Has the Seattle Housing Market Gone Nuts? Yes! But why?

April 4, 2014

The market sure has heated up. Prices are going up and multiple buyers are competing for the few houses available.

So what’s going on?

– Seattle Unemployment is Low:

In February the Seattle area’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since September 2008 at 5.1%. 

– Consumer Confidence is High:

Confidence is now at a new post-Financial Crisis high.

– Mortgage Rates are Still Attractive:

Current interest rates are roughly on par with where they were in August 2011 and still two points below the 6.41% average rate during the height of the housing bubble through 2006

– Limited Supply of Homes Available for Sale:

There is about a 1.8 month supply of homes for sale in King County. A 4-6 month supply is needed for a balanced market between home buyers and sellers. We are NOT in a balanced market – we have a strong seller’s market.

For much more detailed information, specific statistics and sources – see below:

Seattle-Area Unemployment at Late 2008 Levels

Let’s have a look at the jobs data for February and how the Seattle area’s unemployment rate and approximate labor participation rate alongside the national numbers.

In February the Seattle area’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since September 2008 at 5.1%. The national unemployment rate is still a bit higher at 6.7%, also roughly on-par with late 2008 levels.

The Seattle-area labor participation inched up in February to 70.0%. The national labor force participation rate was steady at 63.0%.

For reference, in 2006 when everyone imagined the economy to be in great health, the local unemployment rate averaged 4.3% and the labor participation rate averaged 69.5%.

Here’s a look at the local and national unemployment rates:



Consumer Confidence at now post-Financial Crisis High

The Latest Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index based on data collected through March 14 is at 82.3 and was 4.0 above the February reading of 78.3. This measure of confidence is now at a new post-Financial Crisis high.

At 81.0, the Present Situation Index increased 0.7% between February and March, and is up 34% from a year earlier. The Present Situation Index is currently up 301% from its December 2009 low point, and sits at its highest level since April 2008. The Expectations Index rose even further in March, increasing 9.2% from February.


Mortgage rates still two point below average rate during the height of housing bubble through 2006

As of last week, the 30-year mortgage rate sits at 4.40%, down slightly from the high of 4.58% set back in August, but up more than a point from the low set in May of last year. Current interest rates are roughly on par with where they were in August 2011 and still two points below the 6.41% average rate during the height of the housing bubble through 2006 (source: Federal Reserve).

 Limited Inventory fuels Price Hikes / Multiple Offers

According to the statistics on the NWMLS (Northwest Multiple Listing Service – all real estate agents are members of this service), there is about a 1.8 month supply in King County and a 2.2 months of supply in Snohomish County.

In general, four-to-six months is the supply needed for a balanced market between home buyers and sellers. We are NOT in a balanced market – we have a strong seller’s market.

There are just about as many pending sales as last year this time but it appears, the only thing holding back more sales is the lack of inventory. It is not unusual to see homes get multiple offers, sometimes as many as 40+ in nice neighborhoods and most popular price ranges.

Happy House Hunting!  Contact us today if you are looking to buy a home or condo in the Greater Seattle Area.

Happy House Selling! Contact us today if you are looking to sell your home or condo in the Greater Seattle Area.  


Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Real Estate Team
Skyline Properties, Inc.
Cell: 206.276.5827
Web: http://www.propertyinseattle.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PropertyinSeattle

Homeowners–the primary wood destroying organism (blog written by Charles Buell)

November 9, 2013

One of the most common wood destroying organisms in the NW is the Moisture Ant.

Like Dampwood Termites and Anobiid Beetles, they are “opportunistic” in the sense that moisture conditions have to be correct (conducive) for them to be present.As a Licensed, Washington State, Home Inspector and a Licensed Structural Pest Inspector, if I found evidence of these critters in your home–either past or present–the following is what you would see in your Inspection Report:

Moisture Ant colonies typically start in already decayed wood and are considered a secondary infestation.  Their nests are designed to promote moisture and further decay of the wood they cover.  Removal of the damaged wood and replacement with sound wood will be required in some cases.  Moisture ants require moisture to thrive, and eliminating the moisture source must be part of control measures. 

Added to this statement would be their location and a description of the damage and the possible causes of the leaking.  It might not be possible to determine the extent of damage, because the actual damage might be located much further away from where their visual signs are found.

For example, in this case, the Moisture Ant structure extending from the top of the foundation up to the floor structure.


