Snoqualmie Pass Real Estate, Mortgage, and the Economy – Seattle Home Prices Soar, Some Buyers Are Giving Up

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As Seattle-area home prices soar, some would-be buyers are giving up


SEATTLE -- As a year of record-breaking home-price increases continues across the Seattle area, millennials and other first-time buyers are comings to grips with the reality that they simply can't save up quickly enough to match the rise in home costs.
The median price of a single-family home in King County last month grew 16.1 percent from a year earlier, the most for any September since records began in 2000, new data out Thursday show. That follows the hottest-ever August for the local housing market, and the hottest-ever July.
The options for homebuyers looking for cheaper alternatives farther out weren't much better: Prices rose more than 10 percent in Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties.
The effects of a half-decade of home-value surges have taken a large toll on affordability. In the last five years, home prices across King County have grown four times faster than wages, according to figures released Thursday by ATTOM Data Solutions.
Colin Perez, a 30-year-old tech worker, and his wife have been renting for the past two years while they searched for a home to buy. Despite making "decent money" and saving up, they've only fallen further behind.
"Where do I have to be in my career in the Seattle market to be able to afford something?" he said. "I'm 30 now; if I wait until I'm 40, is it even going to be affordable You can't catch up."
They thought about putting less money down to grab a home at today's prices, but that would make their mortgage huge. "It's gotten to the point where the reality of living in Seattle for us is really low," he said.
Justin Baghai, a tech worker renting in Ballard, started looking to buy a two-bedroom this summer and upped his budget to $500,000. He put in an offer above list price on a condo in Redmond but was outbid by $50,000 by a foreign investor.
Baghai, who is 25 and says he earns a good income, figures anyone under 30 not making six figures in Seattle will have to spend about 10 years saving up to afford a home. Earlier this year, a survey found nearly half of local millennials are considering moving because of housing costs.
"Every single day I go on Zillow and just look at new listings, and every day I'm disappointed without fail," Baghai said. "At this point it's looking unlikely that I'll even be able to live in the Seattle area, where I grew up, and that's frustrating."
The monthly home-sales data released Thursday show more of the same for what has been the most expensive year ever for Puget Sound- area real estate.
The only good news for buyers is that prices have dipped a bit since the record highs reached earlier this spring and summer, but that almost always happens this time of year. The year-over-year increases, on the other hand, have been the highest on record three months in a row.
King County's median price of $625,000 is nearly $87,000 more than at this point a year ago.
The biggest price increases were on the northern and southern edges of the county, where homes are most affordable. Seattle's median price of $725,000 is up 15.1 percent from a year ago. The Eastside price grew 14 percent, to $855,000.
More and more homes are edging above the $1 million mark, which used to denote a luxury home but now might just mean a regular house in a desirable location. More than 3,700 homes have sold for seven figures so far this year in King County, a 42 percent increase from a year prior and nearly double the total from two years ago.
King County's home-price growth in the third quarter of this year was the 5th-highest among America's 407 counties with at least 100,000 people, ATTOM's data show.
Among the largest metro areas, the Seattle region has led the nation in cost increases for the last 11 months.
Stephanie Calabro and her husband are renters in Eastlake who both work in Seattle, grew up here and have family in the area. They "feel like either we're just going to have to rent forever or move to a more affordable city," she said.
"It's sad," Calabro said. "We hate the thought of commuting an hour a day so that we can purchase a livable home."
Mark Corcoran, a Seattle broker with Windermere, said the best thing prospective buyers can do is set realistic expectations.
Home shoppers may have to look farther out to cheaper areas and lose multiple bidding wars before they can get a house. If you can afford a $700,000 house, you should be looking at homes priced at $600,000 in case they get bid up, he said.
"It really sucks to be a buyer in this market right now," he said. He just had a client who lost two straight bids despite offering more than $100,000 over list price.
Both Enumclaw and the Jovita/West Hill Auburn area saw prices soar 29 percent from a year prior. Costs grew more than 20 percent in Auburn, Black Diamond/Maple Valley, Renton-Highlands, Sodo/Beacon Hill, North Seattle, Shoreline/Richmond Beach, the Eastside area south of Interstate-90, east Bellevue and Kirkland-Bridle Trails.
The only areas where prices dipped at least 1 percent from a year ago were Queen Anne/Magnolia and the condo-only market of downtown Seattle.
The shortage of homes for sale continues to help drive up prices. Inventory across the county was down 16 percent from a year ago and has been dropping nonstop for several years now.
In Pierce County, despite the normal seasonal slowdown, home values hit a new all-time high of $318,750 — up 14.3 percent from a year prior.
In Snohomish County, the median sale was $450,000, a 13.9 percent increase. In Kitsap County, costs grew 10.3 percent to nearly $315,000.
-- The Seattle Times

