Perspectives: 2017 Forecast

Well, it’s December; the time of year when we look to our crystal ball and offer our housing market predictions for the coming year. And by crystal ball we mean Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, who has been travelling up and down the West Coast giving his annual forecast to a variety of real estate and financial organizations. Last month’s surprising election results have created some unknowns, but based on what we do know today, here are some thoughts on the current market and what you can expect to see in 2017.

HOUSING SUPPLY: In 2016 the laws of supply and demand were turned upside down in a majority of markets along the West Coast. Home sales and prices rose while listings remained anemic. In the coming year, there should be a modest increase in the number of homes for sale in most major West Coast markets, which should relieve some of the pressure.

FIRST-TIME BUYERS: We’re calling 2017 the year of the return of the first-time buyer. These buyers are crucial to achieving a more balanced housing market. While rising home prices and competition will act as a headwind to some first timers, the aforementioned modest uptick in housing inventory should help alleviate some of those challenges.

INTEREST RATES: Although interest rates remain remarkably low, they will likely rise as we move through 2017. Matthew Gardner tells us that he expects the 30-year fixed rate to increase to about 4.5 percent by year’s end. Yes, this is well above where interest rates are currently, but it’s still very low.

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY: This remains one of the biggest concerns for many West Coast cities. Some markets continue to see home prices escalating well above income growth. This is unsustainable over the long term, so we’re happy to report that the rate of home price appreciation will soften in some areas. This doesn’t mean prices will drop, but rather, the rate of growth will begin to slow.

Last but not least, we continue to hear concerns about an impending housing bubble. We sincerely believe these fears to be unfounded. While we expect price growth to slow in certain areas, anyone waiting for the floor to fall on housing prices is in for a long wait. Everything we’re seeing points towards a modest shift towards a more balanced market in the year ahead.

Posted December 12 2016, 9:00 AM PST by Jill Jacobi Wood, OB Jacobi & Geoff Wood

http://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/posts/perspectives-2017-forecast

Top 10 real estate tips for 2017

Moms and daughters on playdate in house's front porch | Sean Justice/Getty Images

High demand and low interest rates drove housing sales in 2016, and 2017 is shaping up to be another good year, albeit with a few minor caveats.

While home prices for starter-to-midrange homes are pushing upward toward pre-recession peaks, especially in secondary markets, they’re stabilizing in higher-priced areas.

Prognosticators see the robust markets of Seattle, Portland and Denver as 2017’s top performers, with 10 percent to 11 percent price growth. If mortgage rates rise modestly as expected in 2017, sales elsewhere may normalize with smaller price appreciation, especially as housing starts rise to fill the inventory breach.

But it sure looks like another seller’s market again in 2017, and likely in 2018, with a few localized exceptions such as the overwrought Atlantic City, New Jersey and Detroit urban markets.

As we march into the latter part of the decade, homeownership remains a practical long-term hold and self-enforced savings plan.

Here are 10 tips to adapt to the latest market conditions.

1. First-time homebuyers: Get that starter home now

Well, you’d best gyrate into action. And we mean now! More than half of the home sales (52 percent) in 2017 are expected to be to first-time buyers, and mostly to the millennial set (19 to 34 years old), many moving from urban rentals, research by the National Association of Realtors shows. That means competition — and bidding wars — could become fierce in the spring for such “starters” in desirable areas.

While there’ll be less inventory this winter, there’ll also be less competition per unit and a higher percent of motivated sellers.

RATE SEARCH: Check out Bankrate.com right now for your best mortgage options.

2. Sellers: Hire the right agent

Oftentimes, the best investment a seller can make is time spent researching agents. A bad hire can cost sellers tens of thousands of dollars and months of worried waiting.

First, look at an agent’s’ online marketing material and listings. Is there good photography or video? Does it “pop”? Are descriptions accurate and complimentary without seeming exaggerated?

Then, look at profiles of the agents on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media; and be sure to read web reviews. What kind of vibe is an agent sending out?

Narrow your search to three agents and interview each, ideally in person. Ask for sales-activity reports, existing listings and time-on-the-market averages, plus the requisite local comps.

A seasoned listing agent also will know the best times for open houses and how to initiate a price war if the market allows. Never consent to a listing contract of longer than 90 days in a seller’s market. You can always extend.

