my company if all Realtors are to you is a dollar sign or a lead in a grand master plan. People aren’t objects.  Students aren’t there to be used and even if you (please don’t) teach your class for free, the Realtors are still paying with their time.  Their time is valuable and if all you are doing is a sales song and dance about how much you know and how awesome you are you will fail.  This is what gives Realtor clock hour classes a bad name.  Instructors are in the classroom to help people learn.  They are not there to sell.

Magic is Mystery

So here’s the magic. As a vendor, I know you want deals. Everybody knows you want deals but if you go in there with your deal-wanting pants on, everybody’s going to know it. Instead, you need to approach teaching like a good book.  Nobody goes right to the end of a good book to find out what happened. It’s a mystery. That’s what makes reading so enjoyable.  If you really want to find success in the classroom, and by success I mean meeting your math goals in the previous paragraph, you need to let go of the outcome and instead focus on teaching an awesome, kick-ass class.  A class better than any class they’ve ever had from your competitor.  If you teach an awesome class, they will call you. You get to pick and choose who you want to work with. That’s right. At the end of a 4 hour class, you will know which Realtors you want to work with and which Realtors you don’t want to work with.

The Good News

Title insurance, mortgage lending, home inspections, escrow, all of these vendors have reputations for delivering “free” classes that are god-awful boring. That’s the good news. The bar for free vendor classes has been set terribly low.  All you have to do is to teach even a marginally decent class and they’ll think it’s the best class they’ve ever taken.

So what’s the difference between a god-awful boring class and a kick-ass awesome class? A class where the instructor DOES NOT lecture.

It’s Hard But It’s Also Easy

The most difficult thing for most all clock hour instructors to get their heads wrapped around is that your mouth doesn’t have to be moving the entire time. Unless you attended a fancy prep school in your younger days, most of us attended school where the teacher did most of the talking and we think we have to do that to teach Realtors.  That “teacher knows everything” archetype is embedded in our psyche.  That’s not what adult learners want from their clock hour instructors. Adult learners want to get involved with their learning and that means you don’t have to be the one talking all the time.  This is hard but also easy.

Step 1

The first step is to get into the right Instructor Development Workshop.  Find out who is in charge of the workshop, who is teaching it, how long they’ve been teaching Realtor clock hour classes and how familiar they are with the facilitation model of adult learning.  There are many IDWs out there.  Some are cheaper than others, some are online. You do get what you pay for. Shop around and ask questions.  Will the instructor answer all your questions about getting up and running during the workshop? Will the instructor help you fill out your state-required paperwork? Will the instructor give you the opportunity to try out the facilitation style of learning so you can get a feel for how it really works?  Find the very, very best Realtor clock hour instructor you know who teaches a lot of interactive, fun classes and ask that person for a recommendation on where to take an IDW.

Step 2

The second step is to figure out if you’re a writer.  If you don’t know how to write classes, don’t want to write classes, or don’t have time to write, then you’ll need to hook up with a real estate school that already has classes written that you can use but remember, no school is going to let you teach their material for free. There will always be a fee involved but you can let the students pay that fee if you don’t want to pay it.  Real estate schools like mine can also help you write something completely unique and brand new.  The class must be written to allow the instructor to give the students lots of things to do. The old-style class just gives the instructor lots of things to SAY.  That is a recipe for a boring class.   Just mailing a set of powerpoint slides to the Dept of Licensing won’t cut it. They want specific learning objectives. Real estate schools know how to write classes that the Dept of Licensing will approve.

Step 3

The third step is to figure out how you’re going to get warm butts in chairs.  The easiest way vendors think they will meet this goal is to offer free classes.  Unfortunately when you teach for free you are telling the Realtors what you have to teach them has no value.  Unless YOU own the real estate school and you own your own courses, you OR the students will be paying another real estate school a fee to use their school and courses. Having your own school is also an option but you still haven’t solved the warm butts in chairs problem.  So until then, make a list of possible marketing partners such as a local Association of Realtors or other vendors that also sell to Realtors.  Whatever real estate school you’ll be working with can also help you with marketing ideas.  You can have a great class and know how to teach an interactive class and then end up with nobody showing up.  The marketing piece is crucial to meeting your goals. Marketing takes time and money.  Just sending out a flyer to your email database of 500 Realtors might net you 5 students. If all you have is emails, you need BIG numbers to net 10 students.  If you don’t even have a database of Realtors you’ll need to buy one or partner with someone who has one.

