Western Washington I 2014 First 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

With the first quarter of 2014 now in the rear view mirror, I think that it is fair to say that our state as a whole, and specifically the counties covered within this report, continue to improve from an economic perspective.

Washington State added just shy of 61,000 jobs over the past 12-month period, an annualized growth rate of 2.1 percent, while the markets covered by our report added 50,690 jobs (a 2.3 percent increase over a year ago).

This annual rate was modestly better than the 2.1 percent growth rate seen in our last report and, additionally, the market added 23,730 jobs during first quarter.

The tri-county areas of King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties continue to dominate in terms of employment growth with the addition of 43,700 total jobs over the past 12 months—slightly higher than the 42,800 jobs added in calendar year 2013.

On a county level, King County (+3.3%) maintains its top position relative to annualized employment growth. Somewhat surprisingly, this was matched by San Juan County (+3.3%), but in real terms this meant the addition of only 160 jobs. Rounding out the top three growth markets was Cowlitz County which added 900 jobs, a 2.5 percent annual rate. It is pleasing to see some of the southern counties starting to improve. It has been a while!

Job losses were limited to just two counties, with Jefferson County (-1.0%) and Kittitas County (-0.2%) seeing a decline in employment over the last year.

Looking at unemployment rates in the region, all but two counties saw an unemployment rate that was lower than that seen a year ago.

When compared to March of 2013, the greatest declines in the unemployment rate were in Lewis County and Cowlitz County where the rate dropped by 1.7 percent to 10.7 percent and 9.4 percent respectively. This was followed by San Juan County (6.2%) and Grays Harbor County (11.4%).

We saw the unemployment rate rise in Snohomish County which moved up from 5.7 percent to 6.0 percent, and in King County where the rate rose marginally from 5.1 percent to 5.2 percent. Although this may appear surprising, it really isn’t. The principal reason for this statistic was that the labor force in both areas grew by a substantial three percent. I’ll explain: As job markets improve, more people start to look for work. When they look for work, they are officially counted as being unemployed and, therefore, it is not a surprise to see the rate rise. In fact, this is actually good news! The current labor force in these counties was measured at 1.565 million—a figure that has never been higher. As such, I am not worried about the increase and anticipate that the rate in both these counties will start to drop again shortly.

In my last report, I suggested that in 2014 the region should add approximately 50,000 new jobs. At the current rate of 50,690, I appear to be right on track. That said, we are still not “outperforming” and, as such, I am still maintaining the “B+” grade that I have given the employment situation for the past three quarters.

Regional Real Estate

Brokers throughout Western Washington that I have talked to this spring are, on the whole, confident that the market will continue to improve as we move through 2014, but there are some obstacles. In general, these revolve around the disappointing levels of inventory which in certain markets have led to frantic bidding wars—something that holds little appeal to anyone other than sellers.

Year-over-year, listings are generally higher than March 2013, with the market reporting a five percent rise in inventory levels. This is a good thing; however, the total number of homes for sale still remains well below historic levels. By example, total listing activity is 49 percent below that seen in March of 2009. Many, including myself, hope that this will improve in the coming months.

The greatest growth in listings was again seen in Snohomish County which saw a 35 percent increase in homes for sale. This was followed by Pierce County where total listings were 18 percent higher than a year ago, and Cowlitz County where inventory levels were 11 percent higher. Five other counties experienced single-digit increases in listings, but eight counties saw listing activity at the end of 2013 below that seen a year ago. The largest losses were seen in Skagit (-15.7%), Grays Harbor (-11%), and Mason (-10%) Counties.

Year-to-date, home sales in 2014 were 10.8 percent higher than seen in the first quarter of 2013, with a total of 14,896 sales recorded. The greatest increase in home sales was seen in Grays Harbor County (+46.6%), which would explain their lack of inventory at the present time. This was followed by Snohomish County (+37.3%), Island County (+22.3%) and Kittitas County (+20.5%). Five additional counties saw year-over-year home sales rise by 10 percent during the first quarter, while two others saw single-digit growth. All-in-all, positive momentum for home sales in Western Washington.

There were five counties where home sales fell compared to a year ago, but these declines were fairly modest. What was of particular interest, and just a little concern, was the number of home sales in the first quarter versus fourth quarter of 2013. Total sales were down by 20.2 percent, which is somewhat counterintuitive as one would expect the spring market to be better than the winter. At the present time, I am putting this down less to inventory limitations, and more to the fact that interest rates fell last quarter, which may have pulled some buyers forward who would have normally bought in the spring. Time will tell if this is an accurate hypothesis or not!

The average home price in the Western Washington region was $315,835 – up by 7.1 percent over the first quarter of 2013. As is seen in the chart to the right, all but two counties saw average sales prices rise versus those seen in the first quarter of 2013. Prices have been evening out over the past year, which is actually good news and indicates that growth rates are moving toward more sustainable levels.

