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February 2016

News in Brief

  • The average size of a new home rose to about 2,720 square feet in 2015, up from 2,660 square feet in 2014, the National Association of Home Builders reported. Nearly half of the homes constructed last year had four or more bedrooms. A quarter of homes also had garages that would hold three or more vehicles. In 2015, the average price of a new-home rose to $351,000 - up $100,000 from 2009, accord to the NAHB. The average new-home size was 2,360 square feet during the 2008 financial crisis. It then started climbing sharply, leveling out in 2014, and now back on the rise again in 2015. Some of the increase is due to builders catering more to the luxury market and moving away from building homes for first-time buyers.

  • Realtor.com released "Top Tips for Home Buyers and Sellers in 2016" to help guide house-hunters and home sellers on what's most important for buying and selling a home this year. While Seattle-area sellers have had little problem in finding buyers, the Internet site offered a national perspective. "The 2016 housing market is forecasted to be mainly a seller's market, filled with increasing home prices, relatively low inventory and fierce competition between buyers," said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. "Buyers looking to close this year need to keep an open mind and be prepared to move quickly when they find a home that meets their needs. For sellers, it's about understanding the ins and outs of their local market so they can optimize the price of their home and close quickly."

    Top Tips for Buyers in 2016
    1. Don't wait. More than 85 percent of buyers who say they plan to buy a home in the next year say they will wait until the spring or summer. Buyers who start their hunt early will likely face less competition and have just as many homes for-sale to consider.
    2. Shop around for a mortgage. Buyers shouldn't take the first rate-quote they receive and should talk to more than one lender. A lower interest rate could equate to thousands in savings over the life of the loan. Mortgage rates are largely expected to rise to 4.65 percent by the end of this year.
    3. Don't discount buying new. New-home construction is expected to surge this year, with an expected 16 percent increase in new home sales year-over-year. Buying new most likely means less competition and a wider selection of homes. But a caveat: New-homes typically cost more.

Top Tips for Sellers in 2016

    1. List during prime-buying season. Data shows that the prime home buying season usually begins in April and reaches a peak in June. "Sellers who list their home during the prime spring and summer months benefit from a larger population of buyers and potential bidding wars, which often result in higher prices and faster closings," according to realtor.com report.
    2. Price to sell. Home prices nationwide are expected to rise 3 percent year-over-year, with a few markets expected to see a 10 percent increase this year alone. Home sellers would be wise to price their home adequately for the market and based on comparables.
    3. Consider an incentive. Is there something extra a seller could throw in to entice buyers? Sellers who really need to move on and who are open to negotiate beyond just price may find more success in hooking a buyer. Thirty-seven percent of all sellers offered some type of an incentive last year.

  • Freddie Mac launched the online Real Estate Professionals Resource Center, offering information on the latest affordable mortgage products to share with your clients as well as training and networking opportunities and customizable promotion tools. The new site is geared to real estate agents, brokers, and housing counselors. "America's real estate professionals are critical in guiding and informing home buyers about their best options to become successful home owners," says Jerry Weiss, Freddie Mac's executive vice president and chief administrative officer. "Freddie Mac's Real Estate Professionals Resource Center will give agents and brokers up-to-date information on the mortgage products and solutions offered through our lenders to responsibly expand affordable home ownership opportunities, especially for first-time home buyers." The webpage boasts special sections, such as how to increase your referrals, serve as a housing industry expert, and find and register for networking and training opportunities by Freddie Mac with the National Association of REALTORS® or other organizations. Also, a special section on the page features "In the Spotlight," which will focus on the latest market challenges, changes, and solutions

  • According to a recent study by Redfin, Seattle's Roosevelt neighborhood is one of the nation's 10 Hottest Neighborhoods of 2016. Roosevelt came in at #10 in the study as Redfin cites the breathtaking views as one of the main reasons Roosevelt made the list.

  • For the third year in a row, the percent of first-time homebuyers in the pool of all 2015 buyers decreased to a historical low number, according to The National Association of REALTORS®. In 2012, the percent of first-time homebuyers was 39 percent of all buyers and in 2015 it was down again to just 32 percent. In the western region of the United States, it was as low as 26 percent and highest in the Northeast region at 46 percent. The median age has held steady at 31 years for five years in a row since 2011. Millennials aged 25-34 years have made up the largest share of first-timers at approximately 50-60 percent in the last decade. In 2015, Millennials accounted for 58 percent of first-time homebuyers compared to 50 percent ten years earlier in 2005. Repeat buyers were spread evenly at 20 percent in most age groups. Buyer demographics also saw huge differences between household compositions for first-time buyers. Unmarried couples made up the largest first-timers at 57 percent compared to married couples who accounted for only 27 percent. Both single males and single females accounted for 39 percent of first-time homebuyers as well, well above the 31 percent of all buyers.