NW REporter

News In Brief: April 2022

  • The median home sales price in the United States rose 7 percent over the four-week period ending March 13, marking the largest month-over-month surge since Redfin began tracking the statistic in 2017. The median sales price was up 17 percent year over year to a record high $376,350 and up 36 percent from the same time in 2020. As mortgage rates soar, so do payments. The median monthly mortgage payment across the country sits at an all-time high of $2,123 – over $530 a month more than homebuyers were paying before the pandemic. Pending home sales are up and new listings have dropped. Fifty-nine percent of homes that went under contract had an offer accepted within the first two weeks of being on the market. According to Redfin, Seattle home prices were up 8.2 percent in February compared to last year, selling for a median price of $771,000. Seattle homes sold, on average, after just six days on the market, which is down from 12 days a year ago.
  • U.S. home-price appreciation accelerated in January. A measure of prices in 20 U.S. cities jumped 19.1%, up from 18.6% the previous month, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index showed Tuesday. Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the biggest year-over-year gains. Price increases peaked in July and have cooled off slightly in recent months. Still, demand for homes remains strong two years after the pandemic hit the U.S., with bidding wars and cash offers common in hot markets. Seattle ranked seventh in year-over-year gains, with a 24.7% increase. Price growth has been ticking back up after flattening in the fall, according to the index. Prices in January were up about 2% over December. The index reflects a three-month rolling average of single-family home prices in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.
  • As reported in GeekWire, new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the population of King County, Wash., home to the tech hubs of Seattle and Bellevue, declining by more than 20,000 people between July 2020 and July 2021. The numbers mirror a nationwide trend, fueled in part by the rise of remote work and newfound flexibility for many information workers. In King County, the decline follows a decade of rapid growth, driven by a booming tech economy and more than 100 out-of-town tech companies setting up engineering centers in the Seattle area. However, the decrease in population from 2.27 million to 2.25 million in King County last year was just one-third of 1%, far less pronounced than the decreases in some other major metro areas across the country. Other counties in the state saw increases in population, due in part to some workers moving further from the city. Here are the census estimates showing the change in each Washington state county between July 2020 and 2021. Apart from remote work, other factors influencing population changes over this timeframe included COVID-19 deaths and a decrease in international immigration. Across the country, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, “there was a shift from larger, more populous counties to medium and smaller ones. These patterns contributed to population increases in 1,822 counties (58.0%), while 1,313 (41.8%) lost residents, and eight (0.3%) saw no change in population.”
  • Seattle is the seventh-happiest city in the nation, according to WalletHub’s 2022’s Happiest Cities in America report. The personal finance website last year found that the state of Washington was the 13th-happiest in the nation. To determine where Americans were happiest, WalletHub compared 180 cities and all 50 states across several key indicators, including unemployment rates, job opportunities, the potential for income growth, divorce rates and sleep rates. Seattle had the lowest unemployment rate, ranked second in income growth and first in the number of people who play sports. The state’s happiness ranking was also based, in part, on the number of people who spend time volunteering for causes they believe in.
  • Pickleball is now officially Washington’s state sport. Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure into law granting the game status among a long list of official state symbols, including: Palouse Falls as the state waterfall, the Columbian mammoth as the state fossil and the marmota olympus, also known as the Olympic marmot, as the state endemic mammal.According to the USA Pickleball Association, the sport was created on Bainbridge Island in the summer of 1965 by Washington State Rep. Joel Pritchard, who would later go on to represent the state in Congress and serve as Washington’s lieutenant governor.
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a nearly $17 billion, 16-year transportation revenue package that will pay for a variety of projects across the state, including building four new hybrid-electric ferries. In addition to the new ferries, it electrifies two existing ferries and provides funding for more walking and biking corridors, highway maintenance and fulfilling the state’s court-ordered obligation to replace fish passage culverts. Funding is also provided to ensure that those age 18 and younger can ride for free on public transportation, including the state’s ferries and Amtrak. It also pays for the state’s share of the cost – $1 billion – to replace the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia River that connects Washington and Oregon.
  • A ballot initiative proposed by a new housing and homelessness advocacy coalition would establish a public developer that would create, own and maintain public housing in Seattle. The Seattle Times reports the initiative filed on March 28 is known as “social housing,” essentially publicly owned housing that is insulated from private market forces and designed to be permanently affordable. This model is popular in Europe. The city clerk’s office will review the new ballot initiative to ensure it has been filed correctly. Once that has been settled, the initiative will receive a ballot title and members of the coalition will begin collecting signatures from Seattle residents. The coalition needs almost 27,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
  • Signs of pets in homes for sale don’t spook potential buyers, and may even be appealing to some home shoppers, says a new study from Quicken Loans and published in REALTOR® Magazine. Seventy-nine percent of buyers making an offer on a home say seeing signs of a pet in a property won’t deter them, as long as damage from the pet isn’t present, according to the study. Nearly two in 10 respondents said that seeing signs of pets would even increase their desire to make an offer if there was no damage to the property, the survey finds. That’s good news to homeowners with pets, and it counters a long-held idea in real estate that any signs of a pet could jeopardize a sale. Pet ownership has been increasing; about 70% of American households own pets as of this year. That percentage is up from 56% in 1988. While fondness for pets is growing, there can still be a wild card in a real estate sale: the neighbor’s pet. The survey found that there’s about a 50-50 chance the neighbor’s barking dog would cause buyers to regret making an offer on a home. Cat owners are more likely than those with dogs to regret making an offer on a home where a neighbor’s dog barks. But even if the neighbor’s dog may lead to some regret, potential home buyers said that wouldn’t stop them from making an offer on a home. Only about one in 10 survey respondents said that a neighbor’s barking dog would make them wish they submitted an offer on a different home altogether. Americans have also been willing to move to better accommodate their pet and are on the hunt for more pet-friendly home features, according to a survey conducted in 2020 by the National Association of REALTORS® on pets’ involvement in the buying and selling process. When it comes to the house your pet-conscious clients are looking for, the most frequent requests are hardwood floors and a fenced backyard.
