- When the Washington state Legislature convenes in January, the Capitol building will remain closed to the public and lobbyists due to the pandemic, and lawmakers will do their work through a mix of virtual meetings and on-site votes. The Senate Facilities and Operations Committee met Thursday to discuss the protocols for the 105-day session that begins Jan. 11, including a remote option via Zoom for the public to join committee hearings. As of early November, the House has not yet made an official decision on how to approach session, but Speaker Laurie Jinkins told reporters on Thursday that they are leaning toward doing their work completely remotely, with one lawmaker presiding from the chamber.
- Ninety-one percent of buyers said they’d use their agent again or recommend their agent to others, and 89% of sellers said they’d definitely or probably recommend their agent for future services, according to NAR’s new 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. The report takes a deep dive into buyer and seller demographics, experiences, and preferences and unearths interesting shifts since the onset of the pandemic. The report is free this year as part of Right Tools, Right Now.
- Microsoft will make two loans totaling $65 million to local housing groups with the goal of creating more than 1,000 new affordable housing units in the Seattle area, the company announced late November. The company will invest $40 million in an initiative to reduce rents in existing market-rate housing in Bellevue and Kirkland. Developer Stream Real Estate bought three apartment buildings charging market-rate rent and plans to lower rents in 40% of the units to be affordable to people earning less than the area median income. Lower-priced units, according to the developer, go vacant much less frequently than market-rate units, “providing a very stable market niche in economic downturns.” Microsoft will also loan $25 million to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) for a program that funds developers’ purchase of land to build affordable housing. The Redmond software giant made waves last year when it pledged to loan $475 million to developers at below-market rates to spur the creation of more affordable units. At the time, the company also announced it would make $25 million in grants to organizations serving the region’s low-income and homeless residents. Including the funds in the announcement, Microsoft has allocated $195 million of that $500 million commitment. The company has also backed a $250 million line of credit to the WSHFC, boosting the amount of money the agency can make immediately available to developers building affordable-housing projects.
- Seattle now ranks as the most competitive housing market in the nation, with 71% of homes selling in under two weeks, according to a new study released last month. The study, released by Lombardo Homes, is based on a nationwide survey of homebuyers and sales data from online real estate site Redfin. It found that the average home in the Seattle area sells after just 10 days on the market. The study also found that the real estate market is booming despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with competition among homebuyers increasing across the country. About three-quarters of the homebuyers surveyed said they believe competition has increased since the start of the pandemic. About the same percentage said they have had a home go off-market before they even got to look at it. The most competitive housing markets in the country, after Seattle, were Omaha, Neb., with 67% of homes selling in under two weeks; Lexington, Ky., with 67%; Denver, Colo., with 65%; and Indianapolis, Ind., at 65%. Nationwide, an average of 42% of homes sold in two weeks or less. The survey also found that more homebuyers are now going online to find homes during the pandemic, and fewer are using a real estate agent. During an earlier survey, in May, 38% of homebuyers said they went online to find a home. But in the latest survey, some 65% said they searched for a home online. Despite the change in competition and ways in which buyers find homes, what they’re looking for has stayed largely the same. In the May study, the most important things in a home were price, location, and neighborhood. Today, they’re location, price, and size of the home.
- Washington state launched its statewide coronavirus exposure app, joining more than a dozen other states that have already enlisted the use of smartphone technology in the ongoing effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People with iPhones can enable the ‘exposure notifications’ feature that is already in their phone’s settings, and Android devices can download the app. The app, dubbed “WA Notify,” uses privacy-preserving technology jointly developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data. By adding WA Notify to their smartphones, Washington residents will be alerted if they spent time near another user who later tests positive for COVID-19. Use of the app is voluntary and users can opt out at any time. It is available in 29 different languages.