Outdoor Living Inspiration

Can you believe that it’s already the middle of April? Summer is just around the corner and there is no better way to prepare than indulging in some exciting backyard inspiration. This year, turn your backyard or patio into the ultimate hangout. We’re talkin’ friends-never-want-to-leave kind of spot. Here are some ways to make that happen:

Sunken Hot Tub

We know what you’re thinking; hot tubs are so 80s. Not anymore! Consider adding a sunken hot tub to your backyard with a deck of natural stone, tall grasses, and outdoor curtains for privacy. Include pillar candles and some twinkling lights for added ambiance.-

Outdoor Kitchen

If you entertain a lot, an outdoor kitchen is the ideal space for summer entertaining. Bring out your inner Tom Douglas with a cooking station that includes a high-end grill, refrigerator, wine chiller, and elegant washbasin. Round this all out with a concrete counter, bluestone tile floor, and stainless steel.


Outdoor Theater

Nothing says summer like outdoor movies, so why not create your own personal drive-in? All you need is a projector to watch your favorite movies, some dangling lights in the trees, blankets, and pillows. You could also watch it from a hanging bench or a floating bed. Get über creative and buy an inflatable flat screen for your pool area and turn it into a full-fledged theater, inflatable lounge chairs and all. This way you’ll never have to choose between movies and precious pool time.


Tiki Bar 

Before you say no, say yes. Tiki Bars are entirely underrated; we think they’re the quintessential piece to any stay-cation. If you’re going for a tropical retreat feel, this is the place to start. Just don’t forget the hanging lanterns, bamboo, and ice-cold margaritas.

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Fire Pit

Is your ideal summer situated by a campfire? Then add a fire pit and enjoy s’mores in the comfort of your own backyard. It’s easy to make your own. Use an old wine barrel, bricks, stones, or a concrete bowl. A lowered fire pit is great if you want to use sand for a beachy atmosphere. On a chilly summer night a campfire sets just the right mood for outdoor fun.


To enhance your space with little to no cost, add dangling vines or twinkling lights. And a splash of color here and there immediately changes the vibe. Choose one or all of the ideas above and start planning your debut party!


For more outdoor living ideas, follow our Pinterest board.

Windermere Foundation Infographic

If you've bought or sold a home through Windermere Real Estate, you're a part of the Windermere Foundation, and you've helped make a positive difference in the lives of your neighbors in need. The following infographic shows the types of services funded by the Windermere Foundation, and illustrates how even a small amount can make a big difference for low-income children and their families.

The Windermere Foundation’s goal is to reach $30 million in total donations by the end of 2015 – and we’re well on our way. Thanks to the generosity of Windermere owners, agents, staff, and our community partners, last year we passed the $28 million mark. Less than $2 million to go!

http://www.windermere.com/uploads/ckeditor_assets/2/pictures/2305/content_Donate.jpgVisit http://www.windermere.com/foundation to learn more about the Windermere Foundation. And if you’d like to help us reach our goal, please click the Donate button.


What Makes a Home Luxury?

We wanted to find out different perspectives on what truly makes a home luxury, so we went straight to the source: Our agents who are a part of Windermere’s Premier luxury marketing program. Through their eyes we can see that “luxury” doesn’t have an absolute interpretation.


Rick Franz – Bellevue South

When asked what he thinks makes a home luxury he told us it “stands out above rest. It could be exquisite finishes, a dazzling location, breathtaking views, but it's really the quality of the construction and how it presents itself to the public. And that the public perceives it's a special property.”





Deirdre Doyle – Capitol Hill

“To me it's underrated elegance. I don't think ‘flash’. Bigger isn't better, better is better.” When she thinks of luxury two words come to mind: “quality and integrity.”






Ty Evans – Bainbridge Island

Ty said that the quality of the home, where it's located, how it's presented, and the caliber of construction are what make a home luxury. “It’s like a small Tiffany box versus a big jewelry store; quality not quantity.”






Karl Lindor – Bellevue South

“Lux starts with a special and unique setting. Lux is materials that are unique and have a wonderful look and color. Luxury is anything but ordinary. It creates an emotional connection. It’s as simple as a well-engineered appliance or a unique granite counter top.”