3. Buyers: There’s more loan money out there

Those who couldn’t get mortgages during the downturn because they didn’t have 20 percent to put down can find affordable financing again.

Borrowers with FICO scores as low as 690 are now getting conforming mortgage loans (those under $417,000).

One telling sign: About two-thirds of mortgage refinancing were getting approved in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to just one-half of those at the end of 2014.

However, borrowers without a 20 percent down payment will still likely pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, until they hit the 20 percent to 25 percent equity mark.

The best rates go to those with 800-plus credit scores, though 750-plussers are getting virtually the same terms.

Unfortunately, those seductive interest-only loans are also on the menu again. Avoid them. They’re affordable at first since you’re not paying principal, but then years later, well … see the Great Recession of 2008.

4. Sellers: It may be a seller’s market but …

Home sellers can do several simple things to enhance appearance, increase buyer interest and boost their home’s profile:

  • Renew selectively: Instead of wholesale renovations from which sellers recoup maybe 60 percent on investment, do light makeovers everywhere, with an eye on the kitchen and bathrooms. They’re far more cost-effective.
  • Clean, clean and clean some more: It’s hard for buyers to picture themselves living in a dirty house. Scrub floors, baths, kitchens, windows and walls, and be sure to clean, vacuum and deodorize rugs. This is simple but effective.
  • Depersonalize, declutter: Show the space, not the contents. Box up family photos, kids’ school papers and excess art, and store bulky and worn furniture. Organize your closets to make them look half empty.
  • Illuminate: Think bright and cheery. Open drapes and add brighter light bulbs in dark areas. Repaint where needed but use neutral colors.

5. Renters: It might be time to buy

In many cases, rents are rising faster than home values, yet mortgage rates remain low. That, and the fact that renters now account for 37 percent of households (the highest level in 50 years), seem to indicate an imminent coming-out party for renters-turned-buyers, especially if they plan to stay put for five to 10 years after buying.

There are limitless buy-versus-rent calculators like Bankrate’s calculator for renters to compare affordability. But no gauge accounts for human behavior, such as reluctance of renters to re-invest what they’ve saved from not paying property tax, insurance, upkeep, etc. Homebuying basically enforces that discipline.

RATE SEARCH: Looking to stay in your house and not sell? Find the best refi rates now.

6. If you’re a buyer, don’t believe the house is yours

Don’t bank on a done deal or other verbal promises from listing agents until you sign a contract.

In heated markets across the country, sales agents are giving buyers false hope and using their offers to bid up the price for preferred buyers who they think can pay more and close faster. Have other homes in mind.

Strategies such as preapproval (versus prequalification), proof of funding, closing flexibility and the always-risky practice of waiving inspection and repair contingencies can help sway buyers.

For added clout, tell sellers you’re willing to “escalate,” or exceed all offers to a certain limit. Some agents even advise buyers to write so-called “love letters” to sellers, telling them how much the home will mean to their families.

7. Sellers: The grass is always greener …

… in yards with a “sold” sign. Major presale upgrades typically aren’t needed, but a little greening outdoors is a must.

Surveys show that strong curb appeal can increase prices by 10 percent or more. Greener grass, whether derived from new sod or fertilizer and water, is a must.

New shrubs, plantings and flowers also project a welcoming feel. Sellers typically enjoy a 100 percent return on the money they put into curb appeal.

Another form of green, sustainable landscaping has become a value-add for buyers. Native plants, native grasses and perennials that require less water and attention fill that bill.

Do some local research or ask your local home-and-garden pro for simple “greening” tips.

FREE TOOL: Looking to buy a house? First, check your credit score for free at myBankrate today.

8. Sellers and buyers: Know the state of your market

A balanced housing market is defined as one with an average inventory of 6.5 months, according to Texas A&M University Real Estate Center research. When inventory remains below equilibrium, sellers enjoy more control over prices and terms, and the area becomes a seller’s market.

When inventory lingers well above stasis, you have a buyer’s market where sellers must get more serious about price reductions, credits and throw-ins. Of course, these averages don’t necessarily reflect demand in certain desirable and undesirable submarkets.

Go to Realtor.org for such market home sales data by state or to a local agent, business journal and daily newspaper you can read online. In 2016, the U.S. housing inventory average was under five months.

