Location Is Key: Understanding the Current Shift in the Real Estate Market
There is an old adage in real estate: location, location, location. Where a property is located has the biggest influence on its value. Through the pandemic years, we saw a shift in how the location was valued. Before remote working became more common, homes located in neighborhoods that were closer to job centers such as Seattle were at a premium. They still are, but with more people working from home, there was a huge rush to suburban and even rural locations which quickly increased the values of those neighborhoods. You couple this re-organization of our communities with the lowest interest rates in history and voila, you have an incredible run-up in prices over a two-year period.
In Snohomish County, in April of 2020, the median price was $520,000 and in April of 2022 the median price was $830,000 - this is a 60% increase in 2 years! In King County, in April of 2020, the median price was $720,000 and in April of 2022 the median price was $995,000 - this is a 38% increase in 2 years! Historical averages for annual price appreciation are closer to 3-5% making this record-breaking.
For the buyers who bought during these peak times, it is understandable that there is some angst over the shift in the market. They can find comfort in the low rate they secured, which created a lower payment and offsets the money they put towards debt service. They also need to understand that real estate has always been a long-term hold investment and that future price appreciation is anticipated, but at more historical norms.
Since the start of 2022, we have seen a 2-point increase in interest rates which has started to level out this wild price appreciation. Interest rates were at all-time lows and are higher now, but still below the 30-year average of 7.5%. In addition, the work-from-home (WFH) phenomenon has settled in. Meaning the companies that decided to adapt to the WFH model did already, and many of those employees made those moves in 2020-2021. Some companies are having their employees return to the brick and mortar in some cases permanently, but in most cases periodically. This has tempered the mobility from urban to suburban locations as that shake-out happened more immediately as a result of companies changing shape at the onset of the pandemic.
Higher interest rates, WFH finding its balance, and inflation have created the shift we are experiencing in the market. While it might give some an uneasy feeling, it is in truth a good thing. The price growth that we saw from 2020 to 2022 was not sustainable and returning to historical appreciation norms will put us back in a healthy balance.
We are coming off the peak prices we saw in April of 2022 as the market finds its footing. June median price in Snohomish County is down 4.82% from April and in King down 6.53%. Bear in mind though, that the median price in Snohomish County is up 20% complete year-over-year (the last 12 months over the previous 12 months) and in King 13%. Even more so, the median price in Snohomish County is up 167% since June 2013 and in King by 119%. Equity growth is abundant and sellers are making great returns. This must be kept in perspective as we return to balance in the market and prices level out!
This has created more inventory in the market giving buyers more selection and time to weigh their options. Where before a buyer had only hours to make one of the biggest decisions of their lives, they can now ponder and assess over the course of days. Not to mention, buyers are now securing contracts with contingency protections to ensure their due diligence is timely and secure. We have seen an increase in days on the market overall, but the days on market for the desirable “cream puff” listings are still very short. A buyer should be aligned with a broker that can help them discern their options.
You see, the new assortment of inventory is a bit jumbled, if you will. Some sellers are not leaning into the balance in the market and have their listings misplaced in the wrong price range. This is confusing to buyers and requires a quick and thoughtful assessment of value by their broker so they can make a clear decision. This ensures a buyer does not overpay but also ensures a buyer doesn't miss out on a great home that will go quickly.
Some neighborhoods are still in a seller's market environment and some are in balance, it depends! A seller's market is considered 0-2 months of inventory, a balanced market is 2-4 months and a buyer's market is 4+ months. Even more so, some neighborhoods' market conditions vary by price point, so it is important that you take a forensic approach to the analysis of each location from a macro to a micro approach. For example, in southwest Snohomish County between $700,000-$800,000 it is still a seller's market; but from $800,000-$900,000 it is a balanced market.
In Snohomish County, days on market for homes that sold in June for over list price was 5 days, which accounted for 49% of the sales with an average escalation of 5%. This illustrates that there are still great homes that buyers are flocking to, but it is imperative that they are properly positioned in the market. This takes skill, research, and a reasonable approach to find this success as a seller. Conversely, 34% of sales in June sold under list price or took a price reduction and averaged 12 days on market and 27 days on market respectively. This mash-up requires sophisticated navigation and reasonable cooperation, but ultimately sellers will find success because they are sitting on a mound of historical equity growth.
In King County, days on market for homes that sold in June for over list price was 5 days, which accounts for 50% of the sales with an average escalation of 6%. Conversely, 30% of sales in June sold under list price or took a price reduction and averaged 13 days on market and 27 days on market respectively.
As we head into the dog days of summer, I am sharpening my pencil on this new market and taking inventory of the opportunities it is providing for both sellers and buyers. It is also a market that will see attrition of brokers, as many only know how to exist in the feverish seller's market. Each market takes skill, but navigating change is where we will see the cream rise to the top. If you are curious about how your real estate goal aligns with today's market, please reach out. It is my mission to help keep my clients well informed and empower strong decisions.