AS BIG TECH’S EASTSIDE PRESENCE EXPANDS, BELLEVUE PREPS FOR MORE COMMUTERS

Back then, planners designed wide six-lane arterials meant to move vehicles fast. The road grid creates 600-foot-wide superblocks on former farmland.

Now, tremendous growth is straining transportation. Traffic stacks up during afternoon commutes, and Interstate 405 slows to a crawl.

As Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and others grow their Eastside workforces, City staff anticipate a net gain of roughly 18,000 downtown jobs by 2025, joining the more than 52,000 people who currently work in the city core.

Roughly translated, this would boost employment higher than the current numbers in Seattle’s busy South Lake Union.

But local leaders acknowledge remaking a car-dominated landscape doesn’t happen overnight. The City aims to cut the share of downtown commuters who drive alone to work to about one-third by 2035, a reversal of today’s pattern where more than two-thirds drive alone.

To do this, they’re planning for trains, buses, bicycles, walking, vanpools — and maybe even autonomous vehicles — to keep people moving.

In past years, the Bellevue City Council voted to create a safer walking network by converting Sixth Street to a 60-foot-wide, tree-lined walking corridor and shortening a street to complete its circular Downtown Park.

Instead of narrowing six- and seven-lane streets with so-called road diets, Bellevue’s approach to reducing car-pedestrian conflicts relies on skybridges around Bellevue Square, and altering some traffic signals to give walkers a head start at intersections. Smaller streets include walker-activated amber flashers.

Large employers and city officials are also counting on the $3.7 billion Sound Transit East Link light-rail line — projected to serve 50,000 daily passengers when it opens in 2023 — to handle many of the new commutes.

New bike lanes on 108th Avenue Northeast serve a trickle of riders for now. More bike lanes are planned on Main Street. Just east of I-405, the 42 miles of abandoned BNSF railroad tracks are being redeveloped for bicycle riders and pedestrians as Eastrail, spanning from Snohomish to Renton.

Bellevue’s growth spurt won’t necessarily translate into massive public-transit ridership, however, at least in the short term. Private transit is adapting faster.

With aid from a $100 million federal loan, the city has created or widened 11 streets between Wilburton and the Spring District east of I-405 where REI’s headquarters, Facebook and other companies are locating.

That follows citywide spending of $5.5 million to equip 197 intersections with adaptive signals that continually re-time to move clusters of approaching vehicles.

And the permit paperwork for the planned 43-story Amazon tower shows 1,175 underground parking stalls (nearly double the 632 spaces in the current parking garage that this new tower will replace).

On I-405, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will build an express toll lane each direction between Renton and Bellevue, to open in 2024, along with exit-only lanes to clear departing drivers off the mainline.

The existing carpool lanes will be converted to a second toll lane each way. Sound Transit will follow with new bus-rapid transit and park-and-ride lots.

Finally, in perhaps its most lofty vision yet, The Grand Connection is a sprawling pedestrian and cyclist pathway that would stretch between Meydenbauer Bay Park on the west, through Main Street and downtown, and across the freeway to Eastrail. With a bridge or park lid above I-405, just south of the nearly completed Sound Transit rail bridge, design concepts show amphitheater steps, sculptures and a row of ginkgo trees.

Unlike the longer Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, the Grand Connection would encourage people to linger at cafes and parks. As a traffic-free shortcut, it would reduce the need to drive and park at downtown spots.

There’s no funding yet. Costs vary based on whether Bellevue builds a full park like Mercer Island has over I-90, or a thin bridge, for around $130 million.

A version of this article was originally posted on U.S. News by Michelle Baruchman

Posted on January 19, 2020 at 3:06 am
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News | Tagged , , ,

LOCAL MARKET UPDATE – DECEMBER 2019

Favorable interest rates and soaring rents boosted activity in the housing market in November. More buyers competing for less inventory kept home prices strong. With the supply of homes far short of demand, sellers can expect well-priced properties to sell quickly this winter.

With just over a month of available inventory, demand on Eastside remains very strong. Sales are brisk, with 45% of single-family homes selling in 15 days or less and 20% of homes selling for over list price. The median single-family home price in November rose 2% from a year ago to $900,000 and was unchanged from October.

VIEW FULL EASTSIDE REPORT

Posted on December 11, 2019 at 3:00 am
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News, Local Market Update | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Slow Down in Foreign Buyers

The United States housing market is experiencing a significant reduction in foreign buyers. Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, cites several factors that could be contributing to this trend and offers his opinions as to what to expect in this recent Market Update.

Posted on August 28, 2019 at 8:52 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Home Buying, Local Market News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Housing Market in 2019

The last time we saw a balanced market was late 1990s, meaning many sellers and buyers have never seen a normal housing market.  Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner looks at more longer-term averages, what does he see for the future of the housing market?

