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February 2015

News In Brief

By NWREporter

February 2015

  • One major company in the downtown Seattle commercial area is being fueled by Amazon.com. Its employee capacity will hit 71,500 by 2019 and is planning to make available 10 million square feet of office space within that 5 year period.
  • The West Coast port slowdown has agricultural workers in Washington worry that they will see the backlash for years to come. Cargo is struggling to get through the nation's largest ports, which handle billions of dollars of goods on an average day. One issue has been the discord between dockworkers at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle and their employers. Their contract expired in July, and negotiations over a new one turned tough this fall after employers accused dockworkers of slowing down to gain bargaining leverage, according to The Seattle Times.
  • Zillow reports that in the Seattle metro area, approximately 106,900 - or 16 percent - of mortgages are underwater. According to Zillow, this is an improvement over this same time last year, when the local underwater equity rate was 21.9 percent. At its peak in the first quarter of 2012, 39.6 percent of local mortgages were underwater. This year Zillow predicts things will improve even more, as it sees the local negative equity rate will drop to 13.3 percent in 2015, beating next year's predicted national average of 15.2 percent.
  • The Federal Housing Administration is reducing its annual mortgage insurance premiums by 0.5 percentage points in a move to expand responsible lending to creditworthy borrowers. FHA's mortgage insurance premiums will be reduced from 1.35 percent to 0.85 percent. The reduction in premiums on mortgages could save an average borrower $1,000 a year on a $200,000 loan. Current mortgage holders will need to refinance to obtain the lower premium.
  • According to Forbes.com in its "America's Fastest-Growing Cities 2015," Seattle ranked number five among the 100 most populated metro areas in the U.S. and ranking them on six metrics, including estimated population increases, job growth, economic growth, and the median annual pay for college-educated workers. Seattle has a projected 2015 population growth rate of 1.3%, job growth rate at 3.56% and unemployment at 4.7%.
  • Tom Kelly in mynorthwest.com reports that a seller may be able to boost the value of a home by an additional 12 percent with just a few smart pre-listing repairs, according to a new survey of 300 residential real estate professionals by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

"You don't have to spend a ton of money to increase the value of your home," said Dan DiClerico, senior editor for Consumer Reports. "Some simple, inexpensive fixes throughout the house can make it more appealing to potential buyers."
Here are some of the fixes that the Consumer Reports survey of real estate professionals uncovered as being the most important:

    1. Declutter - Cost range: $0 (do-it-yourself) to $2,500 (professional). Potential return: 3-5 percent. Clear away any clutter and "depersonalize" the space as much as possible.
    2. Makeover the kitchen - Cost range: $300 to $5,000. Potential return: 3-7 percent. The kitchen was rated as the most important room to have in top shape before selling, according to the survey. Real estate professionals recommend focusing on minor repairs that center on the function of the kitchen first, such as repairing leaky faucets, loose light fixtures, or blemishes on the countertop. Then, they recommend small enhancements, such as painting the walls, updating the cabinet hardware, adding new curtains, or light fixtures.
    3. Freshen up the bathroom - Cost range: $300 to $1,000. Potential return: 2-3 percent. Make simple improvements, such as caulking the tub or re-grouting the floor or adding new bathroom fixtures to brighten up the space. Updating the mirror and lighting also can have a big impact, the real estate professionals surveyed said.
    4. Paint - Cost range: $100 (do-it-yourself) to $1,000 (pro). Potential return: 1-3 percent. Sixteen percent of the real estate professionals surveyed said that interior painting is an important part in bringing about a sale of a home. But the seller likely doesn't need the entire house repainted, but maybe just a redo of one or two rooms to curb costs. The two prime candidates for being repainted: Kitchens and bathrooms. Paint in whites and off-whites and a neutral palette - such as grays and beiges-help buyers focus on the home's features more than be distracted by bright colors, agents noted.
    5. Exterior touch ups - Cost range: $150 to $7,500. Potential return: 2-5 percent. Agents recommend that their clients concentrate on basic maintenance first, such as to mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown shrubs, and applying a fresh layer of mulch to the garden beds. They also recommend making any minor repairs, such as replacing cracked siding boards or repointing brick walls. The real estate professionals also recommended taking careful note of any repairs needed with the roof: 31 percent of agents surveyed said the roof is one of the most important parts of the home to have in good shape.