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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inventory shortages persist, but Northwest MLS brokers notch record-setting sales totaling $40.3 billion during 2016

KIRKLAND, Washington. (Jan. 19, 2017) – Members of Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported 95,500 closed sales during 2016, outgaining the prior year’s volume of 88,331 transactions for an increase of more than 8.1 percent. Inventory was at record lows for much of the year.

Measured by dollars, last year’s sales of single family homes and condominiums were valued at more than $40.3 billion. Compared to 2015, that dollar volume represents a gain of nearly 18.2 percent.
The sales activity reflects the work of 25,888 brokers across 23 counties in the member-owned Northwest MLS.

Last year’s completed sales included 81,872 single family homes (about 86 percent of the total) and 13,628 condominiums. Of these sales, about 11.3 percent were newly built residences.

The area-wide median price for last year’s sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) was $337,500, a gain of 8.9 percent from the year-ago figure of $310,000. A comparison by county shows median sales prices ranged from $102,500 in Ferry County to $489,000 in King County. With one exception (Ferry) all counties had year-over-year price gains.

Year-over-year prices for single family homes (excluding condominiums) increased 8.7 percent system-wide, rising from $320,000 in 2015 to last year’s median price of $347,950. Condo prices jumped 12.6 percent from the 2015 figure of $254,900 to last year’s median selling price of $287,000.

Only about 7 percent of the sales were for homes priced under $150,000. About one-third of the sales were in the $300,000 - $500,000 range, with the largest share (34 percent) selling for $150,000-$300,000.
Inventory shortages challenged brokers and buyers throughout 2016. Member-brokers logged 121,468 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) during 2016, while adding 113,305 new listings to inventory. Brokers said depleted inventory often led to competitive bidding and multiple offers for homes in the most desirable areas.

During 2016, the average area-wide supply, as measured by months of inventory, averaged only 1.86 months, down from the previous year’s figure of 2.4 months. King County had the lowest level, averaging only 1.1 months of supply. In general, industry analysts use a 4-to-6 month range as an indicator of a balanced market, favoring neither buyers nor sellers.

High-end sales also surged during 2016. Northwest MLS members reported 3,251 sales of single family homes priced at $1 million or more, up more than 21 percent from the 2015 total of 2,676 “luxury” sales. Condos priced at $1 million and up accounted for another 339 sales. A total of 1,711 condos sold for $500,000 or more, outgaining 2015’s total of 1,459 half-million dollar-plus sales (up 21.4 percent).

The highest-priced single family home that sold during 2016 by a member of Northwest MLS was a property on Mercer Island that commanded more than $9.75 million. Topping the chart of high-priced condominiums was one at Escala in downtown Seattle high-rise that sold for $8 million.

Among other highlights in its annual compilation of statistics, Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported:

 About 45 percent of last year’s single family home sales had three bedrooms, while the vast majority of condos (nearly 76 percent) had two bedrooms or fewer.

 The median price for a 3-bedroom home that sold in 2016 was $311,000, about 9.8 percent higher than the previous year’s figure of $283,250. A comparison by county shows the median price for a 3-bedroom home ranges from $120,000 in Ferry County to $485,000 in King County.

 Of the condo sales, about six of every 10 (61.7 percent) were located in King County, primarily in Seattle or on the Eastside. That ratio matched the figure for 2015.

 For the new construction component involving Northwest MLS brokers, newly built condos fetched higher prices than single family homes, just like 2015. Last year’s sales included 9,416 newly built single family homes that sold for a median price of $455,000 (up 11.8 percent from 2015), and 1,375 condos that sold for a median price of $552,900 (up 22.9 percent from 2015).

 A comparison of 2016 and 2015 median prices of single family homes shows all but one county reported year-over-year gains. Going back to 2007, most counties have rebounded.

 Prices vary widely among school districts. Homes that sold last year in 13 districts reported median prices of more than a half-million dollars, topped by Mercer Island at more than $1.3 million.

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 nearly 26,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mortgage Rate Update

5 Stats to Watch as Home Sales Rise

Existing-home sales were on the rise last month, led by a surge in the Northeast and modest gains in the South, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday.
Existing-home sales – completed transactions that encompass single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops – ticked up 0.7 percent in November, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.61 million. The gain was enough to propel existing-home sales to the highest level since February 2007. Further, sales are 15.4 percent higher than a year ago.

