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Monday, November 28, 2016

Fire Safety

Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property. The fact is that many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented by homeowners. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home - and can save property and lives should disaster strike.
  • Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines when joining multiple strands together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.
  • Candles add a welcome festive feeling, and should be placed in stable holders and located away from curtains, drafts, pets, and children. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.
  • Live Christmas trees should be kept in a water-filled stand and checked daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly-cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights on a dried-out tree.
  • All electrical devices including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpet or rugs as this creates a fire hazard.
  • Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
  • When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, papers - anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended or where a child or pet could knock them over.
  • Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard-wired to your home's electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Most municipalities now require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
  • Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters, or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
  • Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, 46% of reported home fires in 2015 were caused by cooking. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don't wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Handles of pots and pans should be turned away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
  • Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit for detailed information on how to make a plan. Local fire departments can also provide recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.
Information originally provided by Pillar To Post  
The Sound Team

(360) 753-5025

Friday, November 4, 2016

Home sales and prices still climbing around Puget Sound, but brokers expect slowdown

KIRKLAND, Washington (Nov. 4, 2016) – Home sales around Western Washington outgained new listings again in October, fueling competition for scarce inventory and pushing prices higher. Some seasonal slowdown is still expected – and the Nov. 8 elections may be in play as well, according to brokers at Northwest Multiple Listing Service who commented on last month’s activity.

MLS members reported 9,950 pending sales during October, but they added only 7,591 new listings, the lowest number since January. A year-over-year comparison of pending sales shows there were 633 more mutually accepted offers last month than twelve months ago for a gain of 6.8 percent.

Closed sales improved even more, rising from the year-ago total of 7,769 completed transactions to last month’s volume of 8,554 (up 10.1 percent).

“While the stock market remains somewhat skittish regarding the upcoming presidential election, this feeling clearly has not transferred to the housing market, unfortunately for buyers who were hoping to have more homes to choose from this fall, listings in October fell to levels we haven’t seen since the 1990s – and at this point, we probably won’t see any sizable increase in inventory until the spring at the earliest,” he added.

Active listings dropped more than 13 percent compared to a year ago, with further shrinkage expected. At month end there were 15,690 single family homes and condominiums offered for sale in the MLS system, which encompasses 23 counties. That’s 2,378 fewer than the year-ago total of 18,068, and 2,446 fewer than September. All but two counties (Clallam and Ferry) reported year-over-year decreases in inventory.

 Overall, there was only 1.8 months of supply. King County had slightly more than one month (1.1), with several areas within that county reporting less than a month’s supply. In Snohomish County, where inventory plunged more than 20 percent from a year ago, there was with 1.3 months.

“The further we move into November, the more we’ll start feeling the typical seasonal drop when new listings coming on the market decline by 50 percent on a monthly basis compared to spring and summer months,” suggested J. Lennox. Buyers are still out there, he emphasized. “We’re heading into winter with a repeat of last year’s conditions: low inventory, a backlog of buyers, and historically low interest rates.” On the heels of the “best October on record” Scott predicts “a strong winter market where the inventory remains tight throughout the season.”

Not surprisingly given the large MLS territory, which includes both rural and urban areas, activity is stronger in some sub-markets than others. Prices also reflect a wide spectrum. Of the four counties comprising the Puget Sound region (King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish), only Kitsap had an uptick in new listings compared to a year ago, but that county’s robust pending sales (up 20.7 percent) helped deplete its total inventory versus twelve months ago (down about 7 percent).

“The market in Kitsap is still very active,” according to Frank Wilson in Poulsbo. He noted Kitsap typically lags the Seattle market by 6-to-9 months.

Wilson expects a slowing in Kitsap County, at which time the upward pressure on pricing will begin to ease. “For now, the median price is up almost 13 percent from a year ago,” added Wilson, a board member at Northwest MLS.

In South Sound, prices rose at a more moderate rate, around 9.6 percent in Pierce County and just over 6.8 percent in Thurston County. “Homes priced under $400,000 are looked at hard by buyers on ‘day one’ and often draw multiple offers,” said Northwest MLS director Dick Beeson in Tacoma. Above that figure, things slow down markedly, he noted, adding that’s true in other areas, but the starting numbers and wait times might vary.

Beeson also cautioned sellers to be realistic in pricing, even in the current imbalanced market when sellers may have the upper hand. “Price cures all ills. No amount of marketing a property will cure the ill caused by too high a price,” said the veteran broker, citing data on expired listings that eventually came back on the market but oftentimes sold at a reduced price.

System-wide, prices for single family homes and condos (combined) rose nearly 8.2 percent from a year ago, increasing from $318,000 to $344,000. In the four-county Puget Sound region, King County claimed the largest increase and the highest prices. Year-over-year prices jumped 14.5 percent, from $432,750 to $495,500.

