Leaves Fall…Market’s Rise
The Big Picture In order to paint an accurate portrait of the Bainbridge Island real estate market during this autumn season, it’s important to put it in the context of the broader regional economy. Through that lens, things are looking very good. Estimates for September 2016 through September 2017 indicate an employment increase of 76,100 in Washington. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the private sector added 61,400 jobs while the public sector gained an estimated 14,700 jobs over the year. Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner backs that up in his Third Quarter Report, writing, “I maintain my belief that the Washington State economy will continue to outperform the U.S. as a whole. Given such a strong expansion, we should also expect solid income growth across Western Washington.”
The Seattle job market continues to be a huge draw for people moving here from across the country and around the world. As the number of residents in the Puget Sound area rises, Bainbridge Island has been and continues to be a viable and attractive residential option. The desirable amenities are obvious: from the rural feel to the vibrant community to the relative ease of a 35-minute commute by ferry versus an hour and a half by vehicle in the Seattle Metro area – just to name a few.
Another factor that affects our market is buyer fatigue. We’re seeing an increase in island buyers who are fed up – after multiple failed attempts to purchase in Seattle, where they may have competed against dozens of other eager bidders – and choosing to look in our direction for alternatives. This very real and frequent market dynamic contributes to the health of our local market
A Positive Price Report The third quarter saw continued upward pressure on prices. We saw near-double-digit price gains in terms of average and median sales prices over the same period last year.
This resulted in a dramatic increase in sales activity in the high-end market with a 34% increase in sales between $1 to $1.5 million and a whopping 85% increase in sales over $1.5 million. (The fact that we’ve begun to list sales that exceed $1.5 million as a separate category is solid evidence of our changing market.)
Our price growth has been consistent over the last several years. The strong population and employment numbers mentioned above help to move the market, but low inventory continues to limit buyers’ choices. In fact, we had a small decrease in the inventory from the third quarter of 2016 (when there were 98 homes on the market) to this year’s third quarter inventory of 92. These data points would suggest continued upward price movement, at least in the short term, that’s complementing a gradual increase in residential sales in recent months.
Keeping Things in Check As is true in any transitioning market, we need to look at things from every angle. Even given all the positive signs summarized here, sellers should not assume that they can sell their homes in only a matter of days, in any condition and at whatever high price they set. This simply is not the case. Yes, we are still in a sellers’ market, as 2.4 months of limited inventory would suggest. However, realistic expectations are critical. While we do still experience multiple-offer scenarios, those have become less prevalent over the course of the year. Instead, we have experienced more price reductions as sellers were perhaps a little aggressive in their initial pricing. It’s important to remember that every house, every neighborhood and every transaction has its own distinct characteristics. A real estate professional is essential for navigating and getting the most from the latest market conditions.
Finishing Strong Traditionally, real estate activity tends to slow down in the fourth quarter. Already, this year has been quite different. In only the first few weeks of October, our office has nearly doubled the number of sales compared to this time last year. Open house activity has been robust, indicating an energized pool of buyers just waiting for that perfect home to come along. If these trends continue, we could be in for a very exciting close to an already strong year. Here’s to a healthy and hearty season in all corners of our wonderful island community.
Midway through a good year!
A Bustling Springtime Even though the first quarter of 2017 didn’t start that slowly, it sure felt like it did. But the second quarter was a different story. We were flat-out busy between April and June. There were 141 home sales on Bainbridge during Q2, which was a 31.8% increase over last year and a 306.5% increase over 2009 (for those of you who remember those days). The only second quarter to get even close in the past decade was 2013, when 125 homes sold.
The Mechanics of Price Still, a curious piece of data accompanies all those sales: the median price of homes sold in the first half of 2017 increased only 3.6% over the comparable period last year. That is the slowest growth of prices since 2012-2013 (when it actually went down). Here’s why this is significant: even though there is healthy demand, buyers are showing restraint and patience. The basics of presentation, pricing and negotiating (which good agents bring to the table) still prevail. You cannot just take a house in any condition, throw a price at it and expect success. This is one of the factors that differentiate Bainbridge from the Seattle market. The flip side is that a major source of new buyers on Bainbridge are frustrated Seattle buyers who are tired of dealing with the city’s growth and market conditions. Our office was involved in 96 Bainbridge transactions during the first six months of this year, 30 of which (or 31.3%) involved Seattle and Eastside buyers. When we expand the circle, we see that out-of-state and Seattle buyers accounted for 51% of our transaction in the first six months.