Housing has posted a strong three-month stretch to close out the year, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.
“The healthiest job market since the Great Recession and the anticipation of some buyers to close on a home before mortgage rates accurately rose from their historically low level have combined to drive sales higher in recent months,” Yun says. “Furthermore, it’s no coincidence that home shoppers in the Northeast – where price growth has been tame all year – had the most success last month.” 
Here’s a closer look at five stats that put the housing data from November in context.
1. Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $234,900, up 6.8 percent from a year ago ($220,000).
2. Days on the market: Forty-two percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month. On average, properties stayed on the market for 43 days in November, which is down from 54 days a year ago. Short sales lingered on the market the longest at a median of 110 days in November. Foreclosures sold in 55 days and non-distressed homes took 41 days to sell, NAR’s data shows.
3. All-cash sales: All-cash sales comprised 21 percent of transactions in November, which is down from 27 percent a year ago. Individual investors account for the biggest bulk of cash sales and purchased 12 percent of homes in November, down from 16 percent a year ago.
4. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales increased to 6 percent in November, but that's still down from 9 percent a year ago. In November, four percent of sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. On average, foreclosures sold for a discount of 17 percent below market value in November, while short sales were discounted 16 percent.
5. Inventories: By the end of November, total housing inventories fell 8 percent to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale. Inventories are now 9.3 percent lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a four-month supply at the current sales pace.
“Existing housing supply at the beginning of the year was inadequate and is now even worse heading into 2017,” says Yun. “Rental units are also seeing this shortage. As a result, both home prices and rents continue to far outstrip incomes in much of the country.”
Regional Breakdown
Northeast: existing-home sales rose 8 percent to an annual rate of 810,000. Sales are now 15.7 percent above a year ago. Median price: $263,000, which is 3.3 percent higher than a year ago.

Midwest: existing-home sales dropped 2.2 percent to an annual rate of 1.33 million in November. Sales are still 18.8 percent above a year ago. Median price: $180,300, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.

South: existing-home sales increased 1.4 percent to an annual rate of 2.22 million, and are 11.6 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $206,900, up 9.2 percent from a year ago.
West: existing-home sales dropped 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in November. Sales are 19 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $345,400, up 8.5 percent from a year ago.

Monday, January 9, 2017

HUD Lowers FHA MIP by a Quarter Point

Mortgage insurance premiums on FHA-backed loans will be lower by 25 basis points on loans endorsed starting January 27, the federal government announced today.

“After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” Julian Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, announced today.
NAR President Bill Brown praised the move. “Dropping mortgage insurance premiums will mean a lot more responsible borrowers are eligible to purchase a home through FHA,” he said. “That puts more money in the fund to protect taxpayers, and it puts more families in homes so they can live out the American dream.”
The new premium schedule, which takes effect for residential mortgage loans that have an insurance endorsement date on or after January 27,  is expected to save the average home buyer $500 a year in insurance costs.
In its announcement, HUD said the reduced premiums reflect the healthy state of HUD’s mutual mortgage insurance fund, which is the agency’s principle fund for insuring FHA mortgages. “We’ve carefully weighed the risks associated with lower premiums with our historic mission to provide safe and sustainable mortgage financing to responsible homebuyers,” said Edward Golding, HUD principal deputy assistant secretary for housing. “This conservative reduction in our premium rates is an appropriate measure to support [home buyers] on their path to the American dream.”
Under the new schedule, a home purchase with a base loan amount of up to $625,000, with an 85-percent loan-to-value ratio and a 30-year loan term, will require an annual mortgage insurance premium of 55 basis points, down from 80 basis points.  A 15-year loan of that same amount and with a 90-percent LTV ratio will require an MIP of 25 basis points, down from 45. Access the full schedule.
NAR is calling on FHA to take even more steps to help home buyers, including eliminating FHA’s “life of loan” mortgage insurance requirement, which forces borrowers to maintain mortgage insurance regardless of their equity position. Borrowers with traditional mortgage insurance can typically extinguish their mortgage insurance once they reach 20 percent equity in the property. “Our work continues, but we’re encouraged by today’s announcement,” Brown said.
—By Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine.  Read more about this premium change here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Home buyer frustration continues due to limited selection and ongoing increases in prices, interest rates

KIRKLAND, Washington (Jan. 5, 2017) – Like many other months of 2016, December was frustrating for buyers across Washington state as they encountered depleted inventory and rising prices. Post-election hikes in interest rates – with more on the horizon -- added to would-be homeowners’ worries.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service statistics for December show year-over-year drops in new listings, but gains in pending sales, closed sales and prices. Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) in the four-county Puget Sound region reached their highest level since 2005.

