Why the Housing Market Will Remain Strong Despite Social Distancing

A lot has changed in our world over the past couple of months and we are facing an unprecedented situation unlike anything the world has ever seen. Everyday life has changed tremendously for nearly everyone in the world and naturally, people are examining the short-term and long-term implications of these changes.

Despite the major impact on our global economy, the real estate market in the United States is showing promising signs that it will weather this storm

A lot has changed in our world over the past couple of months and we are facing an unprecedented situation unlike anything the world has ever seen. Everyday life has changed tremendously for nearly everyone in the world and naturally, people are examining the short-term and long-term implications of these changes.

Despite the major impact on our global economy, the real estate market in the United States is showing promising signs that it will weather this storm.

Business is Being Conducted Virtually

The real estate industry is responding to the coronavirus crisis just like the rest of the world — it is adapting. We are seeing many new ways to conduct business while maintaining social distancing. Title companies are performing drive-through closings that allow both buyers and sellers to sign required documents without going into the office. Mortgage lenders are relying on their already-established virtual capabilities for accepting applications and receiving documentation.

Realtors are finding creative ways of showing properties without having buyers physically present by relying on “virtual tours” and utilizing tools like Facebook Live to conduct open houses. Sellers are opting for “touch free” showings by leaving cabinets and closet doors open.

Buyers Eager to Purchase

Despite the current coronavirus outbreak, buyers are still showing many signs of urgency within the market. Mortgage rates still hover around all-time lows, and those in favorable economic conditions want to buy a home now to take advantage of these rates.

The number of video tour requests for showings has been steadily rising. A recent poll conducted by RedFin showed that many buyers are opting to make an offer on a property sight unseen. They are making offers after seeing properties through virtual tours. Last week 12% of offers made were by customers who had toured the home only by video, up from 6% last week and nearly 0% at the beginning of March. 

Pent-Up Housing Demand

Historically, spring has been the hottest season for real estate. Currently, the number of listings on the market has decreased from last year. However, it is promising that once the social distancing has finished, there will still be a great number of homeowners that need to sell, and buyers who want to move forward.

Before social distancing was implemented, the real estate market throughout much of the country was experiencing low inventory. In many areas new construction builds were not considered essential services, therefore drastically decreasing the number of new builds available for purchase. This will create an even greater shortage of inventory and retain value for the existing homes being listed for sale.

Ultimately, the majority of Americans still feel like it is a good time to buy or sell a property. Although it feels like the world has come to a halt, there are still houses being listed, buyers looking to purchase and real estate professionals ready to help.

Tips for Buying a Home in a Low Inventory Market

Many real estate markets across the United States are currently experiencing low inventory. Several factors contribute to low inventory in markets, but the largest driving factor right now are low-interest rates — buyers want to take advantage of these rates before they rise and are eager to enter the housing market.

However, many homeowners already have low-interest rates on their homes and may not be keen on selling and moving. Navigating a market with limited inventory can be an extra challenge, but it can be done successfully when following this advice:

1- Be Financially Secure

Take the appropriate steps to have your financing secured before you go to look at houses. Get a mortgage pre-approval and have all the necessary documentation ready to send into your lender. Do not enter the housing market until you are fully financially prepared with a solid down payment and a reputable loan. This will help you stand out to sellers when you make an offer on a house. 

2- Be Realistic About What You Can Afford

Most homebuyers do not buy the perfect house. The truth is the average home buyer does not have an unlimited budget and therefore must make compromises on their home purchase. Keep an open mind while looking at houses and understand that the goal is to find a home that meets all of your needs and most of your wants. Be open to making changes to a home to create the exact home you are looking for. 

3- Avoid Looking at Houses at the Very Top of Your Budget.

In low inventory markets, houses tend to sell over asking price due to competition amongst buyers. Therefore, it is wise to stay away from homes that are at the absolute top of your price range. If you are approved for $350,000 it is wise to look at home $340,000 or less which will allow you to bid a little higher on a house. Also, you won’t fall in love with a house that ultimately, you won’t be able to buy. 