Goings-on with Condominiums and Land Our condominium marketplace has had a booming first half of the year. Sales climbed from 38 in 2016 to 50 in 2017 (almost a 32% increase!) and the median price rose from $404,500 to $499,250 (up 23.4%), finally surpassing 2007’s previous record of $468,000. It took a decade for these numbers to return, and we’re happy to welcome them back.
Land is now the only remaining soft spot in our market. Sales were down 39% from last year but median prices rose 14%. We attribute this mostly to no new large parcel sales and the possibility that people are intimidated by the new construction process. The planning and designing phases of any new project are exciting, but then come permitting, the search for contractors and all the costs. With quite a bit of new construction coming on line, people seem to be waiting to see what someone else has built.
A Construction Zone There is quite a bit of new construction on Bainbridge, which means the development topic is getting a lot of attention among locals. Bainbridge Island is such a great place to live that the pressure to grow comes naturally. History tells us that restricting growth will push up prices and eventually affect the market’s diversity. However, growth is a concern to existing residents who fear it will spoil what makes the community desirable in the first place. So the community stance has been to try to limit development to specific pockets of the island as a way of preserving rural character in general. When we map the major new construction projects, we see that this goal has largely been met:
Winslow: Grow Village, Wyatt Way (DA Horton), Weaver, Bainbridge Landing, Finch, Freestone Landmark (Wing Point), Freestone Ferryview (Wing Point)
Lynwood Center: The Roost, Pleasant Beach
Rolling Bay: Sunrise Square
These projects are all within designated growth areas. Indeed, the only multi-home development out of the growth centers is the 10-home project going in at Torvanger/Sunrise Drive, and that’s being built on a 12-acre parcel.
Favorable Conditions How long will this pressurized market last? Anyone who experienced the 2007 market, which was also quite active just before it changed dramatically, is reluctant to make long-term predictions. However, there are some key differences between 2017 and 2007. Today, the lending and banking environments are far healthier. Also, job growth is the primary fuel of real estate growth. And our local economy is far stronger now than then. Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner had this to say about regional job growth in his Q1 2017 report:
Washington State continues to add jobs at a steady rate. (We) continue to see unemployment fall and I anticipate that we will see this rate drop further as we move through the year. In all, the economy continues to perform at or above average levels and 2017 will be another growth year.
Ever the Rock Yes we have growth and new construction, but there is diversity in the construction (family homes, homes ideal for downsizers, and homes close to services). When you drive around the island, you find most of it untouched by new developments. We also have the best parks, hikes, beaches, bays and communities in Puget Sound. Our region’s star is still rising as a great place to live and work and we are one of the premier neighborhoods in it. Growth pressure will continue; it’s up to all of us to work together to address it in ways that honor the past, present and future of this great place.
Familiar Themes With regard to the Bainbridge Island real estate market and its year-end numbers, the similarities between 2016 and 2015 are striking. In both years, the market struggled with a lack of inventory and strong demand, while the market trends (that actually began in 2013) continued to respond to this condition. What makes 2016 special is we surpassed most (if not all) of the records set in our last ascending market of 2004-2007. While it makes some people nervous to be in this rarefied air, with the uncertainty that can accompany it, we don’t foresee any specific event that will change our market trajectory in 2017 (with one possible exception, which we will discuss later).
Record-Setting Prices The median price of a home sold on Bainbridge has never been higher than in 2016. Even more impressive is the steady growth in the median since the valley floor we hit during the difficulties of 2011. In only five years, our median has grown from $493K to the current $740K – an increase of 150%. In that time, we officially drew even with and then surpassed the 2007 peak median of $680K. This is welcome news to all those sellers who have been hanging in there, whether they wanted to or not, waiting for prices to climb back up. Our upper end has been the last market segment to enjoy our market’s resurgence, and finally joined the party in 2016. Sales over $1M were up 32.4% from 2015 and up 88% from 2014. Not only did we set a new “highest price sold” of $5.97M but we
had five sales over $3M. Previously, the highest price for a home sold was $3.497 in 2007. Also for comparison, in the ten years between 2005 and 2015, there were only eight homes sold for more than $3M (an average of less than one, compared to the five sold in 2016).