9. Sellers: House going on sale in the spring?

Do some prep work now. First, grab your camera or smartphone and do an exterior autumn photo shoot, with the leaves changing colors.

It’s a much better way to showcase your home than to wait until late winter when everything is still dead and brown and mucky. Also take some landscape shots after the first snow, ideally on a sunny day, to show how cozy your place looks in winter.

Take a preliminary inventory, too. Look through your attic, closets, basement and garage to see what stored items you’ll want to keep, give away or sell in the spring. This will help you determine whether you’ll need a storage unit when your home is on the market and if there are any problem areas that need repairs or attention.

It’s also a good time to start discussing financing options with a local lender and interview prospective listing agents who also might provide additional preparation tips.

10. Buyers: Relocating near a waterfront?

You’d best consider weather and insurance realities. Major hurricanes and floods of the past dozen years, particularly Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, have pushed the National Flood Insurance Program into a $23 billion hole, forcing flood-insurance rates to spiral.

FEMA flood-map changes are aggressively expanding flood zones, especially along the East Coast and Gulf Coast, forcing hundreds of thousands of homeowners to buy flood insurance for the first time and others to pay thousands more annually.

Parts of Florida saw 20 percent increases in 2016 and will likely see similar hikes in 2017. Insurers also are imposing coverage caps so there’s no guarantee you’ll be made whole post-catastrophe.

Some home sellers and their agents are conveniently not disclosing these realities, so buyers will have to ask pointed questions and do their own research. Go to FEMA.gov for more info.

By Steve McLinden http://ht.ly/Wm53J

Planning for the Future: Housing Options to Consider

It should come as no surprise that 75% of the senior citizens polled in the latest AARP Preferences survey strongly agreed with the statement, “What I’d like to do is stay in my current residence as long as possible.” After all, home is where the heart is; and the longer you live in a place, the stronger your attachment to it becomes.

But it’s important for those over 50 to assess potential lifestyle modifications that may be necessary down the road well in advance, because many will require significant research and preparation.

Whether you are planning for your own future or that of a loved one, analyzing new housing options before a change becomes necessary will help ensure you have the greatest number of options with the least amount of stress. Here are some considerations to help guide you or your loved one through the process.

Location and size

In planning for the future, communication with all involved parties is key to understanding where you or the senior in your life wants to be. Many seniors want to be close to family and friends.  Proximity or access to basic needs is also a critical consideration, especially for those who no longer drive.

Once an area is chosen, think about how much space is needed. Most seniors choose to downsize to a smaller home, and here are many advantages to this. A smaller home generally means less maintenance, lower mortgage or rental costs, and lower taxes. Less space can also be easier to manage. Single-level homes are a good option for those with decreased mobility and can help reduce the likelihood of falls and injuries. You’ll also want to consider whether a yard is needed, and whether you’d need someone else to maintain it.

Multi-family home

Multi-family homes, such as condominiums, cooperatives and townhomes, are well-suited for senior living, offering many options for budgets, maintenance and amenities. But most people don’t fully understand the differences between them.

Condominiums and cooperatives offer benefits of homeownership, but allow for certain expenses to be shared by all owners. Other benefits include security, shared building insurance and possible onsite amenities. Monthly fees are collected in both condominiums and cooperatives to maintain the property and any amenities, and both have elected boards of representatives who meet regularly to review operating expenses and building issues. Condominium ownership is based only on the unit, with taxes paid by the owner. In cooperatives, owners are shareholders, giving them sole rights and equity of their unit, but property taxes are shared by the building and included in your monthly fees.

Townhomes, on the other hand, allow for ownership of the structure and the land it sits on (front and back yards). Most are designed as row-houses, with one or two common walls. For those who prefer the legal rights of single-family ownership and do not want to pay monthly dues and do not want to pay monthly dues, a townhome may be the best option.

Drawbacks of multi-family homes can include noise from shared walls or floors, homeowner’s associations, monthly fees and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).

Renting

Renting can be a good way to avoid homeownership costs and maintenance. It may also be a more affordable way to live in a desirable area. Cons of renting can include noise through shared walls, the potential for your rent to increase over time, difficult or unreliable landlords, inattention to maintenance issues, and the possibility that you may need to move if the property is sold. It’s a good idea to talk to one or more current tenants of the rental to find out what their experience has been with the property and the landlord.