While there was minor decay present in the wood covered by this structure, the bulk of any damage is likely above the floor structure somewhere else.  In this case, the area of real damage is somewhere in the chase around the insert fireplace.  It will likely be necessary to remove some of the siding to actually figure out how much damage there is and to determine the source of moisture that is, or was, supporting the colony.  In this case, there was no present activity–the nest was only damp.  There is not enough moisture being introduced for the structure to stay wet enough to support the colony.  Given some elevated moisture, this indicates an infestation that is likely seasonal–when long periods of rain allow enough moisture into the area to support their presence.It is not unusual to see Moisture Ants come and go in the home as the moisture conditions come and go.Of all the insects we deal with as Structural Pest Inspectors, I think I am most fascinated with Moisture Ants.  Partly because I know that they are not the “real” problem and the extent of damage is usually not going to ruin the house–like Anobiid Beetles can.You can think of Moisture Ants as sort of a “flag” waving at you.  The flag is saying, “HEY, knucklehead, you have a leak over here!”  When the leak is fixed, the ants go away.  You don’t have to get out your arsenal of non-environmentally safe chemicals and, ATTACK!  They are smart and know when they are not wanted–and simply leave.They build these marvelous structures called “carton” out of the materials they eat.  Take a look at this picture of Moisture Ants carton behind a baseboard electric heater.They have taken the wet cellulose fiber and turned it into some of the coolest carton I have found.

wet cellulose fiber

This wet “nest” now acts like a sponge and keeps surrounding wood structures wet.  This extends the moisture into structures that were previously not wet.  As this wood decays it too becomes food and habitat for the Moisture Ants–and the colony can grow.  It is this ability to expand their nests into previously dry areas and causing decay/rot that gets them classified as a “wood destroying” insect.

In reality, whoever didn’t notice the leak, and fix the leak might also be considered a wood destroying organism.  It is generally human beings that create the conditions that are conducive to many wood destroying insects in our homes.

Blog written by Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle (Licensed Home Inspector #220 & Licensed Structural Pest Inspector  #67488).

Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Real Estate Team
Seattle, WA

How to get Preapproved for a Home Loan

November 7, 2013

One of the first steps you will do when you think about buying a home is talk with a mortgage broker to get preapproved for a home loan. As a real estate agent, I am often the first contact for home buyers and I am often asked how to get preapproved for a home loan. Your real estate agent can refer you to a trusted lender but you can choose your own lender. Most mortgage brokers will ask you for the following information to get your preapproval started.

You will need to do or provide the following: 

  1. Complete a credit card authorization to pull credit
  2. Most recent 2 months bank statements
  3. Most recent quarterly statement of mutual funds,  stocks, etc., if you will be using these funds for down payment or closing costs
  4. Most recent 30 days’ pay stubs, showing year to date income
  5. Last 2 years W2’s and tax returns, all pages and schedules
  6. Copy of Driver License
  7. Contact information for homeowner’s insurance agent
  8. Depending on your unique situation, your lender may ask for additional documentation

If you have any questions or would like a referral to a mortgage broker in the Greater Seattle Area, please contact us.

Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Real Estate Team
Email: info@propertyinseattle.com

Brooks & Heinze Real Estate Team – First Quarter Newsletter 2013

March 2, 2013

As we are well into 2013, we are thankful for all of our past clients, current clients and the opportunities we have living in this wonderful area.  Now to the market update…

State of the Market and Home Values:

After years of grave losses, home values finally started to increase in the latter part of 2012 (March/April 2012 was the bottom).  Gains could be seen in most of the Greater Seattle area. If you are curious about the value of your home, feel free to contact us. We are happy to prepare a free market analysis for you.  This last year also saw the return of multiple offers on some homes, especially homes that did not fall into the category of short sales or fixers. Buyers are having to compete for homes due to low inventory and increased buyer confidence.  Cash investors entered the market in a big way, as well as many first time buyers who see the value in homeownership and real estate. The low inventory of homes for sale can be largely attributed  to the large number of “underwater” homeowners who are discouraged to sell because they owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth.  Predicting real estate values for the future is difficult but there appears to be a consensus among industry professionals that home prices will continue to rise. If prices continue to go up, more current home owners who have held off selling due to negative equity might list their home and offer more inventory and choices to home buyers.