Condos, Land and New Construction Our condominium market also experienced a resurgence. In 2008, there were only 42 condominium sales on the island; in 2016, we had 104 sales distributed over all price ranges – the largest number since 2007. The condominium valley floor was in 2012 with a median price of $297K. In 2016, by contrast, we raised that by 35%, reaching a median of $400,750. Although land sales were down last year (for reasons that are unclear, but we suspect a cyclical reaction from 2015’s exceptionally strong sales), new construction seems to be everywhere (especially in community centers). There is a plethora of multi-home projects underway across the island. Some are being developed by local owners, but we have also seen an influx of off-island larger development companies. New communities under construction: Ashbury – Off Wyatt – 18 residential homes (off-island developer); Landmark – Off Wing Point Way – 17 residential homes (off-island developer); Ferryview – Off Wing Point
Way – 11 condominiums (off-island developer); Roost – Off Baker Hill – residential, commercial and townhomes (island developer); Pleasant Beach Village – 14 view condominiums (island developer). There are also many multi-home projects in the planning/permitting stage (Weaver, Finch and Torvanger to name a few).
The Density Trend The development we’re seeing in places like Winslow and Rolling Bay addresses a sentiment we’ve been hearing from our clients for years: “We want to downsize and move into town.” As the higher end has become healthier, people have been able to achieve their goals of selling their larger homes (to enthusiastic new buyers!) and moving to smaller homes or condos in denser community centers. We anticipate Lynwood Center will also benefit from this trend as new homes come online (like The Roost and Pleasant Beach Village Townhomes and lots).
Moving Parts We’re keeping a close eye on interest rates, which are slated to go up again sometime soon. The concern is they rise to a point where they materially affect mortgage payments (and therefore home prices). Loan rates are still exceedingly affordable, so let’s hope they stay that way. Demand will probably not be a concern for 2017, and supply will still most likely lag demand. We have new projects coming on-line now and throughout the year, but we still see some clients waiting to sell their homes (adding to inventory woes) be-cause there aren’t yet enough choices on the market to justify the risk of having nothing to move to once they sell. The new projects will help, especially because they provide what current potential sellers have been asking for, but we see overall demand still exceeding supply. As much as last year? That may depend on Washington DC …
The Crystal Ball Will 2017 go down the same growth-oriented path as 2015 and 2016? Will the change in federal leader-ship have a negative impact on our market? Obviously, we can’t predict unforeseen events, but the economic outlook for our region is very positive. Professional and business services jobs are predicted to grow 3% in the Seattle Metro area next year. Computer and mathematical jobs up 3.5%. All that growth without any new transportation infrastructure only makes Bainbridge look increasingly appealing. People continue to look beyond King County, and many are excited to discover the beauty and quality of life found on Bainbridge Island.
A History Lesson The one constant in our real estate market is change. Ten years ago (yes, it has been 10 years!), we were in a very competitive market. Inventory was tight and prices were going through the proverbial roof, setting new highs. Then, in September 2007, that came to an abrupt end and we began a downward trend toward the largest correction since the 1980s. It took until 2012 for the market to shift yet again and gradually pick up speed toward recovery. By 2015, we returned to familiar territory: an extremely competitive market with record low inventories and rapidly rising prices. On July 1, 2015, there were 58 active listings on the island. Now, just one year later, data suggests a potential market transition with inventories rising and price reductions becoming increasingly common.
We in the industry do not view this as a repeat of 2007. There are too many positive factors in our financing infrastructure and regional market that separate this climate from its predecessors. (Indeed, the financing environment is so much more conservative now that securing funding can actually be a hurdle in some transactions.) We are still in a very competitive market and the statistics bear this out. While we may be slowly moving towards a more “balanced” market, we are not there yet. Let’s look at some of the leading indicators that give a glimpse at where we are.