Alternative senior living options: independent and assisted

Another solution to consider for yourself or your family member is independent living communities (also called senior apartments, retirement communities, retirement communities, retirement homes and senior housing). Independent living communities provide privacy, independence, and the opportunity to connect with others without the demands of homeownership. They are usually full-service, offering meals, housekeeping, transportation and social activities.

For those who struggle with day-to-day living responsibilities, it may be time to consider assisted living arrangements. Some options include Adult Day Care, Elder Cottage Housing Opportunities (ECHO), Group Home, Special Care Unit (SCU) or Nursing Homes. Your state human resources department can usually provide more information about these options in your community and offer help with referrals, or you can opt for private referral services.

Financial factors

The costs for alternative housing can add up quickly—especially as the need for assistance increases. Medicare, unfortunately, does not pay for housing; but under strict financial restrictions, Medicaid may. To get a better feel for just how much these living arrangements can cost, visit GenWorth.com and search the cost of long term care where you live.

If the choice is made not to move, you could consider a reverse mortgage. This allows homeowners over the age of 65 to tap into their home equity in lieu of a monthly payment, with no repayment necessary as long as the property is their principal residence and they meet all the terms of the agreement. Keep in mind, however, that if the owner sells the home, dies, or does not meet the terms of the agreement, they or their family will be required to pay the remaining balance of the loan.

Some states offer assistance with property tax, or special assessments for seniors based on age, disability and household income. Check with your State Department of Revenue to see what options exist in your state and whether you qualify. Long-term care insurance is another option. An LTC policy will help pay for the costs not covered by traditional health insurance or Medicare (which can include assistance with daily-living activities, as well as the care provided in a variety of living/care facilities).

 

For more help and information

Your Windermere Real Estate agent can help you make the transition when the time is right by assessing the local property market, helping you properly price homes for sale, and finding a new home that best meets the unique needs of you or your loved ones.

Posted July 20 2016, 11:00 AM PDT by Tara Sharp. See the original article here.

 

7 Habits of Highly Effective Home Buyers

 Habit #1 – Be Proactive: Get pre-approved For Your Bank Loan

Mr. Covey’s first point deals with getting into the ongoing practice of being on the front foot, rather than living in a passive and reactive mode; not waiting for it all to happen for you but taking the first step.

If you are looking to buy, the foremost proactive task is to get pre-approval for your mortgage. Approach your bank and find out what is the amount and terms for which you can be approved, based on your current income (and expenses).

This is going to put you in the driver’s seat for the whole process – you will have a good idea of what you can afford, which in turn informs all your house-hunting and decision-making from here on out. Make sure you understand the difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified. Being pre-approved vs pre-qualified for a mortgage is not the same. Home sellers will want pre-approval! This will be the first meaningful task in preparing to buy a home.

If you’ve been dreaming about that ideal living space, in being proactive you will have begun your journey toward it!

“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #2 – Begin With The End In Mind: Determine what you want and what you need

Next, readers of the book are encouraged to envision a clear destination.

Our imagination is a powerful thing, and it’s useful for more than just coming up with ways to spend this week’s Powerball, or making up pranks targeted at friends, colleagues, and loved ones. We can use it to develop a vision of our future for us to work towards.

When it comes to buying a house, you can begin to envision what you want.

Which area would you like to live in? What house style interests you? Garden or no garden?

Moreover, ask yourself what you need: how many bedrooms do you require for your current and future family size? Do you need space for the number of vehicles you own? Space for all your appliances? Maybe there are some specific desires surrounding the type of neighborhood you want?

Build a picture of the desired end towards which you can begin to move.

“Start with the end in mind.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #3 – Put First Things First: Take a reality check

Now that you have identified what your end goal is, and also what your budget will allow, you can begin to put first things first.

For house hunting, this entails getting a realistic idea of what’s out there and available.

Using technology this can be done from the comfort of your own home.

Jump online and you can quickly get an idea of how the market is looking. Some sites even offer virtual guided tours of potential homes.

At this stage, you could even begin to drive through your desired neighborhood on a Sunday open house and begin to see for yourself what’s on the market.

Nothing beats first-hand experience to get a feel for what is realistic!

Using these methods you will build a solid profile of what your ideal spot could look like.

