Here are a few stories from the last week or so that are worth pointing out.
First up a TV report from KOMO News: “Open House” — sign of the times in Snohomish County
Real estate agents in Snohomish County are now resorting to a “shock treatment” for slouching home sales in their area.
Realtors advertised more than 400 open houses over the weekend. Agents say they hope playing the numbers game adds-up to more home sales.
“It’s to get the public excited about all the great listings they can see out here today,” said Rich Williamson, President of the Snohomish County Association of Realtors. “It’s a chance to see more homes than they ever saw in one day or one weekend.”
Chris Lamoreaux says the housing market story is more than just numbers.
“We’re going fight the media that’s been negative about the housing market,” he said. “The real estate market in Snohomish County and the Puget Sound is excellent.”
That darn media, always being so negative about the housing market. I wonder if anyone can find me a quote from a real estate agent thanking the media for all the positive press when the housing market was gangbusters? Let me know if you come up with anything.
Moving to the opposite end of the Sound, down in Thurston county the “incentives” are flowing strong. The Olympian reports: Home sellers turn to incentives to draw buyers
A new Honda scooter, a trip to a Caribbean destination and a chance to win free gasoline are just some of the incentives that South Sound real-estate agents are using to entice prospective buyers in a slower housing market.
Some agents, though, are split on whether such incentives and other marketing efforts are worthwhile. Re/Max Four Seasons broker and owner Dean Stohl says the best approach for home sellers in this cooler housing climate is to think carefully about the sale.
“The most important ‘non-gimmick’ are sellers pricing the property competitively and making sure it is in ‘tip-top’ condition before putting it on the market,” he said.
Still, some agents are rolling out increasingly creative hooks to land that next sale because sales have cooled since the piping-hot years of 2005 and 2006.
Sounds like Dean Stohl has it figured out. Good luck to all those salesmen thinking that the prospect of paying 30 years of interest on a scooter will sell houses, though.
Another great column from the P-I’s Bill Virgin popped up last week as well: Economic woes could run deep in the region
As large and influential as those companies [Washington Mutual, Weyerhaeuser, Starbucks, Costco] are, there are less-visible layers of small and medium-sized companies that also keep the region’s economy moving.
Those smaller outfits are dealing with the pressures and headaches of a slowing economy, some generated by the same factors plaguing large companies, others the result of cutbacks and retrenchments by larger companies with which those smaller firms do business.
“In today’s deteriorating economic climate, the ranks of companies feeling the pinch are growing,” writes Michael Newsome, a principal with Seattle-based investment banking firm Zachary Scott, in a recent newsletter. “Even in a fairly buoyant Northwest economy, we are entering a period of rationalization that will cut across industries. For a number of companies, depressed consumer confidence, ballooning energy costs, restricted credit access and, before long, higher interest rates will trigger sufficient financial distress to mandate restructurings and, in some cases, business sales or outright liquidations.
It’s nice to have at least one voice of realism in the local press. Too bad it seems like nobody is listening. Most people would rather believe that pink ponies will dance through the streets of Seattle forever and ever than consider the possibility that economic slowdown might actually affect us here.
3. Seattle, Wash.
ZIP code: 98104
Purchase-to-rent spread: 30.3
Until recently, Seattle has been held up as the example of a city immune to price drops as its market posted price increases from 2006 to early 2008. But as transaction volume has slipped and prices have flattened or fallen in many neighborhoods, the downtown area, near Pioneer Square, which experienced some of the most rapid price escalations during the boom, particularly in condos, appears vulnerable to correction.
Hooray for Seattle.
Lastly, here’s one from the national news scene. New York Times: Default rates for “alt-A” loans increasing
The first wave of Americans to default on their home mortgages appears to be cresting, but a second, far larger one is quickly building.
Homeowners with good credit are falling behind on their payments in growing numbers, even as the problems with mortgages made to people with weak, or subprime, credit are showing their first, tentative signs of leveling off after two years of spiraling defaults.
The percentage of mortgages in arrears in the category of loans one rung above subprime, so-called alternative-A mortgages, quadrupled to 12 percent in April from a year earlier. Delinquencies among prime loans, which account for most of the $12 trillion market, doubled to 2.7 percent in that time.