Selling a House

Buying and Selling a House at the Same Time

If you own a home and are planning a move, the prospect of buying another house while you are selling your first one can seem pretty daunting. Do you sell your home first and live in limbo while looking for another, or do you buy now and foot the bill for two mortgage payments until you are able to sell? Can you time it perfectly and do both at once?

In a perfect world, this transition would take place in one day. You would simply sell your old one, then go on to closing on the new one. However, in the real world, it is not typically that simple. If you are wondering how to buy a house while also selling your current house, extensive knowledge of the process is important, and empowering yourself with the information you need can save you a great deal of headache.

So, you may be wondering, can I buy another house while simultaneously selling mine? The answer to that is, yes, you can. But the bigger question is whether you will want to once you understand the entire process.

Consider this key information on how to buy and sell a house at the same time.

Know the Local Market First

Before you start seriously searching for a new home or putting your current home on the market, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the housing market in your area.

Ask your real estate agent if the market is leaning toward buyers or sellers. In real estate, your best plan of action may depend whether sellers or buyers are in the more powerful position. This is known as a Buyer’s Market or a Seller’s Market.

What is a Buyer’s Market?

In a buyer’s market, there are more homes available than people looking to buy. In a buyer’s market, you will likely have an easier time finding your new home than you will with selling your old home. Sellers may be willing to accept a contingent offer, which means you agree to purchase their home contingent on selling yours first.

What is a Seller’s Market?

In a seller’s market, there are more buyers in the marketplace than there are homes available. In a seller’s market, your current home will likely sell more quickly than you will be able to find a new home. Consider asking your buyers to do a rent-back after closing to allow you time to find your new place.

Buying a House Before Selling

There are a lot of advantages to buying your new home first, before selling your old one. Primarily, it makes the move easier since you are able to take your time, move your belongings to the new place on any schedule you like, and avoid living in limbo while you wait for your current house to sell.

On the financial side, buying your new home first takes serious financial resources. Not only will you still have your existing mortgage payment, but you will have the new one as well, plus closing costs, down payment, moving expenses and upkeep and maintenance on both properties. It can be a lot to handle, especially if you are on a tight budget or limited income.

Buying first may also make getting a mortgage harder since you still have the existing mortgage debt to your name, your debt-to-income ratio could be much higher. That could mean a lower available loan balance for your new purchase, higher interest rates, or even not qualifying for a loan at all.

If you choose to buy a second home before selling your current home, here are some ways to make it happen:

  • Rent out your old property: Once you have moved into your new house, consider renting or leasing out your old house. You could also list it on Airbnb or another short-term rental platform. This will allow you to generate income to maintain the home and pay its mortgage while you look for a permanent buyer.
  • Consider a contingency clause: A home sale contingency clause is an agreement written into the contract that says if you are unable to sell your current home by a certain date — making it financially possible for you to purchase the new home — then you can walk away from the contract, and your earnest money will be returned. Not every seller will agree to these terms, but if the market is slow there is a chance they will consider it.
  • Consider a home equity loan or bridge loan: If you have equity in your current home, you could free up cash to cover your down payment, closing costs, and additional expenses while maintaining both properties. A bridge loan makes it possible to finance a new house before selling your current home. Both options may have high interest rates, so take a closer look with a financial advisor before going these routes.

Pros: The Benefits of Buying Before Selling

  • The process of house hunting can be less stressful and more enjoyable
  • You are less rushed into buying a house in a hurry
  • You can move straight into your new home, so you expensive storage fees or doubled moving expenses can be avoided
  • If the deal falls through during the process of purchasing the new home, you still have your old home to stay in

Cons: The Negative Aspects of Buying Before Selling

  • Your cash will be tied up in the investment in your current home, giving you less opportunity for larger down payment or high offer for the new home
  • You might be pressured to accept a lower offer on your house if you are in a rush to sell
  • You may end up paying for two residences at once until you sell your home
  • You will also be responsible for two sets of taxes
  • You may not qualify for a new mortgage when you have your existing one

Selling a House Before Buying

Many people choose to sell their existing house first. This reduces the financial stress and allows you to use the proceeds from the sale when searching for that dream home. It is a more simple, straightforward and easy strategy to budget for.

The biggest downside to this approach is that it leaves you needing a place to stay until you purchase a new house. This can be particularly difficult for families with small children, a family, pets or lots of belongings.

If you have decided to sell your current home first, here are some steps you can take to make the process a bit smoother.

  • Arrange temporary housing: Before you list your home, make sure you have a temporary place to live once the property sells. This could mean living with a friend or family member, or it might mean renting a hotel room for a few months while you look for a new house. Whichever option you choose, have a plan (and financial resources) in place to make it happen.
  • Know what you are looking for in a new house: Start narrowing down your list of must-haves, and research potential neighborhoods and communities. As soon as you have accepted an offer on your existing house and know exactly what your budget is, you should start hunting for your new property right away to minimize your time in limbo.
  • Be ready to buy: Get preapproved for your loan once you choose a mortgage lender. You should also set your budget, preferences and timeline, so you can start viewing relevant properties as soon as your old house sells.
  • Consider a lease-back: You may be able to negotiate a lease-back if the buyer of your old house is not on a tight timeline. This allows you to “rent” the property from the new owner for a certain amount of time while you look for a new home. You may need to make payments to the buyer in order to do this, or it might mean reducing the sales price.

Pros - The Benefits of Selling Before Buying:

  • You are not paying for two mortgages at the same time
  • Cash will be easily accessible for a down payment for your new property
  • You will have a more exact budget for buying the new property.
  • You may not qualify to carry two mortgages, so this option can be ideal for those with less-than-stellar credit
  • You will not have the pressure to reduce your asking price to sell your home quickly

Cons - The Negative Aspects of Selling Before Buying:

  • Finding a temporary place to live before settling in a new home can be stressful
  • You will have to move twice and pay for storage and additional moving costs for two moves
  • Your investment will temporarily be out of the real estate market

Buying and Selling at the Same Time

Finally, you have a third option: you can buy and sell at the same time. There is no way to make the process of buying or selling a home totally predictable, but thinking through your preferred strategy will help you navigate the ups and downs a little bit more easily. You will have to time your two transactions perfectly, negotiating with the buyer for a later closing date and pushing your lender to work fast to prevent any lag time between sales.

When buying a new home and selling an old one at the same time, one transaction always goes first. Sometimes one happens first due to personal preference, while other times, it is a matter of finding the perfect home before you are ready to sell. Each of these moves should be considered carefully and a qualified real estate agent can help strategize based on local market conditions.

