The following analysis of the Eastern Washington 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.
Employment in Washington State continues to soften; it is currently at an annual growth rate of 1.7%. I believe this is a temporary slowdown and we will see the pace of employment growth improve as we move further into the new year. It’s clear that businesses are continuing to feel the effects of the trade war with China and this is impacting hiring practices. This is, of course, in addition to the issues that Boeing currently faces regarding the 737 MAX.
My most recent economic forecast suggests that statewide job growth in 2020 will rise 2.2%, with a total of 76,300 new jobs created. The Eastern Washington market added 17,800 total jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of a very impressive 3.8%. That said, and even as the region added jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 5.2% from 4.9% a year ago. This does not worry me, though, as the county data is not seasonally adjusted, and the areas covered by this report tend to see unemployment rates rise during the winter months. Additionally, the labor force grew by almost 20,000 persons, which likely added to the unemployment rolls.
- Home sales throughout Eastern Washington were up 5.8% compared to the same quarter in 2018, with a total of 3,405 closed sales.
- Pending home sales in the region were 1.8% lower than a year ago and 41% lower than in the third quarter of 2019, suggesting that first-quarter closings will likely be lower.
- Sales activity dropped in Lincoln and Grant counties, but the total contraction amounted to only 21 fewer sales, so there is nothing to be concerned about.
- The average number of homes for sale in the quarter was 22.6% lower than a year ago, suggesting that the market remains very tight. I do not expect any significant increases in listing activity until the second half of 2020.
- Year-over-year, the average home price in Eastern Washington rose by a significant 12.3% to $297,048. That said, prices were 2.2% lower than in the third quarter.
- As mentioned in the previous section, low inventory levels are pervasive and are likely the most significant hurdle to many home buyers. Low inventory continues to put upward pressure on prices.
- Prices rose in all of the counties contained in this report, with double-digit gains in all but two counties.
- The takeaway is that average home-price growth in Eastern Washington remains well above the long-term average.
DAYS ON MARKET
- The average time it took to sell a home in Eastern Washington in the final quarter of 2019 was 48 days.
- During the fourth quarter, it took 15 fewer days to sell a home in Eastern Washington than it did a year ago.
- Across the region the market was split: it took longer to sell homes in Whitman and Walla Walla counties but days on market dropped in the rest of the region.
- It took two days longer to sell a home in the fourth quarter than it did in the third quarter of 2019.
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 are up and so are prices, which certainly favors sellers. Mortgage rates remain remarkably competitive and this is allowing buyers to afford more house for their money. Inventory levels are still well below what I would like to see and, therefore, the Eastern Washington housing market remains very tight. As such, I am moving the needle just a little more in favor of home sellers.
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.
As unfortunate as it can be when homeowners fall behind on mortgage payments and must face the possibility of losing their homes, short sales and foreclosures provide them options for moving on financially. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different, with varying timelines and financial impact on the homeowner. Here’s a brief overview.
A short sale comes into play when a homeowner needs to sell their home but the home is worth less than the remaining balance that they owe. The lender can allow the homeowner to sell the home for less than the amount owed, freeing the homeowner from the financial predicament.
On the buyer side, short sales typically take three to four months to complete and many of the closing and repair costs are shifted from the seller to the lender.
On the other hand, a foreclosure occurs when a homeowner can no longer make payments on their home so the bank begins the process of repossessing it. A foreclosure usually moves much faster than a short sale and is more financially damaging to the homeowner.
After foreclosure the bank can sell the home in a foreclosure auction. For buyers, foreclosures are riskier than short sales, because homes are often bought sight unseen, with no inspection or warranty.
This is a topic that is close to my heart. The more involved I get in the Moses Lake Community the more I see, especially this community, how much we need people to get involved. We want to have a community that everyone wants to belong to, we want to feel that what we do matters to this community. With Windermere’s emphasis on community and core values we are able and expected to be out in the community making it a better place to live for you. Every time you use a Windermere agent you are saying that community matters and that businesses that contribute are important to you. Here we are as a company making a living off of those that live in our community and those who choose us, there should be a level of expectation from you that the business will in turn contribute in a positive manner to the place that you live. Look at those you do business with in the community and pay attention to those that you see out doing good and understand and see where their companies heart truly lies. What are they doing to help make this place better?
This year we were able to contribute thanks to you to:
Grant County Homeless Task Force
Moses Lake Canine Program
Moses Lake Museum and Art
Community Family Services
Grant County 4-H & FFA Sale
Boys & Girls Club
Moses Lake Booster Club
Community Services of Moses Lake
Columbia Basin Allied Arts
Big Bend Intervention Fund Donation
Windermere Shred Day
This list is not inclusive of all the committees we are involved with and individual donations we all make as agents. We at Windermere THANK YOU for allowing us to do what we do.
The Moses Lake Ag parade has been a staple in this Agriculture town for over 20 years now. Started in 1995 by Sue Tebow this year she will be honored with the title “Grand Marshall” of this yearly parade.
This parade, on December 1st, filled with lighted tractors, farm equipment, and community merchants, is a perfect accompaniment to the close ties that we share with Agriculture here in the Basin. If you’ve lived here long enough we all know and have been helped in some way by the local farmers and their contribution to the community. Just look towards the lighted corridor on I-90 through Grant County and you will see their willingness to make the holidays brighter even for those driving back and forth across the state. Farm land ablaze with Christmas characters for miles keeps us all entertained in those long hours of driving.
This parade honoring our local farmers will begin in Sinkiuse square at 5:00 pm. The local stores will remain open for shoppers and on the streets you will find toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate, fresh made mini doughnuts and best of all FREE french fries donated by Simplot. In addition to the food there will be local dance and singing talent organized by Dale Roth in the square. Lighted parade will begin at 7:00.
All of this is put on and hosted by the Moses Lake Business Association as they strive to supply this city with a thriving downtown community where local residents can enjoy the local food and fare. Come join us, bundle up warm, as we pay tribute to the industry that keeps food on our table. We could not do it without all the help from this giving community.