Tiny Homes Promote Quality over Quantity

Are you fascinated about downsizing? Do you love small places? Does a simple and serene ambiance sound like music to your ears? Then hop on the bandwagon and get yourself a ‘tiny house’ because we all know the best things come in small packages.  

What’s a tiny house? Tiny houses have recently hit the real estate market by storm. The to-go models typically range from 100-175 square feet, while the larger, more permanent cottage styles are usually around 250 to 500 square feet. With a multitude of floor plan choices that include full kitchens and bathrooms, heating, AC, and a reasonable range of prices, a tiny house couldn’t be more practical.

What tiny house are you? The best part about tiny homes is that you get to pick whichever one compliments your lifestyle and needs the most. Are you more of a beach house or cabin in the woods type of person? What about a pool house for your backyard or an art or yoga studio? Or maybe you’re guilty of always wishing there was somewhere else for your mother-in-law to stay while she’s in town. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something less permanent, then a to-go model might be more your speed. You can grab your house whenever you are feeling an itch of wanderlust and head out on the open road. You can park it near the coast or somewhere concealed for a relaxing and quiet weekend. If being on the water is more your thing, there are even tiny floating homes.  

Who owns one? The small, but rapidly growing number of tiny house homeowners can be found all over the country. People are shedding their square footage and downsizing from coast to coast. In 2013, the tiny home movement saw 2,600 residents, while 2014 currently has about 4,000 residents and growing. People are joining the tiny house movement for various reasons. Some want to downsize due to environmental or financial concerns, others are looking for more time and freedom in their lives. Having tiny homes encourages people to live beyond their own walls and spend more time in the outdoors and their community. Tiny homes have redefined the American dream by promoting quality over quantity.  

If you think you might want a tiny house as your primary home, the only sacrifice is space; the gains however, are countless. Tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes and can be modern, minimal, or luxurious. These tiny homes are a fun and exciting endeavor to which you can easily add your own flavor. And because you can get a prefab tiny home delivered right to your door, the home buying process is as simple as the homes themselves.

If you want to check out more house styles you can visit our Tiny House page on Pinterest

The Winners of the Windermere Charity Challenge are..

We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in the Windermere Foundation Charity Challenge! We had high expectations for this event, but were amazed by the more than 78,500 votes that were cast over the past three weeks.

So, without further ado, here are the winners of the Windermere Foundation Charity Challenge:

Western Washington: Hand-in-Hand with 50.8% of the votes

Southwest Washington & Oregon: Friends of Children of Portland with 44.4%

Eastern Washington, Idaho & Montana: Family Promise of Spokane with 35.6% 

California & Hawaii: Boys and Girls Club of El Sobrante with 45.7%

Arizona, Utah & Nevada: Yavapai CASA for Kids, Inc. with 45%

Each of these organizations will receive $25,000, for a total donation of $125,000 from the Windermere Foundation. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the Windermere Foundation’s 25th anniversary and all that our agents and non-profit partners do to support our neighbors in need.  

Windermere Foundation 25th Anniversary Charity Challenge

Last week we announced the start of the Windermere Foundation 25th Anniversary Charity Challenge and we couldn’t be more excited by the results! Almost 19,000 people have voted to help determine which five organizations will each win a $25,000 donation from the Windermere Foundation.

Leading up to the Charity Challenge, we asked Windermere offices to suggest non-profit organizations to compete in the Charity Challenge and received more than 150 nominations! Choosing the finalists was no easy task, but we feel confident that the non-profits we selected most closely align with the Windermere Foundation and its mission to support low-income and homeless families. The following information will help familiarize you with the organizations that are competing in the Charity Challenge. Remember, you can cast one vote every day until the Charity Challenge ends on April 4, 2014.

Windermere Foundation Charity Challenge Finalists:


Kirkland Interfaith Transitions in Housing (KITH)

Since 1989, KITH has helped homeless and at-risk families in East King County, by providing transitional and permanent housing, case management, and support services that are designed to help them move out of homelessness.


Hand in Hand

Hand in Hand provides a safe place for children to stay, giving case workers the time needed to find the best-fitting foster home for each child so that they do not have to move from family to family.



Boys and Girls Club of North Kitsap/South Puget Sound

The Boys & Girls Club provides afterschool and athletics programs to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.



For 40 years, YouthCare has helped to build confidence and self-sufficiency for homeless youth in Seattle through programs that provide outreach, basic services, emergency shelter, housing, counseling, education, and employment training.