For people who need the proceeds from one sale to move forward with an offer on a new house, that’s where an offer contingency comes in. It essentially means the homebuyer has a set amount of time to sell their current home to help finance the new home purchase.

You could also request an extended closing. While most buyers want to move into their new home right away, you still need time to sell yours. As part of your purchase offer, request an extended closing of 60 days to have extra time to find a buyer.

Find the Right Agent

Buying your house should be a fun and fulfilling experience. If you have done your research and evaluated what you can afford and what you truly need, finding a new home can be exciting. Learning more about the purchase process eliminates the fear of the unknown and lets you search for a home with peace of mind.

Windermere’s community of real estate professionals is our greatest asset. We have experts in all areas of real estate, from your typical starter home to condos, luxury properties, and new construction. While residential real estate is the mainstay of our business, Windermere also has offices and associates who specialize in property management, commercial real estate, and relocation services. To further facilitate the home buying process, Windermere has affiliated partners in certain regions to provide mortgage, title, and escrow services.

Call us today with any questions or concerns. Our professional Real Estate Agents will help you through this exciting process. (951) 369-8002

 


Exploring Your New Neighborhood

Exploring Your New Neighborhood

When you buy a home in a brand new neighborhood or even a whole new city, chances are you will need to do some exploring on your own. But, that is part of the fun of moving to a new place, right? From the most bustling of cities to the smallest of towns, there are so many things to see, restaurants and shops to visit and people to meet. If you are going to settle down and get comfortable with the landscape you need to take some time in investigating it in detail.

While there is not always time to get out there and immerse yourself right after moving day, make a point of actively engaging with your new community as you settle in. In addition to helping you feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment, making an effort to discover your new neighborhood will ultimately make you feel more at home.

The Inland Empire is filled with fun and exciting neighborhoods. From quiet and kickback to lively and filled with activities, there is a neighborhood that is right for any personality.

Here are some tips on how to get started in exploring your new neighborhood.

Meet the Neighbors

The people who live around you are a big part of what defines your community. Meeting your neighbors provides you with an opportunity to ask questions about your new neighborhood and possibly discover some hidden gems (or worthwhile information) you might have missed otherwise.

Some areas are more naturally friendly than others, but you want to make sure you are sending the message that you are open to meeting people. Smile and say hello to neighbors who you come across, ask some light but engaging questions, and build rapport over time.

Take the First Step

These days, the proverbial “welcome wagon” does not necessarily show up on your door with a week’s worth of casseroles and cookies. So if none of your new neighbors have shown up to ring your doorbell, you certainly could bring some to them. You can even host a simple get together as a “housewarming” party; you will be surprised how many neighbors are curious about the new arrivals but intimidated to make the first move.

Take A Walk and Mingle

If you want to know what your neighborhood has to offer, go see it for yourself. Going for a walk is a great way to destress during or after the unpacking process, and will allow you to better visualize your surrounding area. If you have a dog, they can help break the ice with new neighbors on your block. A leisurely after-dinner stroll never seems out of place and gives you the opportunity for a planned “spontaneous” meet up.

Start Exploring!

Even in the age of GPS, you will need to know how to get where you want to go. While you can certainly look it up, there is no substitute for just getting out and about. Challenge yourself to drive or walk different routes each time you leave your house; you might stumble on a brilliant shortcut, a nearby coffee shop you didn’t even know was there.

Check Out Local Clubs and Meet-Ups

Neighborhoods are made up of people, first and foremost. To immerse yourself in the community, start by joining a local club or sports team. Thanks to the internet, meeting new people with similar interests is easier than ever before. Look to sites like Meetup or Meet the Neighbors, which can help you make the connection.

Act Like a Tourist

You do not have to live in a touristy city to approach your new neighborhood from a tourist’s perspective. Just think about what someone visiting your town might seek out – such as museums, local attractions and theater, top rated restaurants – and check those things out for yourself. Usually the things that draw tourists do so for a reason, so go see them for yourself. You do not necessarily have to check everything off your list in one day, but it would be handy to make a list of all the places you are interested to visit and follow through as you can.

Ask for Recommendations

Take a short cut to discovering the best of the best in your new neighborhood by asking for recommendations from people who have been in the area for a while. If your job is local, ask your co-workers where they recommend for live music or the best draft beers on tap. If you do not have anybody you can ask, use a site like Nextdoor, which is basically a forum for individuals in communities to share information, ask advice and get recommendations for new things to try.

Shop Locally

You can find a big box store anywhere you move, but little mom and pop shops sometimes require a little more effort. Shopping locally helps you support your community and what makes it unique. Local businesses bring local flavor to their environments, and the restaurants and shops that also call your neighborhood home can tell you a story about what’s important there and what brings people together.

Get Involved In the Community

There is no better way to become ingrained in the fabric of the community than to jump in with both feet. After all, this is your neighborhood now and you want to know what is going on. Attend upcoming HOA and neighborhood watch meetings. Those who take the time to go to these gatherings are the most-invested homeowners in your community. Listen to the issues and volunteer your feedback as a way to become known in the community. Volunteer to help with projects, like planting flowers in the spring or sprucing up playground equipment.

You also can see if the local parks or library needs volunteers, or check out the community center, where they can probably always use a helping hand. Many towns have community gardens, where you can chat with neighbors. If you have kids, volunteering at the school is an ideal way to get involved immediately. By putting yourself out there, your new town will feel like home in no time.

Find the Right Agent

The day will come when your new neighborhood no longer seems so novel and you have settled in to life in the community. Take the time in the beginning to go the extra step and immerse yourself in where you live, and you will feel a deeper connection and appreciation as the days, months, and years add up. A move to a new neighborhood is an opportunity to explore the world with a fresh set of eyes, so make the most of it and get out there. You will always be glad that you did.

Windermere’s community of real estate professionals is our greatest asset. We have experts in all areas of real estate, from your typical starter home to condos, luxury properties, and new construction. While residential real estate is the mainstay of our business, Windermere also has offices and associates who specialize in property management, commercial real estate, and relocation services. To further facilitate the home buying process, Windermere has affiliated partners in certain regions to provide mortgage, title, and escrow services.

Call us today with any questions or concerns. Our professional Real Estate Agents will help you through this exciting process. (951) 369-8002


Buying First House

Preparing To Buy Your First House

Buying your first home is an exciting yet intimidating experience. The entire journey is filled with emotions and hurdles and victories but it can feel a little bit overwhelming at times. The Inland Empire is full of wonderful cities with so much to offer different types of needs. From the historic districts of Riverside to the horse properties of Corona and everything in between, there really is something for everyone.

