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June 2015

News in Brief

  • Master bedroom walk-in-closets and a laundry rooms are the top features that builders are most likely to include in a new home this year, according to a survey of builders conducted by the National Association of Home Builders and reported in mynorthwest.com. Greater energy efficiency amenities also were ranked important with low-E Windows coming in No. 3 on the most likely amenity list on new homes. Energy-Star rated appliances and windows as well as programmable thermostats also rated high. The following were ranked as the most likely features and amenities to be included on an average single-family home in 2015:
      1. Walk-in closet in master bedroom
      2. Low-E windows
      3. Great room (kitchen-family room-living room)
      4. Energy-Star rated windows
      5. Ceiling height on the first floor of 9 feet or more
      6. 2-car garage
      7. Programmable thermostat
      8. Granite countertop in the kitchen
      9. Central island in the kitchen
      10. Bathroom linen closet
      11. Front porch

  • On the other hand, the features identified in the survey as the most unlikely to be included in new homes this year are:
      1. Outdoor kitchen (cooking, refrigerators and sinks)
      2.  Laminate countertops in the kitchen
      3. Outdoor fireplace
      4. Sunroom
      5. Two-story family room
      6. Media room
      7. Two-story foyer
      8. Walking/jogging trails in the community
      9. Whirlpool in the master bathroom
      10. Carpeting as the flooring on the main level


  • Rising home values have given more homeowners equity again. By March 31, 1.6 million borrowers were back into a positive equity position on their home loans compared to a year ago, according to new mortgage data released by Black Knight Financial Services, a real estate technology company owned by Fidelity National Financial. Yet, more than 4 million borrowers - or 8 percent of all homeowners with a mortgage - remain underwater, owing more on their home than it is currently worth. That marks a 30 percent drop from a year ago, but several states are still seeing elevated numbers of underwater owners. States where values fell the most during the housing crisis continue to see a high number of underwater borrowers. Nevada and Florida have the highest rates of negative equity at 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively, according to Black Knight Financial Services. Borrowers whose homes are in the lowest 20 percent of home values are nine times more likely to be underwater than those in the top fifth, according to Black Knight data.

  • Washington state's unemployment rate dropped to 5.5 percent last April, the lowest it has been in nearly seven years. The latest report from the state's Employment Security Department shows that the jobless rate dropped from March's 5.9 percent and that the state gained 8,200 new jobs from March to April. Washington state's April jobless rate is the lowest since July 2008, when it was at 5.4 percent. Since last year, Washington state has seen growth in major industries, adding an estimated 110,700 jobs since April 2014, with 98,300 of those jobs being added to the private sector and 12,400 in the public sector. The jobless rate in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett region was 4.3 percent, down from 4.5 percent in March. The national unemployment rate for April was 5.4 percent.

  • Twitter has become the No. 1 social media site that salespeople use to garner business, according to research by Forbes. Twitter with 302 million active users trumped LinkedIn with its 364 million users to become the go-to platform choice among salespeople. Fewer users notwithstanding, the survey found that salespeople ranked Twitter slightly more valuable than LinkedIn when it came to sales prospecting.

  • A century ago, fewer than six percent of all households consisted of people who lived alone according to a report posted on mynorthwest.com. By 2013, that percentage has jumped to 28 percent, with single-person households now making up the second most common household type just behind married couples without minor children (at 29 percent), according to U.S. Census Bureau data. What's more, single households have now surpassed married households with minor children (19 percent). These single households - once mostly dominated by men - have shifted to a rise in the number of women living alone. Women now head 54 percent of all single-person households. In large cities, single person households account for 45 percent of all households. Some neighborhoods in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., in particular, have single-person households that approach two-thirds of its households. Single-person households aren't dominated by one generation either. About 28 percent of all single-person households are under the age of 45; another 36 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64; and 36 percent are over the age of 65. Many of these single-person households are also homeowners. Fifty-four percent of single-person households are owner-occupied, according to the 2013 American Housing Survey. Between 2003 and 2013, owners comprised 55 percent of the growth in single person households.