When we look at individual counties, the strongest annual gains were in King County where prices rose by 11.4 percent. There were also double-digit gains seen in Grays Harbor County (+10.8%) and Pierce County (+10.4%). Of the balance, all but two saw price increases in the single digits. These modest declines were in the small Lewis County market (-8.6%) and the equally diminutive Kittitas County (-6.1%).

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, home prices were higher in five counties, with King County remaining at the same level. Home prices fell in ten of the counties analyzed but most of the declines were relatively modest.

Not particularly surprising was the comparison to sales prices seen two years ago. All but two counties (Thurston and Mason) showed home pricesrising. At long last, we saw a county where prices are now higher than seen five years ago, with King County home prices 9.2 percent higher than seen in the first quarter of 2009. Home prices in several other counties are now less than ten percent below that seen five years ago, and I anticipate that they will all enter positive territory before the end of the year.

It is now time to bump the grade on home prices from a “B-” to a “B”. Although home sales activity has slowed, sustained price growth is likely to be seen in 2014 assuming that numbers of listings continue to rise.

Conclusions

Some people I’ve spoken to appear to be waiting for “the other shoe to drop”; meaning that we should expect to see a decline in home values after a rather bullish market over the past two years.

For my part, I am not seeing that happen. In fact, I still believe that there is quite reasonable upside potential for home values in 2014. Why do I say this? Well, there are several reasons that suggest a relatively healthy prognosis for our region.

The first reason is that economically the region continues to add jobs. This is a critical component of the housing market. With a regional growth rate that is well above that seen in the U.S. as a whole, we are in pretty good shape. And as of yet, I do not think we are firing on all cylinders.

Secondly, the interest rate environment is still really good. Although interest rates are above the historic lows seen in 2013, they are still remarkably modest. I do expect to see rates continue to rise this year, but my forecast suggests that average 30-year fixed mortgage rates will still end 2014 at a level around five percent.

Finally, although banks have been notoriously tight in terms of qualifying potential buyers for mortgages, all indications suggest that they are starting to ease a little. Average FICO scores are slowly coming down, which will only add to potential buyers’ abilities to qualify for mortgages.

There is, however, a flip side to this argument and that is inventory-related. Although we did see a five percent increase in listings in March of 2014 compared to March of 2013, the current level is still well below where it should be. Despite that, I remain confident that we will see further growth in listing activity as we move through the year, but do not expect to see a “balanced” market in the near-term.

Belief in home ownership has returned. That being said, I anticipate that buyers will continue to outpace sellers in the coming year. This will be frustrating to some, but a benefit to others. So goes the market!

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.

 

Home Security Systems: Protecting the People and Things You Value the Most

Home Security Systems: Protecting the People and Things You Value the Most   

With warmer weather come open windows and extended vacations, so it should come as no surprise that the highest percentage of home burglaries happen during the summer months. With that in mind, now is a good time to start thinking about the security of your home. From old-school security tricks to new digital home monitoring tools, there are many options when it comes to keeping our homes safe. Read on to learn more about how you can modify your home and keep it safe from intruders.

 

Security bars and gates:

Sometimes the simplest security is just deterring people from trying to get in. While security bars across windows are a great way to keep intruders out of your home, they can be a real eyesore. Luckily, there are now options for decorative security bars that simultaneously protect your home while enhancing its beauty.

Upgrade you locks:

A poorly installed deadbolt can make it easy for an intruder to kick in your door. Start by making sure that your doorframes are in good condition and then look into getting a higher quality deadbolt. You’ll find everything from classic models with keys, or digital options that require passcodes or a fingerprint.

It’s also a good idea check all the locks on your windows. Some older models are easy to jimmy open with a little wiggling. For ground floor windows, you may want to consider double locks. It goes without saying, leaving windows open during the summer is a bad idea – especially those that can be easily accessed.

Exterior and interior home lighting:

Having your exterior lights on timers or motion sensors is a good way to deter nighttime snoopers.  Add sensor lights to key entry points on your home, including the front door, back door, and/or basement entries. If you have an unused side yard, consider lighting there too. Keeping your home lit makes unwanted visitors weary of being seen.

If you will be gone from your home for an extended period of time, consider using timed lighting options in your home to make it appear someone is around. You can select timers for bedrooms or living areas. Also, you can program a radio to turn on and off for sound.

Alarm systems:

If you are considering an alarm, you have an array of options that vary from self-install motion detection kits to full-service home security systems.  If you choose to do-it-yourself, you will want to install motion detectors on doors and windows – especially those that can be easily accessed on the ground floor. In most cases, these kits also offer a 24 hour call service for an extra fee.

Full-service security systems can include everything from an alarm system and panic buttons to and integration with your smoke detectors/ fire prevention system. These services are expensive up front, but usually have a reasonable monthly rate. And keep in mind, having a home security system installed can also reduce your insurance rates.

If installing an alarm system is cost-prohibitive or does not fit your lifestyle, consider purchasing stickers and a sign that state that your home is monitored by a trusted security system, and place them so they are visible at every entrance.