Inventory One year ago, there were 112 home listings, 54 of which were under contract. For a market the size of Bainbridge, 58 active listings in the middle of summer is a crazy small number. On July 15th of this year, inventory had ballooned to 162 listings, 64 of which were under contract (leaving 98 active). Yes, this was a substantial improvement from last year. But when compared to the absolute top of our last market peak in July 2007, the 162/64 stat still looks very tight compared to the 2007 numbers, which were 289 listings with 62 under contract. The percentage of pendings to listings is 40% today compared to 21% in 2007. This year’s second quarter median cumulative days on the market is still a brisk 11 days, equal to what it was for the same period in 2015. (In 2007, it was 52 days.) It is still a very competitive market. Our inventory is growing because our price levels are finally bringing in more people from the sidelines. When you look at the history of the sold listings, there are scant few people who are “flipping” or who have bought recently and rapidly selling for a profit. Instead, many of the homes that recently sold were last sold in 2001, 2004, or even 2007 and 2008. It’s also interesting to note that people who have held onto their homes for a more extended period of time (since before the boom years) are realizing very healthy increases over what they paid.
Prices We have finally drawn even with and are even beginning to pass our peak prices of 2006/2007. When we checked the history of all the homes sold in the second quarter, all those that sold in 2006/2007 did better this year. Our year-to-date median is $755,000, a 14.4% increase over last year. This number is exacerbated by the price ranges of the homes sold. Overall, sales were down almost 17% and almost all of the decrease came in homes below the $600K price point. This phenomenon can be partly explained by our old nemesis: lack of inventory. On July 15th, there were 13 homes available on the whole island for less than $600K. Not many choices …
However, we are now seeing more price reductions than even in the first quarter. This is another indication of a healthier market. Pricing still matters, as sellers can’t just ask for anything. As we mentioned in our last newsletter, this is one of many areas where professionals can really help. Overpriced homes usually end up selling for less than properly priced homes, a statistic that has been borne out in all types of markets. This becomes especially important when a market is going through a gradual shift. The bottom line is that prices are rising and healthy. True, the rate may change and is very neighborhood and property specific. But the competitive nature of our current market will help bolster prices.
Condos and Land Interestingly, the strength of the residential market has yet to show itself in the condominium and land markets. Condominium sales are down almost 21% from last year, even though inventory is greater. Prices are up 8% from 2015, but the median price is still 13.7% lower than in 2007. Condominiums have been struggling with inventory issues as well as financing challenges, but can that explain why 52.5% fewer condominiums sold this year compared to 2007? In the land segment, sales are down more than 30%! Median price for land is also off 6.5%, which is 47% of the 2007 median. This is perplexing as land sales improved quite a lot between 2014 and 2015.
Moving Forward So our changes are subtle at this time, but in process. On the residential side, the greater inventory gives buyers more choices and potentially more sales. Sellers are seeing price levels that entice people to return to the market place and support a competitive environment. The regional economy outlook continues to impress and our position in that marketplace remains strong. (What other community can still claim the same commute time to downtown as twenty years ago?) The outlook ahead is all very positive!
This summer, we opened our satellite office on Olympic Drive and Winslow Way. There we’ll be able to greet ferry passengers as they first arrive to the island. Our goal is to give our clients more exposure to pedestrian and vehicle ferry traffic and have agents on hand to answer questions. Our doors are open, so please stop by!
Over the last several years, many of the circumstances that triggered the previous housing bubble have changed. Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, breaks down how tax policy, bank regulations, interest rates, lending standards, and home equity have improved our ability to avoid another bubble.
Great video of Mathew Gardner, Windermere Chief Economist, talking about valuable economic concepts and how they impact the housing market. His insights of historically low inventory levels, how we got here and what to expect in the coming year.
The Same Old Tune Even as the birds of springtime sing their new songs of the season, we must hit repeat as we report – once again –on our local market’s low inventory. A lack of available homes continues to dictate what’s happening in Bainbridge Island real estate. On April 1st, there were only 47 homes and 5 condominiums available for sale on the island. Within the overall market, certain price points have been more pinched than others (which is a snapshot in time and will change as the year goes on). For example, if you were looking for a home in the $600K to $800K range, you had only 5 houses to choose from and zero condominiums.
How Inventory Affects Sales & Prices This extremely limited inventory helped drive home sales down more than 20% from last year. There are plenty of buyers out there; there are just not enough properties on the market to sell. The scarcity increased competition and bumped median prices up more than 9% (and the average, which is more a function of the price ranges where homes closed, was u p more than 18%!). The median cumulative days on the market (CDOM) dropped from 26 in 2015 to 20 in 2016. To put this in perspecti ve, the CDOM in 2012, which was a good year, was 146 days.