Before you take on the challenge of buying your first home, it is helpful to have some first-time homebuyer tips handy to help you navigate the process. If it has been a while since you bought your last home, these tips will bring you up to speed on what it will take to become a homeowner again.

Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

Homeownership means you will be on the hook for repairs and maintenance on your home. And if you need a mortgage to buy a house, make sure your financial house is in order before you start shopping for a mortgage. Your credit score needs to be in good shape while saving for a down payment and looking for your next home. It is a lot of to think about, but you do not have to do it alone.

We have pulled together some of our best tips from our industry professionals to help you get your foot in the door and avoid common mistakes new buyers make.

1. Establish a Realistic Budget

Before you start looking at available homes or talking to a lender, you also need to establish a budget that will work for your current financial situation. Decide how much you would feel comfortable spending on a mortgage.

When qualifying potential borrowers mortgage lenders calculate the borrower’s debt-to-income ratio. Lenders divide your total debt, including your mortgage payment, by your gross income to determine your maximum debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Although lenders may approve you for a DTI ratio as high as 50%, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends capping it at 43%, to leave room in your budget for unplanned expenses or reductions in income.

When developing this budget, take into account other factors, like your current bills and savings plan. You definitely still want to put some money aside in case something needs to be fixed around the house. Also, consider additional fees that may come with buying a home, such as Homeowner’s Association (HOA) fees and insurance.

2. Maintain Your Credit

It is important to really tackle your current finances before you begin the long process of buying a home. A buyer’s credit score can affect their interest rate and it can determine the type of loan they qualify for. The higher the credit score, the more favorable interest rates will be. Mortgage lenders use a borrower’s credit score to evaluate how risky it would be to lend that person a substantial amount of money for a home.

Look at your current debts and payments and work on paying off any existing lines of credit. After all, paying down your debts will boost your credit score, thus making you a prime candidate for a loan.

Avoid changing jobs, charging new credit or making large cash deposits before your closing — your loan could be denied before you ever get to the closing table for doing so. When you apply for mortgage pre-approval, lenders will pull your credit report. And they’ll do it again before you actually close on the house and mortgage. If they see a new line of credit or another loan; discover that your credit balance has increased; or realize you are making late payments, you could be at risk of not getting the money you need for the home of your dreams.

3. Save For Your Down Payment and Other Costs

Save as much money as you can right now. Between the down payment, closing costs, and moving expenses associated with buying a home, it is important to save as much money as you can — and as early as you can.

There are several upfront costs involved in buying a home that you might be responsible for besides the down payment, such as:

  • Closing costs
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowners association fees
  • Homeowners insurance premiums
  • Home inspection payments

4. Research the Available Loan Options Before Applying

Before you make a decision, make sure you have spoken to different banks and compared the costs. Try to do this even before you make a decision so as you’ll have plenty of time to make a comparison. The type of loan that you choose will help determine your down payment and what kind of home you can afford, among other things. There are multiple types of home loan options out there.

If you’re a first-time home buyer, then you have probably never shopped for a good interest rate for a home loan. Like we mentioned before, there are a lot of different types of mortgage loans available to new homeowners. Of course, the cost of service matters, but you’ll also want a lender with good customer service and a variety of mortgage options to choose from.

5. Complete Your Pre-Approval Before Starting the Search

It can be tempting to jump right into hunting for the perfect house, particularly if this is your first time. It’s a really good idea to get a mortgage preapproval before you begin comparing properties. You should have a pre-approval letter from a lender that will tell you exactly how much of a loan you can receive. It is based on your finances, with a lender having a deep look at your W-2s, bank statements, and credit score.

Some people may get a pre-approval letter and the pre-qualification process confused. A pre-qualification is simply an estimate of the amount of a home loan you could receive based on a brief look at your income and other information.

Prequalification letter: A prequalification is an estimate of the amount of home loan you can get. It’s based on an informal evaluation of your income and other information.

Preapproval letter: A mortgage preapproval is a document from a lender that tells you exactly how much loan money you can get. It’s based on your financial information, such as W-2s, bank statements and your credit score.

6. Create a Must-Haves And Deal-Breakers Checklist

You may have always dreamed of a home with three bedrooms, a spacious yard and a white picket fence, but have you thought about what you really need in a home? Before you begin touring houses, take inventory of what you will need in your new home. A list of must-haves and a list of deal-breakers can help you determine the right place for you. In a high-pressure seller’s market, you may feel rushed to make decisions. Keeping detailed notes throughout your home search will help you make better choices for your future.

Below are some ideas you may want to include in your checklist. Share your findings with your real estate agent to make sure they know which homes are hitting the mark and which ones are falling short.

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of baths
  • Storage space
  • Yard size and layout
  • Energy efficiency
  • Neighborhood safety
  • Nearby businesses
  • Commute
  • School ratings
  • Local ordinances for animals

7. View as many houses as you can

It is perfectly normal to get excited when you view a house that fits your criteria. But we advise our clients to be patient. Make sure you view other houses too before you make a commitment. This will also give you the chance to make a comparison. Make sure you examine the neighborhood properly. Visit the shops and supermarkets. Consider the traffic on your potential street. Is it a quiet area? Are there any parks nearby? Take a long walk around the neighborhood at different times of the day to get a better insight.

8. Have a Home Inspection Done

A home inspection is a vital part of the process. You want a qualified inspector to check out your potential home before you sign anything. A home inspector will check the house for any potential safety hazards or problems that need to be addressed. And, if repairs are needed, they may even be able to give you an estimate of the costs you will be facing should you move forward with your purchase.

The inspector will also have knowledge of home maintenance and what tasks should be done on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. With that information, you may be able to renegotiate with the seller about any needed repairs — or at least pay to get them done ahead of time. After all, you want to prevent surprises down the road as much as possible.

9. Work With A Trustworthy Real Estate Agent

Most Americans will purchase a home or two in their lifetime, some none at all. A good real estate agent will search the market, find a home that fits your needs, and will assist you with the negotiation and closing process. When speaking to possible agents, inquire about their experience working with first-time homebuyers in your area and how they intend to assist you in your search.

A real estate professional can help by:

  • Showing you properties in your area that fit your needs and budget
  • Attending showings with you to learn more about your priorities as a homeowner
  • Helping you decide how much to offer for a property
  • Submitting an offer letter on your behalf
  • Helping you negotiate with the seller or the seller’s agent after you submit an offer
  • Attending the closing with you to make sure that everything is in order with your sale

Find the Right Agent

Buying your house should be a fun and fulfilling experience. If you have done your research and evaluated what you can afford and what you truly need, finding a new home can be exciting. Learning more about the purchase process eliminates the fear of the unknown and lets you search for a home with peace of mind.

