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March 2016

News in Brief

  • According to the latest America's Best Drivers Report from Allstate, Seattle ranked No. 184 in accident frequency last year of the 200 largest cities in the United States. Only 16 cities ranked lower. Allstate based its data on claims it received from the cities and has one-tenth of the insurance market. The data shows that Seattle drivers on average are likely to have a vehicle accident once every 6.9 years, which is about 46 percent more likely than the national average. Seattle's previous ranking was No. 173. The study doesn't delve into the reasons for Seattle's bad showing, but does note that the city has a high rainy weather ranking, along with a high population density. According to Allstate, the city with the worst drivers is Boston and the city with the best drivers is Kansas City, Kan.

  • Almost half of renters surveyed by Bankrate.com say they haven't purchased a home yet because they believe their credit isn't good enough to qualify for a mortgage or they can't afford a downpayment, according to a report by mynorthwest.com. Survey responses included comments from people who went through foreclosures, job losses, or bankruptcy filings and are fearful of a similar experience. Fear aside, many non-homeowners are under the assumption that they need a higher downpayment to purchase a house than is actually needed. About 20 percent of respondents to Bankrate's survey said they need between 11 percent to 20 percent for a downpayment, while 17 percent said they need 6 percent to 10 percent. Nearly a quarter of non-homeowners said they "don't' know" how much they need for a downpayment. Only 9 percent of respondents said they could do a 1 percent to 5 percent down payment. Many non-homeowners seem to lack awareness that they can get an FHA loan with just a 3.5 percent downpayment or a conventional loan with a 3 percent downpayment.

  • WalletHub recently compared the 150 largest cities across 13 key metrics, such as sales per agent and the annual median wage of agents, to find out the best places for real estate pros to practice, and Seattle is ranked third best. According to WalletHub, the best place to be a real estate agent is Denver, Colo. followed by (in order) Irvin, Calif., Seattle, Wash., Austin, Texas, Aurora, Colo., Portland, Ore., Indianapolis, Ind., San Francisco, Calif., Colorado Springs, Colo., Boston, Mass., Grand Rapids, Mich., Boise, Idaho, Honolulu, Hawaii, Raleigh, N.C., and Madison, Wis. Researchers found that Knoxville, Tenn. (which ranked 34 overall out of 150 cities) had the highest number of sales per agent at 120 - about 20 times more than Houston, which had the lowest at an average of 6 sales per agent. Indianapolis (which ranked number seven overall) had the highest annual median wage for real estate agents at $105,370 - four times greater than in Wichita, Kan., which had the lowest at $24,320, according to WalletHub's findings.

  • The state revenue forecast released in February by the Washington state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council showed that the current two-year budget that ends in the middle of 2017 falls about $78 million short of what was originally predicted. The following budget projection shows a shortfall of $436 million. The forecast is offset somewhat by lower projected costs related to the number of people on welfare and in nursing homes. The lowered state's revenue projections cited weak economic growth, both globally and nationally.

  • Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC announced its 2015 year-end award recipients in numerous company, office and affiliated agent categories. Highlighted in company honors as No. 1 Affiliate Company in North America in AGC is Coldwell Banker BAIN|SEAL headquartered in Bellevue and led by Bill Riss.

  • Last month President Obama signed into law a trade and customs bill (H.R. 644) that includes a provision permanently banning state and local taxes on Internet access. Known as the Internet Tax Freedom Act, this provision has been a priority for NAR because the Internet has become such a vital tool for REALTORS┬« and for buyers and sellers of real estate. Keeping the Internet free of state and local access taxes makes it much easier to utilize this important technology. This bill does not address the unrelated issue of allowing states to require remote Internet and catalog sellers to collect sales tax from all out-of-state purchasers of goods. That bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, passed the Senate in 2013 but since has stalled in the House.

  • As reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal, a new study revealed that in 2015, Seattle added 78,082 jobs, a number that exceeded job growth expectations. Seattle's job market is the fourth-hottest in the country, behind Dallas, San Jose and Los Angeles. Last year, 1,981,802 people were employed in Seattle; the city had an unemployment rate of only 4.2 percent.

  • According to The Seattle Times, the federal government is offering to contribute $1.2 billion toward Sound Transit's light-rail line from Northgate to Lynnwood, as indicated in the president's proposed budget - just one of three huge transit gifts in the pipeline for Puget Sound travelers. The proposed First Avenue streetcar line could win another $75 million in federal money, which places Seattle's third streetcar corridor on the political fast track. Federal funding could give an additional $43 million toward Community Transit's Swift 2 bus-rapid line connecting Bothell, Mill Creek, Everett's McCollum Park and Paine Field.