4- Put Your Best Offer Forward

In low inventory markets, it is critical that you put your best offer forward. Most likely, you will be competing against other offers, therefore, there typically isn’t a lot of negotiating that goes on. 

5- Be Ready To Move

Real estate markets with low inventory turn over quickly. Most buyers and sellers have contingencies on other contracts that restrict the amount of time before they can close. The average contract length is shorter and requires you as a buyer, to be ready to move quickly. Start packing and researching your moving options while you are looking for options, so the moving process is as seamless as possible once you’re under contract. 

Purchasing the home you want is possible even in a market with limited inventory. Be prepared and manage your expectations throughout the process and ultimately you will find a home that you love. 

Tax Write-Offs For Homeowners

According to Benjamin Franklin, there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. The good news is that there are many tax benefits associated with homeownership. The below tax benefits may be utilized by homeowners, but you should ask your accountant how these may be applied to your situation. 

Home Owner Tax Deductions

Each year homeowners are allowed to deduct the interest payments made on their mortgage loan from their federal taxable income as well as the amount paid in property taxes. Under the new Tax Reform and Jobs Act, there is no longer an income elimination for mortgage interest deductions. However, there is a cap of $10,000 on the amount of property taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income. 

Another possible deduction is your mortgage insurance premium. This also can be deducted from your taxable income if your adjusted gross income is less than $109,000 married filing joint, or $54,500 filing separately. 

Taxes and Selling Your Home

Purchasing real estate is often called one of the best financial investments because the equity you gain on a personal residence is tax-free…with restrictions. Homeowners do not need to pay tax on income received from a home sale as long as they’ve lived in the home for the past 2 years, or have resided in the home for 2 out of the last 5 years and if they have made less in profit than $250,000 if filing single, $500,000 if filing jointly. If sellers meet these requirements, it means they do not have to pay taxes on the profits from selling their house, although there is additional math involved to verify if anything is owed. 

Tax Deductions While Buying a Home

Many new homebuyers question whether or not they can itemize closing costs on their tax return. Most closing costs are not tax-deductible. Pre-paid interest and discount points are the only two that can be deducted. The pre-paid mortgage interest can be deducted all at once, but under the new Tax Reform and Jobs Act, discount points must be prorated over the term of the loan. 

Home Repairs and Renovations

The expenses from home renovations and repairs are not tax-deductible. You may be able to deduct these expenses from your business income if you operate a business out of your home and hang onto those receipts as expenses for improvements may be deducted when determining capital gains. Additionally, the interest paid on a home equity loan can be deducted on your tax return, but only if the proceeds from the loan were used for repairs and renovations on the home. 

Homeowner Expenses That Are Not Tax Deductible:

  • Closing costs such as Appraisal Fees, Title Insurance, and Credit Report Fees.
  • Down Payments or Earnest Money Deposits
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Homeowner Association Fees
  • Transfer Taxes
  • Utility Costs

Speak with your tax professional about which deductions you are eligible for and whether or not it is in your best interest to itemize the various homeowner costs on your tax return this year.

2020 Real Estate Predictions

Now that 2019 has officially come to an end, we take a look at what’s ahead for 2020. Our predictions are based on market research, professional insight, and nearly ten years of experience in the industry. Read ahead for an insider’s look at the biggest trends in real estate coming this year.

Now that 2019 has officially come to an end, we take a look at what’s ahead for 2020. Our predictions are based on market research, professional insight, and nearly ten years of experience in the industry. Read ahead for an insider’s look at the biggest trends in real estate coming this year.

2019 Summary:

Our national real estate market had a strong recovery from the recession over the last decade. Our country saw strong economic growth, low unemployment — which reached a 50-year low in September— and strong gross domestic product (GDP). This led to high demand for housing and strong house price growth for several years, an increase from the modest growth seen in the year prior. Demand was also driven by interest rates, which remained at a historically low rate, allowing for more buyers with more buying power to enter the market. However, buyers were also hampered with lack of inventory caused by high demand, lack of new construction, and subsequent high price growth, choking affordability. In other words — buyer demand was already too high for this growth to continue. 