Windermere’s community of real estate professionals is our greatest asset. We have experts in all areas of real estate, from your typical starter home to condos, luxury properties, and new construction. While residential real estate is the mainstay of our business, Windermere also has offices and associates who specialize in property management, commercial real estate, and relocation services. To further facilitate the home buying process, Windermere has affiliated partners in certain regions to provide mortgage, title, and escrow services.

Call us today with any questions or concerns. Our professional Real Estate Agents will help you through this exciting process. (951) 369-8002

 


Q3 2021 Southern California Real Estate Market Update

The following analysis of the Southern California real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere Real Estate agent.

REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The job recovery in Southern California continues to be quite the roller-coaster, with solid monthly gains followed by significant drops. In the first quarter of the year, more than 326,000 jobs returned, but that was followed by a less-than-stellar 8,300 increase in the second quarter. The latest third quarter numbers (most recent data is from August) showed that the Southern California region has added more than 27,000 positions, but this is still underwhelming.

The COVID-19 Delta variant is impacting the job market, and a lack of available workers isn’t helping. In aggregate, the region has recovered 1.31 million of the 2.02 million jobs that were shed when the pandemic hit, but this means Southern California is still down more than 700,000 positions. The region’s unemployment rate in August was 8.2%, down significantly from 14.2% a year ago. The most recent data shows the lowest jobless rates were in Orange (6%) and San Diego (6.6%) counties. The highest rate was again in Los Angeles County, where it was 9.7%. Although the current pace of the job recovery is muted, I hope it will pick up in the not-too-distant future, but the likelihood of reaching full employment anytime soon appears to be unrealistic.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME SALES

❱ In the third quarter, 50,313 homes sold in Southern California, representing a 0.1% drop from the same period in 2020 and 4.7% lower than in the second quarter of this year.

❱ Pending home sales, which are an indicator of future closings, were 4.5% lower than in the second quarter of this year, suggesting that the final quarter may also be down.

❱ Year-over-year, home sales rose in Los Angeles County, but pulled back in the remaining markets covered by this report. Compared to the second quarter, sales pulled back in all markets other than San Bernardino, where sales rose 6%.

❱ The issue is not demand, rather a lack of supply is holding the market back. Listing activity is down 22.3% from a year ago, and this is impacting sales. That said, listings were 17.1% higher than in the second quarter and, with more choice starting to emerge in the market, we could see sales volumes pick back up.

A bar graph showing the annual change in home sales for various counties in Southern California during the third quarter of 2021.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME PRICES

A map showing the real estate market percentage changes in various counties in Southern California during the third quarter of 2021.

❱ The average price of homes sold in the region was $971,184. This was 19.1% higher than a year ago, but 1.4% lower than in the second quarter of 2021.

❱ Mortgage rates remain remarkably competitive, even if they are off the historic low of last December. Also of note is that jumbo mortgage rates are remarkably competitive—an important factor in expensive markets such as Southern California.

❱ The region saw double-digit price growth across all counties contained in this report. Year over year, prices were up more than 19%, but they were down 1.4% from the previous quarter.

❱ As stated in last quarter’s report, I believe interest rates will rise slowly, which is likely to bring out more buyers. With inventory levels starting to tick up, I am expecting the regional housing market to trend higher, but likely not until the spring.

A bar graph showing the annual change in home sale prices for various counties in Southern California during the third quarter of 2021.

DAYS ON MARKET

❱ In the third quarter of the year, the average time it took to sell a home in the region was 17 days, which is 16 fewer days than a year ago and 2 fewer days than in the second quarter of 2021.

❱ Three counties saw the time it took to sell a house drop compared to the second quarter of this year: Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange. Market time was static in San Bernardino County and rose by one day in San Diego County.

❱ Homes in San Diego County continue to sell at a faster rate than other markets in the region. In the third quarter, it took an average of 14 days to sell a home there—9 fewer days than it took a year ago.

❱ With it taking an average of a little more than two weeks for a home to find a buyer, the market remains very tight. That said, with inventory levels rising, it is possible that days on market will start to creep higher, especially as affordability constraints potentially limit the number of qualified buyers.

A bar graph showing the average days on market for homes in various counties in Southern California during the third quarter of 2021.

CONCLUSIONS

A speedometer graph indicating a seller's market in Southern California during the third quarter of 2021.

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

The third quarter was quite a mixed bag, with rising inventory levels but lower sales and prices compared to the second quarter. When I look at list prices, which is a leading indicator, as opposed to sale prices, which are a lagging indicator, I notice some softening in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties. Although not a cause for concern, it may suggest that the market is about to start to cool—albeit modestly.

As such, I have chosen to move the needle a little more in the direction of home buyers, although sellers still have the upper hand.

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER

Matthew Gardner - Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.


10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or have purchased a home before, the same mistakes can rear their head at any point in the buying process. By working closely with your agent, you can identify these pitfalls ahead of time and adjust accordingly. Mistakes in the buying process can lead to higher costs, added stress, and even terminated contracts. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid when buying a home.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

1. Not getting pre-approved

Getting pre-approved is a key component of the early stages of the buying process and will help to maximize your chances of getting your offer accepted. Getting pre-approved will give you a concrete idea of how much you can borrow, how much house you can afford, the estimated monthly costs of your mortgage and its corresponding interest rates. It also communicates to sellers that you are a serious buyer.

2. Not identifying your price range

Pursuing listings you can’t afford is a surefire way to start your home buying process off on the wrong foot. Buying a home that’s outside your budget will put added pressure on your finances and increases your chances of foreclosing, should your financial situation take a turn for the worse. Use the general rule that your house payment should never be more than 25-30% of your take-home pay, and as you prepare for talks with your lender be sure to account for all the expenses you will incur, including private mortgage insurance (PMI) if applicable.

3. Taking on new credit

Opening new lines of credit at any point in the home buying process will slow things down and can affect your chances of getting a home loan. Adding another credit card to your collection or taking out a loan will change your credit score, causing a ripple effect that can bring the buying process to a halt. Because new credit changes your debt-to-income ratio, lenders will likely want to review your mortgage approval and your risk of non-payment. This forces sellers to wait around for your application while competing buyers speed ahead of you in line.