Northwest Harvest (Western Washington)

Northwest Harvest is a hunger relief agency whose mission is to provide nutritious food to hungry people in a manner that respects their dignity, while fighting to eliminate hunger. All funds donated to NW Harvest will go to the three-square backpack program; ensuring children have the food they need throughout the weekend.



Corvallis Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis provides afterschool and athletics programs to help school age youth reach their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.


Friends of the Children of Portland

Friends of the Children provide Portland’s most vulnerable children with intensive and long-term mentors. Mentors are full-time, paid professionals that take a preventive, early intervention approach that breaks the cycle of poverty and abuse by helping children in need overcome the many obstacles in their lives.


SideWalk of Thurston County

SideWalk is a volunteer operated organization on a mission to end homelessness. Through partnerships with local shelters and transitional housing programs in the area, they help place and screen applicants, with an eye on finding permanent solutions for as many people as possible.


Seashore Family Literacy Center

Seashore Family Literacy promotes education, community, health—and life literacy—through numerous programs, including youth and adult tutoring, parenting classes, after-school activities, summer camps, a clothing bank, free meals and more. All programs are free and Seashore operates almost entirely with volunteer efforts.


Family YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties

Strengthening community is their cause, with a focus on programs for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.




Family Promise of Greater Helena (Montana)

Family Promise® of Greater Helena provides support and resources to children and their families in a homeless situation until the family can regain sustainable independence. Families have a place to stay, home cooked meals, transportation, and an advocate to help them get back on their feet.


St. Vincent DePaul Transitional Housing (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho)

St. Vincent de Paul's Transitional Housing Program provides both housing and supportive services to homeless individuals and families. Case managers work with the residents to help them move toward a long-term goal of self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.


Family Promise of Spokane

Family Promise works with homeless families to tailor individualized plans to help them take the necessary steps toward lasting independence. Guest families are hosted at congregations in Spokane’s network, where they are provided with meals, hospitality, and overnight accommodations for one week on a rotating basis.


Wenatchee Valley YMCA

The Wenatchee Valley YMCA provides programs and services for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children



Benton-Franklin Community Action Committee Housing Services (Tri-Cities)

BFCAC provides housing services to low-income and homeless families in Benton and Franklin Counties. Most programs are aimed to assist clients with their road to self-sufficiency.



Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui (Hawaii)

The Boys & Girls Club of Maui provides afterschool and athletics programs to help school age youth reach their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.


The Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante (California)

The Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante provides afterschool and athletics programs to help school age youth reach their full potential as productive, responsible, caring citizens. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.


The Community Resource Center in Encinitas (California)

CRC is dedicated to helping women and children, individuals, and families live safe, self-sufficient lives by providing critical assistance in the areas of domestic violence services, food programs, and emergency and transitional housing assistance.


Riverside School of the Arts (California)

The Riverside School of Arts in the Cesar Chavez Community Center teaches kids music, dancing and art. A combination of grants and partnerships help fund the program, with mostly volunteer instructors and donated materials.



Yavapai Casa for Kids (Arizona)

For over a decade, Yavapai CASA for Kids has helped provide for local children in foster care and support the work of CASA volunteers by offering special projects, activities and funding for the needs of children in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt.


South Davis Community Hospital (Salt Lake City, Utah)

This specialty hospital offers expertise in complex pediatric and adult respiratory therapy services.



YMCA of Southern Nevada

The YMCA of Southern Nevada is committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility in Southern Nevada. Funds will support programs and services for low-income families and children.


Please vote for your favorite non-profit organizations! And remember, you can vote once a day, every day until the contest closes at 5pm on April 4, 2014.




(Originally posted on the Windermere Foundation Blog

Windermere Foundation Celebrates 25th Anniversary With “Charity Challenge”


Everyone around Windermere is a little excited right now. Why, you ask? Because we’re giving away $125,000 to some very worthy non-profit organizations!

But we need your help.

In honor of the Windermere Foundation’s 25th anniversary, we’re holding a “charity challenge”. Between March 17 and April 4, 21 non-profit organizations throughout the Western United States will compete for $25,000. At the end of the charity challenge, the five non-profits who earn the most votes, will each receive $25,000 from the Windermere Foundation – for a grand total of $125,000!

YOU have the power to decide who will win!