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Snoqualmie Pass Real Estate, Mortgage, and the Economy – How To Avoid Mortgage Scams

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How To Avoid Mortgage Scams

Criminals Play on Consumer's Closing


September 26, 2017 
E-mail scams can take many forms, but did you realize that an e-mail scam could scuttle your home purchase? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a blog warning homebuyers of a housing-related e-mail fraud that can drain your housing funds.
Thieves initiate the swindle by hacking into the e-mail accounts of homebuyers, real estate agents, and brokers, looking for information on home purchases that are approaching the closing process. Once they have gathered enough information to create a convincing premise and the time is right, the thieves send an e-mail to the buyer pretending to be a party (real estate agent, attorney, title company, or escrow personnel) involved in the closing process.
The e-mail outlines an alleged last-minute change in the closing process that requires transfer of money to a specific account – for example, claiming that there is a problem with a previously sent check or that a money-wiring destination has changed. The instructions will direct buyers to send funds electronically to a different account used by the scammers.
With a single click, your down payment and closing funds could disappear – along with your dreams of home ownership.
How can you avoid falling for this scam? Start with the basics, by making it more difficult for a scammer to hack into your computer and obtain the necessary information. Make sure that your anti-virus software is up-to-date and properly maintained. Be wary of e-mail attachments and file downloads, unless you are 100% sure of their origin and nature – they may install malware that can disable or bypass your computer system's security setup. Make sure that your wireless connections are properly secured and protected.
As a rule, you should avoid sending financial information by e-mail. Doing so gives potential thieves more paths and opportunities to steal your information.
Since you can't prevent hacking on the other end of the home-buying transaction, other precautionary steps are required. Make sure that you understand what to expect during the closing process so that you can more easily spot a fraudulent request. Verify the contact information for your real estate agent or settlement party to use in case you have questions about the financial transaction. Call your designated contact directly to verify that the change requested in any e-mail is real.
It's always best to confirm receipt of any wire/electronic funds transfer with your real estate agent as soon as possible. As an additional measure, contact your bank directly before sending any electronic funds transfer – the bank may be able to spot discrepancies in the request or detect the recipient account as a known participant in previous scams.
If you still manage to fall prey to a closing scam, contact your lender and the wire transfer company immediately to attempt to reverse the transaction. Speed is of the essence.
Follow up with a complaint to the necessary law enforcement agencies. Your state Attorney General's office is a good place to start. By reporting the e-mail scam to the FTC and filing a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, you may be able to save other homebuyers from being scammed.
Don't let an e-mail scam cost you the home of your dreams. Scammers count on you being so confused and exasperated that you blindly go along with their request without giving it a critical review. Don't give them the satisfaction of succeeding. Educate yourself, take the time to verify requests, and make the scammers search elsewhere for unwitting victims.
By MoneyTips






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Snoqualmie Pass Real Estate, Mortgage, and the Economy – Home Prices In These 5 Pierce County Zip Codes Climbed Again

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Home prices in these five ZIP codes are driving Pierce County real estate

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Snoqualmie Pass Real Estate, Mortgage, and the Economy – Seattle Retains Title Of Hottest Housing Market