Jennings Doyle – Lakeview

“Luxury homes offer clients ease of living through thoughtful and deliberate architectural strokes, grand geographic appointment, and elevated quality in finishes and design elements.”  





Stephanie Pfeffer Anton, Executive VP of Luxury Portfolio, spoke at Windermere’s most recent Premier networking breakfast about luxury and how it has evolved in the past few years. For starters, according to Luxury Portfolio, Mercedes Benz’s sales were up 14 percent last year and luxury fashion brand, Bottega Veneta, was up 47 percent. Ladies and gentleman, it is clear luxury is back. Not only that, but what matters to luxury consumers have changed. Instead of associating luxury with words like “exclusive” and “glamorous,” luxury now means “artisanal,” “educated,” and “healthy.” Luxury items are now taking a back seat to lifestyle. However, one aspect that is guaranteed to never change is that there's an emotional component of any luxury purchase.



Thanks to our Premier agents who took the time to give us their two cents on this topic. People aren’t necessarily buying luxury items just because anymore. They want to be educated before they purchase, knowing it has reliability, whether a product or a home.  


Check out photos from our latest Premier networking breakfast here.

Clear the Clutter and Help Others in Need!

It’s springtime, which means spring cleaning for many households. It’s also a time to declutter and purge all those worn out, unwanted, outdated, unused and unneeded items from our closets, garages and other storage spaces.

But what do you do with all that stuff once you’ve decided to get rid of it? First, you’ll want to sort it all into various piles (sell, dump, or donate). For items that you can easily sell to get some extra cash, you can advertise on online sites such as eBay or craigslist, or take to a local consignment store. And many of your items can be donated to be reused by someone else. Your junk could be someone else’s treasure or be resold to provide funding for programs that help people in need. And some places will even take items that would normally go in the trash as long as it’s not wet, moldy or contains hazardous materials.

Thrift stores are probably the first places that come to mind, but there are a lot of other non-profit, charitable organizations in your area that would be more than willing to take your spring-cleaning discards. Here is a list of some organizations to give you an idea of the many possibilities.


NW Furniture Bank

NW Furniture Bank in Tacoma, Washington serves victims of domestic abuse, people suffering loss from fire and natural disasters, foster homes and especially families coming from transitional housing who are trying to rebuild their lives. NWFB relies on furniture donations from the community to help furnish the homes of families and individuals in need. They only accept new or gently-used items. View accepted donation items.



In King County, Washington, there is actually a place that accepts damaged clothes, shoes and linens for reuse or recycling. Even torn, badly worn or even stained items are now being taken by most large collectors in the area, as long as they’re not wet, mildewed, or contaminated with hazardous materials. Many other items, including stuffed animals, purses, belts, and other accessories can be donated in any condition—even single shoes, socks and gloves! Choose from several drop off or pick up organizations at www.kingcounty.gov/threadcycle.


Eastside Baby Corner

Eastside Baby Corner in Issaquah, Washington gives to eastside families struggling with job loss, homelessness, medical crisis, and poverty. Bringing EBC the clothes, toys or furniture that your child has outgrown is an easy way to recycle and help a deserving child. When you donate new or gently-used goods, you can be confident that they will be in the hands of a local child—at no cost to the family or to one of their qualified partner agencies—almost immediately.


Bags of Love

Bags of Love in Eugene, Oregon provides necessities and comfort items to children who are in crisis due to neglect, abuse, poverty or homelessness. They appreciate donations of new or gently used items for children ages birth through 17. Your donation will immediately be in the hands of a local child at no cost to the family or to our qualified partner agencies.


Sunshine Division

The Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division in Portland, Oregon has been providing food and clothing relief to Portland families and individuals in need since 1923. They accept food donations, as well as donations of new and gently used clothing items. Most needed items in all sizes are: men’s clothes, women’s plus-sized clothes, adult and children’s shoes, and new children’s socks and underwear.


Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity has ReStores all over the U.S. and Canada where you can donate building materials, furniture, and/or appliances. Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Habitat for Humanity ReStores are proudly owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity affiliates, and proceeds are used to build homes, community, and hope locally and around the world.



There are Goodwill locations across the U.S. Donations to Goodwill has helped to create training and job opportunities for those in our communities. Plus, over the past few years, it has kept billions of pounds of clothing and household items out of landfills. They accept most clothing and household items, but don’t drop off items that have been recalled, banned or do not meet current safety standards. For specialty items such as computers, vehicles or mattresses, it’s best to give your local Goodwill agency a call first to find out any rules or restrictions around these items.


Donation Bins

Another option would be to just take your items to a donation bin. While it may be more convenient for you to drop off your items at a nearby donation bin, unfortunately, many goods that wind up in donation bins end up supporting for-profit groups, rather than aiding non-profit, charitable organizations. To help you make informed donation decisions, you can use this handy guide created by Goodwill.


Nine Ways to Landscape for Maximum Curb Appeal

Photo courtesy of : Darren Patt Construction

This article originally appeared on Porch.com

Written by Jacqui Adams


There are a million and one ways to add curb appeal, but your home’s landscaping is one of the most important.

Home sale price data shows that you’ll get double your investment back on landscaping when you’re trying to sell your home. But it doesn’t take a scientist to see that a drab lawn and an overgrown tree can ruin even the most beautiful home’s mojo.

Don’t let bad landscaping ruin your home’s appearance. These 10 tips will help you get your landscaping gorgeous and maximize your curb appeal so you can sell your home for what it’s really worth, or just enjoy a lovely home year round.


1.  Play to Your Strengths

Don’t plant haphazardly. Take a look at the colors of your home, and choose plantings that make those colors pop.

Photo courtesy of Gelotte Hommas


2. Add Some Color

If you can’t find plants that tie in with the colors of your home’s exterior, then place large-scale glazed planters that pick out the same tones and make even mismatched plantings look intentional.


Photo courtesy of Grouparchitect


3. Lead the Way

Curb appeal starts at the curb, so make sure the path to your door is clearly defined. Decorative urns or colorful border plantings are two high-impact ways to do the job.

Photo courtesy of Edmund D. Hollander Architect Landscape Design


4. Make it Shine

Landscaping features such as paths, walls, and other hardscaping get dirty over time, making the home’s whole exterior look dingy and dark. Make sure to have your landscaped features professionally pressure-washed, so they can shine.

Photo courtesy of Phil Kean Designs


5. Tailor Border Plantings

Large, scraggly, or random-looking plants can overwhelm new eyes and obscure features of your home that you should be playing up. Make sure your border plantings are tidy, grouped by color, and just large enough to cover up foundations and external vents, without covering windows or impinging on paths.

Photo courtesy of Ag-Trac Enterprises LC


6. Brighten House Numbers

Small details like your house numbers can make a big difference in the overall effect of your landscaping and curb appeal. Replace or paint house numbers so they pop–you could even coordinate them with your door color or the accent color you’ve chosen for your landscape plantings.

Photo courtesy of Darren Patt Construction


7. Trim Trees

Cutting down trees is one landscaping rule of thumb that’s no longer completely necessary. Trees can add charm and character, particularly in rustic-styled properties–just make sure trees are trimmed to complement the house’s best qualities. Light and sightlines should be able to reach the house easily.

Photo courtesy of Seaside Construction


8. Light the Path

If you haven’t invested in landscape lighting, consider it: it can seriously boost your curb appeal. Lighting under steps, on path borders, and trained on trees and water features will allow your landscaping’s best features to shine even on gloomy days.

Photo courtesy of Advanced Renovations, Inc.


9. Create a Soft Landing

Draw buyers and visitors in by softening the transition between your home and the street. Potted plantings on a porch, green wreaths on the door, and a path that meanders through your landscape instead of going straight to the door are three great tricks to try.

Photo courtesy of Wentworth, Inc.


Could your curb appeal use some help? What’s the first change you’ll make once the weather gets warm?