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com Blog.

Posted on May 30, 2019 at 8:56 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. It’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or leveling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News and the Windermere.com Blog.

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 5:35 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where Are Home Prices Headed?


Home price increases in the Puget Sound area have started to moderate. While down from the unsustainable highs of this spring, prices continue to be up compared to a year ago. So, where are home prices headed next?

The Home Price Expectation Survey checks in with over 100 national real estate experts every quarter, including Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. Here’s where they think prices will go:

Gardner predicts our local market will fare better than the nation overall.

“As I look to 2019, I believe home prices in King County will increase 7.8% over the current year.”
– Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner

“The local economy will continue to grow and that will drive demand for ownership housing,” according to Gardner. “Supply will slow during the holiday season before we see a new influx of listings in the spring. With more supply, I believe that home price growth will continue to slow, but values will still increase.”

Whether you’re thinking of buying or selling I can provide you with market data that will help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

Posted on November 27, 2018 at 7:03 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What You Need to Know About the US Luxury Housing Market

MLS 1255156

 

Luxury homes sales across the U.S. continue to perform strongly, but I’m noticing some headwinds starting to appear that are worthy of a closer look.

It’s often thought that luxury real estate runs totally independent of the overall market, and while this is true in some respects, there are definitely correlations between high-end housing and the rest of the market.

The first similarity is that the luxury market has suffered from some the same inventory constraints that are almost endemic across all price points in the U.S. But, similar to the overall market, we are starting to see a rise in inventory, which should be good news for real estate agents and luxury home buyers alike.

Impact of rising inventory 

This increase in the number of luxury homes for sale has started to have a tapering effect on price growth, which again, is similar to what we’re seeing in the rest of the market. But as real estate professionals, we know full well that all housing is local and some markets are performing far better than others.

For example, luxury markets in Maui, Northern California, Colorado, and Sarasota, Florida, are all experiencing substantial price growth, while there are noticeable slowdowns in many parts of New York and New Jersey. Even Queens and Jersey City, which have continued to benefit from high demand, have seen price growth stall recently, indicating that those markets could be losing some steam.

Why the slowdown? 

The slowing of luxury sales in certain areas around the country piqued my interest, so I decided to explore why this is happening. The first thing I noticed is that cities with high property taxes are fairly prevalent on the list of slowing markets; this includes cities like Boston, Austin, New York City, and Chicago. It is likely that the federal tax changes limiting the deductibility of property taxes are the culprit for such slowdowns in these areas.

Something else that has undoubtedly impacted luxury home sales in markets, such as New York City and Seattle, is the significant decline in foreign buyers from countries like China and Canada. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of purchases by international buyers fell by 21 percent between 2017 and 2018, amounting to a drop of $32 billion – the largest decline on record.  Foreign buyers spent $121 billion on 266,754 properties, making up 8 percent of the buyers of existing (previously lived in) homes.

My research tells me that foreign home buyers are pulling back amid political uncertainty in the U.S. Ongoing concerns about a potential trade war, combined with rhetoric against foreigners, have done their part to dampen some of the enthusiasm to invest in U.S. housing. Also playing a role in this slowdown is the Chinese Central Government which has started placing tighter controls on the ability to spend money outside of mainland China. And finally, rising home prices and a strong U.S. dollar are likely two other key factors behind the tumbling interest in luxury real estate from overseas buyers.

So how do I see the luxury market performing in 2019?

Luxury real estate sales in markets like Boston, Clearwater, Austin, and Alexandria, Virginia will continue to slow down for the reasons stated earlier, but in other parts of the country, home buyers will provide the demand needed to keep the market plugging along at a healthy pace.

The changes affecting mortgage interest deductions and property taxes will also continue to impact the luxury market in certain areas, but this will, to a degree, be offset by other tax changes that favor high-income households and increase their disposable income. Something else that will help keep the luxury real estate market afloat in the coming year is jumbo mortgage interest rates which remain remarkably competitive compared to historic standards.

On a whole, high-end real estate sales have been strong over the past few years. While I am predicting somewhat of a slowdown next year given the headwinds discussed earlier, 2019 will be remembered as a year where balance started to return to the luxury housing market.

Mr. Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K. 

This post originally appeared on the Windermere Blog.

Posted on September 24, 2018 at 7:29 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – September 2018

The number of homes for sale in August increased dramatically over the same time a year ago. This is the result of a moderate increase in new listings and a much slower pace of sales. Homes are staying on the market longer, giving buyers more choices and more time to make an informed decision. While home prices are up compared to a year ago, the rate of increase was in the single digits rather than the double-digit surges of past months. It’s still a seller’s market, but sellers need to have realistic expectations about pricing their homes as the market softens.