4. Not purchasing adequate homeowner’s insurance

It’s understood that a home is a valuable asset that needs to be protected, but it is still all too common for homeowners to be under-insured. A homeowner’s insurance policy covers your home, your belongings, living expenses and injury or damage to others that occur on the property in the event of a disaster. Work closely with your insurance broker to make sure you have adequate coverage for the most common risks in your area like flood, earthquake, and more.

5. Not looking for other loans

With a little resourcefulness, you can tap into new sources of financial support that will help to ease the burden of making a home purchase. VA Loans can be a lifesaver for active service and veteran personnel, offering zero down payment and lower-than-average mortgage rates. Other government loan programs such as USDA and FHA loans can greatly aid homebuyers with favorable loan terms. Be sure to thoroughly review the qualifications of these loans before applying.

6. Misunderstanding the down payment

When it comes to down payments, it’s not twenty percent or bust. Granted, with a twenty percent down payment your lender won’t require you to purchase mortgage insurance; but even if you’re short, there are a number of alternatives to private mortgage insurance (PMI) available to you, such as Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance and a piggyback loans strategy. Work with your agent to identify trusted lenders in their network that can help you secure the right loan.

7. Not working with a buyer’s agent

A buyer’s agent will help you to identify which homes you can afford, work with you on formulating a competitive offer and preparing for negotiations with sellers and listing agents. Buyer’s agents will also handle the paperwork when it comes time to close the deal. A home purchase is an intricate transaction with many moving parts and having an experienced professional by your side who can navigate each step is invaluable. Typically, the buyer’s agent splits the commission of the sale with the listing agent, which is paid by the seller, so generally their services come at no additional cost to you.

8. Underestimating repair and remodeling costs

Regardless of whether you’re buying a fixer-upper or a home that needs a few simple upgrades, you can usually expect some repair and remodeling expenses once the home is yours. Before you start swinging hammers or tearing up drywall, take time to assess the scope of the projects and whether you can do them yourself or need a professional. Talk with your agent about which remodeling projects have the highest resale value for comparable homes in your area.

9. Buying a home without an inspection

Buying a home without having it inspected opens the buyer up to added risk. Without a home inspection, you forego the ability to negotiate repairs and concessions with the seller. Getting a home inspection is a small investment and alerts you of any potential home disasters that may be on the horizon. However, this mistake comes with an aside. In a seller’s market where a high number of buyers are competing for a limited number of available listings, waiving the inspection contingency is a common tactic for buyers looking to make their offer stand out. Work with your agent to figure out what’s best for you and your situation.

10. Forgetting about moving costs

It’s easy to get so focused on the purchase of the home that you forget about what it will cost to move there. Moving expenses can add up quickly, especially if you’ll be traveling across state lines or across the country. If you’re buying and selling a home at the same time, there’s also the question of where you’ll live in between closing on your current home and closing on your new one. If these costs aren’t accounted for, you can quickly be over budget before you set foot in your new home.

For more information on how to make the buying process smoother, read about how you can Increase Your Buying Power.


What is a Seller's Market?

When the housing market favors sellers, a seller can expect ideal conditions for selling their home. However, that’s not to say that a seller’s market doesn’t come with its own unique set of challenges for parties on both sides of the transaction. That’s why it’s critical for buyers and sellers to work with an agent who not only understands their wants and needs but who can also help them navigate highly competitive market conditions.

 

What is a Seller’s Market?

A seller’s market occurs when demand exceeds supply. When inventory is limited, competition amongst buyers is fierce. Median sales prices increase, days on market decrease, and homes commonly receive multiple offers, often over their original asking price.

 

Selling in a Seller’s Market

Though demand is high in a seller’s market, staging and making any necessary repairs are still important steps to take before hitting the market. An agent can help a seller make important decisions about which repairs and updates help add value to the home.

When it comes to offers and negotiations in a seller’s market, sellers have the leverage. It’s common for homes to fetch more than their asking price with multiple offers on the table. Though prices are being driven up by demand, a seller may choose to list their home at or just below fair market value with the hopes of starting a bidding war. Because competition is so high, buyers may be willing to waive an inspection contingency to help make their offer stand out. Agents can help sellers decide whether they should conduct a pre-listing inspection, which sometimes helps the seller get more offers and command a higher price.

With multiple offers on the table, it may be tempting to simply choose the one with the highest figure; however, the best offer is also the one that removes risk and aligns with the seller’s goals. Whether that entails waived contingencies, a shorter closing window, or an all-cash offer, in a seller’s market, the seller has the power to choose. Sellers should fully review each offer with the help of their agent before proceeding.

 

Buying in a Seller’s Market

Buyers in a seller’s market must act fast. Due to the high level of competition, they must be prepared for a frustrating scenario where their offers may not win out. This emphasizes the importance of working with a buyer’s agent. In a seller’s market, it’s more likely that the buying process will include such factors as seller review dates and escalation clauses. A buyer’s agent will help navigate these challenges while working with their client to make their offer stand out. They will formulate a strategy, comparing their client’s wish list and budget against the limited number of homes available and proceeding accordingly. A buyer’s agent will also set the expectation that, due to the competitive nature of the market, finding the right home may take longer than expected.

In a seller’s market, the buyer is at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiations. The chance of getting a contingent offer is minimal and pushing for certain closing dates and specific repairs may do more harm than good to their offer. A cash offer has significant power in a seller’s market. If a buyer can make a cash-heavy or even all-cash offer, it is likely to stand out to the seller. It gives the buyer more buying power and greatly increases their chances of winning a bidding war.

 

For more information on the conditions of your local market, visit our website for Quarterly Real Estate Market Updates from our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner. For assistance planning a home sale or purchase, connect with a Windermere Real Estate agent here: Connect With an Agent


Timeless Home Design

When decorating and designing, homeowners often strive for a home that may incorporate vintage and modern elements but remains timeless at its core. Fortunately, certain design principles and elements have stood the test the time and can help you curate the home you desire. Here is your guide to understanding how you can design a home that looks and feels timeless.

 

Principles of Timeless Home Design

Balance

When designing a space in your home, balance is a key concept to delivering a timeless ambiance. Achieved through a proportionate arrangement of objects and colors, balance will help create a logical pattern in your home that pleases the eye. Experiment with symmetry in your home to build balance. This doesn’t mean that there needs to be two of every object, rather in every space you should utilize the objects and color schemes present to create symmetry.