Jacqui Adams

Content Marketing Specialist, Porch.com. Jacqui Adams is a writer and editor living in Seattle. She shares a cozy midcentury fixer-upper with her fiancé, her cat, and approximately eight bazillion books. Follow Jacqui on Twitter at @JacquiLeeLu.


Update: A Legislative Effort Is Now Underway In Congress To Extend The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act

UPDATE: Senators Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) have introduced a bipartisan bill that would extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act through 2015 and all of 2016. Heller is an influential member of the Senate Finance Committee and has pledged to attach the bill to a larger piece of legislation that is moving through his committee. We will keep you posted on the progress of the extension as the process moves forward.






Originally posted in Short Sales on December 22, 2014

Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act Extended Retroactively for 2014:
Future of Mortgage Debt Relief Uncertain in 2015

On December 16, 2014, President Obama signed a bill that extended the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act retroactively to cover mortgage debt cancelled in 2014. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (MFDRA) prevents homeowners who went through a short sale from being taxed on the amount of their home mortgage debt that had been forgiven. For homeowners to qualify for a tax break in 2014, their short sale must close by December 31, 2014.

The Act has only been extended through 2014. Congress is expected to debate further extension of the Act as part of a larger tax package in 2015. In the meantime, mortgage debt forgiven by a lender in 2015 might count as taxable income.

According to a brief from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), about 5.3 million homes are still under water. In addition, there are still more than 1 million homes in the process of foreclosure. If the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act is not extended further, hundreds of thousands of American families who did the right thing by short-selling their home will have to pay income tax on income they never received.

IRS “Insolvency Clause” Offers Tax-Saving Alternative

Short sale sellers can still be exempt from tax liability under the “insolvency clause” of the Internal Revenue Code. The clause states that a seller is exempt from paying tax on any forgiven debt to the extent that they are insolvent. In other words, if the seller’s debts and liabilities exceed their assets by more than the amount of debt forgiven, they do not have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.

Here’s an example of how the Insolvency Clause works:

A seller has a home valued at $300,000, but the mortgage debt is $400,000. We short sell the property for $300K and the bank elects to forgive the debt on the $100,000 shortfall amount. Since debt that has been forgiven counts as taxable income, the IRS would treat the $100,000 of forgiven debt as income.





(Taxable income)



This is where the insolvency clause formula comes in. Begin by adding up all of your debts/liabilities in one column and all of your assets in another. For this formula, the IRS wants you to include the mortgage debt as a liability, and the fair market value of your house as an asset. Let’s say you have $600,000 in assets and $700,000 in debts/liabilities. You are insolvent by $100,000.








Since your insolvency amount of $100,000 equals the forgiven debt amount of $100,000, it’s a wash and you will not have to pay taxes on that forgiven debt. You are shielded dollar-for-dollar on the amount of forgiven debt up to your insolvency number. Let’s say you were only insolvent by $80,000. In that case, you would still have to pay income tax on the remaining $20,000 of forgiven debt.








It is critical that homeowners considering a short sale meet with a professional to review their options and discuss the potential legal and tax implications.


Richard Eastern is a Windermere broker in Bellevue, WA and co-founder of Washington Property Solutions, a short sales negotiating company. Since 2003 he has helped more than 900 homeowners sell their homes. A Bellevue native and a University of Washington grad, Richard is an avid sports fan and a devoted Little League and basketball coach. You can learn more about Richard h

How to Hire a Home Inspector

Is this year you make the leap to buy your first home?

A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest. Getting a home inspection is a smart, simple way to do just that.

When you make a written offer on a home, insist that the offer provide that your contract is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself, but an investment of a few hundred dollars could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches. If you’re satisfied with the results of the inspection and are assured that the home you’re purchasing is in good shape, you can proceed with your transaction, confident that you are making a smart purchase.


Hire a professional

When you are ready to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. The best way to find an inspector is to ask your real estate agent for a recommendation. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance, and communication skills, so l it’s a good idea to do some research to ensure that you get the type of inspection you need.


What to ask your home inspector

Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.


What does your inspection cover?

Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want inspected.


How long have you been in the business?

Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.


Are you experienced in residential inspections?

Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.


Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?

Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.


How long will the inspection take?

A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.


How much will it cost?

Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.


What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?

Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his or her reporting style. Also make sure the timeline works for you.


Can I be there for the inspection?

This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.


Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?

Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.


Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?

An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important with older homes or homes with unique elements.


What doesn’t a home inspection cover?

For a variety of reasons, some homes will require specialty inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include such items as your home’s sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep slopes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether or not your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.


Here’s Your Spring Maintenance Checklist

Now that spring has sprung, let’s clear the cobwebs and get your home ready! Here is our quick guide to spring home maintenance:

Inspection top to bottom: Now that the weather is temperate you will want to check on how your home weathered the winter. Check the roof for leaks, the gutters for damage, and the siding for cracks. You will also want to inspect your basement or foundation for any shifts. Make repairs now to prevent further damage.

Clean out the gutters: April showers bring May flowers… so clear out the gutters to keep rain from pooling on your roof or near your foundation.

Pest control: Spring is mating season for eight legged critters, so sweep out cobwebs, clear debris, and check the nooks and crannies. If you live in an area prone to dangerous species like brown recluse or black widows, you may want to contact your local pest control, but otherwise household spiders do help eliminate other bugs.

Check your basement and attic for signs of other infestations. For more information on pest control go here: http://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/categories/living/posts/when-things-go-bump-in-the-night

HVAC system: If you have an air conditioner now is the time to check to make sure it is ready before summer gets here and everyone else is clamoring for maintenance. Now is a good time to check your home air filters and replace or upgrade to keep allergens at bay.

Clear the clutter: Do a sweep around the house and get rid of junk that you don’t use! Take a little time each week to tackle a room. Closets, playrooms, and basements can be especially daunting, but getting rid of old stuff and refreshing your space will go a long way!

Deep clean: On a nice day open the windows, dust, wipe, scrub, and clean. You will get a nice work out and your home will look and feel so fresh after a winter of being cooped up.

Update your décor: Add a splash of color to your home with small embellishments. Add a colorful vase, a lighter throw for your sofa, pretty pastel pillows, or spring-time candles, to upgrade your living space.

Take it outdoors: Let your throw rugs, curtains, and other tapestries air our outside. Shake off the dust, spot clean what you can and let everything bask in the sun for an afternoon.

Don’t forget the back yard: It may not be time to start up the grill, yet, but you can get started on your outdoor entertaining checklist. Check your lawn, and if you have some spare spots start filling in with seed. Check your outdoor plants, prune, plant bulbs, start to replenish soil for your garden, and mow, so you are ready to start when the season allows. 

Speaking of the grill – if you have a gas grill you will want to pull this out and perform a maintenance check. Clean everything up and check to make sure all the gas lines are clear, as these can get clogged after sitting idle all winter. Make sure the grill is clear of spiders too, as they can build webs in the tubes, causing damage to your grill. You can start to bring out your garden furniture too, or clean it up if you left it covered outside all winter. Because before you know it, it’ll be barbeque season!








Oregon and Southwest Washington Real Estate 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

Job growth in the Oregon market areas contained in this report continues to pick up steam with a total of 41,809 jobs added in 2014 —this represents an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent. In the fourth quarter alone, 14,833 jobs were added to the economy.

When compared to a year ago, the growth in employment was most prevalent in Multnomah County where employment rose by 10,800 jobs. This was followed by Clark County which saw total employment rise by 6,200, and Washington County rounded out the top three with an increase of 3,600 jobs.

Versus September of 2014, we did see job losses in half of the counties surveyed; however this is not a concern as the data used is not adjusted for seasonality and, therefore, it is not surprising to see some losses. The largest decline in employment in the last three months was seen in Marion County where over 3,000 jobs were lost. Additional substantial losses were seen in Lincoln County where employment declined by 1,080 positions. In total, 2014 was not a bad year and exceeded my forecast for the addition of 35,000 jobs.

As I stated in my last report, given the improving job market seen in 2014, it is not surprising to see the unemployment rate continuing to drop in every county discussed in this report. The lowest unemployment rate was in Benton County at 4.7 percent, and the highest in Klamath County, where 9.7 percent of the labor force was out of work.