Some buyers become disappointed or frustrated by leaving out this step, having a mentality which says “I want it all right now”, setting the bar for their purchase way too high.

They want their perfect dream home for a low, low price.

Indeed, the overarching theme of Mr. Covey’s book is how we set ourselves up for failure to reach the desired result not primarily because of external forces, but because of our own perceptions.

Taking a reality check at this stage will equip you to engage with the market.

“To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #4 – Think Win-Win: Aim high but be flexible

Most buyers have an idea in their head of “The One Home.”

This “One Home” is the home I’m supposed to encounter that will make me deliriously happy by checking all my requirements and coming in way under my budget.

“It’s out there for me and I just have to find it.”

Your reality check in the previous point will probably already have shown you that “The One Home” is a unicorn.

There’s no such thing!

However, this point right here will help you to see that even if the “One Home” does not exist, it is still possible to be effective in reaching the desired result: a home that will give you the optimum long-term benefit and satisfaction for your investment.

Thinking “Win-Win” is about finding solutions that work for all parties involved – for example, you can get a great house at the right price without fleecing the seller.

To find your “Win-Win” property, as opposed to the unicorn, will require flexibility and negotiation. You may have to compromise on some of your nice-to-haves on the property in order to secure the best possible arrangement.

Win-Win” thinking says, for example: “Ok, I wanted a house that was ready to move into right away, but here is a decent house in a good area which can be turned into a great house with some renovation, and I’ll still come in under budget.”

Or, “Look, I’m spending a fraction more than I had originally planned, but this house checks all the boxes and will give us space into which we can grow.”

Be flexible and find your Win-Win!

“Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood: Understand the process of buying and selling

What a great fifth habit to have under your belt: Understand, before being understood.

What makes Mr. Covey’s philosophies so good is that they deal with improving one’s character, not just quick fixes that only scratch the surface of the issue!

When it comes to buying a house, what you need to understand is the process of buying and selling.

You don’t have to have a degree, or train to be a real estate agent yourself, but it will help to find all the vital information.

Don’t be scared to ask questions! Understanding what to do before buying a home is vital!

After all, buying a home is one of the biggest investments a person can make!

If you have a question about anything from paperwork to repayments to closing dates to mortgages, just ask!

A good person to ask is your local real estate agents – if they aren’t equipped to answer your question directly, they can put you in touch with the necessary professionals!

According to Mr Covey, when we try to offer advice, or assert our own desires, or bring a solution, without first understanding the problem, we set ourselves up to be ineffective.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #6 – Synergize: Empower yourself with the right real estate team

There are those who have more experience than us in any given area.

Rather than re-invent the wheel for ourselves, we can benefit from the learning and experience of others.

We already saw in the last point some of the advantages of being able to ask a good real estate agent for answers to some of the fundamental questions.

Sure, you could do it yourself!

You might conceivably even save some money by doing it yourself!

However, by and large, when you weigh the benefit in terms of your investment of time, and the avoidance of unexpected hassles, generally speaking, making use of these specialists in their fields can pay for itself, so to speak, by saving you time as well as headaches.

Your small team could involve a competent real estate agent, a qualified conveyancing attorney, a reputable mortgage broker and the best home inspector available.

You could also involve a trusted friend or family member who can look at the prospective property with you and point out pro’s and con’s you may have missed.

In addition, give weight to what your spouse or immediate family has to say – after all, they will be living there too!

“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Habit #7 – Sharpen The Saw: Enjoy learning from the entire experience

Every first-time buyer can relate to the rush of making their first purchase.

When the offer is accepted, a celebratory notification is sent to family and friends, loaded with party emoticons.

When the mortgage is approved, we crack open the champagne!

Going through the process can involve ups and downs, but when you reach your goal it is worth it.

Buying shouldn’t be something to endure but something to enjoy.

And, even when there are those disappointments that might come along the way, you are learning and growing from the entire experience.

You come out on the other side of the process with broader shoulders and more life experience. When things are thought through carefully there is  rarely any home buying disappointment.

So, if you’re ready, jump in!

Be proactive, have the end in mind, stay grounded in reality, think “Win-Win”, increase your understanding, work in team, and be learning and growing.

You will be an effective home buyer!

And of course, be sure to stock up on a bottle of your favorite Champagne!