Security cameras:

Security cameras are readily available for home installation. You can install these in prominently viewed places to deter burglars. There are do-it-yourself install options, and professional systems that come along with monitoring services.  There are even options that will work with your smart phone. If the cost for security cameras is too steep for your budget, you can purchase fake cameras to act as a visible deterrent for intruders.

Build your community:

Programs like Neighborhood Watch are very successful in some communities, by creating an environment where everyone is looking out for each other. Building close-knit relationships with your neighbors can go a long way in making you feel safe at home. Whether this is through a formalized program, or a shared agreement with your community, developing relationships with your neighbors is a great way to keep your home safe.

Sometimes the best part of security systems is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your home is protected. Many of our personal items can be replaced thanks to homeowners insurance, but you cannot put a price on feeling safe at home. How do you keep your home safe?

 

GiveBIG to the Windermere Foundation on May 6!

This year, Windermere is participating in the fourth annual Seattle Foundation GiveBIG event! The Seattle Foundation's GiveBIG is a one-day, online charitable giving event to inspire people to give generously to nonprofit organizations who make our region a healthier and more vital place to live.

On Tuesday, May 6, from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm, a portion of each donation made on behalf of the Windermere Foundation through the Seattle Foundation website will be matched, allowing your donation to go even further towards helping our neighbors in need. All the money raised through the GiveBIG program will benefit nonprofits in the King County region, with specific emphasis on providing emergency services to low-income and homeless families.

On Tuesday, May 6, click the following link and make your donation http://www.seattlefoundation.org/npos/Pages/WindermereFoundation.aspx

This year’s GiveBIG theme honors the heroes in our community. Your support of the Windermere Foundation and GiveBIG makes you a hero to us and to all of the low-income and homeless families your donation will help.

The Windermere Cup: a Celebration of Community and Sport

 

Saturday, May 3, marks the twenty-eighth anniversary of an event that is a touchstone for our company, the University of Washington, and the Seattle Yacht Club. The Windermere Cup, held annually on the first day of boating season, is both an international sporting event and an opening day celebration, followed by the world’s largest boat parade. But more than that, it’s a celebration of camaraderie, teamwork, and a commitment to excellence.

The camaraderie is everywhere you look: on the banks of the Montlake Cut, where Seattle residents and visitors from around the world flock to the University of Washington campus; and on the water, where great athletes join together to do what none of them could do individually. Thousands of people coming together for a common cause. That, in and of itself, is powerful stuff.

But what we find most remarkable about this sport is the teamwork. Though it may look easy from the sidelines, rowing is a physically demanding full-body sport. Rowers practice long hours, starting before dawn and ending after sunset, both on the water and in the gym. As Daniel James Brown points out in the book, The Boys in the Boat, “Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance.”

A crew boat can only race if all eight members plus the coxswain show up, and they can only perform as well as the weakest among them. There are no superstars in crew. It’s one for all, and all for one. So they leave their personal issues at home and push themselves to the limit, every time, for the love of the team.

It’s that commitment to excellence, seen on the face of every rower on every shell at the Windermere Cup that makes us proud to sponsor this event each year. It reminds us of our own guiding principles at Windermere: strong relationships built on trust, goodwill, and mutual respect; a spirit of teamwork that makes us more successful as a whole than we are individually; and a ceaseless commitment to excellence and unparalleled service.

It’s truly a great tradition to be a part of.

This year the UW Huskies will take on Great Britain’s World Champion team on Saturday, May 3. For more information, go to www.WindermereCup.com. You can follow all of the events on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WindermereCup or twitter at www.twitter.com/WindermereCup

2014 Spring Home Trends

Throw open the windows and freshen up your space with some of these fun spring and summer design trends!

 

Decorative walls:

Whether you add a new bright color, paint a pattern, or install decorative wallpaper, creative walls are an easy and exciting way to enhance your space.

Decorative ceilings:

Freshen up your space with the unexpected. Install decorative tiles, wallpaper, or paint the ceiling a different color. Or think outside the box and add sculptural elements.

 

Brightly painted furniture:

Color is big this season! If you cannot paint your walls or ceiling, add a pop of color by choosing some statement furniture pieces to add color and interest to your room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Customized stairs:

Put some pep in your steps with these creative ideas.

 

Glamorous tiles:

Over the last few years, tile has really become a fashion item for the home. Check out these styles when considering a backsplash or a bathroom renovation.

 

Gallery walls:

If you don’t have large statement art to fill a blank wall, consider curating your own gallery wall. You can alter the look for a modern space with uniform frames and images, or you can go eclectic with mixed frames and art styles.

 

 

For more ideas on enhancing your space, check out our Pinterest board or follow us at www.pinterest.com/windermerere

 

 

 

 

 

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:

WESTERN WASHINGTON

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.

 

YouthCare

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.

 

OREGON & SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

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.

 

 

EASTERN WASHINGTON, IDAHO, & MONTANA

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.

 

CALIFORNIA & HAWAII

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.

 

ARIZONA, UTAH, & NEVADA

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.

 

VOTE HERE!

 

(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.

Conclusions

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