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February 2014

News In Brief

By NWREporter

February 2014

  • Seattle's healthy employment picture coupled with its consistent population growth will increase home sales in 2014 and make it the second hottest market in the county, according to Zillow, an online real estate marketplace. While Zillow economists predicted that mortgage rates will rise to 5 percent next year, they also said loans would be easier to obtain. Curiously, the national homeownership rate, tugged down by foreclosures the past five years, will hit its lowest point in two decades, Zillow predicted.
  • As reported by Tom Kelly, the Senate is considering bipartisan legislation that would require Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, and other federal mortgage entities to revamp their rules to reward energy savings. Supporters of energy efficiency want lenders to take the net savings from energy improvements into consideration when they underwrite and impose mortgage fees, and they also want appraisers to take into account the value of new items and retrofits. Meanwhile, a study of 71,000 home loans by University of North Carolina researchers revealed that mortgages on energy-efficient properties are 32 percent less likely to default. More than 125 multiple listing services nationwide provide "green fields" in online listing information displays so that energy improvements and certifications for Energy Star-qualified appliances, solar power, and other features can be described. Moreover, the Appraisal Institute is offering green valuation training for appraisers and has established a comprehensive "green addendum" that could result in higher property valuations. In addition, Genworth Mortgage Insurance plans to offer green rewards to U.S. borrowers like it already does in Canada where borrowers receive a 10 percent refund on mortgage insurance premiums, online discounts for common household items, and even a break on their debt-to-income ratio for underwriting purposes if the home meets national or provincial energy efficiency guidelines.
  • The Puget Sound is home to several military bases but returning vets say rising home prices are making them wait longer to purchase. Harris Interactive conducted a recent study for Century 21 Real Estate of more than 400 responses of military members or spouses and found only 33 percent of military families said they look for a home within a year of returning from active duty. The biggest obstacles reported were the price of homes, the inability to come up with a down payment, and lack of personal savings.

    Eighty-eight percent of veterans said that owning a home makes them feel safer. Vets also say they have a strong desire for home ownership because they want to own their own residence (73 percent), establish a household (43 percent), and have financial security (36 percent). Storage space, amount of square footage, outdoor space, and an updated kitchen were cited as the most important amenities.
  • The number of Washington state residents holding two or more jobs is higher than the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.7 percent of employed Washington state residents hold more than one job, compared with the U.S. average of 4.9 percent.
  • King County employment grew by 2.8 percent in the past year, much higher than the national average of 1.6 percent growth. King County added 33,200 jobs in the past year, the eighth-most in the U.S., and the county now has the ninth-most number of workers, at 1.205 million, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.