Local Housing Report: Positive Signs for 2011

by Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty, Inc. on March 2, 2011

This time of year many people ask us, “what’s going to happen in real estate this year?” While our “crystal ball” is not clear, we are seeing positive signs that our local housing market is improving.

At the start of the past few years, the market faced serious challenges: high unemployment, falling stock and housing prices, to name just a few. The housing market is not completely out of the woods, but there are a number of factors that point to a more positive 2011.

The net result is that we are seeing a palpable uptick in interest from buyers compared to a year ago. The fact that there is so much more buyer interest at the start of this year is really saying something about how buyers are viewing the market. In its recent nationwide survey of home buyers, the National Association of Realtors found that twice as many buyers in 2010 compared to just two years ago said the timing of their purchase was based on affordability. This is a big confidence signal – and it is coming without government stimulus. It takes more than affordability to create a sustainable recovery. Employment numbers and the broader economy must provide a healthy foundation. Both are trending in a positive direction for the first time in a long time.

Very few people would be satisfied with where the job market stands right now. Jobs might be the single biggest challenge on the demand side of the local housing market in 2011. With the legislature facing a budget deficit, hard choices will be made. However, our local job market is in much better shape than a year ago when the unemployment rate stood at 9%. Today it is 7.6%.

Look to the States’ larger markets to see how much the Legislature’s actions impact our local job market. Some encouraging news comes from healthy increases in retail and housing sales (and the taxes that go along with them). In Seattle, for instance, housing sales and prices were up in 2010. That is a very positive sign after several years of declines.

This is all good news, but there remains a note of caution on the supply side of the market. The number of foreclosures still on the horizon is unknown. Thurston County has seen a steady flow of about 30 foreclosures notices per week – about three times the “normal” number. While we expect that trend to continue through 2011, the steady volume over the last few years suggest that more is behind than in front of us.

Given the reality sellers have to keep a realistic eye on market value and price competitively. With a lot of homes for sale, buyers are taking time to be savvy shoppers. They are acting quickly on homes priced competitively and ignoring homes that are priced about above the competition.

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