2016 was a challenging, fast paced residential real estate market with multiple offers and sales over list prices the norm. So far 2017 is set to match or out pace last year, crushing any concerns about another real estate bubble. Downtown Bellevue continues to be a high demand destination for people working on either side of the lake. With Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and numerous other companies continuing to expand and hire, its unlikely the local demand for housing will decline. Last year when Expedia announced it would be moving its offices from Bellevue to Seattle there was concern downtown Bellevue might have an excess of available office space – that lasted just a few minutes. Amazon has leased the entire Centre 425 office tower, Salesforce and other companies occupy most of the 929 Tower, and there isn’t much space left at the Lincoln Square 2 office tower. Its likely the Expedia space will be leased before its even vacated.
New residential rental units have been built downtown but there’s been little in the way of new condo construction. A few condo and townhouse communities are under construction and in design review, but most are less than 20 units. One88, developed by Bosa Development, is the only condo community scheduled to start construction downtown in the next 60 days. As seen in Seattle, expect buyers to line up around the block when the 140 units are offered for sale. (one88bybosa.com)
What does the city’s robust economy and high demand for housing mean for existing condos in the 98004 zip code? Multiple offers will continue and buyers will stretch their budgets to secure an urban residence. Last year the median condo sales price in the 98004 zip code was $580,072. So far this year the median sales price is just over $700,000 – a 21% increase. Until inventory, resale or new construction, can satisfy demand, expect condo values to continue to increase in double digit numbers.
CONDO MARKET SPECIALIST
As an industry expert I keep track of the Eastside’s condo inventory, market trends and new projects under construction or in design review. Contact me if you need information about buying or selling or just want to know what projects are on the horizon.
In a recent search of 2+ bedroom condos in Bellevue the results were pretty bleak. Just 28 homes listed for sale with prices ranging from $300,000 to $13,950,000. Of those 28 homes 13 were priced under $1 million and of those 13, only three were priced under $500,000. Just 28 condos for sale in the entire city – we’re definitely experiencing a shortage of available homes.
Downtown Bellevue is one of the hottest addresses on the Eastside, and while many condo buyers focus on the city’s urban communities, with limited inventory they are expanding their search beyond downtown. In the past this would have opened up the selection of available homes, but inventory is in short supply everywhere on the Eastside.
If you’ve been searching for a home in recent months you already know, with high demand and low inventory, that multiple offers are common. For every house for sale there may be 3, 4, 5 or more offers submitted. Only one buyer can prevail, so the other buyers are back in the search for the next new listing. As we head into spring there should be an increase in the number of homes coming on the market, but rather than the typical 8-10 per week it’s likely to be just 2-3 per week. Buying a home should be fun, but this year its going to require patience, preparation and a sense of humor. Buyers need to be positioned to win, so now more than ever it pays to work with an experienced lender and a Realtor® who know the market and will serve as your advocates and guide you through the process.
Like most people, I spend more time indoors and watch more TV in the winter. I enjoy the HGTV home remodeling shows (Beachfront Bargains is one of my favorites). There’s always something to learn about new design trends and construction and real estate around the country.
Unfortunately, the shows don’t tell you everything about the mistakes, cost overruns and amount of time and money required to complete a project. First, there’s the myth about the time it takes to find a home and complete a remodel project. In a 60 minute show buyers look at 3 houses, find the home of their dreams, and then complete a full remodel in 6-8 weeks. Seriously, it could take that long to hire a contractor and get permits. With few exceptions, remodeling takes longer than anticipated, costs more than expected and there are always surprises. The idea of completing a high end kitchen for $20,000 is unrealistic, and I love it when homeowners are shocked that it is going to be a problem (and expensive) when the HVAC and main waste lines run through the wall they plan to remove.
When clients ask about remodeling I tell them to start with their eyes wide open and remind them “this isn’t HGTV”. Be realistic, plan for a project to take longer than expected, be prepared for surprises and have contingency funds available for the unexpected.
So why do I watch these shows? Chip and JoJo have a great sense of humor, they’re entertaining and they really know their stuff. I love to see whether homeowners will “love it or list it” and the Property Brothers, also entertaining, are generally right on with remodel costs (even though they work wonders in just 6 weeks). And who knows – I may find the beachfront bargain of my dreams.
If there’s a remodel in your future give me a call. Over the years I’ve gathered resources for vendors and contractors who can help with minor update to major remodel projects. If your remodeling a condo, before you start you’ll need to know about working within the guidelines of the HOA and community rules and regulations.
Loan limits for mortgage loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will increase next year for the first time in ten years. In recognition of rising home prices nationwide, the loan limit for a conforming loan (not a jumbo loan) will increase from $417,000 to $424,100. For areas like the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area, which have a more expensive housing market, loan limits are much higher. In King, Pierce and Snohomish counties conforming loan limits will increase from $540,500 to $592,250 next year.
What does this mean if you’re planning to purchase a home in 2017? Jumbo mortgage loans (over the new limit of $592,250) generally have higher interest rates, require higher credit scores and larger down payments of 15-20%. These steep requirements can keep many highly qualified home buyers out of the market – buyers who have the income and employment history to qualify for a loan but don’t have a 20% down payment. When the conforming loan limit is raised, it opens the door giving qualified buyers with 3%, 5% or 10% down an opportunity to get in the game.
If you haven’t talked with a lender or Realtor® lately, now would be the time to start that conversation to see how the increase in loan limits could benefit you.