Given the job losses that were seen in the quarter, when we compare the latest data to that seen in September we note that the unemployment rate rose in 19 of the 24 counties surveyed. Again, we can put this down to seasonal layoffs; it is not indicative of a long-term trend. The average unemployment rate across the region has now shrunk from 7.6 percent to 6.9 percent which is not bad at all.

I am still maintaining the “C+” grade that I have given the region for each quarter in 2014. The numbers are improving, but the unemployment rate is still higher than I would like to see.





Regional Real Estate

Total sales in 2014 were 3.8 percent higher than those seen in 2013; however, inventory constraints in many markets kept this number below its full potential.

Compared to last year, the number of sales rose in all but three counties. But it is clear in many markets that transactional velocities would have been higher had there been an adequate supply of homes for sale. That said, there were several counties where transactional velocities rose well above the average and they are worthy of mention.

Year over year, sales increased by the greatest margin in Linn County (+ 17.6%). Additional double-digit gains were seen in Polk, Cowlitz, Tillamook, and Yamhill Counties.

The areas where sales slowed were all small, which makes the drop in transactions not that great—in total, the decrease in sales in Hood River, Skamania, and Benton Counties only amounted to a loss of 38 units over the previous year.



The average sale price for the region last quarter was $293,402—an increase of 6.6 percent over the fourth quarter of 2013. However, when compared to the third quarter average sale prices dropped by

3.8 percent. This is not too surprising given the fact that the sales tend to trend down, as do prices, as we run through the winter months.

Fourth quarter saw an annual gain in prices in 19 of the 23 counties surveyed, with the largest increases being in Cowlitz (+19.6%), Klickitat (+18.7%), Columbia (+13.8%), Lincoln (+12.5%), and Marion (+12.1%) Counties. There were four counties where prices fell, with Skamania County seeing the greatest drop in value compared to a year ago (-17.1%). This was followed by Klamath County (-12.2%) and Hood River County (-8.8%).

Interestingly, home prices in all but two counties (Clatsop and Skamania) are higher than seen two years ago and all but five counties have seen prices appreciate over the past five-year period.

Lack of inventory continues to be a major concern and, even though the market is still performing adequately, I am maintaining a “C+” grade.





The Oregon economy continues to improve with a majority of the counties in this report seeing employment growth above the national average.

As compared to 2013, unemployment rates continue to fall even as the civilian labor force continues to expand. This is important as it indicates an economy where jobs are being created and improving unemployment rates are not due to people stopping their search for work.

Improvement in the region’s housing markets continues to be uneven; however, aggregate price growth is still above the national average and likely to stay that way as we move through 2015.

Interest rates in 2014 did not trend upward as I had expected. That said, I am still predicting that rates will move higher as we continue through the year, but not at excessively fast rates. By the end of 2015, I expect to see the average 30-year fixed rate below five percent, but a lot closer to it than we stand today.

My call for this year is for the regional economy to continue adding jobs at rates that exceed the U.S. as a whole. In the housing market, we should see modest growth in the number of homes for sale, and this will allow prices to continue to trend higher, averaging just below five percent home price growth in 2015.



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.




Western Washington Real Estate 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

2014 was a pretty good year for the 15 counties covered in this report. In total, Western Washington added 65,710 jobs in 2014, up from the annual rate of 62,520 through the third quarter, which is a growth rate of 2.9 percent. For comparison purposes, the state as a whole grew by 2.7 percent and employment nationwide rose by 1.9 percent.

On a quarter-over-quarter basis, employment made an impressive jump as the market added 22,410 new jobs in the fourth quarter, up dramatically from the meager 3,100 jobs added in in the third quarter.

The tri-county area of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties continues to dominate in terms of total jobs as well as total growth rates, having added 53,400 jobs year-over-year, and a substantial 14,000 jobs in the fourth quarter.

King County continues to lead with 43,300 jobs added in 2014. This was followed by Pierce County which added 7,900 jobs, and Thurston County rounds out the top three with 3,600 jobs. Interestingly, no market saw its total employment level decline in 2014.