The 21 competing non-profits were nominated by Windermere office owners and managers, and all reflect the Windermere Foundation’s mission to provide support and services to low-income and homeless families. To see which non-profits are competing in your community, go to the Windermere Real Estate Facebook page. From there, you can also vote for the one you feel is most deserving of $25,000. You can vote up to once a day for the duration of the contest. And please encourage your friends and family to vote too! This is truly a community effort.

For the past 25 years, the Windermere Foundation has donated a portion of the proceeds from every home purchased or sold through Windermere towards supporting low-income and homeless families. During this time, we’ve raised more than $26 million for programs and organizations that provide shelter, clothing, children’s programs, emergency assistance, and other services to those in need.

Your efforts have the power to make a huge difference for our neighbors in need and the non-profit organizations that support them. Please help us by going online and voting for your favorite non-profit today! And tomorrow. And the next day…you get the idea.

Vote Now!


Oregon and Southwest Washington I 2013 Fourth Quarter Market Update

Windermere Real Estate is proud to partner with Gardner Economics on this analysis of the Oregon and Southwest Washington real estate market. This report is designed to offer insight into the realities of the housing market. Numbers alone do not always give an accurate picture of local economic conditions; therefore our goal is to provide an explanation of what the statistics mean and how they impact the Oregon and Southwest Washington housing economy. We hope that this information may assist you with making an informed real estate decision. For further information about the real estate market in your area, please contact your Windermere agent.

Regional economics

The Oregon economy started to experience acceleration in job growth in 2013. This was largely expected as the housing market and industry rebounded, and the public sector cuts slowed across the state. As a result, more counties in the state began adding jobs. Now the question is whether the state can expect a further increase in the rate of growth.

The likely answer is yes. Early on in the recovery, the Portland metropolitan area was responsible for nearly all jobs gained statewide, but this changed in 2013. Although Portland certainly continued to add jobs at a steady rate, other areas, including Bend and Medford, began adding jobs as well.

In the past quarter, job growth in Bend and Medford has slowed as the nationwide housing rebound stalled. These markets are among the most heavily influenced by an influx of migrants and housing activity, so as the broader housing rebound slowed, so too did these and several other markets. This is supported by the fact that 13 out of the 24 markets analyzed saw employment losses in the fourth quarter of 2013.

It should be mentioned that overall employment growth did not decelerate along with the markets mentioned above, as private sector job gains in several markets accelerated to pick up the slack. All told, the market added 26,062 jobs in 2013, 7,704 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Looking forward to 2014, as regions within Oregon continue adding jobs, growth is likely to pick up a bit further, into the 35,000 jobs per year range, or an annual growth rate of 2.0 percent—up from 1.5 percent seen in 2013.

When compared to December of 2012, employment growth was most pronounced in the Wasco County area (+3.5%). This was followed by Hood River County (+3.3%), Clark County (+2.9%), and Deschutes and Jackson Counties which both expanded by 2.7 percent. On an absolute basis, Multnomah County maintains its position as the driving force behind job growth with the addition of 9,400 positions over the past 12 months. This was again followed by Washington County (+6,500) and Clark County where employment grew by 3,900 positions.

On the negative side, job losses totaled 3,388 in three counties. Almost all of the losses were seen in Marion County where employment dropped by 2,309 jobs. The other counties which shed jobs were Polk County (-579 jobs) and Cowlitz County (-500 jobs).

The unemployment rate continues to drop in every county that was analyzed—a trend that started in 2012. This is especially positive as there are now just two counties (Skamania and Klamath) where unemployment rates are still in double digits, at 10 percent.

Of the counties that saw shrinking unemployment rates, the greatest improvement was seen in Linn County where the unemployment rate dropped by two percent to 8.5 percent. This was followed by Deschutes and Josephine Counties where the rate dropped by 1.7 percent.

I am upping the “C-” grade that I gave last quarter to a straight “C.” As much as I anticipate an improving business environment in 2014, I want proof positive that we are seeing broad-based improvement before I get too excited about the job market.

Regional Real Estate

In 2013, the region reported 48,819 home sales—an impressive increase of 13.3 percent over the figure seen in 2012 (43,100).

The rate of growth in sales was interesting, with fourteen counties registering double-digit gains, and two, Klickitat County and Cowlitz County, seeing growth of over 30 percent (33.3 percent and 35.4 percent, respectively).

Areas with the lowest increase in home sales were Linn County (+1.4%) and Josephine County (+4.5%). Other areas with somewhat modest gains were Polk County (+9.1%) and Marion County (+9.6%).