Although inventory levels improved last year in some areas across various types of housing product, lack of affordable housing and a limited inventory of in-demand home styles are both causing an unbalanced inventory situation. To put it simply, some price points and types of housing are seeing extreme demand while other types and prices are lingering on the market.

What can we expect in 2020?:

  1. Housing Inventory – One of the biggest issues our country has is the lack of affordable inventory of the types of housing that are in highest demand. One of the biggest themes in 2020 is what some are calling “The Haystack Crisis”– namely, a continuing lack of inventory that will frustrate buyers because they are continually hard-pressed to find what they are looking for – the proverbial needle in the haystack. Inventory of some types of housing will be sufficient for the demand – such as the high-end market, larger homes, and some rural and suburban areas. In contrast, urban areas, smaller homes in sought-after areas, and affordable homes will experience high demand.   
  2. Housing Starts/New Construction – A new construction shortage began accumulating in 2009,  which has resulted in our country being 3.24 million units short of what we need to meet demand in 2019. Our country currently needs to build 1.62 million units per year to keep up with demand for new construction (not including the deficit), the increase in population, and replacement of old structures. Due to builders leaving the business post-recession, increases in expenses due to lack of qualified tradespeople, rising prices on building supplies and land costs, increased build time, newly-added requirements based on water and environmental issues, and increased permitting time, we expect this situation will continue to worsen and may even result in a shortage of 3.98 million units by 2022.    
  3. Home Price Growth – Nationally,  the October year-over-year median sales price grew 6.2% to $270,900 according to the National Association of REALTORS®. This was the 92nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains. We predict that national median sales prices will continue to grow between 3.6%-5.3% in 2020. 
  4. Interest Rates – Over the last 200+ years, the average interest rate has been 5.18%. We have been spoiled by historically-low rates, which is keeping the wheels of our real estate market nicely greased. Although the Federal Reserve raised rates in 2018, they trimmed them back in 2019, trying to boost slowing global growth. We expect they could actually reduce them again over the next several months. According to Freddie Mac, the average mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage began the year at 4.51% and has been heading downward, bottoming out at 3.49% as of September 5, 2019. As of 12/12/19 it was 3.73%.  

There are several issues that may affect the real estate market in unforeseen ways in 2020 including potential trade wars, political uncertainty, the level of national debt, the upcoming Presidential election, and growing environmental concerns. However, those unpredictable factors are what make our job so exciting (and important!) We would love to help you navigate the real estate market this year — please reach out if you are interested in learning more about services.
For additional information and predictions on our local market, please call or text: (425) 327-3915 or send an email to colette@therardenteam.com.

The Top 5 Benefits of Selling Your Home in the Fall

Are you ready to move today? Don’t wait until Spring to list when you can get your house sold NOW! Despite what you may have heard, there are a lot of reasons why fall might actually be the best time to sell your home.

Less Competition

One of the perks of listing your home in autumn is that there is far less competition in the market. Since most home owners decide to list during the spring and summer, you won’t have to try and stand out amongst hordes of homes.

Higher Sales Price

Another bonus to listing your house in the fall is a higher sales price. You will be looking at the summer activity and what homes sold for during those months to determine how to list your house. The homes that sold in the summer will also be used as comparables on your appraisal which can yield a higher value.

More Serious Buyers

Buyers who are purchasing during the autumn typically have a sense of urgency in their home buying process. Often they have been looking through the warmer months and haven’t been able to find the right home for whatever reason. By the time fall comes around they are ready to buy and close on their new home. This also means fewer showings of buyers who are just trying to see “what’s out there” on the market.

Past the Back-to-School Slump

Contrary to what many people believe, August, one of the summer months, is actually one of the worst months to list your house. Many buyers with kids prefer to be settled in August, not go under contract. Their reasoning is so they will have time to unpack and settle in before school starts.

Homeowners who list in August may find themselves surprised by how little traffic they get coming into their home. Listing in the fall allows home owners to avoid the back to school slump in the real estate season.

Home for the Holidays

An added benefit to selling your house in the fall is getting settled into your new home for the holidays. Buying a house in the fall means you’ll start creating new holiday traditions and memories in your home right away.

