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September 2013

News In Brief

September 2013

NWREporter September 2013

News In Brief - September 2013

  • Gov. Inslee has chosen state Rep. Marcie Maxwell to serve as an education policy adviser; she now works in Inslee's legislative affairs and policy office. Maxwell, a REALTORĀ® and small business owner, served on the Renton School Board for eight years before being elected to the House in 2008. She has been re-elected twice.
  • First-time homebuyers accounted for 28 percent of existing-home purchases in May -- down from 34 percent a year prior, according to the National Association of REALTORSĀ®. Traditionally, first-timers account for four of 10 homebuyers, so their dwindling numbers are alarming some housing analysts and economists. As home prices rise, first-time buyers may increasingly get left on the sidelines. Home prices have posted double-digit gains in the last year in many markets, and average mortgage rates are ticking up above 4 percent. Some buyers may have already missed the prime conditions to jump into home ownership. First-timers are critical to the housing ladder because they help existing-homeowners sell and move up to larger or practical homes. First-timers face competition from investors and tight credit conditions that are making it more difficult to qualify for a home loan. The still looming aftereffects of the recession also represent a problem for some. The recession hit the 25- to 34-year-old age group hardest with high unemployment, coupled with the fact that this age group is also facing high levels of student loan debt-factors that have delayed home ownership for the younger generation.
  • Married same-sex couples in 13 states and Washington, D.C., are now or soon will be eligible for more than 1,100 federal benefits and protections denied to them under the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act. A key provision of the federal law, which withheld benefits from gay couples who had been lawfully married in those states that permit it, was struck down last week by the Supreme Court. And, though property rights are set at the state level, the ruling has bearing on a number of real estate-related matters that involve federal law. The ruling may influence how couples decide to hold title on a property. It will also affect the calculation of estate taxes owed when a spouse dies and how much capital gain is exempt from taxes in the sale of a home that is owned in the name of only one member of the couple. While the dismantling of DOMA provides clear-cut benefits for married gay couples who reside in the states they were married in, it creates significant ambiguities in other situations. For example, the immediate future is murky for partners who were legally married in one state but move to a state that does not recognize their union. For now, these people are caught in a confusing tangle of laws.
  • While the number of homes for sale rose 4.3 percent in June to 1.9 million, the highest national level in the past year, Seattle and a few other cities are bucking the trend. According to newly-released housing data from realtor.com, housing inventory is finally reversing course following two years of decline. More homeowners are seeing rising prices and may be more apt to try to sell their homes. However, inventories of homes for sale remain far below last year's level in markets such as Seattle (down 23.2 percent), Boston (down 35.1 percent), Denver (down 30.1 percent), Detroit (down 25.7 percent), and San Francisco (down 21.7 percent). The number of homes for sale has risen the most in the past year in areas that had seen the largest declines, such as Sacramento, Calif. (up 11 percent), Atlanta (up 10.9 percent), Phoenix (up 6.2 percent), and Miami (up 2.2 percent). From May to June, inventories soared by the highest month-over-month amounts in Southern California, with inventories up 51.5 percent in Orange County, 45.7 percent in Los Angeles, and 18.1 percent in San Diego, according to realtor.com. Realtor.com also reported that the median national asking price climbed 0.5 percent in June from May, reaching $199,900. Median asking prices are up by 5 percent over last year.
  • Home values are expected to rise another 8.6 percent in the Seattle Metro area over the next 12 months, according to the latest Zillow Home Value Forecast. Of the 30 largest metro areas, 29 are expected to show home value appreciation in the next year. The New York metro is expected to fall (-0.8 percent). Seattle's home appreciation was up 3.7 percent from the first quarter of 2013 and 12.1 percent from the first quarter of 2012, Zillow reported. The national housing recovery kicked into high gear in the second quarter as home value appreciation spread and accelerated after a relatively slow start to the year.