There were four counties where 2013 home sales did not exceed those seen the previous year. These were Deschutes County (-0.4%), Klamath County (-1.3%), Lincoln County (-2.1%), and Jackson County, where sales dropped by 6.3 percent.

When we turn our attention to home prices, the picture was generally bright, with seventeen counties showing home values that were above those seen at the end of 2012 and eleven registering double-digit growth. In aggregate, the markets surveyed saw home prices rise from $243,919 to $263,888, an increase of 8.2 percent over 2012. This is a healthy rate of appreciation which, although lower than that seen through the third quarter, is indicative of a market that is starting to stabilize.

Looking at the individual counties, the most pronounced growth rates were seen in Hood River County (+27.9%)—unsurprising as this is a small market where average prices can make erratic moves. In addition to the county mentioned above, there were some impressive gains in value as demonstrated in the chart and table to the right. Six counties saw price increases below ten percent.

There were five counties where prices fell. Skamania County saw the greatest drop in value versus a year ago (-39.9%), but we again attribute this to the fact that it is a small market. The other markets where prices dropped were Wasco County (-27.5%), Yamhill County (-15.7%), and two others (Clakamas & Polk) registering very modest contractions of below two percent. I am not overly concerned about this as, if you average prices for the entire year, Yamhill and Skamania are both higher and Wasco is just modestly lower than a year ago.

As I mentioned in the third quarter report, the market continues to recover relative to price, but the rate of appreciation continues to slow. I was pleased to see that, when compared to two years ago, prices are almost uniformly higher. Again this is indicative of a market that is in recovery.

It was equally pleasing to see that there are now a few select markets where prices are above the level seen at the end of 2008, when we were just starting to see the housing bubble burst. I anticipate that, as we head through 2014, we will slowly start to see more counties turn positive when compared to five years ago.

I am still not ready to raise the grade for the real estate markets from the “C+” that I have given it for the past three quarters. Inventory levels are still nowhere near where they should be and I will be very interested to see if we get a much-needed spring “bump.” If we do, then I will become more confident in the stability of the market.


The Oregon economy, although still somewhat mired in the bog of lackluster growth, is starting to emerge with good job creation in the core employment centers and neighboring counties. This is encouraging.

In the markets covered by this report, employment growth has not yet started to outperform the state (1.51% vs. 2.08%) but is improving.

As I stated earlier in this report, I anticipate that 2014 employment growth should come in at around two percent. Not an overwhelming figure, but one that is an improvement over the growth rates seen over the past couple of years.

The housing market continues to head higher in terms of both price and sales volumes. The number of homes for sale in the region is still well below historic levels, but I remain hopeful that 2014 will bring a much-needed boost to active inventory.

While interest rates are certain to head higher this year, they will still be at very low levels when compared to historic averages. The average 30-year rate at the end of 2013 was 4.46 percent—just below the level seen in the summer of 2011. Although rates were in the threes in 2013, they are still very attractive when compared to historic standards. (Keep in mind that they hit 10 percent in 1990 and the market still functioned!)

Rates should rise modestly this year, but this does not really concern me. The limited number of homes for sale is—by far—more worrisome. I remain hopeful that we will see higher inventory levels in 2014, which should offset worries over increasing rates.

About Matthew Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a land use economist and principal with Gardner Economics and is considered by many to be one of the foremost real estate analysts in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to managing his consulting practice, Mr. Gardner chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; sits on the Urban Land Institutes Technical Assistance Panel; is an Advisory Board Member for the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington; and is the Editor of the Washington State University’s Central Puget Sound Real Estate Research Report.

He is also the retained economist for the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties. He has twenty-five years of professional experience in the U.K. and U.S.

He has appeared on CNN, NBC and NPR news services to discuss real estate issues, and is regularly cited in the Wall Street Journal and all local 

How long should they last?

The life span of your household components

Nothing in life lasts forever – and the same can be said for your home. From the roof to the furnace, every component of your home has a life span, so it’s a good idea to know approximately how many years of service you can expect from them. This information can help when buying or selling your home, budgeting for improvements, and deciding between repairing or replacing when problems arise.

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study, the average life expectancy of some home components has decreased over the past few decades.  (This might explain why you’re on your third washing machine while Grandma still has the same indestructible model you remember from childhood.) But the good news is the life span of many other items has actually increased in recent years.

Here’s a look at the average life spans of some common home components (courtesy of NAHB). 