  • A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking Oregon’s first-in-the-nation ban on so-called real estate ‘love letters,’ personal notes from prospective homebuyers to home sellers, saying it violates the First Amendment by restricting free speech too broadly. The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation had filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court after the Oregon Legislature last year attempted to limit housing discrimination by prohibiting buyers from sending letters to sellers to try to sweeten their offers on houses for sale. Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2550, sponsored by state Rep. Mark Meek, D-Clackamas, last June. It had unanimously passed the House of Representatives and passed the state senate on a mostly party-line vote. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Total Real Estate Group, a Bend company of 20 agents, said lawmakers provided no proof that such discrimination was taking place and that state and federal laws already prohibit housing discrimination. In his March 3 preliminary injunction, U.S. District Judge Marco Hernández said Oregon’s goal was laudable, given its “long and abhorrent history of racial discrimination in property ownership and housing” that for decades explicitly blocked people of color from owning property. But House Bill 2550 was overly inclusive, the judge said, banning significant amounts of innocuous speech in love letters beyond references to a buyer’s personal characteristics.
  • Seattle is America’s most desired city to live in for college students post-graduation, according to the Axios-Generation Lab Next Cities Index. The index tracks rising U.S. work and culture trends through geographic preferences. Axios credits Seattle’s elite tech-hub status, cool climate, green-energy embrace and music and art scene for the top ranking. New York City, Los Angeles, Denver and Boston rounded out the top five, respectively. Of the survey’s 2,109 participants, half said they wanted to live outside their home states upon graduating college. About a quarter of those surveyed desired to live in their hometowns. Healthcare (29 percent), education and research (15 percent) and tech (12 percent) were the top three industry choices for careers. Political party identification also weighed into participants’ preferences as Seattle took home the No. 1 spot among independents. Austin was the top choice of Republicans and New York reigned supreme for Democrats. Democrats (54 percent) were more likely to want to leave their home state than Republican students (41 percent). Overall, 45 percent of the survey respondents said they want to live somewhere different than they think they will live. Niche, a website designed to connect students and families with colleges and schools, combines data from the Census and the FBI with its resident ratings and recently released its 2022 results. It named Seattle the No. 1 city in the nation for outdoor activities, No. 3 for best cities for young professionals, No. 8 for best cities to raise a family and No. 13 for best cities to live in overall.
  • Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Office of Housing announced Monday the city of Seattle’s latest investment in affordable housing: $5.3 million, which will be matched by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The money will support Sea Mar Community Health Centers’ acquisition of a newly constructed apartment building on Beacon Hill. The building’s new residents, women who have experienced chronic homelessness, have already begun moving in. Sea Mar Community Health Centers specializes in providing healthcare and social services for historically marginalized populations, with a focus on Latino/a immigrants. Residents of the building’s 39 rent- and income-restricted homes will have access to on-site case management services to assist them in accessing healthcare, counseling and financial assistance, as well as education, job training and employment opportunities. The homes are in transit-rich, pedestrian-friendly areas near North Beacon Hill and Mount Baker, as well as the Chinatown-International District. The Office of Housing invested more than $140 million to support the production, preservation and acquisition of more than 1,500 affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities in 2021. Funding comes from the voter-approved Seattle Housing Levy, payments from the Mandatory Housing Affordability program and other local, state and federal resources.
  • Amazon has committed $42.5 million to help build affordable homes in the Puget Sound region. The company announced the funds are to build 318 affordable homes near public transit sites in partnership with Sound Transit. This all started with Amazon committing $300 million in 2021 to help build 3,000 affordable homes. Amazon is doing this in the Puget Sound, Virginia and Nashville regions. There will be a development in the Spring District at the 120th station. A press release said there will be 233 new-construction affordable apartments there in Bellevue. They are set to open in 2023. Angel Lake will also have a station. Amazon is helping create at least 85 new apartments near the light rail station in SeaTac.
  • Bosa Development said it expects to begin construction in April on a 57-story tower with 422 condos, retail on the ground level and a public plaza in downtown Seattle. The tower should be finished by 2026, the developer says. The city issued a permit to allow for shoring and excavation at the site, according to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. Future permits for construction of the tower will be issued in phases, a department spokesperson said. The site between Cherry and James streets and Third and Fourth avenues has been empty since 2005, when the city’s old Public Safety Building was torn down. Bosa would pay $16 million for the land and at least $5.7 million in affordable housing fees, while also requiring that the project include a public plaza of at least 25,000 square feet. The agreement includes potential fines for delayed completion of the project. The new tower will include one-, two- and three-bedroom condos, some with views of Elliott Bay, and a rooftop pool on the 57th floor. The 25,000-square-foot plaza will include an upper plaza on Fourth Avenue, a water feature that “cascades down James” Street to Third Avenue, “extensive landscaping” and a glass elevator connecting lower and upper plazas, the developer says.