Other Options

In closing, teaching Realtor clock hour classes is a big time commitment.  Not everyone can meet that time commitment, but they still want to attempt to meet their goals. Another option, without actually taking the time commitment needed to be an instructor, is to just sponsor a clock hour class through your local Realtor association. You bring in some healthy food like fruit and protein bars (can we ditch the donuts and muffins and bagels? All those simple carbs are increasing the LDL cholesterol levels of Realtors as I write this.  Enough of that crap already) and then you have a few moments to address the audience.  This is an option for you to create some face time but that’s all it is. Most vendors don’t stay for the whole class.  Drop and go is the status quo and I’m sure the ROI is not very high.  But it DOES make you feel like you’re accomplishing something if a “feeling” is the goal.

Think about your endgame and if you’ve decided to become an instructor, go back and read Step 1.

 

Impact of Fiscal Cliff Agreement on Homeowners?

housing and fiscal cliff

There was so much fear mongering going on about “The Fiscal Cliff” it was starting to feel like being tied to a chair and being forced to watch The Shower Scene from Psycho. The stock market rallied up in response to it just being OVER WITH! But should we just be happy that it’s over with? Did the final agreement impact homeowners?

Doug Tingvall of RE-LAW sent me a quick synopsis of how the deal impacts homeowners “for now”. I asked him to post it publicly as I think it might be of interest to homeowners and homebuyers. I don’t see much in there that is alarming or even much of a change, but maybe I’m missing something. Read Doug Tingvall’s full synopsis HERE

While Doug’s Article does not seem to have a place to ask questions or post a comment, if you have questions you can post them here and I will see if Doug has some time to answer them for you.

The summary is worth a quick read and many thanks to Doug Tingvall for sending it over to us.

2012 Real Estate Prices

The basic Real Estate questions in 2012 have been:

1) Are prices UP or DOWN, going UP or DOWN…at bottom, in recovery, recovered?

2) Is Inventory low…will it get better…where is the shadow inventory?

To answer these questions I am using data from the Lake Washington School District, as it represents a good mix of all possible “home” types. It also gives you a framework of how to develop a similar snapshot in your area of interest.

First let’s look at the snapshot of what people chose to purchase YTD 2012.

Key: 1C Black is One Bedroom Condo, 2C Turquoise-Blue is 2 Bedroom Condo, 3C Purple-Blue is 3 bedroom condo/townhouse, 1S Yellow-Gold is a 1 story home, B/T Pink is a Bi-Tri level and 2S Green is a 2 story home with or without a basement.

Let’s add to that some historical perspective to see if those current choices represent a shift of any kind.

Now we add the impact of price changes on those volume graphs as to what people choose to buy…as prices change.

Back to the original questions…answered by Property Type in the order they are represented as to # of people choosing to buy them.

TWO STORY HOMES

First, let’s be clear as to what a “Two Story Home” is and is not. A two story home is where the children go UP to bed. It is not a 2 level home where the children stay on the same floor as the kitchen when they go to bed or when they go downstairs to bed. I say children as the Master Bedroom can be on the main floor in a two story home. A 2 story home can have a basement or not and in the graphs above these homes are represented in GREEN.

The 2 story home is by far the majority preference, if one can afford anything they want.

Prices have been pretty stable since 2009.

Prices are down roughly 19% from peak pricing.

Volume is pretty much fully recovered given we don’t expect volume to reach “zero down” levels.

Shadow Inventory is in 2 places for the 2 story homes.

First there are the homes ON market that are simply overpriced. Technically you have a 3.65 month supply currently “For Sale”, but only a one month to 1.5 month supply that is actually priced to sell based on current pricing. I’m being generous there allowing for homes to be 10% over where they need to be. A full 60% of 2 story homes for sale are priced at more than 10% of where they need to be…or above 110% of the price at which they will actually sell. These stay “in the shadows” and are basically invisible to those who are buying homes, until they have a price change.

Second are the homes that were bought in volume between 2002 and 2007 that are either underwater or just not yet offered for sale by the people who bought them. About half of those homes will come into the market in dribs and drabs over the next 3 to 5 years. Some will be short sales and foreclosures. Others will simply be homes bought from 2002 through 2006 or so that are not underwater. We don’t expect to see a huge surge of those coming on market all at once, so they should not impact the market by a large amount at any one given time.