Eastside

>>>Click image to view full report.

The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up nearly 10 percent from the same time last year to $935,000. Home prices have declined each month from the all-time high of $977,759 set in June. Inventory increased 73 percent over last August. With supply soaring and home prices moderating, sellers need to work with their broker to price their home to meet the current market conditions. A year ago 47 percent of the homes on the Eastside sold for over list price. This August that number was down to 29 percent.

King County

>>>Click image to view full report.

King County experienced yet another flood of inventory with the number of homes for sale jumping 65 percent over the previous year. Despite the growth, the county has just 1.9 months of inventory and remains a seller-oriented market. The market has slowed but it remains fast-paced, with 62 percent of the properties here selling in fewer than 15 days. While home prices were up 3 percent from a year ago, the median price of $669,000 represented the third straight month of declines from the record-high of $726,275 reached in May.

Seattle

>>>Click image to view full report.

After leading the nation in home price growth for nearly two years, Seattle is finally cooling off. The median home price in August was $760,000, up just 4 percent from last year and down from the record $830,000 reached in May. Inventory soared in August, but the city still has just two months of supply, far short of the four to six months that is considered balanced. Bidding wars are becoming less common and price drops more common. Sellers must adjust their expectations to what appears to be a long waited moderating of the market.

Snohomish County

>>>Click image to view full report.

Mirroring the market slowdown in King County, Snohomish County also experienced a cooling off in August. The median price of a single-family home was $492,000, up 8 percent from a year ago but down from the record high of $511,000 two months prior. Inventory increased nearly 30 percent, but at just 1.6 months of supply the market remains very tight and sales are brisk. Sixty percent of homes here sold within 15 days.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on September 12, 2018 at 6:41 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News, Local Market Update, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eastside Market Review – First Quarter 2018

The available supply of homes on the Eastside continued to fall short of demand in the first quarter of 2018. With just two weeks of available inventory, competition for homes remained intense. The result was a steady growth in home prices. The median price of a single-family home hit new highs in the first quarter and closed out the period at $926,000. Sales were brisk at every price, including the luxury market. Sales of homes priced at $2 million or more were up 23 percent in the first quarter of 2018 as compared to the previous year. The region has now led the country in home price increases for 17 months in a row. The prediction for the spring market: hot with no signs of cooling.

Read the full report online by clicking the image below.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on June 7, 2018 at 10:07 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News

New Year’s Tips for Buying and Selling

 

If your 2018 resolution is to buy or sell a home, here are some suggestions to help you along the way. For everyone else, we’ve added some tips about building equity and investing in updates to your home.

Buying:

If you’re in the market to buy your first home or if you’re upsizing/downsizing, here are some ideas that can help you make this dream a reality:

  • Create a buying timeline and work towards your goal
  • Check your credit scores and work to improve your rating
  • Start or increase your savings for a down payment
  • Start the loan pre-approval process
  • Meet with your real estate agent
  • Start looking for homes

Selling:

If you are planning to put your home on the market in 2018, here are some good places to start:

  • Create a selling timeline to work towards having your home ready for market
  • Make a list of home improvements and a plan on how to manage them
  • Get rid of the clutter
  • Contact a real estate agent

Building Equity:

You may not be moving this year, but you can create a plan to increase your equity in the home you have now.  Here are some tips:

  • Take advantage of low interest rates by refinancing to a lower rate
  • Consider refinancing to a shorter term loan
  • Make extra lump-sum payments. Consider using your tax refund, cash gifts, work bonuses, garage sale money, or any other unexpected income toward paying down your principal.
  • Pay every two weeks instead of once a month. A biweekly payment plan can substantially reduce the amount of interest you pay because you are breaking the interest accrual down from 30 days to every 15.
  • Pay a little extra each month. Even if you’re only rounding up to the next $100 increment, putting a little extra money towards your principal every month can add up.

Investing In Your Home

You can add a lot of value and additional enjoyment to your home by investing in improvements and upgrades.

  • Choose a home improvement project that will yield a good return on investment when you do choose to sell
  • Create a home checklist to track maintenance projects over the year
  • Make eco-improvements to increase your home’s sustainability and reduce your utility payments over the long-term. These improvements are generally a good return on your investment when reselling.
    • Upgrade furnace to an efficient model
    • Upgrade windows for better insulation
    • Add alternative energy resources, such as solar power
    • Update toilets and showers to low-flow
    • Install a programmable thermostat
    • Update to energy-efficient appliances

This post originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 9:48 pm
Kim Gervasoni | Category: Local Market News