Don’t let the real estate summer myth dissuade you from listing your house during autumn. You may be pleasantly surprised by all of the benefits to selling your home during the fall months.

Investment Property Expenses: The Basics

If you are considering purchasing an income-producing property, whether to be used as a short-term or long-term rental, it’s important to keep in mind that the rent (potential income) received is usually the most-attractive part of ownership — along with anticipated appreciation. However, your expenses will typically take a huge bite out of that income, so the potential gross income is not as important to your bottom line as the potential net income. 

Below are some of the general expenses that accompany owning both short-term and long-term property rentals. These lists will provide you with a framework to discover everything you can about a property’s historic expenses before purchasing, so you can make sure the real income and expenses fall in line with your expectations: 

Short-Term Property Rentals:

  • Mortgage (if applicable)
  • Property Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Property Management (if applicable)
  • Utilities
    • These are typically covered by the owner in a short-term rental
  • HOA dues – if your home is located in a HOA or condo association
  • Advertising/Booking Service (such as Airbnb or VRBO)
  • Landscaping
    • Includes garden maintenance, lawn-mowing, and tree-trimming
  • Cleaning 
  • Paper Supplies
    • Paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
  • Local Occupancy/Income Taxes
  • Local Permits
  • General Maintenance

Long-Term Property Rentals:

  • Mortgage (if applicable)
  • Property Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Property Management (if applicable)
  • Utilities
    • Some utility expenses might be owner responsibility while others may get passed on to the tenant
  • HOA dues – if your home is located in a HOA or condo association
  • Advertising (when vacant)
  • Landscaping
    • Includes garden maintenance, lawn-mowing, and tree-trimming
  • Local Income Taxes 
  • Local Permits
  • Maintenance

Remember, real vacancy rates will also take a bite out of income! 

Something else we haven’t accounted for here are the tax benefits of owing an income-producing property. Although you will want to form a tax strategy with your accountant, make sure he or she fully understands how to use the tax code to your best interest. 

One other thing to keep in mind as you calculate potential income and expenses is that time is usually on the side of the investor. The amount received in rent usually increases per year, while expenses may not increase as rapidly, and if any mortgage is at a fixed rate, that amount won’t increase at all.

It is important to get the full financial big picture on a property before moving forward. If you are just beginning to think about an investment property, let’s discuss! There are plenty of available opportunities here in the Cle Elum area.

10 Ways To Get Your Kitchen Sparkling Before Listing Your Home

The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the house making it also the most difficult to keep clean. However, with a little planning and deep-cleaning up front, you can keep the mess at bay. Here are ten recommendations for getting and keeping your kitchen in tip-top shape when it is listed: 

  1. Cabinets  – Reducing clutter in cabinets is essential for making your kitchen seem spacious to potential buyers. We recommend that you first get rid of everything that isn’t coming with you to your new home, such as old spices, broken dishes, and duplicate spatulas — Only keep what you will need for the next 90 days.  
  2. Cabinet Facing – If your cabinet doors are a little worn or just greasy, first give them a cleaning as appropriate for their finish. If they need a little sprucing up, call in a cabinet refacing expert (we know a stellar expert, if you’re interested!) It will be much cheaper than replacing and the results are almost always amazing! 
  3. Countertops – Depending on the material your counters are made of, give them an appropriate cleaning. Make sure the seams between pieces are clean and re-caulk if needed. 
  4. Oven – The oven should get a good cleaning on the self-clean cycle. Also give the stovetop a deep clean, restoring it to new condition with the best of your ability. This is also a good time to clean the filters in the range hood. 
  5. Fridge – Is it really necessary to stage the inside of your fridge? Yes! First, make a concerted effort to declutter by throwing away everything you aren’t taking with you. Old cheese, ketchup packets, and random condiments need to be disposed of. Then give the shelves and drawers a good cleaning. Do a similar treatment to the freezer
  6. Dishwasher – Although this does a good job of cleaning itself, clean the filter, clean the bottom and run a cycle with white vinegar if appropriate for your model. 
  7. Garbage – The area around the garbage can can get a little messy. Give it a good cleaning and clean the garbage can while you are at it – inside and out. Same with any recycling containers.
  8. Sink – For your sink area, make sure the drain is sparkling clean, detail around the faucet, replace the sponge often, and run some citrus or vinegar down the drain to clear grease and smells.  
  9. Dishes and Glasses – When you clean your cabinets, you may find that your dishes are chipped and you are ready for a new set. A fresh set of matching dishes and glasses can be just the ticket for breathing new life into your cabinet, but don’t include more than a set of eight.  
  10. Pots and Pans – Determine your three to five most-needed pots and pans and pack up or get rid of the rest. If they are in rough shape, resist the urge to use a pot rack or store them on the cooktop. Find a handy cabinet and stack neatly. 