Appliances. Of all home components, appliances have the widest variation in life spans. These are averages for all brands and models, and may represent the point which replacing is more cost-effective than repairing. Among major appliances, gas ranges have the longest life expectancy, at about 15 years. Electric ranges, standard-size refrigerators, and clothes dryers last about 13 years, while garbage disposals grind away for about 10 years. Dishwashers, microwave ovens, and mini-refrigerators can all be expected to last about nine years. For furnaces, expect a life span of about 15 years for electric, 18 for gas, and 20 for oil-burning models. Central air-conditioning systems generally beat the heat for 10 to 15 years.

Kitchen & Bath. Countertops of wood, tile, and natural stone will last a lifetime, while cultured marble will last about 20 years. The life span of laminate countertops depends greatly on use and can be 20 years or longer. Kitchen faucets generally last about 15 years.  An enamel-coated steel sink will last five to 10 years; stainless will last at least 30 years; and slate, granite, soapstone, and copper should endure 100 years or longer. Toilets, on average, can serve at least 50 years (parts such as the flush assembly and seat will likely need replacing), and bathroom faucets tend to last about 20 years.

Flooring. Natural flooring materials provide longevity as well as beauty: Wood, marble, slate, and granite should all last 100 years or longer, and tile, 74 to 100 years. Laminate products will survive 15 to 25 years, linoleum about 25 years, and vinyl should endure for about 50 years. Carpet will last eight to 10 years on average, depending on use and maintenance.

Siding, Roofing, Windows. Brick siding normally lasts 100 years or longer, aluminum siding about 80 years, and stucco about 25 years. The life span of wood siding varies dramatically – anywhere from 10 to 100 years – depending on the climate and level of maintenance. For roofs, slate or tile will last about 50 years, wood shingles can endure 25 to 30 years, metal will last about 25 years, and asphalts got you covered for about 20 years. Unclad wood windows will last 30 years or longer, aluminum will last 15 to 20 years, and vinyl windows should keep their seals for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, none of these averages matter if you have a roof that was improperly installed or a dishwasher that was a lemon right off the assembly line. In these cases, early replacement may be the best choice. Conversely, many household components will last longer than you need them to, as we often replace fully functional items for cosmetic reasons, out of a desire for more modern features, or as a part of a quest to be more energy efficient.

Are extended warranties warranted?

Extended warranties, also known as service contracts or service agreements, are sold for all types of household items, from appliances to electronics. They cover service calls and repairs for a specified time beyond the manufacturer’s standard warranty. Essentially, warranty providers (manufacturers, retailers, and outside companies) are betting that a product will be problem-free in the first years of operation, while the consumer who purchases a warranty is betting against reliability.

Warranty providers make a lot of money on extended warranties, and Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, advises against purchasing them.  You will have to consider whether the cost is worth it to you; for some, it brings a much needed peace of mind when making such a large purchase. Also, consider if it the cost outweighs the value of the item; in some cases it may be less expensive to just replace a broken appliance than pay for insurance or a warranty. 

February Perspectives

Babies in need of diapers and formula. Families with critically ill children in need of housing. Kids with no shoes or school supplies. For the past 25 years, these are the types of needs the Windermere Foundation has helped fulfill, thanks to the incredible generosity of our agents. That’s because every time someone buys or sells a home using a Windermere agent, a portion of their commission goes to fund the Windermere Foundation, which to date has raised more than 26 million dollars.

This year, the Windermere Foundation proudly celebrates 25 years of giving back to those in our communities who need it most. Our mission is simple: support non-profit agencies dedicated to helping homeless and low-income families. And we keep the red tape to a minimum, using less than four percent of the money raised for administrative costs. That way, the vast majority of the funds can be used where they’re needed most. Last year alone, our agents donated more than 1.6 million dollars to support local organizations like Eastside Baby Corner, Low-Income Housing Institute, and Seattle Public Schools’ Family Support Program. Their generosity also enables us to continue to send kids to summer camp, ensure families have enough food to eat, and provide emergency assistance to those in need.

In honor of this milestone anniversary, we set a goal to raise 30 million dollars for the Windermere Foundation by the end of 2015.That’s four million dollars in two years – our most ambitious goal to date. Just imagine how many more families this will help. How many more kids will be able to eat school lunches. How many more families will have milk in the fridge and food on the table. And how many more people will have their most basic needs met – and the dignity that goes with it.

If at any point during the past 25 years you’ve bought or sold a home using a Windermere agent, you are a part of the Windermere Foundation too, and you’ve helped make a positive difference in the lives of your neighbors in need. And for that, we thank you on behalf of everyone at Windermere.