The Story on Condominiums & Land The condominium market is also suffering from lack of inventory. Last year at the beginning of April, there were 16 condominiums available compared to this year’s 5 (both of which lie in sharp contrast to 2012, when there were 45 available). Consequently, sales dropped from 19 to 16, but the median price rose 23% to $430K. Land, on the other hand, experienced a 30% increase in sales to 13 parcels this quarter with a 26.8% increase in the median price to $225K.
The View From Inside One might assume that a market like this, with rising prices and inventory competition, makes our jobs easier. The reality is that there are some basic principles, goals and strategies that any good real estate professional seeks to embrace, all of which must adapt to an ever-changing market. Regardless of the climate, we want our clients to achieve the best possible outcomes – both at closing and in the future. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when competition is fierce and time is of the essence. Given the complexities of the Bainbridge market, where most homes and locations are unlike any others, things can get even more challenging. It is not like buying or selling in a large subdivision where a product like Zillow has some merit. Here, each house has strengths and weaknesses and the success of a sale can pivot on those subtle nuances.
If You’re a Buyer For buyers in this market, supply is tight and prices are rising. You
almost have to assume you will be competing with others when you find the house you
would like to make your home. Is the price fair? How high should you go? The specter of 2006 and 2007 should be in the back of your mind, as the concept of paying “whatever it takes” came back to bite many homebuyers. An agent brings knowledge of the current market, the choices it offers, what might be coming and how an individual house fits into the bigger picture – including the history of the neighborhood and often of the house itself. An agent will know whether a price is in line or whether the seller is beingaggressive. (And, when there are limited comparable properties, this expertise becomes extremely important.) No one wants to hear, “You paid how much for your house?!”
In multiple offer situations, there are strategies to employ. You need to line up your resources to be “the best you can be.” Multiple offers often require that decisions be made quickly, so being prepared makes you a stronger buyer and one less likely to be disappointed later. If you are not a cash buyer, there are things you can do to compete with those who are. Get comfortable with the stack of forms you’ll be asked to sign. Understand what it means to omit certain forms. What about inspections? Title reports? Learn how to spot red flags that make certain houses less expensive. Being a buyer in this market can be difficult, frustrating and even scary. A good agent can help you navigate the winding road to achieve the best results and avoid mistakes.
If You’re a Seller Sellers may think they have it easier, but the reality is that a seller’s quest is the same in an ascending market as in a descending one. The two primary goals for sellers are to get the home sold in the timeframe desired and to maximize net proceeds. Buyers will be more attracted to, and will ultimately pay more for, a house that is optimized to appeal to a buyer and priced in a manner that a buyer feels is reasonable in the current market. Here again, knowing the current market, as well as past and future markets and how a particular home fits into all of them, is essential in achieving the seller’s ultimate goals. But the work is just beginning when buyers first express inter-est. You have to know which of them will have the greatest possibility of actually achieving a closed transaction. (It is surprising how many deals fall apart in this market.) Negotiating inspections? Appraisals? Seller’s liability? What do all those forms mean and what are your responsibilities? There are many steps between pondering selling and achieving your goals, and the reality is that sellers don’t always get everything they hope to get out of a sale – even in a sellers’ market. But an experienced agent will help you prepare, present and respond so you can get the most out of any market.
The Constant Real estate markets fluctuate all the time, sometimes favoring buyers and sometimes favoring sellers. This is simply the nature of the business. But in the midst of all those ups and downs, one thing remains consistent: the beauty and livability of Bainbridge Island. At Windermere Bainbridge, we celebrate our island community and all it has to offer.
Ringing in the New Year
Singing a Familiar Song In 2015, we watched as a trend that began in 2012 continued. For the past several years, we’ve had a steady decrease in available homes accompanied by increased values. In 2015 we saw more of the same – or less of the same, depending on one’s perspective. We are living and working in an ongoing environment of real estate scarcity. Still, we keep our eyes on the future rather than the past to see what the market will do next.