“To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Hopefully, you have enjoyed these tips for becoming a more effective home buyer. Put the advice to good use and you will be well on your way to enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Ten Ideas for New Thanksgiving Traditions

 

Most of us already have our “ways” of doing Thanksgiving – ways our mother did it, ways our extended family did it, ways our neighborhood did it. Thanksgiving doesn’t lend itself well to trying out new traditions, but sometimes the situation calls for it – you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, for example, or you have a family now and want to start traditions of your own. So what can you do to heighten, deepen, and extend Thanksgiving to its most memorable end?

 

  1. Start the day with an indulgent, relaxing breakfast.

While some people are firmly in the “no breakfast” camp to save room for the big meal later, we love the idea of starting the day in such a festive, delicious way! Pancakes, waffles, eggs, even pie – it’s all good.

  1. Take time for yourself before time with family.

As wonderful as Thanksgiving can be, we all know it can be exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why it’s such a good idea to deliberately take a little time for yourself during the day to make sure you enjoy the holiday on your terms.

  1. Remember loved ones who have passed.

Holidays can be bittersweet when beloved family members or friends are missing from the gathering. Look through old photo albums and recall funny, tender or important achievements of those who are gone but not forgotten.

  1. Write your thanks on a butcher paper tablecloth.

Cover the table with butcher paper. During the meal, distribute pens and ask each family member to write down a few things they’re thankful for on the paper and then take turns reading them out loud. We love the practice during the Thanksgiving meal of naming things you’re thankful for, and this is a unique way to do it – especially since you can tear off and save particularly meaningful memories.

  1. Let everyone toast!

Another way to make gratitude gushing even more festive is to let everyone make a toast. Raise your glass to the year, to your family, to your friends!

  1. Have the kids serve dessert.

Let the bigger kids get in on the action of serving to their family.  Put them in charge of delivering dessert and coffee after the meal. The oldest can plate and pour while the younger kids can take orders and serve. It keeps them busy after the meal while the adults talk and gives them a broader sense of appreciation for the holiday.

  1. Have Thanksgiving dinner early.

Planning for a 3 p.m. dinner shifts the momentum of the day. An earlier meal creates a more relaxed celebration, plus there’s plenty of time to digest before going to bed.  An earlier dinner also accommodates traveling guests and lets them return home at a reasonable hour.

  1. Take a long walk together after dinner.

No one is ready for dessert right after dinner anyway, so why not take that time to go on a long walk with your loved ones? Enjoy the cool, crispy (and hopefully dry) autumn weather and get the blood flowing again after all that rich food.

  1. If it’s just two of you, really treat yourself.

It can be hard to justify making a huge Thanksgiving meal when it’s just two of you, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less special, or even any less of a treat. In fact, it should be more so. Make it special by treating yourselves to nicer ingredients and better wine than you would normally use if you were cooking for a large group.

  1. Stay connected with family members far away.

If you can’t be with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, thankfully you can still be together – just virtually! Do a video call or Google Hangout before dinner, or Facetime family members in for the giving-thanks portion of the evening.

 

This article originally appeared on WindermereSeattle.com 

Posted November 15 2016, 1:00 PM PST by Pattie O’Loughlin

The Trump effect. How will it impact the US economy and housing?

By Matthew Gardner, Chief Economist, Windermere Real Estate

The American people have spoken and they have elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Change was clearly demanded, and change is what we will have.

The election was a shock for many, especially on the West Coast where we have not been overly affected by the long-term loss in US manufacturing or stagnant wage growth of the past decade. But the votes are in and a new era is ahead of us. So, what does this mean for the housing market?

First and foremost I would say that we should all take a deep breath. In a similar fashion to the UK’s “Brexit”, there will be a “whiplash” effect, as was seen in overnight trading across the globe. However, at least in the US, equity markets have calmed as they start to take a closer look at what a Trump presidency will mean.

On a macro level, I would start by stating that political rhetoric and hyperbole do not necessarily translate into policy. That is the most important message that I want to get across. I consider it highly unlikely that many of the statements regarding trade protectionism will actually go into effect. It will be very important for President Trump to tone down his platform on renegotiating trade agreements and imposing tariffs on China. I also deem it highly unlikely that a 1,000-mile wall will actually get built.

