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September 2020

News In Brief

  • Washington state has the second-best community college system in the U.S., and two of the state's community colleges rank among the nation's top 20, according to a pair of new studies released in August. The studies, by personal finance website WalletHub, also found that Americans are increasingly reliant on community colleges for their post-secondary education as the pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy and reduces personal income. One study ranked 698 U.S. community colleges across 18 key indicators of cost and quality, including cost of tuition and fees, per-student spending, student-faculty ratio, graduation rates and career outcomes. Based on those criteria, two Washington state schools - Shoreline Community College and Pierce College Puyallup - ranked among the top 20 in the nation. Other Washington state schools with high rankings were Everett Community College, Big Bend Community College, South Puget Sound Community College and Bates Technical College. The second study looked at the quality of statewide community college systems and found that Wyoming has the best in the nation, followed by Washington state at No. 2 and Maryland at No. 3. Hawaii ranked fourth best and Connecticut was fifth best.


  • Construction of new U.S. homes surged 22.6% in July as homebuilders bounced back from a lull induced by the coronavirus pandemic. The Commerce Department reported that new homes were started an annual pace of nearly 1.5 million in July, highest since February and well above what economists were expecting. Housing starts have now risen three straight months after plunging in March and April as the virus outbreak paralyzed the American economy. Last month's pace of construction was 23.4% above July 2019's. The big gains came from the construction of apartments and condominiums, which soared 56.7%. But single-family home construction ticked up, too, by 8.2%. Construction rose all over - 35.3% in the Northeast, 33.2% in the South, 5.8% in both the Midwest and the West. Applications for building permits, a good indication of future activity, jumped 18.8% from June to an annual rate of 1.5 million, highest since January and up 9.4% from July 2019. The National Association of Home Builders reported Monday that builders' confidence this month matched the record high first reached in December 1998. "Strong demand and a record level of homebuilder confidence will support housing starts in the second half of 2020," economists Nancy Vanden Houten and Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics wrote.


  • A new report has found that Seattle ranks No. 1 for the health of its real estate market among all large cities in the U.S., based on a wide variety of criteria. The study, by personal finance website WalletHub, also singled out Bellevue, Wash., for being one of the fastest places in the nation to sell real estate, with the average home there remaining on the market for only a few days before it is sold. This year, the housing market is in a unique situation as mortgage rates have hit record lows at a time when many Americans are struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic," the study's authors write. "For those who have extra cash, buying a home now could be a golden opportunity." The report ranked the health of real estate markets in U.S. cities based on 24 criteria, from median home-price appreciation to home sales turnover rate to job growth. Based on those criteria, Seattle had a score of 67.77 out of a possible 100 - the highest score of any large city with more than 300,000 population, and the second highest among all cities of all sizes.


  • According to a study by SmartAsset, Seattle ties with Pittsburgh as the 19th-most dog-friendly city in the U.S., with 1.9 dog parks per 100,000 residents, 351 dog-friendly restaurants and four dog-friendly shopping centers. The four other metrics surveyed were average annual days of precipitation median home value, walk score and concentration of pet stores and veterinary offices. The study was conducted by analyzing data for 100 of the largest cities in the U.S. Six of the top 11 most dog-friendly cities are on the West Coast, with Tucson, Arizona being crowned the most dog-friendly city in the country this year. The rest of the top 10 is as follows: No. 2 Las Vegas, Nevada and Madison, Wisconsin (tie); No. 4 Albuquerque, New Mexico; No. 5 Portland, Oregon; No. 6 Tampa, Florida; No. 7 San Diego, California; No. 8 St. Petersburg, Florida; No. 9 San Francisco, California; No. 10 Austin, Texas and Minneapolis, Minnesota (tie). The city with the most pet-friendly restaurants is Chicago (No. 16) with 558, while Boise, Idaho (No. 17) has the most dog parks per 100,000 residents with 6. Those who want to take their dog shopping with them will have the most luck in Austin, Texas which has 28 dog-friendly shopping centers. Meanwhile, the best place for dog owners to get the most dry days with their pup is Las Vegas, as the city only has an average of about 14 days of precipitation annually. However, Portland ranked No. 5 despite having an annual average of about 115 days of rain. (In case you're wondering, that category is also where Seattle took the biggest hit with its 107.8 average annual rainy days.) The study also found that vets and pet stores are plentiful throughout the U.S. In Seattle, one can find about 64 pet stores and vet offices per 10,000 establishments. The most can be found in Madison with about 110. Last year, Seattle ranked as the 16th most dog-friendly city in the U.S., a spot now held by Chicago.


  • Nearly $190 million will be awarded from the state's federal stimulus funding to local governments and health districts that did not receive direct distributions under the CARES Act, Gov. Jay Inslee said on August 31. The new funding includes nearly $126 million that will be distributed to cities and counties and about $62 million to local health jurisdictions. The governor's budget office approved the distributions, in consultation with legislative leaders. The new funding for cities and counties comes on top of nearly $300 million that was distributed last spring to cities and counties with populations under 500,000 that were ineligible to receive direct funding from the federal government under the CARES Act. Specific allocations to cities and counties will be released by the Department of Commerce in the coming days. Each county will receive a minimum distribution of $300,000 and each city will receive a minimum distribution of $30,000 from the state.

Ā·        The2020 REALTORSĀ® Conference & Expo, originally scheduled for Nov. 13-16 inNew Orleans, will transition to a fully virtual format given the ongoing healthand safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Inrecent surveys designed to look at member and association staff interest intraveling to New Orleans for an in-person conference, more than two-thirds ofrespondents reported that they'd be unwilling to do so. They cited safetyconcerns, including their desire to avoid crowds and the unlikelihood of avaccine being available by November. NAR will announce details, includingregistration information, in the coming weeks. The virtual format will allowthe association's full governance processes to proceed normally during theconference, which will also include educational speakers, energizing livestreamedcontent, networking opportunities, and an industry expo