The Ebbs and Flows of an Island Market As with all markets, we are subject to demand (buyers) and supply (sellers). The
majority of our buyers come from two sources: island residents seeking to change their Bainbridge addresses (>40%) and people moving here from the Seattle environs (~30%). We are all aware of the craziness of the Seattle marketplace. Seattle is experiencing phenomenal economic and job growth, a lot of it right downtown. Seattle Metro real estate is also a fairly closed system, with little room for additional housing unless you want to live in an apartment tower or spend a lot of time on the freeways going east/south/north. The consequence of this growth has created some serious traffic issues and prices (for those who succeed in the multiple-offer frenzy) are a lot higher there than here. Once you factor in the great reputation of Bainbridge schools, it is little wonder families of downtown workers look to the island as a real estate alternative to Seattle.
Movement on the Rock And then there are the Bainbridge buyers. Many island residents have been “trapped” in homes they
purchased between 2006 and 2008, waiting for prices to come back up so they can move without taking an equity hit. In general, prices have gradually risen since 2012, which has brought home values closer to the peak prices of 2007. (Prices have grown >35% since the beginning of 2012 but certain areas/locations/amenities have outpaced appreciation relative to other island neighborhoods.) At the current rate, we should surpass the average price peak of 2007 at some point during 2016. (The average price in 2007 was $820,569; in 2015 it was $790,534.) The “upper end” segment (>$800K), which has been the slowest to recover, had a strong 2015 with sales up 35.6% from 2014 (137 versus 101). It is interesting to note this segment accounted for 36% of all the sales in 2015.
The Challenge of Choices The only apparent impediment to local people moving around the island is a lack of choice. Bainbridge residents are reluctant to put their homes on the market because they cannot find alternatives that justify moving (and their current homes appreciate the longer they stay in them). The current demand is outstripping current supply, which creates price increases and buyer frustration. The demand comes from the fact that Bainbridge is a pretty great place to live so people want to move here. As ong as Bainbridge Island is perceived to be a desirable community (and given the alternatives for anyone wanting to be as close as we are to the metropolitan Seattle area), there will be demand from people wanting to live here.
The Pros and Cons of High Demand The effect of this demand will be continued buyer frustration, higher prices and a demand for more inventory (growth of the number of homes available, otherwise known as new construction and development). If our demand stays the same (and there is no reason to doubt that it will, at least in the mid-term), prices will rise more than if there is new inventory. For those of you who have been here for a while, you remember when prices kept rising we started to lose new families and diversity as our prices appreciated in the last decade (2002-2007). This does have consequences on the island’s character.
Developing Changes The good news is that there are new construction projects being built and being planned. As home prices and demand have increased, builders have re-emerged. We had 68 land sales last year (with a median price increase of 27%, from $185K to $235K), the most in over a decade (and a long way from 2008’s 15 sales). Some of these are for single family; some are for developments. Grow Village, developments on Wing Point, Wyatt Way and Lovell, Weaver, Sunrise Bluff on the mid to north end are actively being pursued by builders. Pleasant Beach and “The Roost” on Point White in the south end want to move forward and will, just as soon as some issues with the local sewer infrastructure are answered. Some of these projects will come on line this year, and some in 2017. Last year, we recorded 21 new construction sales, a 31% increase over 2014 and a 420% increase over 2013.
The Word on Condos Condominiums were dramatically affected by the lack of inventory. Active listings (listings not under contract to be sold) went from a peak of 16 in May down to only 4 in mid-December. That’s right. In mid-December, there were only 4 condominiums available island-wide. With that in mind, it is surprising that sales were only down 11% (90 versus 101). The median price, however, grew 11.2% ($372,500 versus $335,000) which surpassed the single family median increase. This was due primarily to sales between $400K-$500K increasing from 19 to 25 in 2015. (In both years, 86% of all sales were less than $500K.)
A Fresh Take We expect 2016 to be an interesting year. There is little evidence to a slowdown in demand so the challenges sellers and especially buyers experienced in 2015 will probably not abate. There is a “buzz” that more people are thinking about selling this year, which will help. However, there appears to be a resurgence of a “no growth” attitude, which will only drive prices higher, lessen diversity and change the flavor of our island, which could eventually lessen demand. The trick is enabling growth so it maintains the qualities we currently have and allows Bainbridge Island to retain its distinct personality and charm.