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Seattle home values continue to skyrocket, rising at a rate of more than double the national average in July.
According to the latest installment of the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, Seattle home prices shot up 13.5 percent on a year-over-year basis. Portland saw the second fastest home price growth at 7.6 percent, according to the report. The national average for July was 5.9 percent.
Seattle has consistently been the hottest housing market in the nation over the last few years, buoyed by the city’s thriving technology industry. This summer, Zillow found that Seattle is among the cities with the highest number of $1 million neighborhoods. Seattle has 38 $1 million neighborhoods, putting it at seventh among the top 10 cities.
And while Seattle is gaining $1 million neighborhoods rapidly it is also grappling with a homeless crisis. A separate Zillow report found that Seattle has the third highest homeless population in the nation, behind only New York and Los Angeles. Seattle is one of several cities where Zillow ties rent increases to a rising homeless population.
Developers are building record numbers of apartments in the Seattle area, but it still is not enough to keep up with the demand from the constant influx of new people as well as potential buyers stuck in the rental market due to high costs. Rising home values and lack of available starter homes make it tough for younger buyers, even the techies working at Amazon and Microsoft, to get into the market.
Case-Shiller’s data shows that the biggest competition for houses over the past few years has been at the lowest price tiers. High-end housing prices have been pretty stable, while cheaper homes have been extremely volatile. However, things do appear to be leveling out somewhat, as even the low-priced homes aren’t seeing as extreme price spikes as they did back in 2013 and 2014.








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Snoqualmie Pass Real Estate, Mortgage, and the Economy – Why You Shouldn’t Make A Big Down Payment On Your First Home

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Why You Shouldn’t Make a Big Down Payment On Your First Home


For decades, it was one of the few hard-and-fast rules when purchasing a home: Put 20% down. A hefty down payment would help you build up equity faster, and make sure your mortgage was affordable.
Times change. A new study from the National Association of Realtors underscores the fact that the 20% mark is far more myth than reality. Over the past three years, the median down payment for a first time homebuyer has been just 6%. It’s higher for those buying their second or third home—the average repeat homebuyer now puts 14% down. But that’s still a dramatic drop from an average of 23% back in 1989. And, in fact, when asked what would be considered a fair down payment, 70% of respondents to an NAR survey said 10%.
The shrinkage of the average down payment is influenced in part by the fact that real estate prices risen far faster than incomes, particularly in and around coastal cities. It’s a concerning trend, especially considering the prevalence of zero-down-payment mortgages that proliferated in the market prior to the last recession, and that worsened the effects of the crash.
But for households in good financial shape, paying less than 20% is not nearly as worrisome as one might think. In fact, it can free up funds for retirement savings and other important goals in ways that can make you look smart down the road.
For starters, the fact that interest rates remain historically very cheap mean that the costs of carrying a bigger mortgage aren’t as painful as they might have been in a different era.
Of course, a smaller down payment means that you have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until you work your way up to having 20% equity. PMI can run 0.5% to 1% of the entire cost of the loan—and in one sense, that can cost you some opportunities. Take a $300,000 home that has a 30-year fixed mortgage of 4% on a loan of $270,000. If you put 10% down, you’ll owe approximately $121 a month in PMI insurance. If you were putting that money in a low-cost index fund instead, you would have over $14,000 in a retirement account after seven years, assuming historical returns.
On the other hand, you could weigh that against the opportunity – and reduction of money related stress – that come with a lower down payment. Say you saved $60,000 for a $300,000 home purchase, but opted to put only 10% down, or $30,000. Now you have $30,000 sitting comfortably in your savings account. According to the NAR, buyers of a brand new home spend $10,601 on appliances, furnishings or repairs in the first year after purchase. Buyers of existing homes spend $8,233 in that first year. You could spend that money, and still have around $20,000 to park immediately in your retirement savings.
You could also put that $20,000 extra into a bathroom remodel or a kitchen repair, either of which could help you build equity in your home if it raised your home's overall value. That could enable you to wipe the PMI off your mortgage bill more quickly—and, eventually, you’ll have more cash flow to feed into that nest egg.





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