Spring has sprung in housing – looking to feather a new nest?

Spring housing rush has buyers flocking to search out new home possibilities

April arrives any minute and the spring real estate market, despite all the news you hear, is alive and well in Seattle. I’ve been touring property for three months solid and the first time home buyers I am working with are surprised by the multiple offer situations on many properties – even unapproved short sales – that happens over and over again. The house just needs to be in a half-way decent neighborhood for it to be drawing a lot of buyers (and many investors at the below $150k range). We have a low inventory situation for homes falling below a certain price point and some buyers are getting frustrated.

It is anticipated that the Joint State-Federal National Mortgage Settlement (read the FAQ sheet) recently made with major lenders will now expedite hundreds of thousands of homes INTO the foreclosure process now that major issues have been ironed out. (Bank of America Corp. (including EDNY FHA origination settlement), Citigroup, Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Wells Fargo & Co.) Lenders put a lot of homeowners into a holding pattern over the last year while the lawsuit was examined. Lenders didn’t want to risk more illegal/improper foreclosures. If you read the FAQ, you will see that each lender not only pays into a restitution fund for homeowners that were improperly or illegally foreclosed on, but the bulk of the money will go towards programs to help borrowers keep their homes – those that are delinquent AND current (different programs).

Now that the logjam has been broken, it is expected a lot of homeowners will not be able to come to an agreement with their lenders and more foreclosure filings will happen in the next few weeks and months. Even though you will read sellers can’t sell and buyers can’t buy (see The ‘Shadow Inventory’ Darkening Housing), it is a fact that a lot of sellers are selling and a lot of buyers are buying. I was on a webinar just today called “RoboSigning Settlement-REO Agent Acceptance Workshop” that was an effort to get more real estate brokers signed up as REO listing agents (Real Estate Owned by a lender) in order to meet demand (full time agents only need apply).

Although March statistics are expected out late next week, just reviewing February 2012 NWMLS Statistics for King County is very enlightening. (This report is comprised of “Information and statistics compiled and reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.”) In King County pending units went from 6,714 to 8,333 and closed sales 3,783 to 4,197 January to February respectively. I expect March’s numbers to be even higher. Of course, average price is down year over year as prices keep dropping, but this is really good news for a lot of buyers who have been saving their money the past few years and are venturing into the market for the first time.

I think the one piece of advice I have to give to any first time home buyer is, and you hear this all the time, get pre-qualified before you start shopping. This is not the same thing as pre-approved and it can be done in short order by a qualified lender. The house you fall in love with will also be desired by many others and if you aren’t ready to jump – and then potentially wait for a long time if you are going after an unapproved short sale listing – you are just wasting your time touring. There’s nothing wrong with touring to get a feel for what you want, but after a few hours of that you should have a good idea of what you like and don’t like. There is nothing worse than being at the wrong end of a frustrated buyer who isn’t ready to move quickly on the right house due to lack of pre-qualification or being unsure if “this is the one”. (In this example, a house that the seller had not even submitted documents to their lender for yet received 6 offers – and in this case the highest offer is going to win. And the house wasn’t even that special, in my opinion, or in a highly desired area, although the area is perfectly reputable.)

I also learned…again…to not show unapproved short sales to someone who isn’t willing to be tied into a deal for a couple of months waiting for lender approval, sitting out the rest of the spring buying season. (In this situation, the seller needed to find out if they can even do a short sale, which takes up to 30 days from a completed seller package; and then up to 30 more days for the actual purchase contract to be accepted or rejected by the lender. Suddenly your are in June and who knows what rates and sales will be doing by then. To give you an example of unapproved short sale listings versus more “available” listings (either seller owned, pre-approved short sale, lender owned outright, or bankruptcy sale) out of 46 listings I scanned today I culled the list down to just 16 that were something other than an unapproved short sale. There are a lot of people going after these “easier” listings. Be prepared!


If you are a motivated buyer looking for housing in the following geographic areas, Wendy has either lived in or performed relocation research and comparison studies in all of the following areas. Call or text Wendy at 206.686.HOME (4663), or email wendyhj@greenspacesrealestate.com (see button in the right sidebar). Wendy also is an EcoBroker® and is Built Green® Certified, so if owning a healthy home is important to you she is the one to call. Wendy is also able to help people find a home or condo FOR RENT.
West Seattle
Seattle Metro
Mercer Island
Lake Forest Park
Snoqualmie Ridge
North Bend
Monroe, Snohomish, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, and Everett areas will also be considered. 

25E: The Cut Energy Bills at Home Act

This is very exciting news that I came across on the blog from San Francisco-based Efficiency First, “a national nonprofit trade association that unites the Home Performance workforce, building product manufacturers and related businesses and organizations in the escalating fight against global warming and rising energy costs.” Their page “Introducing 25e: The First Performance Based Tax Credit for Homes” includes links to the actual text of the Senate bill, a quick reference fact sheet, and a webinar from December that discusses it in detail, as well as software and contractor credentials.

The brief description is:

The Cut Energy Bills at Home Act has been introduced in the Senate with bipartisan support. If passed, the bill would create a new 25e tax credit — the first residential performance-based tax credit given to homeowners who make energy efficiency improvements. The proposed bill would provide performance-based tax credits of up to $5,000 per project for homeowners who install qualified energy efficiency measures

I signed the petition in support of this important new bill, saying:

As a Realtor and EcoBroker I support any smart legislation that will create a market-driven change to building quality and energy consumption. 25E could create a revolution in bottom-up energy conservation by individual power users, from east to west, north to south. As someone born in the same year as Earth Day and seeing improvements at a pace slower than the destruction occurring on our planet, I consider it a personal mission to educate my clients, friends, and family about indoor air quality and energy usage in their homes.

If you also feel this is important, please endorse this new legislation by signing their petition to add your support to this important effort! Stay tuned for more details as they become available.