A Market Regains It's Momentum
Inventory Continues to Drive the Island Market All in all, 2014 has to be viewed as a very good year for the Bainbridge real estate market. The primary challenge of the year was a lack of inventory, which meant that buyers had too few choices. As we begin 2015, the same low inventory levels that drove the market in 2014 are even more pronounced. So it’s not a stretch to imagine that we may be in for more of the same in the coming months.
The Availability‐Sales‐Pricing Triangle Fewer homes actually sold in 2014 than in 2013. We began the year with record low inventories– 70 homes available (on the market and not under contract to be sold) – and ended the year with even fewer available (a mere 56!). This actually dampened sales because buyers couldn’t find what they were seeking, so many opted to continue to stay where they were, rent or go elsewhere. Sellers were reluctant to put their homes up for sale because they were afraid they couldn’t find new homes should their houses sell. (Approximately 40% of the sales on our island are from people moving around on Bainbridge.) This created competition for desirable homes, which pushed prices upwards.
The Story Behind the Prices So what is going on with prices? We are showing an increase of more than 17% in both average and median prices. As with any statistics, it is beneficial to look at the numbers in some detail and in the context of the bigger picture. As we have discussed before, published price changes have as much, if not more, to do in the “short run” (three years or so) with the price ranges buyers are in rather than with the price changes of individual houses. In this regard, there were some profound changes between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, 46% of all sales were $500K or less, but in 2014 that number dropped to 34%. Conversely, in the $500K to $800K range, there were 164 homes sold in 2014 versus 154 in 2013. Above $800K, there were 101 homes sold in 2014 versus 69 in 2013. The demand for homes in the upper price ranges increased, stimulating sales of more expensive homes and boosting both average and median prices. This activity shift was welcome news to our middle and upper market. When looking at the market as a whole, the median price of a home on Bainbridge needs to increase another 13% before we will be at our 2007 peak, but we are getting closer every year to returning to that high mark.
One Address at a Time
But what about individual houses? How does this increased competition affect the marketing strategy for each home about to be listed? There are many factors that determine the best approach for each property, the primary one being the makeup of the buyer pool at any one time and how each home conforms to that group’s wants and needs. This is where a professional real estate agent who is active in the market comes in. There is always a desire to “push up prices,” and a knowledgeable agent can assess how quickly and how high to push. Houses sold about 21% faster in 2014 than 2013. Also, the median sales price percentage of original listing price increased from 97% in 2013 to 97.7% in 2014. Both indicate individual home price increases because they are selling more quickly and closer to list prices than they were before. If you are curious about your home, your professional real estate agent will be happy to give you an idea of where you are.
A Busy Condo Scene
The condominium market experienced improvements in almost all areas. The number of sales were up almost 9%, median prices up 8% and there were four sales over $1M. These were the first condominium sales over $1M since July of 2010! The bulk of the sales (67%) were $400K and below, but there were sales in all price ranges up through $1M. Again, inventory has been scarce, especially in some of the middle price ranges. There were times when there was no inventory between $600K and $800K. Even though the median price of $335,000 is well short of the peak price of $464,000 in 2007, the direction is positive.
An Active Land and Development Segment
As with homes and condominiums, there was not an abundance of parcels for sale. The number of sales decreased more than 17% from 2013 but that was a particularly active year. Excluding 2013, there were 30% more parcels sold in 2014 than the best year going back to 2007. On the development front, things are quite active. To name a few: Grow Avenue’s second phase is under construction; the Wyatt Way parcel down the street is in feasibility review for approximately 19 new parcels; and Lynwood Center has two projects in the development phase with Pleasant Beach Village Hillside and the “Roost” off Pt. White Drive and Baker Hill Rd. These last two developments alone will represent approximately 50 new homes and both are slated to be active in 2015.
Ring in the New Year
The coming year should prove to be an interesting one. Even though it is only January, the “buzz” is positive among buyers and sellers. The markets on both sides of us, Seattle and North Kitsap, are healthy. Seattle has quieted a bit from the craziness of the past couple years, but is still very robust while North Kitsap is experiencing one of the fastest starts ever. The region is looking good, the days are getting longer, no obvious storm clouds are in sight and we are off on the adventure of 2015!
Bainbridge Island Single Family Homes Sold 2014 (as of January 6, 2015)