Part of the reason for the decline in volume is that builders have shifted over to Northshore School District and Issaquah School District, due to the lack of available land. That probably won’t change in the near future.

TWO BEDROOM CONDOS, B/T SINGLE FAMILY HOMES & 1 Story Homes

Interesting that these three segments represent about the same market share as to real estate purchases overall.

The B/T Single Family Home is a Bi or Tri Level Home. It can be a one story with basement, a split entry or a tri level…sometimes a “multi level”. It is represented as bright PINK in the charts above.

Pretty much fully recovered as to volume, given they are not building more of these.

Prices have really leveled out well at 23% under peak pricing.

I don’t expect much MORE Shadow Inventory to come out of this class of housing that is not already ON market, but overpriced. A FULL 75% of these homes are on market…as overpriced…by a LOT.

The One Story Home has not yet settled into to a recovered position!

Still falling in both volume and price.

The Two Bedroom Condo is in the same boat.

Look at the 2nd graph and you will see these three housing segments, PINK, TURQUOISE & GOLD converging pretty much at the same point in 2009.

 

It’s important to note that there will be continual shift here for some time to come. When people can buy a B/T home for the same price as a 1 Story home…the 1 Story home suffers. Mostly due to the extra basement square footage in a B/T home. The 2 story condo taking the same place on stage is surprising…and being caused by the stability in price of the 3 bedroom condo-townhome.

LOTS of Shadow Inventory in the 2 Bedroom Condo and prices have much further to fall.

The 3 bedroom condos…mostly townhomes…are hard to call. They are running too close in price to the Single Family Home and way over the price of a 2 bedroom condo. I would have to say they are going to fall until they are closer to the 2 bedroom condo price than the Single Family Home price. But that’s a rough guess.

No Surprise…the One Bedroom Condo is dropping like a stone. They were pushed up in value and favor back when everything else was priced out of reach. For the most part people are just holding them as rental properties. LOTS of Shadow Inventory here, especially the underwater newer ones.

SUMMARY: The 2 story home and the Bi and Tri level homes have pretty much recovered and should stay relatively stable. Everything else has a long way to go before they have settled at a bottom as to both volume and price.

To determine where all that might be headed you might ask yourself these questions.

Looking at the price of a 2 bedroom condo at $170k and the price of a 3 bedroom condo at $315k…which would you buy? Is ONE additional bedroom worth an extra $145,000??? Probably not. That is what is holding up the pricing on the 2 bedroom condo, and why the 3 bedroom condo or townhome has further to fall.

Same goes for the 1 story home and the 3 bedroom condo-townhome. At some point the 3 bedroom newer townhome is winning over an old 1 story house without a basement…for other people not. These two have yet to come to an appropriate balance.

That’s it for now. The market should slow down a bit now that we are at 30 days to school starting. That is only as to new contracts and not August Closings. A good roundup of where we are…until we have the 4th Quarter results. in.

Everything should drop from here a bit and the big question is…Will the year END higher than it began?, and if so…in which market segments.

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Data in this Post and the Graphs is not Compiled, Verified or Published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The dates used per year are from January 1 to August 1 in each respective year.

 

 

2012 Median Home Prices UP…and DOWN

Single Family Median Home Prices are UP 6% YOY for the First Half of 2012 in Seattle.

First Half 2011 @ $399,000 – First Half 2012 @ $423,000

Bellevue School District is the Big Winner at UP 20% with a Median Home Price of $689,000.

Issaquah School District DOWN 4%, Northshore School District DOWN 2%

Lake Washington School District UP 4%

Median Home Prices for First Half of 2012:

Bellevue School District: $689,000

Issaquah School District: $521,000

Lake Washington School District: $498,000

Northshore School District: $376,000

Seattle School District: $423,000

Northshore School District has become a pretty good buy lately, given many of the schools have shot UP in the rankings and the median Home Price is by the far the lowest in the mix.

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Required Disclosure: Stats are not Compiled, Published, Verified or Posted by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

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ARDELL 206-910-1000   ardelld@gmail.com   ARDELL DellaLoggia, Managing Broker, SOUND REALTY

Where Should I Live?

Not every client asks me where they SHOULD live. But the question comes up from time to time, and often from family members who are considering jobs in more than one city.