A kitchen will usually be the make or break point for a potential buyer, so take the time to make this room shine and make it sparkle for the duration of the listing. 

Investment Property Expenses: The Basics

If you are considering purchasing an income-producing property, whether for short-term or long-term rentals, it is important to understand the expenses attached to this type of investment. While the potential income to be generated from rent received is usually the most attractive part of ownership — along with anticipated appreciation — expenses will inevitably take a huge bite out of that income. And really, the potential gross income is not as important to your bottom line as the potential net income. 

Below are some of the more general expenses you can expect to find for both short-term and long-term property rentals. These lists will provide you with a framework to find out as much as you can about a property’s historic expenses before purchasing so you can make sure the real income and expenses fall in line with your expectations: 

Short-Term Property Rental

  • Mortgage (if applicable)
  • Property Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Property Management (if applicable)
  • Utilities
    • In a short-term rental, these would be the owner’s responsibility
  • HOA dues (if in a HOA or condo association)
  • Advertising/Booking Service (such as on VRBO)
  • Garden/Lawn Maintenance/Landscaping
  • Cleaning 
  • Toilet Paper/Paper Towels/Supply Restocking
  • Local Occupancy and/or Income Taxes
  • Local Permits Maintenance

Long-Term Property Rental

  • Mortgage (if applicable)
  • Property Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Property Management (if applicable)
  • Utilities
    • Some might be owner responsibility while others may get passed on to the tenant
  • HOA dues (if in a HOA or condo association)
  • Advertising the rental (when vacant)
  • Garden/Lawn-mowing/Landscaping
  • Local Income Taxes 
  • Local Permits Maintenance

Don’t forget — real vacancy rates will also take a bite out of income! 

However, we haven’t yet accounted for the tax benefits of owning an income-producing property. Although you will want to form a tax strategy with your accountant, make sure he or she thoroughly understands how to use the tax code to your best interest. 

One other thing to keep in mind as you measure the income and expenses of owning an investment property is that time is usually on the side of the investor. The amount received in rent usually increases per year, while expenses may not increase as rapidly, and if any mortgage is at a fixed rate, that amount won’t increase.

It is important to understand the full scope of owning an investment property before moving forward. If you are just beginning to think about purchasing a home intended for long or short-term rentals, reach out and we’d be happy to help!

Kick Up Your #GarageGoals

Here are ten improvements you can make to your garage to make the space work for you and your family. Fair warning: your neighbors will be jealous.

Most home buyers covet a good garage space, especially when they live somewhere as outdoors-focused as Eastern Washington. The key to making it as efficient as possible is to get organized. Here are ten improvements you can make to your garage to make the space work for you and your family. Fair warning: your neighbors will be jealous.