When looking at percentage growth rates, the small San Juan County area saw employment leap by 10.8 percent. This was followed by Cowlitz County (+4.1%) and Skagit County (+3.7%).

When we look at unemployment rates in the region, we note a change from the recent trend of declining unemployment across the entire region. At the end of 2014, the unemployment rate dropped in eight of the 15 counties surveyed. Two counties saw the rate remain static and five saw the rate rise.

This is not unusual for several reasons. Firstly, as markets improve, more people start to look for work and they are then counted as being unemployed. Secondly, we are starting to see growth in the total labor force, which can have a negative effect on the unemployment rate. I am not concerned about this, as the overall trend has been that of unemployment rates trending lower and I anticipate that this will continue as we move through 2015.

When compared to December of 2013, the greatest unemployment rate decline was seen in Grays Harbor County where the rate dropped by 1.1 percent. This was followed by Snohomish County with a drop of 0.9 percent, and King and Mason Counties saw their rates decline by 0.6 percent.

From an employment growth standpoint, Washington State and the counties contained in this report continue to outperform the nation as a whole. Smaller markets will always be subject to (potentially) wild fluctuations, but the overall trend has been positive for the last few years. Furthermore, I do not see any obvious obstacles that would suggest we are likely to see a slowing economy any time soon.

That said, I am going to maintain the “B+” grade that I have given the economy for over a year. We continue on the upswing but have yet to reach our full potential.


Regional Real Estate

The number of homes that were for sale at the end of 2014 was 9.7 percent lower than at the end of 2013, which is a little disappointing as it continues a trend that was seen at the end of the third quarter. The total number of listings in the counties covered by this report was measured at 14,219, compared to 15,743 a year ago. As a point of reference, in December 2009, there were 26,711 homes listed for sale. There is no doubt that the continued lack of homes for sale has many frustrated.

Interestingly enough, while inventory levels have continued to fall, home sales in 2014 actually rose. When we look at sales activity, 65,457 homes sold in 2014—an increase of 3.2 percent versus 2013. However, in fourth quarter there was an 18.6 percent drop in home sales compared to third quarter numbers. We can certainly attribute some of this to seasonality, but it was not the way I wanted to see the year end.

When we look at a year-over-year comparison, home sales grew the fastest in San Juan County (+38.3%), followed by Mason County (+26.1%), and Grays Harbor County (+17.5%). There were just two counties where annual home sales fell: King County (-0.6%) and Clallam County (-5.4%).

The weighted average home sale price in Western Washington in the fourth quarter was $350,667—an increase of 6.5 percent compared to 2013. As is seen in the chart to the right, all but two counties saw average prices go up. Price growth continues to moderate somewhat—which isn’t a bad thing— but remains above the U.S. as a whole.

The strongest annual gains during fourth quarter were in Lewis County where prices rose by 18.1 percent. There were also significant gains seen in Kittitas County (+15.7%), Grays Harbor County (+12.3%), Pierce County (+12.2%), and Thurston County (+10.2%). As for price declines, Skagit County had a loss of -6.5% and Mason County -5.7%.

Interest rates remain at close to historically low levels and the economy continues to chug along, but we need more homes for sale. As such, I am maintaining the “B+” grade that I gave the market in the third quarter.



Our market continues to add jobs and our population continues to rise (+63,000 in 2014), both of which are very positive. However, our housing market continues to have a lack of homes for sale.

Will we see an increase in listings in 2015? That is the million dollar question. If not, then we might see builders going into overdrive in an attempt to address pent up demand.

Interest rates are going to rise in 2014, but not at excessively fast rates. By the end of 2015, I still expect to see the average 30-year fixed rate below five percent, but a lot closer to it than we stand today.

I expect to see home prices continue to appreciate in 2015, but at somewhat slower rates that are more sustainable over the long term. However, it is possible that price growth may continue to escalate faster than anticipated, even if we see the number of homes for sale increasing, if a higher proportion of those homes coming to market are high-end homes.


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.