I am answering a more complex one for a family member who hopes to purchase a home vs rent. Scenario is they are graduating with an RN and looking at:

Los Angeles $82,000 Salary
Seattle $74,000 Salary
Colorado $71,000 Salary

The issue when people ask me is usually whether or not the salary differential makes up for the difference in the cost of the housing in various places. The offered salary is $11,000 more in Los Angeles than in Colorado, but does that compensate sufficiently for the difference in housing cost? In the past the scenarios presented to me were about renting vs buying, and often the differential did make up for that difference in rental cost. But when someone is buying vs renting…not necessarily the case.

In this particular example I am looking at Entry Level housing, VA Loan with zero down and a family that already has two children and is planning to have more children. So I need at least 3 bedrooms on this entry level housing.

Starting with “Seattle”…I know that the person is interested in The Eastside Cities of Kirkland, Bellevue or Redmond. For this “entry level” example, I am going to use a home that closed on Wednesday for one of my buyer clients BUT putting in the loan scenario of the family member of mine who is asking the question.

141st House

Price SOLD is $355,000. Plenty of space and yard for a growing family. Cul de sac lot. Could use some updating, but no expensive fixes needed. Had one owner for 44 years since it was built, in 1967. A good indication that a family can live there indefinitely without needing to upgrade to a larger home.

Now we’re matching this home purchase up to the above RN Salary for “Seattle” of $74,000 for the person asking the question, vs the person who actually bought it the other day.

First we’ll use the “rule of thumb” of 3 to 4 times annual income for the loan amount. That would put the loan, based on $74,000 Annual Income, at $222,000 to $296,000. A little short based on Zero Down for this home.

I’m going to move this WA scenario over to a home I sold in Mt. Lake Terrace that is a similar home, big lot, with a one car vs two car garage, but that sold for $250,000 vs $355,000. Edmonds School District. A reasonable example for Mt. Lake Terrace or Brier.

$250,000

Now we go back to our 3X to 4X Gross Annual Income “rule of thumb”. and we can fit $250,000 into that $222,000 to $296,000 equation without approaching the upper limit. NEXT we go into the actual real detail of payments, which isn’t worth doing if the Rule of Thumb = No Way, Jose.

Conservative numbers put monthly housing payment, whether that be rent or mortgage payment, at 28% of MONTHLY GROSS income. VA guidelines are usually 40/40 ratios, allowing people with no debt to put the entire debt budget on home. This Family is a Zero Down…but also a Zero Debt, so they can go somewhere between 28% and 40% as the housing payment.

I am not a Lender…so you have to check the ratios with an actual lender before making offers, but since I don’t recommend going to 40% on housing payment even if you have no debt…as you may incur debt at a later point, let’s proceed.

This family would have ZERO Closing Costs on the above $250,000 scenario as they can be included in the price with a Seller and/or Agent Credit to cover the Closing Costs entirely. So we don’t have to factor in Closing Costs on the WA scenario. That will change for the other cities.

Rates are very low today…too low to use for this scenario, so I’m going to pump the rate up to 3.75%. We are going to stack the VA Funding Fee on top of the price for Loan Amount and Payment purposes. That amount is $5,375. It can be fully or partially paid as part of the Closing Costs, but let’s assume a stack on this one taking the Loan Amount up from $250,000 to $255,375 at 3.75% is . Property Taxes are $250 a month. Homeowner’s Insurance is $50 a month.

NOTE: There are different VA Funding Fee rates for different scenarios. Putting 5% vs ZERO down can reduce the Funding Fee by almost 2%. I have used a rough scenario based on the person who asked the question. These Funding Fee rules change from time to time, are different for Refinance vs Purchase Loans, whether you were in Regular Military or National Guard and whether it is a 1st time or subsequent use of the privelege. See your local lender for specifics.

OK…back to the payment on the $255,350 Loan Amount at 3.75%. $1,182.57 for the Principal and Interest plus $250 for RE Taxes plus $50 for Home Insurance (Fire, etc.) gives us a monthly payment of 1,482.57. That happens to be pretty close to what the home would rent for, probably less than rent for this style of home in other nearby places like North Seattle or Lake Washington vs Edmonds School District. Not sure about Northshore School District, which would also be in the mix as to Bothell homes. But all in all, a good basic scenario.

Back to $74,000 Salary in WA and $1,482.57 a month housing payment. $74,000 Annual Gross Income divided by 12 gives us $6,166.67 Gross Monthly Income which puts $1,482.57 a monthly PITA at 24% of gross. At 40% of Gross Income the monthly housing allowance would be substantially more at $2,466.67. $2000 a month PITA would be a loan amount of $430,000. hmmmm.