Single family home prices (excluding condos) increased 9.2 percent from a year ago; in King County the gain was nearly 14.6 percent, climbing from $480,000 to $550,000. That countywide median price is higher than September (which was $538,000) but lower than the year-to-date peak of $573,522 in June.

Condo prices increased $20,000 from a year ago (more than 7.3 percent), climbing from $265,500 to $285,000. The median price on closed sales of condos in King County was $320,000, about 10 percent higher than a year ago. Inventory area-wide fell more than 21 percent, leaving only 1.1 months of supply.

While prices continue to appreciate, Wilson said the “appraisal situation” is tempering activity. “We’ve spent the last 20 years improving the closing process, making it faster and more efficient. With the reduced number of appraisers in the marketplace now, we are seeing 2-to-4 weeks being adding to closing times, and costs doubling or tripling.”

Along with appraisal delays and seasonal adjustments, another industry leader mentioned reports indicating real estate markets nationwide are experiencing an “election cycle slowdown” due to the uncertainty surrounding next week’s elections. “People may be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach before buying or selling,” said Mike Grady.  However, he added, “We believe that regardless of who wins, there will be no major impact on the Puget Sound region’s economy.”

Grady cited solid local economic indicators and the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to hold off on increasing interest rates as signals for a good time for home buyers and sellers to make a move. “It actually could be a great window of opportunity,” he stated.

MLS director George Moorhead also commented on jitters associated with Election Day. “We are hearing concerns from buyers relocating from other countries and how policies may change job security,” he stated.

On an encouraging note for buyers, Moorhead said there has been more flexibility involving new construction incentives and upgrades, notably among larger national builders wanting to close out inventory. He believes it’s been at least 18 months since such offers were available to buyers.

“New construction projects are still going forward and are only hampered by the lack of available land for larger development sites,” reported Moorhead.  Both national and mid-sized local builders are completing smaller 4-to-6 lot plats, even though they prefer plats of at least 12 lots, according to Moorhead.

Asked about activity from foreign investors who might be shifting attention from British Columbia to markets in Washington because of tax hikes and other measures being imposed there, and recent reports of plunging sales, brokers with Northwest MLS had varied reactions:

 Moorhead said they’re seeing an increase in foreign money, but it’s more in the commercial arena. He also noted they are a hearing of foreign buyers looking not just in Puget Sound, but also in California, Texas and other states.
 Gary O’Leyar described it as “a great example of what happens when you impose a restriction (excessive taxes or restraints) onto a free market. Although the circumstances are not exactly the same, rent control in a free trade market could have similar detrimental results.”
 Grady’s response was: “It’s not at all surprising that pending sales in Vancouver (B.C.) dropped comparing month-to-month, after the huge surge that happened in the final month before the new fees commenced.”
 Beeson was upbeat. “This move [by the British Columbia government] to put an additional tax burden on foreign investors should bring smiles to Washington brokers, particularly in the Greater Seattle and Eastside markets. It's only a matter of time until these investors find a welcome mat out just a few miles south of Vancouver and property prices worth writing home about.”

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

No Change From Fed

Over the past week, shifting expectations for foreign central banks and headlines about the U.S. election were the main influence on mortgage rates. The U.S. economic data had little impact. Mortgage rates ended the week a little higher. 

As widely expected, the U.S. Fed made no policy changes on Wednesday, and its statement was very similar to the prior one. Investors still think there is roughly a 75% chance for a federal funds rate hike at the next meeting on December 14, nearly unchanged from before the release of the Fed statement. There was little market reaction to the Fed meeting. 

By contrast, recent news from Europe and Japan was negative for global bonds. Due to better than expected European economic data, concerns grew that the European Central Bank (ECB) may see less need to increase its monetary stimulus, particularly its bond purchases. In addition, an official of the Bank of Japan (BOJ) said that the BOJ may not increase its bond purchase program, disappointing some investors. Bond purchases from central banks around the world have helped push global bond yields lower in recent years, so indications that there may be less stimulus in the future caused yields to rise, including U.S. mortgage rates. 

One reason that the U.S. Fed is able to wait longer to tighten monetary policy is that inflation has risen very slowly so far this year and remains below the Fed's target. The recently released core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, the inflation indicator favored by the Fed, was 1.7% higher than a year ago, matching expectations. Core PCE has remained close to current levels all year. According to the Fed statement, Fed officials expect that inflation will rise to their target of 2.0% "over the medium term." 

The U.S. election also has influenced mortgage rates. Generally, news that favors Trump has been positive for bonds and negative for stocks. News that favors Clinton has caused the opposite reaction. 

Looking ahead, the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) Services index will be released on Thursday. The important monthly employment report will be released on Friday. As usual, this data on the number of jobs, the unemployment rate, and wage inflation will be the most highly anticipated economic data of the month. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, which measures job openings and labor turnover rates, will come out on November 8. The election also may continue to influence mortgage rates. 

This information provided by: The Sanders Young Team, NMLS ID #487525 and #438324
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