We are optimistic that the housing market recovery will continue moderately in 2013.

Tips for Selling in 2013:

Be realistic – Yes, there has been a lot of news of recovery, rising prices and multiple offers. It’s all true but the reality is that values are still off considerably from what they used to be. If you price your home right from day one, you will get fair market value. We can help you price your home competitively so you are not giving anything away and get what the market dictates based on comparable sales and current market trends. We will market your property to make sure it gets the attention it needs to sell but proper marketing will never overcome an inflated price.

Be prepared – You might want to do a preinspection. This gives you an opportunity to find out what issues will likely come up when a buyer has your home inspected. You can also get bids and shop around for contractors at your leisure rather than under time constraints when under contract.  This allows you to address any issues before going on the market.

Declutter,  dress up and stow away – Simple home improvements and decluttering can make your home shine and attract the right attention.  Repainting and a thorough cleaning, inside and out (roof, gutter, windows, carpets, floors, etc. ) will help make the marketing materials shine and attract traffic. It will also make a lasting impression on touring buyers.  Replace any broken light bulbs and consider using higher wattage light bulbs, especially in the winter months to make your home look brighter.  Big remodels generally do not pay back, especially if the buyer does not share your taste of finishes. Defects such as drippy faucets, leaks, etc. should most definitely be addressed.  Unattended defects might deter potential buyers or may make them more likely to haggle on price.  Start packing any items you do not need on a daily basis and declutter.  Open and organized spaces make your home look bigger and more appealing.  Lock up or stow away any valuables and medications.

Timing  – The best time to sell is when consumer confidence is on the upswing, interest rates are low, unemployment is decreasing and there are more buyers in your local market than there are sellers .  Spring is usually a favored time for sellers to put their house on the market because of longer daylight hours and healthier looking yards, as well as a convenient time for families with school aged children. However, with inventory at an all time low right now and currently increasing buyer confidence, sellers have an edge with buyers competing for a few good homes.  It is a good time to sell now.

Tips for Buying in 2013:

Jump – If you have been wanting to buy but you have sat on the sidelines because you have been afraid to commit, wait no more. The bottom of the market has passed (which was March/April 2012). Prices and interest rates are still low which makes this a good time to buy.

Be prepared – Decide if homeownership is right for you and take the time to run the numbers. Real estate is a long term investment and if you think you will live in your home less than five years, you should think twice about buying. Buying and selling have associated costs. We can run the numbers for you. If you have decided that buying is for you, get preapproved for a loan before you start the house hunt. Have your mortgage broker run your credit and then fix any blips or inaccuracies to make sure your credit score reflects your true rating. Better scores qualify you for better rates and better rates mean lower payments. Your income, credit and down payment amount will also determine the types of loan programs you are eligible for.  You should understand what your options and payments will be before you commit. Ask us for a referral to a qualified mortgage broker.  Also, sellers will not entertain offer from buyers who cannot show that they actually have the funds in hand or qualify for financing.

Carefully consider the neighborhood – there are a number of online resources that let you check crime statistics and the national sex offender list. Check out the commute and public transportation options for different areas and research schools. Visit the neighborhoods at different hours of the day and ask residents in the area what they like and dislike about their neighborhood.

Ask lots of questions and actively engage in the process  – Most sellers will put on the lipstick when they put their house on the market. They clean and paint the house, use airfreshners, cover things up with throw rugs, etc. – you get the picture. When you are looking at homes, take the time to look at details, ask to see the seller disclosure form that will show defects the seller is aware of and ask questions if you see things that seem out of place. No house is perfect but you want to know what you are getting yourself into. Turn on the stove, run the faucets, look in the closets, be aware of stains and blotches and so on. Of course, you should hire a licensed home inspector once you have decided to buy a specific home but you can weed out a lot of homes that are not in acceptable selling condition by paying attention yourself.

Attend our free homebuyer seminar – Whether you’re a first time homebuyer or a move up buyer, you will learn valuable information at these free home buyer seminars. The class will cover the State of the Market, Important Steps of the Homebuying Process, Pros and Cons of Buying vs. Renting, and Financing Options. There will also be time for questions in the end to make sure individual interests and questions are answered.  Call or email Kerstin at 206.276.5827 / info@propertyinseattle.com .