 

Focal Point

Imagine a living room without a couch or mantle, or a dining room without a dining table. These images are confusing because we simply don’t know where to focus our attention. A core principle of timeless design is that space should have a focal point to give order to the room. Focal points don’t always have to be derived from a built-in feature of the home, you can create one with furniture, artwork, or some other form of eye-catching décor.

 

Scale and Proportion

Scale and proportion are two fundamental concepts of interior design and are key to creating a timeless décor. Simply put, proportion refers to the relationship of items and colors, while scale refers to their relationship with the room. For example, if a room in your home has high ceilings, this allows for taller furniture and artwork, while the most spacious rooms in your house are the best home for large décor pieces and furnishings. Proper usage of scale and proportion also means leaving some space between items to let the room breathe, so to speak.

 

Colors and Patterns

For a timeless look and feel, choose more classic color and pattern schemes. Basketweave is a traditional pattern that helps to create symmetry. Stripes are always in style and can help to reinforce clean lines. Stick to neutral paint colors on your walls as they give you the flexibility to add décor without overwhelming the room. Combinations of off-whites, beiges, grays, and earthy tones will deliver that timeless feel you’re looking for.

 

Natural Elements

There’s nothing more timeless than nature. Materials like wood, stone, and marble have been a cornerstone of design since antiquity. Whether you utilize these materials in your home as furniture, accent pieces, or focal points, they will help create a trend-free, organic environment in any room.


The Importance of Pre-Approval

To set yourself up for a smooth and successful home purchase, getting pre-approved is perhaps the most productive first step you can take. It strengthens your buying credibility, informs your home search, and speeds up the closing process.

The Pre-Approval Process 

There is an important distinction to made between two important steps of your mortgage application process: pre-qualification and pre-approval. They are similar in that they both help to inform your financial standing, but there are key differences between the two.

Pre-qualification

Pre-qualification is the first step in your mortgage application process. It will help you to understand the approximate loan amount you can expect to qualify for. You’ll begin by sharing your financial information—debt, income, assets, etc.—with you bank or lender. After reviewing the information, the bank or lender will give a loan estimate. The process is relatively simple, only taking a few business days to process.

Pre-approval

The pre-approval process is more involved than pre-qualification. After submitting a mortgage application, your lender will require all the necessary info to conduct a thorough credit history check and review of your financial health. Getting pre-approved will give you a better idea of how much you can borrow, estimated monthly costs, and what interest rates you can expect on your loans. Mortgage pre-approvals are typically valid for 60 to 90 days.

Benefits of Pre-Approval

Credibility

The truth is, each home on the market can only go to one buyer. To maximize the chance that your offer is accepted, sellers need to know that your offer is serious. Getting pre-approved shows that you are financially prepared and, in the event that your offer is accepted, there will be no hold ups in obtaining your mortgage. This assurance is what sellers want to know about their potential buyers, especially in a seller’s market.

Home search

Not only does pre-approval help to bolster your case as a buyer, but it also Indicates your affordable price range. By knowing your budget, you will be able to hone your home search and start preparing offers, eliminating any potential wasted time looking at houses you can’t afford.

Closing process

Once your offer is accepted, you’ll be counting down the days to move-in. Unfortunately, the closing process can often drag on, leaving buyers feeling like they’re in post-purchase limbo. Pre-approval will speed up the closing process, since the mortgage approvals have already been taken care of, allowing you to focus on next steps like appraisals and inspections.

When to Get Pre-Approved

Being financially prepared for a home purchase is a solid indicator that you’re ready to go about getting pre-approved, but what does that look like? Buying a house means taking on serious debt, so it’s important to either have your remaining debt paid off or have a clear path to becoming debt-free before getting pre-approved. Having adequate savings for a down payment is a sign that you’re ready to make your offer. For any questions about the pre-approval process and to get connected to a mortgage professional, contact your Windermere Tower Properties agent.


10 Predictions for the 2021 Housing Market by Windermere’s Chief Economist

1. Economic Growth Will Pick up – But Not Until the Summer

As you are all aware, the job recovery has slowed significantly over the past few months and the December number – which saw employment levels actually drop by 140,000 jobs – was really quite appalling.

But… as bad as the numbers were last month, I am still expecting to see solid employment gains this year.

That said, I don’t see significant improvement until the vaccine starts to be distributed widely AND a majority of us choose to take it.

And when we get to that point – likely in the second half of this year – look for a lot more jobs to be added across the country, but employment levels will rise for a reason that most people aren’t thinking about, and it’s because I believe that the public – as they feel more comfortable going out – will start
to spend again.

In fact, it’s my forecast that spending will rise very significantly later this year and that will give a much-needed boost to the economy and the job market.

You see, we haven’t been spending our hard-earned dollars at normal levels for almost a year now and, quite frankly, the cash that we have been hoarding since the pandemic started is starting to burn a hole in our pockets.

So, my number 1 prediction is that we will see significant economic growth– and job gains – this year, but that most of the growth will come in the second half of 2021

 

2. The Move to the Suburbs is Real – But Don’t Get Carried Away! Looking now at the housing market, there’s been a lot of talk about a COVID-19 induced flight away from cities and into the countryside.

Well, the numbers don’t lie – there have certainly been more interest from buyers looking at markets outside of our core metros and this – obviously – is a function of the work-from-home phenomenon that I believe is not a flash in the pan, rather it is real and will be in place for a long time, if not forever.

But there is a bit of a wrinkle in this theory. In as much as we are certainly seeing suburban flight from markets like New York and San Francisco, the same can’t be said for much of the rest of the country.

In fact, according to a study recently published by Lending Tree, the percentage of owners who moved out of the top 50 largest metro areas in the country in 2020 was just 2.2% – now this is up from 1.9% in 2019 – but it’s hardly the tsunami that many had anticipated. And it’s also worth mentioning that some of the markets within Windermere’s footprint actually saw a net increase of migrating homeowners and not a drop. Examples of this include Denver which saw the number of households moving in up by 3.6% in 2020; Portland was up by 3.4%; Seattle by 3.3%; and Sacramento saw an in-migration rise by 2.9%. Although some households will move because work from home allows them to relocate to cheaper markets, it doesn’t mean that we are all headed out to the wild blue yonder.

In fact, I believe that – even though a good number of households will move – many will stay within striking distance of their workplaces, and I say this because I expect the work from home concept to be one where we work part-time from our homes, and part-time at our offices.

My number 2 forecast is that although people will move away from some of our core cities this year, many will still stay in the same region as work from home will not be a full-time situation for a majority of workers.