If you would like to learn more about the Windermere Foundation, please visit windermere.com/foundation.




Western Washington I 2013 Fourth Quarter Market Update

Windermere Real Estate is proud to partner with Gardner Economics on this analysis of the Western Washington real estate market. This report is designed to offer insight into the realities of the housing market. Numbers alone do not always give an accurate picture of local economic conditions; therefore our goal is to provide an explanation of what the statistics mean and how they impact the Western Washington housing economy. We hope that this information may assist you with making an informed real estate decision. For further information about the real estate market in your area, please contact your Windermere agent.


Regional Economics

I think it is fair to say that 2013 was a pretty good year for those who were either looking to get back into the job market, or entering it for the first time.

The counties contained within this report added a total of 46,940 jobs in 2013, representing a very respectable 2.1 percent growth rate. This was marginally higher than the 45,420 jobs that were added in 2012. The fourth quarter saw the addition of 9,210 jobs, which equates to an increase of 0.4 percent.

As expected, a majority of the job growth in 2013 was seen in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties, which accounted for 42,800 new jobs, and the quarterly growth in this area exceeded that of the entire region by 190 jobs.

Looking at the data from a county level, King County (+2.9%) maintains its top position relative to the overall rate of employment growth. Similarly to the previous quarter, this was followed by Whatcom County (+2.4%) and Snohomish County (+2.1%).

Job losses were again fairly minimal with Jefferson County (-1.9%), Cowlitz County (-1.4%), Grays Harbor County (-0.2%), and Island County (-0.2%) seeing a contraction in employment. However, it is fair to say that this is not particularly concerning as the total job losses accounted for just 730 jobs.

Every county in the region showed annual improvements to their unemployment rates. Compared to December of 2012, the greatest improvements were seen in Snohomish, Lewis, and King Counties, where the rate fell by 1.3 percent. This was followed by Mason, Clallam, and Skagit Counties, where unemployment dropped by 11 percent. The smallest improvement was seen in Island and Kittitas Counties, where the rate improved by a more modest 0.6 percent.

The recovery in employment continues to gain strength. While many of us were very aware of the potential catastrophic effect of Boeing leaving the area, fortunately this did not happen. Our major employers continue to grow and the decision to build the 777X in our region—and the belief that Boeing will continue to play a big role in the region’s economic growth—was probably the biggest story for 2013.

Our region continues to add jobs and new businesses. Trade relations with Asia remain strong and major employers in the region continue to perform well. I would not be surprised to see 2014 add an additional 50,000 jobs to the region, representing a growth rate of 2.2 percent.

We are performing well, but not “outperforming.” I am, therefore, still maintaining the “B+” grade that I have given the employment situation for the past two quarters.

Regional Real Estate

2013 is now in the rear view mirror and it’s time to take stock of where we were, where we are, and where we are headed.

On the whole, when compared to 2012, the market continues to show quite reasonable improvement. Total home sales were up by 16.36 percent—or just over 8,800 units— and annual average prices across the region rose by 4.7 percent. At the end of the year, total listings were up by 7.2 percent over December of 2012. Due to the time of the year, this is not necessarily a good indicator, so we looked at new listing activity which, on an annualized basis, was up by 18 percent. I am still not happy with the overall lack of homes for sale in any of our markets, but at least those numbers are heading in the right direction.

When compared to the end of 2012, the greatest growth in listings was again seen in Snohomish County which saw a 48 percent increase in homes for sale. This was followed by Pierce County where total listings were 11 percent higher than a year ago. Eight other counties saw single-digit increases in listings, while five counties, including Skagit (-9%), Cowlitz (-8%), Mason (-4%), Island (-3%), and Whatcom and Clallam (both -1%), saw listing activity at the end of 2013 below that seen a year ago.

As far as new listings are concerned, all counties other than Jefferson (-1%), saw a better market in 2013 than in the previous year. The greatest increase was in Clallam County where total new listings were up by 28 percent, followed by Snohomish (+26%) and Thurston (+22%) Counties.

There were just four counties where home sales rose in the single digits. These were San Juan (+3%), Kittitas (+8%), and Grays Harbor and Mason Counties, which both came in at nine percent higher than seen in 2012.

When you compare third and fourth quarters, it’s not surprising to see a decline in the number of homes for sale. As mentioned previously, this is a function of the time of year and no cause for concern.

