Entering the winter real estate market

In Bellevue, the last time inventory levels have been as high as they were in October was 2012.

By Erin Flemming

Special to the Reporter

As we enter the winter residential real estate market, historically the number of resale listings by month dips downward. In Bellevue, the last time inventory levels have been as high as they were in October was 2012, which could be favorable for buyers who previously could not afford a home or secure a home in a multiple-offer situation. In October, Bellevue had 1.6 months of supply of homes for sale, which is up from last year’s 1.2 months – still not at the “healthy” level of five to six months.

Now, Eric Shull, office leader of John L. Scott’s Bellevue-main office, says the current market conditions bring more selection to buyers who are looking through the holidays. Additionally, these buyers may be able to do some negotiating on price and secure more protections under the contract, such as the ability to do an inspection before moving forward on the purchase.

“In addition to buyers potentially getting a home inspection, we’ve seen some sellers who are willing to pay closing costs in this winter market,” Shull said. “In new construction, we’ve seen some incentives as well to help attract buyers.”

A crucial piece of the puzzle for homeowners who are looking to ensure their home is a serious contender in the winter market is pricing right, Shull said. Pricing right — which means not using spring pricing to inform your current price — is crucial. The biggest risk of not having an appropriate price from the beginning is that your listing will end up making the competition look good, he added.

“Buyers are savvy these days — they have a multitude of apps, websites and other data sources at their fingertips, meaning they know what they can get for their money,” Shull said. “If your pricing is not in line with the market, it could mean your property is overlooked and you’ll end up chasing the market. This means you could get into a position where you’re reducing the price to a level lower than you should have priced the home originally — just to get it sold.”

When looking toward the future, it’s difficult to say exactly what will happen with home prices in the years to come. Many sources, including Zelman & Associates, the Mortgage Bankers Association, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and the National Association of Realtors, indicate that home prices are continuing to appreciate, but at a lower rate than we saw in previous years. The National Association of Realtors prediction of prices going forward in 2019 is up 3.5 percent, while it was up 4.8 percent in 2018.

For those looking to sell a home, the “best” timing can really depend on personal needs or preferences. Shull said it’s important to understand that the buyers out now tend to be more serious, while in spring there may be more people looking around more casually.

“In the winter, people looking for a home have to plan around vacations and holidays, as well as deal with the weather – so most of these buyers are invested in securing a home,” Shull said. “In the winter, staging tends to be better and we tend to see quicker transactions because lenders aren’t as busy.”

Regardless of the time buyers decide to enter the residential housing market, it’s always a great idea to begin conversations with a skilled broker and potential lenders.

“Talking to a lender is always step one when you’re planning to buy a home,” Shull said. “Even if you’re looking to purchase a home in the spring, there are benefits to starting conversations early with a lender. This can help you avoid surprises and also can give you some time to do things to improve the rate you’ll be offered, like refinancing or paying off a credit card balance.”

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