3. Not all Apartment Markets are Created Equal

The apartment market has been hit very hard by COVID-19 with rising vacancy rates putting significant downward pressure on rents in many large markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and New York but guess what? We are actually seeing rents still rising in many smaller cities and these include Boise, Fresno, and Tucson, Arizona.

And this move away from expensive apartment markets is occurring for several reasons not least of which is – again – work from home, but it’s also due to an increasing number of renters turning into home buyers, and it’s also because the rent premium for being “close to the action” in major cities has faded and, because of this, I see previously overlooked suburbs and
small metros benefitting from growing demand.

2021 will be a tough year for many landlords in larger cities not just for the reasons I have already mentioned, but also because we are bringing on over 400,000 new apartment units across the country this year and many new developments are in these larger cities.

Number three forecast – Apartment owners in pricy markets will continue to suffer in 2021, but smaller markets will perform rather well and – after many years of being overlooked – I am also forecasting those apartment developers will start to turn their attention toward suburban markets and away from many of these larger cities. We haven’t seen that in over a decade.

4. The Luxury Housing Market Will Continue to Perform Very Well

One of the sectors that really performed far better than anyone – including me – had anticipated in 2020 was the luxury housing market, and I expect this sector to be very robust again this year and the reason for this, primarily, will be interest rates. Jumbo mortgage rates, which saw a spike at the start of the pandemic, have since dropped significantly and this is benefitting buyers of luxury housing.

Buyers of luxury housing will be very active this year and I see many focusing on some secondary markets – for value reasons – but I still expect that the classic luxury markets, like the Hamptons for example, will also do very well.

Other markets where the luxury sector will outperform are Miami – but this will be mainly due to tax changes in New York City driving owners to relocate – and I’m also watching Southern California and predict that luxury homes down there will also outperform this year.

One more thing I would mention is that I also expect that, as the country starts to reopen post-COVID, we will see a rebound in foreign buyers as well so keep an eye on that too.

Forecast number 4 – the luxury market will be more robust in 2021 than many had anticipated.

5. Cities will Start to Pay More Attention to Zoning (at Long Last!)

Many of you will be more than aware of my ongoing concerns regarding housing affordability. Now, we have seen some cities like Minneapolis, and even some States – and here I’m talking about Oregon – start implementing significant zoning changes to allow for more new home development in their markets which is impressive, but it certainly isn’t happening everywhere.

However, I believe that this year we will – at long last – start to see more attention from legislators when it comes to increasing the supply of land for residential construction and many will do this by adjusting current zoning policies to allow more land on which to build.

So why this new focus? Well, their attention will be driven by worries that high housing costs in their own markets may lead businesses to start to look at cheaper areas and – possibly – move away from their current locations, and other businesses that are thinking about expanding into new markets – well, they will be increasingly thoughtful about how housing costs in expansion markets will impact how much they have to pay their new employees.

You see, we know that almost every jurisdiction across the country is suffering from significant shortfalls in revenue and, because of this, legislators will have to start focusing on attracting new businesses – and retaining as many businesses as possible – in order to help replenish their coffers.

Forecast Number 5 – Although it won’t happen overnight, I am hopeful that discussions around zoning changes will start to pick up some steam this year.

6. Adaptive Reuse Will Gain More Traction

Over the past several months, many of you have asked me whether we will see office buildings converted to residential uses as there will be fewer workers occupying offices. Well, I am sticking to my belief that the cost of conversion and the layout of office buildings (primarily due to core depths, lack of plumbing penetration, and the like) just don’t lend themselves to conversion to residential uses – well, that is unless you buy them at bankruptcy prices!

That said, I am expecting to see other building types that may be better suited for conversion into either single residential use or a mix of uses, start to become attractive to developers.

And what are these other product types, you ask? Well, likely unsurprising to you is that I am looking at hotels – which are going to continue to be hard hit for, in my opinion, years… and retail malls – both strip as well as regional.

You see, we are already seeing more hotels – mainly inns and motels – be listed for sale as they are just not providing adequate cash flow and I expect
that some, but not all, may become ripe for conversion into residential uses.

As far as malls are concerned, look for more interest in the conversion of regional malls into mixed-use projects, but strip malls may get rezoned into single residential uses.

Number 6 – developers will start to pay more attention to the reuse of existing buildings in addition to ground-up construction.

 

7. What’s important in a post-COVID-19 home?

The pandemic has started to change what we are looking for in a home and it’s actually very interesting to see what is now becoming important to buyers. We know that work from home is real, but I see households moving not just because housing is relatively cheap further out, but many will look at their own homes – even if they are on the fence about moving – and realize that it’s just not set up for working remotely on a semi-permanent, or permanent, basis.

How many people do you know who have spent the past several months working from their dining room tables? I’m one!

But I also expect to see sellers who may not have an office in their homes, create dedicated spaces for an office set up to attract buyers or, where they just can’t do that, they will, at a minimum, create a dedicated Zoom space before listing their homes for sale!

I am also forecasting that you will also see new construction housing reflect these changes with builders better aligning their product with new consumer preferences and that demand for new homes will rise in 2021 as builders address these new requirements from buyers.

People want more space today because they are using their homes more and I already see builders addressing this with the average new home size rising last year following several years where new homes were actually getting smaller.

Also, when it comes to new construction, open floor plans — once a must — well they will be replaced too thanks to COVID-19 and buyers wanting more room separation.

And finally, I expect buyers who are looking to move a lot further out to become far more interested in markets that have high-speed internet access. Many of us take it for granted, but buyers will start to list this as a requirement, rather than an option – again possibly limiting moves too far out into the country.

Forecast Number 7 – Home preferences are changing – builders are already adapting, and owners of existing homes will have to do what they can to meet these new requirements.

 

8. Worries About Forbearance are Overblown.

Since last spring, a question that I have fielded probably more than any other, has revolved around the topic of forbearance.

The GSE’s have extended the forbearance program to the end of March so some of the pressure has been removed, but there are a lot of people who fear that – when forbearance expires – we will see a veritable tsunami of foreclosed homes come online and this massive increase in supply will lead to all homes seeing values drop.

Well, it won’t happen, and here’s why.

First off, the number of homes in forbearance is already down by 43% from its May peak. Even though it is true that the pace of the drop in the number of homes in the program has slowed, the trend is still headed in the right direction.

Yes, there are still 2.7 million homes in the program, but I believe that, as owners start to get back to work again, many will be able to either refinance their loans or work with their lenders to extend the term of their mortgages in order to make up missed payments and most will not end up in foreclosure.