Turning our attention to sales activity, the regions contained within this report had 63,173 home sales in 2013, up from 54,338 seen in 2012. It was a little disappointing to see sales drop by 22 percent from third to fourth quarter, but again, I think we can attribute this to seasonal fluctuations. As mentioned in last quarter’s report, the strong growth in home sales in third quarter may have been a function of rising interest rates, possibly “pulling” some sales forward that might otherwise have happened in fourth quarter. It appears as if my theory may have been correct.

The average home price in Western Washington in fourth quarter was $334,368, up by 4.5 percent over the end of 2012, but down by five percent over the end of the third quarter. As shown in the chart to the right, three counties saw the average sales prices at levels above that seen in the third quarter, eight counties had prices that were higher than a year ago, and all but three saw higher prices at the end of 2013 than at the end of 2012. Interestingly, we are now starting to see some counties achieving sale prices higher than in the early stages of the market crash in 2008!

It is also worthwhile to consider price movements for the whole of 2013, versus the previous year, to get a more complete picture as to the direction of the market. As will be noted, we added this column to the table on the following page.

In 2013, average home prices in the region rose by 8.9 percent to $329,776. When we break out the counties individually, of those that saw appreciation, the most pronounced gains were actually seen in Snohomish County where prices rose by 14.4 percent. There were also significant gains seen in Cowlitz County (+13.7%) and King County (+11.2%). Of the balance, all but three saw price increases in the single digits. Declines were minimal, as seen in Lewis County (-1.1%), with Kitsap and Clallam Counties dropping by less than one percent.

There are two conflicting factors at work right now: inventory and interest rates. One remains low, and the other is on the rise. What is clear is that average home prices dropped in the last quarter, but this is mainly a function of declines in average list prices. Many buyers are driven by the belief that interest rates are not going to drop, but they are also not prepared to overpay for homes. Although demand clearly outpaces supply, home prices have leveled off due to reduced buying power (caused by higher interest rates), as well as buyers deciding not to jump at the first home that they see.

As I have stated before on several occasions, I do not like markets where prices rise dramatically. While it’s great to see price growth, the rate of change has been irrational. Prices have risen quickly from very low levels, but that rate of growth is slowing thanks to increasing interest rates and less frenzy on the part of buyers. This is actually a positive and one that will allow for continued reasonable growth in home prices.

Even with the slowdown in the quarter, I am maintaining the “B-” grade that I gave the market at the end of the third quarter. We need more inventory, and I believe that we will see that in 2014, but interest rates will continue to calm any over-exuberance in the market.


2012 and 2013 saw the housing market pull itself out of the doldrums and prices recover much of the losses that were seen during the recession. As we move forward, I anticipate that the market will continue to improve with listing activity starting to increase, but still remaining below the level that can be considered healthy. I anticipate that price growth in the overall market will average around four to five percent in 2014 with the more urban markets modestly outperforming the region as a whole.

Interest rates are on the rise and this will likely continue. Do not be surprised to see the average 30-year fixed rate rising above five percent as the federal government continues to gently apply the brakes to their purchase of treasuries and mortgage backed securities. That said, it is also quite possible that rates will not jump dramatically. If we see a selloff in risk-related assets (such as stocks and currencies), bond markets are often considered a safe haven, and a strong bond market means lower mortgage rates.

From an economic perspective, our region—specifically the major job centers— is doing well, and this will lead to greater interest in the surrounding housing markets, suggesting that these markets will outperform the region as a whole.

I am not seeing anything of concern relative to employment (now that the Boeing issue has been resolved), so I expect the region to add to its employment base at a rate that will exceed the U.S. as a whole.

Our noses are now well above the water line and, assuming that we see a sufficient rise in inventory, I expect that 2014 will be another positive one for the housing market in our region.


About Matthew Gardner

Mr. Gardner is a land use economist and principal with Gardner Economics and is considered by many to be one of the foremost real estate analysts in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to managing his consulting practice, Mr. Gardner chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; sits on the Urban Land Institutes Technical Assistance Panel; is an Advisory Board Member for the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington; and is the Editor of the Washington State University’s Central Puget Sound Real Estate Research Report.

He is also the retained economist for the Master Builders Association of King & Snohomish Counties. He has twenty-five years of professional experience in the U.K. and U.S.

He has appeared on CNN, NBC and NPR news services to discuss real estate issues, and is regularly cited in the Wall Street Journal and all local media.

