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December 2015

News In Brief

  • Paying for a mortgage is still more affordable than renting in Seattle and most of the United States, but saving enough money for a down payment has become increasingly difficult for first-time buyers, according to a new study released by Zillow and reported in mynorthwest.com. Residents of the Seattle metro can expect to spend about 22.2 percent of their income on a mortgage, compared to 31.7 percent on rent. Zillow tabbed the Seattle median house price at $359,400 with a down payment of $71,880 needed to buy that home, according to the company's third quarter analysis of U.S. rental and mortgage affordability. Rental affordability worsened in 28 of the 35 largest metros over the past year, and mortgage affordability worsened in just 18 of them. Nationally, homeowners can expect to spend 15 percent of their income on a mortgage, and 30 percent on rent. But getting that mortgage payment requires a homebuyer to have saved $62,760 for a 20 percent down payment. First-time homebuyers and millennials are left trying to find other ways to break into the housing market, turning to friends and family for financial help. In 2014, 13 percent of home purchases were bought using a loan or gift from friends or family for the down payment.

  • Several home features are gaining momentum in residential real estate. Here are four amenities that home shoppers are showing more desire for, according to a recent article at CBSHome.com.1) Energy efficiency. Bigger used to be better in real estate, but the cost of maintenance and particularly the heating of bigger homes has prompted some buyers to be less tempted to supersize their digs. Many buyers are being swayed with homes that are more economical to maintain and also have a warmer, cozier vibe. 2) Modern, up-to-date kitchens. Remodeling a kitchen can be one of the costliest home improvement projects to take on. That's why many buyers are looking for a kitchen that already has been updated. They're looking for sleek, modern looking kitchen with stainless steel appliances. 3) Smart home options. More buyers are looking for homes that they'll be able to smarten up now, or down the road. For example, home buyers are showing greater desires for thermostats that can be adjusted with their mobile device to being able to unlock doors via Bluetooth. Smart home features can be a huge draw that makes a home more modern. 4) Color pops. Neutrals can help buyers envision the home as their own, but color has been shown to be a draw for younger buyers in particular.

  • A stretch of downtown Interstate 5 in Seattle, between Madison Street and Lakeview Boulevard, is the 17th-worst bottleneck in the country, according to a highway-advocacy group's study of GPS data. People waste 1.6 million hours each year delayed in traffic on this stretch of road at a cost of $45 million, according to the study published by the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA), which lobbies for highway investment. In March, the Tom Tom navigation company ranked Seattle the fifth most-congested U.S. city.

  • The conforming high balance limits in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties are going up on January 1st, according to a news announcement by Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. The old loan limit was $517,500 and the new limit (January 1) is $540,500. This is a $23,000 increase, so everything over $540,500 (loan limit) will be Jumbo. VA mirrors Fannie and Freddie so the VA limit will go up to this as well. This means a Veteran could get a zero downpayment with no PMI up to $540,500. At this time there is no news from FHA yet on if their limits will change.

  • Total sales for existing and new homes are expected to reach six million for the first time since 2006 next year, according to a 2016 housing forecast issued by realtor.com. Gains in new-home construction and existing home sales are both expected to push total home sales to the highest levels in years. The new-home construction market is expected to see the most gains in 2016, with a 12 percent year-over-year increase in housing starts and a 16 percent year-over-year growth in new home sales. The gains in existing-home sales are expected to be more moderate, with expectations of a 3 percent year-over-year gain.