It is crucial that some of the more inflammatory statements that President-Elect Trump has made be toned down or markets will react negatively. However, what is of greater concern to me is that neither candidate really approached questions regarding housing with any granularity. There was little-to-no-discussion regarding housing finance reform, so I will be watching this topic very closely over the coming months.

As far as the housing market is concerned, it is really too early to make any definitive comment. That said, Trump ran on a platform of deregulation and this could actually bode well for real estate. It might allow banks the freedom to lend more, which in turn, could further energize the market as more buyers may qualify for home loans.

Concerns over rising interest rates may also be overstated. As history tells us, during times of uncertainty we tend to put more money into bonds. If this holds true, then we may see a longer-than-expected period of below-average rates. Today’s uptick in bond yields is likely just temporary.

Proposed infrastructure spending could boost employment and wages, which again, would be a positive for housing markets. Furthermore, easing land use regulations has the potential to begin addressing the problem of housing affordability across many of our nation’s housing markets – specifically on the West Coast.

Economies do not like uncertainty. In the near-term we may see a temporary lull in the US economy, as well as the housing market, as we analyze what a Trump presidency really means. But at the present time, I do not see any substantive cause for panic in the housing sector.

We are a resilient nation, and as long as we continue to have checks-and balances, I have confidence that we will endure any period of uncertainty and come out stronger.

Selling Your Home? Go Through This Safety Checklist With Your Real Estate Agent

Selling your home can be stressful for many reasons. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers.  One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions.

 

  • Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
  • Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting displaced or stolen.
  • Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
  • Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
  • Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
  • Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.

Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions:

  • Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
  • Go over your agent’s screening process:
    • Phone screening prior to showing the home
    • Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
    • Their personal safety during showings and open houses
  • Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
  • Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
    • Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
    • Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
  • Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.

Your safety, as well as that of your agent and your home, is of paramount importance when selling a property. For more information, visit:

http://www.mercurynews.com/los-gatos/ci_26509084/realtors-issue-safety-tips-folks-who-are-selling

http://realtormag.realtor.org/sales-and-marketing/feature/article/2014/09/safety-talk-you-need-have-clients

Posted September 26 2016, 9:00 AM PDT by Tara Sharp

http://www.windermere.com/blogs/windermere/posts/selling-your-home-go-through-this-safety-checklist-with-your-real-estate-agent–2 

The Gardner Report  | WWA Q2 2016

The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW


Annual employment growth in Washington State slowed somewhat in the third quarter of this year, but still remains well above the long-term average. Additionally, the jobs that are being created are primarily quality, high-paying positions, which is important for the health of our economy. Unemployment in the state remains at levels that are somewhat higher than I would like to see, but this continues to be impacted by a growing labor force and modestly slowing job growth. I still expect to see the rate drop a little further as we move through the final quarter of the year.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY


  • There were 24,277 home sales during the third quarter of 2016—up by an impressive 7.9% from the same period in 2015, and 6.8% above the total number of sales seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • Skagit County saw sales grow at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with transactions up by 25.6%. There were also impressive increases in home sales in Thurston, San Juan, Pierce, and Grays Harbor Counties. Sales fell slightly in Jefferson and Kittitas Counties.
  • Overall listing activity remains low with the total number of homes for sale at the end of the quarter 11.2% below that seen a year ago. That said, I’m happy to report that listings have been slowly trending higher in 2016.
  • I’ve been thinking about how sales can continue to rise while inventory remains so low. I believe this is due to an uptick in first-time buyers. These buyers have no home to sell, so they don’t add to the number of listings; however, they do cause sales to increase when they buy. This is a good trend to see!
Annual Change in Home Sales

HOME PRICES


  • As demand continues to exceed supply, we are continuing to see upward pressure on home prices. In the third quarter, average prices rose by a substantial 10.2% and are 3.2% higher than seen in the second quarter of this year.
  • The current rate at which homes are appreciating cannot continue, and I anticipate that we will see a “cooling” start to take place in 2017.
  • When compared to the third quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County. In total, there were nine counties where annual price growth exceeded 10% and prices were higher across the entire region when compared to a year ago.
  • Although supply levels are slowly starting to creep higher, we are still solidly in a seller’s market. Rising inventory levels should start to do a better job of meeting demand next year, which when combined with modestly higher mortgage interest rates, will see the region move closer toward becoming a balanced market.
Annual Change in Home Sale Prices