Let’s go back to the Rule of Thumb. $430,000 is 5.81 X Annual Income vs 3 to 4 times Annual Income. Low Interest Rates do impact this rule of thumb issue, but still…going over 4X Annual Income just doesn’t look right.

Let’s go back to the first house at $350,000. That payment would be $1,679.41 plus taxes of $330 a month plus insurance of $75 a month would be $2,084.41 a month or 34% of monthly gross income. That’s really enough to spend on housing, and likely appropriate in this case as we are only using one income at an entry level salary. So the payment will become more affordable with some supplemental income from the other spouse and future raises.

So let’s say either of the above examples will work…as well as something in between.

That’s the hard part. Now let’s throw up a $250,000 home and a $350,000 home in Colorado in the Cities of preference as noted by the person asking the question.

Most Every Home in Parker Colorado fits the bill. No problem there. So Parker Colorado, even at a few thousand less in Salary down from $74,000 in WA to $71,000 in Colorado…very easy to get a house for $300,000 give or take.

This big 5 bedroom, 3,200 sf home in Parker is listed at $314,900 and there are plenty of others to choose from. Easy to see why Parker Colorado made the list of options.

Parker

Castle Rock, another choice in Colorado, is even lower priced. This new 3,530 sf new home is listed at $288,000. But Parker doesn’t seem so far out of the way, and is plenty affordable.

Castle Rock

That’s all I can say about Parker and Castle Rock Colorado, as I don’t know the area at all. It works, so it would depend on the salary offers in the various locations. WA works. Colorado works. Now to L.A.

We have a bit more room here, as the salaries are higher by $10,000 or so as the average. Using the same 34% of Gross I used above vs the 40% allowance, and using $82,000 as Gross income is $2,325 for housing payment. Let’s use $1,900 after taxes and insurance. That gives us a home price of $400,000 allowing the extra $10,000 for VA Funding fee on top of the mortgage.

What does that buy in L.A. in the specific areas of interest?

It doesn’t buy us anything in Walteria, one of my favorite not too Ritzy places. 🙁

It doesn’t buy us anything in Redondo Beach, even when I throw in 3 bedroom condo-townhomes.

There are a few in NW Torrance that would work, but they are short sales, so not sure if that price is reflective of “the going rate” for the area.

This 3 bedroom 2 bath, 1,468 sf home at $365,000

This house looks nice, but you can see a huge electrical tower behind the house.

Obviously L.A. is not as doable as WA or CO, so the salary difference would have to be higher. If the salary offer in L.A. was double that of WA and CO…well we can revisit this. But for a small difference…may not be worth it.

Let’s find an L.A. house and work the salary backward.

Well…I can’t find any for sale BUT the GOOD NEWS is I did find a few in Redondo Beach that SOLD. So the answer is there are a few…but the sell very quickly.

This one sold for $419,000. It’s only 914 sf though. 3 bedroom, 1 bath, but small. Nice sized lot and yard though…and it is warm and sunny enough to be outside most of the time year-round, unlike WA and CO.

Redondo Beach

This 3 on a lot sold for $410,000. Nice Street. 1,612 sf with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.

BOTTOM LINE: All three are potentially doable…enough so to put out resumes in all three areas and see what kind of offers come in. WA is probably the best option for several reasons. L.A. is doable IF the salary offered is high enough…OR…if you rent for a bit until the salary improves by raises. Parker vs Castle Rock is probably an excellent option. Depends on how close to the actual work site they would be.

The purpose of answering the question “Where Should I Live?” is not to really answer the question, but to give some food for thought. There are some other considerations like schools and safety, but I already know the not Colorado options well enough to factor that in and the Colorado Cities seem to have pretty much ALL good schools. There are a couple of exceptions in Castle Rock, and I still prefer Parker for several reasons, but most Castle Rock Schools are pretty darned good except for one or two.

Shooting this link to the person who asked the question. Hope it helped someone else with the general “thought process” and work through format. No matter where your thoughts travel as to “Where Should I Live?”, it’s not to hard to do a comparison based on Salary Differences and Home Price differences. The cheapest homes are not always the best choice…nor is the highest salary.

Of course I’d have to say WA vs CO, but to compete, I’d have to throw in a nice looking house for $350,000 in Duvall. 🙂

duvall