“The data just keep telling the same story – low inventory and increasing prices,” remarked a broker. “As one of our brokers put it, ‘Sellers received an awesome Christmas gift in December, but buyers, only a lump of coal.’”

Brokers added 4,217 new listings to the inventory during December to bring the supply up to 10,571 listings. The volume of new listings surpassed the year-ago figure of 4,041, but supply still fell, dropping to only 1.4 months for the Northwest MLS market area covering 23 counties. Both King and Snohomish counties reported less than a month of inventory.

A broker in Seattle said his analysis of the MLS data indicates the supply of single family homes for sale in King County just hit a post-recession low. “The only other time supply fell below one month was around this same time a year ago,” noted Wasser, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors.
At month end, MLS figures show inventory (10,571 listings) was nearly 15.6 percent below year-ago levels (12,522 listings), with about 90 percent of the selection being single family homes.

Seventeen of the 23 counties in the MLS report had double-digit drops in active listings at the end of last month compared to December 2015.

Northwest MLS members reported 6,401 pending sales during December, up from 5,970 for the same month a year ago for a year-over-year gain of 7.2 percent.

“The housing market remains frenzy hot on a seasonal basis,” one remarked. Noting sales activity was substantially higher than the number of new listings, he said such conditions “continue to foster a competitive market where homebuyers are just waiting for the next new listing to come on the market.”

Commenting on strong sales in the Central Puget Sound region, he noted King County recorded the biggest year-over-year jump in pending sales of single family homes, surging nearly 11.3 percent, well ahead of Kitsap (up 4.5 percent), Pierce (up 4 percent) and Snohomish (up 3.2 percent).

“Buyers pursued homes aggressively all through November and December with little to no slowdown amid fears of rising interest rates and worsening inventory levels,” said MLS director. “Inventory levels have dropped to their lowest level, which makes buyer frenzy even more intense as prices approach double-digit appreciation,” he added. This director also calculates buyers have lost $37,000 in buying power due to interest rate increases. He likens the situation to having two cars, “one going forward, and one going in reverse. The gap is widening too fast for some buyers.”

Closed sales also finished on a strong note with brokers reporting 7,575 completed transactions during December. That’s up more than 6.8 percent from a year ago when members notched 7,091 closed sales.
Prices area-wide also continued trending upward, rising nearly 9.2 percent from a year ago. The overall median price for single family homes and condominiums that sold during December was $343,950; a year ago it was $315,000.

King County prices jumped 12.2 percent, from $450,000 in December 2015 to $505,000 for last month’s sales. For single family homes (excluding condominiums) the median price for December’s sales was $550,000, unchanged from October and November. Prices peaked this year in King County in June, reaching $573,522.

Condo sales slowed compared to a year ago, due at least in part to a sharp drop in inventory (down more than 19 percent). Pending sales were essentially flat (up 0.73 percent). Closed sales for December slipped nearly 6 percent, while prices on last month’s completed sales of condos rose 9.8 percent. The median price on last month’s closed sales of condos was $280,000. Condo prices in King County jumped more than 12 percent, from $279,975 a year ago to last month’s sales price of $314,000.

“Looking ahead to 2017, the Seattle market will continue to perform well, even with the expected interest rate increase,” stated a broker. The regional economy is in full stride, he noted, adding, “This will continue to create increased demand for housing across the board. Price growth should start to cool a little as inventory levels rise modestly, but overall, 2017 should be another banner year for the housing market.”

Consumers should expect prices to continue edging upward, suggested the NWMLS direction. “NAR indicates we are 70,000 units short of meeting the housing needs in the Puget Sound area. Builders are just flat out running out of urban land to work with,” he said. Also, he believes rising costs for construction labor are the driving force for price increases. Builder confidence continues to grow, reaching its highest levels since 2005, he noted, but added, “Naturally, some trepidation is heard as some feel this level of growth in the market is completely unsustainable.”

He believes the pattern of low inventory and increasing prices will continue. “We believe it is a predictor for what to expect throughout 2017,” he commented. “There’s simply not enough new construction to fill the needs of new employees being hired both locally and new to the state. The key is employment,” Grady continued, saying “There’s no reason to think that a new administration will cause employment to slow down; rather, it’s more likely we’ll see it increase in the Puget Sound region so we’re off to another strong start in 2017,” he stated.

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 the state.