News In Brief
February 7, 2019
The number of homes available for sale in Seattle is increasing at the second-highest rate in the country as the red-hot real estate market of the past few years begins to cool, says a new report. The report, by real estate marketing site Zillow, found that there were 3,324 more homes on the market in Seattle during January than there were at the same time in the previous year - an increase of 36.9 percent. That's the second-highest increase in the nation, behind only San Jose, Calif., which saw an increase of 42.9 percent in for-sale home inventory. San Diego saw the third-highest increase, at 31.9 percent, Los Angeles was fourth at 29.1 percent and San Francisco was fifth at 25 percent. Across the nation as a whole, there were 1.2 percent more homes for sale in January than there were in the previous year - a much smaller increase than in Seattle, but still the first time in more than five years that the nationwide for-sale home inventory has grown in January. The rising number of homes for sale is good news for buyers, who now have more selection than they have had in years and less competition from other buyers. Mortgage rates just over 4 percent also remain very reasonable by historic standards. The bad news for buyers - home prices are continuing to go up at an average year-over-year rate of 7.5 percent nationwide. And the inventory of homes for sale is still 20 percent less than the recent high of more than 2 million set in July 2014. The study also found that rents are rising at an average rate of 2.1 percent over the same time last year.
Three cities in the South Sound have been named among the most culturally diverse in America, according to a study by WalletHub. Kent, Renton and Federal Way all made the list, which compared 501 of the most populated U.S. cities across three key metrics: Ethnoracial diversity, Linguistic diversity and Birthplace diversity, the study's authors wrote. The research was limited to just 10 cities from each state. Kent ranked 10th most diverse, while Renton came in at 20th and Federal Way at 24th. Other Washington cites on the list: Bellevue at 42nd, and Everett at 131st, Tacoma and 133rd and Seattle and 138th. The most diverse city was Jersey City, New Jersey while the least diverse was Miami suburb Hialeah, Florida --96.4 percent of their population identified as Hispanic or Latino, the study found. The study also peered into how many people in each state were born there, or are transplants, and if so, where did they come from? In Washington, less than half of its residents were born in the state -- just under 47 percent, according to WalletHub. 14.4 percent were born out of the United States and 19 percent were born elsewhere in the West. Just under 4 percent were born in the Northwest, while nearly 8 percent are from the Midwest and 6.4 percent from the South.
Washington lawmakers have proposed a carbon fee as part of a transportation funding package, the third major attempt at limiting the atmosphere-warming gas through such a policy there since 2018. If passed the measure would be the first of its kind in the nation, but similar proposals in the state have failed in recent years. At $15 per ton, the fee would raise about $7.9 billion over the next ten years, part of a $17 billion fee-and-bond package. The package also includes a 6-cents-per-gallon fuel tax increase, and would fund projects including highway maintenance, the state ferry system, and court-mandated culvert replacement projects.
Best Neighborhood, a neighborhood analysis and data visualization website, analyzed incomes and home prices across the country and found that as of 2019, 27 percent of homeowners would not be able to safely afford their same house today. That number combines the about 14.2 percent of homeowners who would definitely not qualify for a mortgage loan and the 12.8 percent who may or may not qualify but would be financially stretched if they did. In Seattle, that number jumps to 52.8 percent. But it doesn't get much better outside the Emerald City - Washington as a whole ranks among the states where most homeowners would not be able to afford their house today. Though Washington is not the worst. There are five states where homeowners are even less likely to be able to afford their current homes in today's market. When looking at cities, all of the worst 25 cities are located in California - though two states are worse overall than the Golden State. Compare that to 1990, when over 50 percent of homeowners would be able to afford their homes in that market - and just 4.3 percent of homeowners would definitely have not qualified for a mortgage. So why the change? Nationwide, wages are not increasing as quickly as home prices - not even close. For all but the top 10 percent of earners, wages have largely stagnated, according to Pew Research Center. "If wages do not continue to rise to match home prices, our analysis provides evidence that current real estate price increases are far from sustainable," Best Neighborhood said in its analysis. The analysis cites a 2015 Harvard study showing that homeowner rates among young adults has been falling and is expected to continue falling.
It now takes $105,367 annual income to buy a median home in the Seattle-Tacoma area, according to HSH.com, a mortgage resource company based in California. A median home in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market was priced at $489,600 as of the fourth quarter of 2018 (National Association of Realtors). One catch, that's the income you'll need if you can afford a 20 percent down payment, nearly $98,000. If you can only put down 10 percent, you'll need $122,484. Seattle is the seventh most expensive city in they U.S. to buy a home. Of the 50 largest metro areas in the country, Pittsburgh is the least expensive. It takes just $37,660 in income. The median home price there is $141,625. No surprise, San Jose is most expensive. You need a quarter of a million dollars to buy the median home there ($1.25 million). Portland clocked in at 10 at $85,173.
Seattle isn't cheap to live in, and raising a child is a surefire way to dramatically decrease your spending budget, so it may make sense that Washington has some of the higher childcare costs around the country. A new study from Haven Life, an online life insurance agency, broke down the cost of childcare in each state and the percentages parents take out of their incomes, and ranked each state. Washington fit into the top 10, along with other states that line the coasts of the country. Midwest and southern states rounded out the bottom 10 states, mostly. But what's most significant about the study isn't how much childcare costs in each state, but the strain they put on households. For example, while Washington on average has a higher cost of childcare than Illinois, it takes out about 57 percent of a minimum wage income compared to 78 percent in Illinois. The study also answered the most important question: Is it affordable? What they said is that for couples with dual incomes, which the study describes as "married-couple family incomes," only two states have affordable childcare: Alabama and Mississippi. It said no states were affordable for single-parent incomes or minimum wage incomes.