  1. Storage racks or cabinets – Do you prefer a clean and streamlined look with things tucked away? If so, cabinets with doors may be the answer. However, sturdy racks generally cost less, are moveable, and labeled bins will make easy work of finding camping or sporting equipment.
  2. Overhead storage – If your garage has some height, continue that storage all the way up! You can even get ceiling-mounted shelves and sliders for bins. 
  3. Recreation equipment pulleys – Homeowners are also taking advantage of vertical space by lofting their bikes and kayaks up and above head and car levels with pulleys.
  4. Tool rack – Regardless of whether you are a gardener in need of a hanging system for your rakes and shovels or a handyperson who needs a place to easily access a hammer, drill, and tape measure, having a peg board (which comes in plastic, metal, and hardboard) with hooks and/or a large tool hanging system is the way to go. You can even get small wire bins for storing things that don’t quite hang on a rack. 
  5. Lighting – If your garage is woefully lit with a few 60W lights, that is no way to light up a workspace. Upgrading your lighting in the garage is easy, can be done by visiting a home improvement store and possibly hiring an electrician.  
  6. Epoxy floor – Once a cement garage floor has been sealed and epoxied, it is much easier to clean and it is less likely to get stained. Plus, it looks great! 
  7. Work space – Do you need a flat surface to take on those tasks that are better suited for a garage than the kitchen table? If so, consider a moveable work cart that allows you to lock the wheels in place for security, and can work both in the garage and in the driveway! 
  8. Ventilation – If you use paint and solvents that need ventilation, make sure you include a fan plan! 
  9. Designated car space – If you park in the garage, mark your car clear areas with heavy reflective tape. Family members will be less likely to leave something where it shouldn’t be. 
  10. Upgrade your garage door – Not only will this really enhance your curb appeal, but a garage door that will let in some light can also make the garage a more enjoyable place to spend time!

If you are short on ideas as to how to implement this or need some visuals for inspiration, just do an online search for garage organization and you will be amazed at what people have come up with (try checking out Pinterest!) If you have a collection of a certain type of item – say fishing poles, a lot of different kinds of tape, or even bats and balls, there are plenty of ingenious ways to corral those items. 

In our experience, a well-organized, brightly-lit garage goes a long way when selling. Make this your summer project and you will thank yourself when it is time to sell. 

Summer Sale? Get Ready!

Summer is the most popular time of year to sell a home in most areas of the country, particularly in places like Washington State where seasonal weather changes have a major impact on home owners. But no matter the season you sell, there are some things you should pay particular attention to for showing your home to prospective buyers. Here are some tips for having your home listed in the summer:

  • Define those outdoor spaces and make them pop! You may have a deck, patio, or seating around a fire pit. Make these outdoor rooms inviting by investing in new chair cushions and some bright flowers in containers. An outdoor rug can also liven things up. If you have outdoor lights, make sure all the light bulbs work and turn them on if you’re showing your home during the evening hours.
  • Don’t be stingy with the air conditioner. There is nothing worse than a heatwave to turn off buyers if your air conditioner is on the fritz. Before putting your home on the market, have your air conditioning unit serviced. Then, don’t be stingy! Keep your home under 75 degrees, even when you are not at home. You never know when potential buyers are going to come through and you want their home viewing experience to be comfortable. If you do not have air conditioning in your home, be sure to turn on ceiling fans and open doors and windows to create a pleasant circulation of air through your home.
  • Quell smells. Heat can cause smells to be at their worst! Stay on top of the dishes and cooking smells, take out garbage twice a day, run citrus down the garbage disposal, keep leftovers in the fridge to a minimum, make sure your pets are clean, cat litter scooped daily, and your carpets vacuumed and fresh. 
  • Keep the plants freshened – indoors and out. Indoor plants can get dried out quickly during the summer, so keep them watered and fertilized. For outdoor plants, water regularly and trim off the dead flowers and foliage. If you have hanging baskets and planters, watering daily is critical. If you do have indoor plants, consider purchasing fresh flowers to display around your home during viewings and open houses.
  • Keep the lawn even and trimmed. Mow twice a week when it is at peak growing season. Use trimmers or weed whackers to keep the stray blades at bay. Remember that your lawn will dry out quickly during the summer as well, so be sure to water regularly and maintain any sprinkler systems if needed.
  • Make your pool and fountains sparkle. Buyers love water features — whether it is a pool, fountain, or pond. But a little missed maintenance can quickly make buyers think they may get in over their head. Also consider leaving the information of any services you use to keep your home and property in tip-top shape!
  • Wasps, mosquitoes, and ants – oh my!  Insects are out in droves this time of year. Make sure you patrol your property at least a couple of times per week to be on the lookout for flare ups which can be an indication of an impending infestation.

If you are planning on listing your home this summer, the time to prepare is now. The Rarden Team will be there for you at every step of the process — let’s make a plan to make your home show its best!