I would also add many owners in the program – if they just can’t get back on track – will sell in order to keep the equity that they have built over the last few years and, in most areas, there will be enough buyer demand and they will be able to get out from under forbearance by selling and paying off the mortgage and missed payments that way.

Of course, we will see foreclosures rise this year, but I just don’t see the majority of owners in forbearance be forced into foreclosure and that will limit the downside risk to the housing market.

That said, I am a little more worried by condominium owners who are in forbearance as the supply of these homes is already on the rise and this is causing prices to soften relative to single-family homes.

This is not a phenomenon spread broadly across the country, but many markets are seeing condo price growth slow and some – here I am looking specifically at Queens in New York, Suffolk County in Boston, and in San Francisco County – are seeing real price declines and I do expect to see a greater share of condos end up in foreclosure, but a far smaller share of single-family housing will suffer the same fate.

And I must add that not all market areas are created equal. Today, total delinquency rates are very high in states like Mississippi, Louisiana, New York & Oklahoma, but here in the western US they are significantly lower.

Interestingly, when I looked at Windermere’s footprint, I am delighted to report that the States with the lowest rate of non-performing mortgage include Idaho, here in Washington State, Colorado, Oregon, and Montana.

So forecast number 8 – I do not anticipate a wave of foreclosures following the end of forbearance, and that the foreclosures that do occur will have a limited impact on the broader ownership housing market.

 

9. Mortgage Rates Will Rise – But Don’t Worry

Rates for 30-year conforming mortgages have broken below all-time lows 16 times since the pandemic started. Really remarkable with the average 30-year rate at the time of recording this video standing at 2.65% and rates down by over a full percentage point over the past year and that, naturally, has allowed prices to continue rising at above-average rates, but going forward I just don’t see them dropping much more, and I believe that we have, at least for now, reached a floor when it comes to rates.

Without getting too academic, the reason I say this is that mortgage rates track the interest rate on 10-year treasuries – or at least they should – but that relationship broke back in February – because of the pandemic. However, treasury yields have started to rise again, and that relationship is now back in line which tells me that rates are unlikely to drop much further – all things being equal.

Prediction number 9 – mortgage rates are unlikely to drop much more, but don’t anticipate them rising too much with this year averaging around 3.1%. Still very competitive.

 

10. US Home Sales Will Rise Significantly, but Price Growth Will Moderate

Finally, I just have to talk about home sales and prices even if I did cover this in my last forecast. Given all the factors I have already talked already, we will see more demand from buyers this year, and I also expect to see listings actually increase as people look to relocate, and this will lead sales in 2021 to rise to a level we haven’t seen since 2006!

And big players in the housing market as far as buyers are concerned will be renters turning into home buyers and I would add that we could see first-time buyers make up an even bigger share of the market if the Biden Administrations goal to introduce a new first-time buyer tax credit gets enacted – but that is certainly not a given.

Overall, existing home sales will rise by 7.7% in 2021 to around 6.2 million units.

As for prices, well I see them increasing again this year but, as I just mentioned, mortgage rates will start to move modestly higher and this will be a bit of a headwind to price growth, and affordability constraints will also start to slow appreciation in expensive housing markets. This year I am looking for average prices to rise by a relatively modest 4.1%.

My final forecast – home sales will rise significantly this year, but price growth will moderate.

 

For a more in-depth Economic Forecast in the Inland Empire, register for our FREE upcoming event, live with Matthew Gardner:


Q4 2020 Southern California Real Estate Market Update

The following analysis of the Southern California real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact your Windermere agent.

 

REGIONAL ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Last summer’s recovery in the regional employment market that followed losses due to COVID-19 has tapered off because of the rapid increase in new infections. Although the region has recovered 1.25 million of the jobs that were lost, total employment is still down 763,000 jobs from the peak last February. With the slowdown in job growth and additional job losses in November, the current unemployment rate is 8.8%. For perspective, this is down from 12.3% at the end of the third quarter, but still significantly higher than the 4% rate last February.

The latest data available (for November) showed the lowest unemployment rates were in Orange County (6.4%) and San Diego County (6.6%). The highest rate was, unsurprisingly, in Los Angeles County, where it was 10.6%. I suggested in the third quarter Gardner Report that the pace of job growth was going to slow, and that proved accurate. Though I expect to see jobs return this year, most of the improvement will occur in the second half of the year when, hopefully, a vaccine is freely available.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME SALES

❱ Regardless of the slow economic recovery, the housing market continues to perform well, with 50,114 homes selling in the final quarter of 2020. This is an increase of 21.9% year-over-year.

❱ Pending home sales (an indicator of future closings) were 21.3% lower than in the third quarter, but I attribute this to seasonality and inventory constraints.

❱ Fourth quarter sales rose significantly in all counties relative to a year ago, with very impressive gains in Orange and Riverside counties. That said, all markets saw the number of home sales increase by double digits.

❱ There was an average of only 19,203 homes for sale in the final quarter of the year. This is 35% lower than a year ago and 17.3% lower than in the third quarter of the year.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOME PRICES

❱ Year-over-year, the average home price in the region was $831,880. This was 13.4% higher than a year ago and 2.4% higher than in the third quarter of 2020.

❱ Mortgage rates have remained at historic lows, which has allowed prices to rise at well-above-average rates. Given that home prices have been rising at a far faster pace than incomes, affordability concerns continue to grow.

❱ The region saw double-digit price growth across all counties contained in this report, with further significant increases in the relatively affordable Riverside County.

❱ Mortgage rates appear to have reached a floor and are unlikely to drop much further. Given that I do not expect to see significant income growth this year, it is likely that the pace of home-price appreciation will start to slow.

DAYS ON MARKET

❱ In the final quarter of the year, the average time it took to sell a home in the region was 27 days, which is 19 fewer days than a year ago, and 6 fewer than in the third quarter of 2020.

❱ All markets contained in this report saw the time it took to sell a home drop compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

❱ Homes in San Diego County continue to sell at a faster rate than other markets in the region. In the fourth quarter, it took an average of only 19 days to sell a home there. This is 12 fewer days than it took a year ago.

❱ The decline in market time is due to limited inventory levels and significant demand.

CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s real estate market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors.

Home sales and prices are significantly higher, and demand for housing is very much in place. Naturally, this favors home sellers who are still in control of the market. I do expect to see some improvement in listing activity this year, which, in concert with modestly rising interest rates, will likely start to take some of the steam out of the market. However, any moderation in the market has yet to appear.

Even given the possible headwinds mentioned above, I am moving the needle a little more in favor of sellers as solid demand is still in place.

 

ABOUT MATTHEW GARDNER

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.