New Listings

We have a new listing in Edmonds (Yost Park) neighborhood for $449,950.  It is 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, 2-story with basement.  It has beautiful territorial views, a wine cellar, updated fixtures, spacious at about 2600 SQF and it is on a cul-de-sac, just minutes from downtown Edmonds.  Our first open house will be on Saturday, March 2nd, from 1-4pm and Sunday, March 3rd from 1-4pm.  Please let us know if you want more information.

Kerstin Brooks & Krisanne Heinze
Brooks & Heinze Real Estate Team
Skyline Properties, Inc.
Email: info@propertyinseattle.com
Web: www.propertyinseattle.com


What do a great agent and massage therapist have in common?

November 4, 2011


Buying a home is one of the most exciting things you can do. I remember when I bought my first condo – I was thrilled. I was excited about making the leap from renter to homeowner. Home buying is a great financial commitment and an intensely emotional experience.  When your emotions are involved in a purchase, there’s a possibility that those emotions can get out of hand and stress can taint the experience.

Experienced Buyer’s Agent with Great Communication Skills


 Fabulous Massage Therapist


 Stress-free Home Buying

Selecting the right home for you and your family should be fun. Picking the right agent to work with and finding a way for you to stay grounded during the process are key ingredients.

Finding a home to buy is actually pretty easy with all the information so readily available online today. However, getting that home under contract, managing the inspection, jumping the hurdles of title and settlement are the “scary” parts where your agent really “earns” his/her fee.  A good and caring agent will be there to educate you and hold your hand step by step.  Good communication between you and your agent will make the process easier and less stressful for you.

Also, having some other way to ground yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed or conflicted is very important. Massage is great for lowering tension and anxiety. It also helps with staying alert, being more aware and concentrating – all important when committing to a big investment like a home. When you are calm and your mind is at peace you are more likely to make sound decisions

 For a free, no-obligation home-buyer consultation, contact Kerstin G. Brooks of the Brooks & Heinze Team at 206.276.5827 or find the team online at www.propertyinseattle.com .

 To schedule an appointment at Shift Massage, contact Kathy J. Rose at 206.399.8820 or find her online at http://www.shiftmassage.com .

Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Real Estate
Cell: 206.276.5827
Web: www.propertyinseattle.com


December 8, 2010

This is a guest entry by Charles Buell – Licensed Home Inspector & Licensed Structural Pest Inspector

Were any of your household appliances recalled?

It seems like every day some household appliance is recalled. Usually it is for minor issues, but sometimes it is for serious fire hazards.

If you are concerned about whether you have any such appliances in your home, I recommend that you use the Search Form available on the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) website. Just type in the model number and/or serial number and check.

You can also sign up for email announcements about CPSC recalls. The service is free and you will know these issues before they become front page news. As a Seattle Home Inspector, it is very difficult to keep up with all of the recalls, both past and present, and it is typically beyond the scope of a Standard Home Inspection and most Standards of Practice to identify them.

It is important for all consumers to be pro-active regarding recalls and use the available CPSC information to check for themselves. So use the Search Form and figure out if that dishwasher, wall heater, furnace or dryer is a “fire” waiting to happen.

Charles Buell can be reached at (206) 478-7371 or learn more about him at www.buellinspections.com.

Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Team

Another Home Buyer Tax Credit Extension Granted? Not really, read the fine print …

June 18, 2010

Congress “extends” First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit deadline to September 30th – well not really. They extended the CLOSING DEADLINE to the end of September for buyers who went under contract before April 30 but this does not mean it is a true extension.

The National Association of Realtors beat their drums loudly enough on the steps of Capital Hill to get Congress to approve an extension of closing deadline to the First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. So, don’t jump out of your seats ! The tax credit extension is only for those who were already under contract before the previous deadline of April 30th, they now have until September 30th to close and receive the $8000 first time buyer credit. This extension is from a close date of June 30th. The most compelling reason for this extension was do to the high volume of Short Sales that are currently under contract and are not on scheduled to close by the June 30th date. This is because Short Sales require bank approval on the Seller’s side, and most large banks that are being asked to approve Short Sales are simply over inundated with such requests that they are just backed up.

There is one group of buyers who can still take advantage of the tax credit and who did have a true extension and those are members of the military, foreign service and intelligence service. They have another year to take advantage of the credit. For more information about this, see my blog entry at:

Kerstin G. Brooks
Brooks & Heinze Team

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