Letter to A First Time Home Buyer In North Seattle

Are you currently renting or moving to the area and considering becoming a first time home buyer in the Seattle, WA real estate market? If you’re intimidated, you’re not alone.

I recently received an email from a first time home buyer in Seattle, who had enjoyed my monthly real estate market updates and was interested in figuring out if this was actually a good time to be buying in the Seattle, WA market.

First time home buyer
It’s totally normal to feel intimidated by the Seattle housing market, as a first time home buyer.

Now, if you ask a real estate agent if it’s a good time to do a transaction, you know they’re always going to say, “Yes,” right? Naturally, real estate agents want to get paid. 🙂

However, I think what’s more important is to be able to look at the data we have available and ask ourselves what are the pros and cons of buying real estate in Seattle, WA at this time, versus another time that we may also be considering…

As an Economics major in college, I enjoy looking into data. What we have here is a cas of strong demand and limited supply. This can tend to drive the price up, but what we are seeing here as a stronger effect, is just a very fast-moving market – we don’t have a lot of time to hem-and-haw when a desirable price comes on the market, we have to be prepared to act fast. If you are able to come in fast with a clean offer, you may be able to get the house you want without running up the purchase price.

And like everything, overpriced homes are sitting (for 6 months in some cases I’ve seen…). Just because the market is strong, doesn’t mean buyers are stupid. You can’t overprice your home and expect it to move. This is commonly a problem in homes that have been rentals and are now up for sale.

My Thoughts On Whether “Now” is A Good Time To Buy Property In Seattle, Washington

First Time Home Buyer Question: Since we are in the early stages of buying a home, (online surfing stage), and the Seattle market seems more like a seller ‘s market than a buyer’s market. Is this the right time to invest or should we wait longer for the market to be more desirable.

Emily says: I hear you on the “seller’s market” issue – you are right about that.  In fact, Seattle, has been a “seller’s market” for almost my entire life. I was born in Lake Forest Park back when it was un-incorporated King County (40+ years ago).

The main factor driving this is the combination of low interest rates, and sellers not wanting to sell right now (many are working/schooling kids from home, and it can be a hassle to move).  

That being said, the data I’m seeing suggests we are at the peak of affordability at the moment.  With the amount of money entering being pumped into the economy, I expect we’ll continue to see inflation and rising prices for everything, including real estate.  That, combined with the likelihood of interest rates going up, means that payments will go up, even if housing prices don’t (but I’m guessing they will).    So basically, there’s the question of what’s the “sticker price” of the home, vs the monthly payment you will make.  In terms of monthly payment, homes are a great deal right now. 

For many buyers, monthly payment is more important than the initial price of their home.

Let me throw in an info-graphic:

Interest Rates And Affordability of Homes In Seattle, WA

Will We Catch Another Inflation Wave?

In terms of the “sticker price” or “purchase price” of the home, there’s a lot to be said for owning property in Seattle.  Once you get your foot in the door, if you can ride a big appreciation cycle, you can build massive wealth.  

This chart shows inflation-adjusted appreciation. (Are prices going up if we take away inflation?)


image.png

The blue line shows the appreciation rate for Seattle, WA over the last 35 years. After dipping to a flat market (with 0% appreciation) a few quarters back, now housing prices are starting to go up again.   The green regions indicate the periods of high appreciation rates and wealth creation through equity growth.

I don’t want to bombard you with data, I was an Econ major in college, so I do like to geek out on this stuff a bit, but to answer your question, yes, I think it’s a good time to be looking, and if you get your ducks in a row now with financing, you’ll know what your budget is and you can start shopping around and be ready to snag a good deal when it comes by.  

At the moment, I don’t see most houses going for way over asking price, they’re mostly just going fast… so you don’t have to overpay, necessarily, you just have to make a quick decision when you see the right house.  The early bird gets the worm.

First Time Home Buyer Question: My husband works downtown, we are looking at North Seattle locations like Everett, WA; Lynnwood, WA; etc. We are hoping we can find something affordable, but still with a good commute.

Emily Says: My husband and I were in the same boat when we bought our first home and ended up finding a wonderful 3-bedroom townhouse in Lynnwood.  It was very fast to bus into downtown Seattle on a non-stop bus from a local park-and-ride.  If you can get an express bus, you are golden.

Express bus in Seattle is your golden ticket to a good commute
An express bus to Seattle, WA is your golden ticket to a good commute.

First Time Home Buyer Question: Should we go for a local lender or big banks (BofA or Chase)?

Emily Says: I have a couple excellent lenders I can recommend.  The problem we’re seeing with “big banks” or “online lenders” is that the sellers are afraid they’ll be slow and non-responsive, so your offer is not as strong if you go with an out-of-town lender.  If you work with someone local, in-town, we can talk to them on nights, weekends, etc.  I just did a refi through BoA and I won’t say it was horrible, but it took over three months and it was … completely lacking in customer service and communication.  On the day before the loan was supposed to close they called me and said they didn’t think they could do the loan because they didn’t know how to account for my husband’s income.  He works for amazon and gets more than half his compensation in stock grants.  We managed to explain it to them and work it out, but it wasn’t an impressive experience.  Working with someone local gets the loan closed on time, which is what the sellers like. 🙂 

What Are The Steps Of The Home Buying Process?

Finally, I put together a video for this Seattle home buyer, and others like her to help explain the steps of the home buying process and… even though it can feel overwhelming when taken in its entirety, if you just focus on doing the “next step” you’ll find that you can move through the process smoothly, and with a little guidance here and there, you’ll be successfully navigating your own home buyer adventure!

First Time HomeBuyer Tips For The Seattle, Washington Real Estate Market
Emily Cressey - HomePro Associates - Relocating To Seattle
If you are a first time home buyer who wants to better understand the real estate market trends in Seattle contact my office – Emily Cressey of HomePro Associates can help!

If you have more first time home buyer questions about renting, buying or selling property in the greater Puget Sound area, we are happy to help! Simply fill out the form below, or call us, and we will get back to you soon!

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Emily Cressey

Emily Cressey is a real estate broker residing in Lake Forest Park, WA who services the Greater Seattle area including Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Lynnwood, Kenmore, Bothell and Edmonds, WA.

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