October Reporting Roundup: Nothing New Edition

It’s time once again for the monthly reporting roundup, where you can read my wry commentary about the news instead of subjecting yourself to boring rehashes of the NWMLS press release (or in addition to, if that’s what floats your boat).

To kick things off, here’s an excerpt from the NWMLS press release:

Brokers say home buyers are back, but they’re choosy

Home buyers are back, and they’re savvy and selective, according to officials who commented on the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“Watching some markets around the Puget Sound is like watching a championship tennis match, first a buyers’ market, then a sellers’ market,” remarked George Moorhead, a board member for the multiple listing service. “As these shifts become more of a blend, as they have the last 18 months, we will see good balance and stability in our market with healthy growth and competition,” stated Moorhead, the designated broker and owner of Bentley Properties/America’s Home Caretakers in Bothell.

Blah blah blah. How long can you talk without really saying anything? According to this month’s NWMLS press release, about 1,200 words, at least. It’s hard to blame them though. There really isn’t much interesting going on in the market right now. Just the typical seasonal slowdown and the three-year-old story of low inventory.

Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.

Seattle Times

Sanjay Bhatt: Borrowing becomes easier as housing market softens

As the housing market slows, borrowers with tarnished credit are finding an opening to qualify for mortgages and own a home again.

Over the summer, mortgage-buying giant Fannie Mae notified lenders it was reducing the waiting period for borrowers who’ve been foreclosed to qualify again. While lenders know about the policy changes, the public is largely unaware of it, mortgage bankers say.

“It is easier for people to qualify now than it was even six months ago,” said Kim Toskey, president of the Washington Homeownership Resource Center, a nonprofit that fields calls from homeowners in financial crisis and links first-time homebuyers to classes.

David Floan, executive vice president of loan production at Evergreen Home Loans, said news of the changes hasn’t trickled down to prospective buyers.

“It’s going to allow more first-time homebuyers into the marketplace,” he said.

That could be welcome news to a housing market that’s softened from last year’s frantic pace.

I don’t think anyone who has purchased a home this year would describe the current market as “soft.” It seems like the last thing we need is policies that serve to increase demand when we’re already in a high demand / low supply situation.

Seattle P-I

Aubrey Cohen: Area house prices, sales up; inventory down

People are buying more homes and paying more for them, but fewer are for sale, according to a new report.

People who might traditionally consider selling their homes to move up or downsize may be deciding not to because they don’t want to take part in the frenzy as buyers, according to Stephen O’Connor, director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington.

“It’s a very real conversation that people who are in their homes right now I’m sure are having,” he said in an interview Wednesday. Meanwhile, there are few options for new construction in Seattle.

O’Connor predicted the local housing market would remain “robust” through the end of the year.

So what’s new?

Everett Herald

Herald Business Journal Staff: Snohomish County sees 17 percent jump in home prices year-over-year

Snohomish County saw a spike in the price of sold homes in October compared with the same month a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The county also saw an increase in the number of pending sales last month. The listing service reported 1,327 pending sales in October compared with 1,219 for the same month the year before, or an increase of 8.86 percent.

Still, real estate agents cautioned that home sellers need to price their home correctly from the start, said Kathy Estey, a member of the listing services board of directors, in the statement.

This month’s Herald article is basically nothing more than a minor rewrite of the press release.

Tacoma News Tribune / The Olympian

Rolf Boone: South Sound housing market steady in October

The South Sound housing market had a decent-to-good October as home sales and median prices bumped higher, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Wednesday.

But the bigger news for the housing market might be which direction mortgage interest rates head now that the Federal Reserve ended its bond-buying program last week, also known as “quantitative easing,” which injected more than $4 trillion into the economy to keep it afloat during the recession.

So far, average national mortgage rates for a 30-year mortgage remain low, although they have climbed to 3.98 percent from 3.92 percent in the past two weeks, according to Freddie Mac data.

Mark Kitabayashi of Windermere Real Estate Puyallup thinks that mortgage rates will trickle up slowly, although not more than 1 percentage point for a while, he said.

What effect this might have on the housing market is still to be seen because it is coming off a “great spring and summer,” Kitabayashi said.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the market reacts if rates really do go up a full percentage point over the next 6-12 months.

(Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times, 11.05.2014)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 11.05.2014)
(Herald Business Journal Staff, Everett Herald, 11.05.2014)
(Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune / The Olympian, 11.05.2014)

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.