Love Letters: How to set yourself apart in a seller’s market

Love letters are a lost art form, in romance and home buying. Yes, home buying. If you’re a buyer and you want to set yourself apart from other buyers, you might want to state your intentions clearly by declaring your abiding love for the seller’s home in a letter. Here are a few tips for writing a love letter that works (for love letters of a romantic nature, you’re on your own).

Consider what about the home makes it your dream home. Do you see yourself raising a family there? Do you have a special attraction to the architectural/design style? Does the home evoke a sense of nostalgia? Consider your emotional reaction to the home. Many sellers are emotionally tied to their homes, and they often want others to see value in the things that make the home appealing and unique.

Share your home-buying journey. Whether you’re buying your first home, upgrading to something larger, or seeking a place for retirement, those personal stories can help a seller empathize with you.

Share commonalities. If you have any information about the people selling the house, share what you have in common. This could be anything from children to hobbies.

Show, don’t tell. If you can, paint a picture of what your life will be like when you live there. For example, “I can imagine pancake breakfasts with our two children in the lovely kitchen.” If the seller has had similar experiences, continuing those traditions may be important to them.

Don’t over-compliment the seller. A love letter should be an authentic message about your interest in the home. A seller can tell if you’re genuine, so keep your compliments sparse and real.

Keep is short and simple. Your love letter should be a sonnet, not a novel. Keep to the point and try to remain under 200 words.

Show stability. You might find yourself bidding against all cash buyers or people willing to pay more than you are. Your letter may set you apart from the competition emotionally, but don’t forget to share that you’re a financially viable candidate. Also, if you have unique (and strong) resume attributes, consider including a couple of key points. You never know what might draw the seller to you.

Don’t point out flaws or improvements to be made. Even when you’ve found your dream home, you may still have plans for improvements. This is not what sellers want to hear. Make sure not to point out the household flaws, or renovations you will make once the ink has dried. This could sour the seller to your overture.

Consider a multi-media love letter. Last year, a Windermere agent helped his client purchase the home of her dreams. She was a violinist and the home she desired required a certain acoustic quality. He followed her through the home while she played in different rooms. When she sent this video to the sellers, it helped set her apart from other buyers bidding on the home.

Be professional. While this is a love letter, and somewhat emotional, it is also a part of a business transaction. Do not be overly familiar. Remember to format, address, and copy edit your letter as you would with any other business correspondence.

Here are some samples of love letters.

If you are submitting a love letter with your bid, make sure to consult your agent. They may have inside information about the people selling the home through their connections with the selling agent. Your agent can advise you if your letter is appropriate and what information it should contain.

In a competitive seller’s market a love letter will not always work, but as in love, it is always worth a try.

Have you ever written a love letter with a house offer? What was your experience?


Why Windermere? Our new ad campaign provides the answer.


When it comes to advertising, real estate companies have historically stuck to one message, which is usually something about why they’re the best. It’s important to be good at what we do, but does that really tell you WHY you should work with our company? I would argue no.

That’s why when Windermere started planning its 2014 advertising campaign, we decided to center it on the question “Why Windermere?” Our inspiration for this came from a book entitled, Start With Why, by Simon Sinek. This book really forced us to step back and look at things differently. It allowed us to reflect on the inspiration behind Windermere’s founding 42 years ago and what has enabled the company to grow into what it is today.

It all really goes back to our founder, John Jacobi, a young banker who wanted to help change an industry that wasn’t known for its professionalism. His focus was to put relationships before sales quotas, with an emphasis on service to our clients and our community. He surrounded himself with like-minded professionals, and with their help, grew Windermere into one of the largest regional real estate companies in the nation.

Jump forward 42 years, and it is this same philosophy of focusing on relationships that still defines Windermere today. We worked hard to capture this message in our new ad campaign, which combines TV, radio, print, web, social media, and marketing collateral materials. We launched our TV ads in Western Washington during the NFC West Playoffs and plan to run them during other high profile events, such as the Academy Awards. If you ever fly with Alaska Airlines, you might see one of our ads in their magazine, and a number of our offices are also running them on local and regional channels throughout the Western U.S.

We’re really proud of our new ad campaign and hope our message is clear: Relationships are more important than sales quotas. Relationships that last not just for a transaction, but for a lifetime. To view Windermere’s 2014 advertising campaign, please visit: http://www.windermere.com/company/why_windermere.   


Noelle Bortfeld is the Chief Marketing Officer for Windermere Real Estate where she is responsible for all consumer marketing activities. She oversees branding, advertising, interactive and direct marketing, social media, public relations and event marketing.