DAYS ON MARKET


  • The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by twenty-two days when compared to the third quarter of 2015.
  • All the counties that comprise this report saw the length of time it took to sell a home drop.
  • In the third quarter of 2016, it took an average of 52 days to sell a home. This is down from the 74 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, and down from the 67 days it took in the second quarter of this year.
  • King and Snohomish Counties remain the only two markets where it took less than a month to sell a home. Even though King County saw days on market rise slightly from 18 to 20, it remains the hottest market in the region.
Average Days on Market

CONCLUSIONS


This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economics factors. For the third quarter of 2016, I am moving the needle very slightly toward the buyers. This is entirely due to the recent increase in inventory levels that I believe will continue through the rest of the year.

That said, the region remains steadfastly a seller’s market.

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER


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 over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Halloween is only a few days away. Are your pets ready?

If your critters are upset by the doorbell ringing, strange noises, or scary people in creepy outfits appearing at the door, now’s the time to come up with a plan.

1. Make sure your pet is in a secure area where it can’t bolt out the door. It may be better to keep them in a quiet room with some nice music playing.
2. Keep your cats inside for the night. Kids can play nasty pranks on kitties on this holiday, especially black cats.
3. Start putting Rescue Remedy into the water dish today to keep those anxiety levels low.
4. Tell them that there is going to be some strange noises and lots of knocks on the door and that they are safe and should just stay calm and relaxed. Send strong mental pictures of them snoozing through the commotion.
5. Candy is very tempting to many pets. Chocolate can be toxic to dogs and cats and those wrappers are impossible to digest. Keep that candy dish out of reach.
6. Put all burning candles out of reach. Curious pets can knock them over, start a fire, and seriously burn themselves.
7. Beware of decorations that can be ingested. It’s no fun to have surgery for an intestinal blockage.

Booooo!! Now that I’ve scared the heck out of you, go out and have some fun this Halloween. If your pets enjoy dressing up there’s no better day in the year!

This is from Mary J Getten – Animal commincator

Childproofing: Protect Your Family and Your Home from Potential Hazards

Posted October 10 2016, 3:30 PM PDT in Living by Shelley Rossi

When you think of your home, it likely conjures up feelings of safety, shelter, and comfort. However, accidental injuries in the home are one of the leading causes of harm to children 14 and younger. By taking certain precautions, many of these accidents can be prevented.

While supervision is the best way to keep your children safe at home, you can’t watch them every second. Childproofing, to whatever degree you are comfortable, will go a long way toward keeping your littlest loved ones safe and healthy at home.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Many accidents happen with or around water.

If you have children at home, it’s advisable to adjust your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. Furthermore, you should never leave a small child unattended in a bath tub, even for a few seconds. And be sure to safely secure doors that lead to swimming pools and hot tubs, including pet doors. When cooking or boiling water, turn pot handles in, or better yet use the back burners, to prevent little hands from pulling them off the stove.

Household chemicals can be very harmful to children.

It’s important not to keep poisonous materials under the sink, even if you have a cabinet guard in place. Keep dangerous chemicals up high and in a room that isn’t accessible to your little ones. Seemingly innocuous medicines can also be dangerous. Make sure your medicine cabinet is out of sight, mind, and reach.

Use safety latches and gates.

It’s advisable that you use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, toilets, and windows, as well as place covers on all electrical outlets. Gate off stairways and entrances to rooms, such as garages, that contain dangerous or fragile objects.

Secure furniture and other objects.

Heavy furniture, electronics, and lamps must be secured to prevent a child from pulling them over. Bookshelves and entertainment centers often come with devices that attach them to walls so that a climbing child won’t topple the furniture. The end-caps on door stoppers can be a choking hazard, so it’s advisable to remove them. Place plastic bumpers on sharp corners or edges of coffee tables, entertainment centers, and other furniture to prevent cuts and bruises.

Install a carbon monoxide detector.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke alarms. Be sure to test both devices regularly and replace batteries as needed. The American Red Cross advises families to learn first aid and CPR, and to devise an emergency evacuation plan for fires and earthquakes.

Emergency contact info.

Last, but not least, in case an emergency does happen, always keep numbers for your child’s doctor, your work and cell, and other emergency contact info in an easily found place, preferably near the phone.

Accidents can and will happen, but by following a few small steps you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family from harm in your home.