Portland/Vancouver Metro on the rebound!

Fueled by the formation of nearly 16,000 new jobs in the first quarter of 2011, the Greater Portland-Vancouver residential housing market has bounced off the bottom and is on the mend. CBSeal.com Portland Market rebound

Oregon Live: States saw uneven job growth last month, but Oregon was near the top

While we are not totally out of the woods in the Portland/Vancouver metro the first quarter job growth results are the best in several years.

This is even better news on top of the significant job growth in 2010 – nearly 27,000 new jobs

Oregon Live: Oregon post third straight moth of job growth

Together job growth has been positive in 13 of the last 15 months, including the last 6 months. Job growth always leads to improvements in the housing sector.  New jobs as well as the more than 50,000 births in 2010 drive and support lifestyle changes….and lifestyle changes are the main driving force for buying and selling homes.

Puget Sound Rebounds!

Around the world – San Diego, Australia, Japan and home town cash investors  – see the Puget Sound Region as the place to invest — today! Puget Sound Region rebounds

In the past four weeks the following three stories from the Seattle Times have headlined the business sections of the Puget Sound area news media.

Hot market for rentals inspires twin towers

San Diego firm buys failed Cascadia development in Pierce County

Australian builder plans 500 houses in Seattle market

These three developers see the present and long-term term new construction housing needs of the Puget Sound region as eminent. This is in part because the natural population growth of Washington is fueled by more the than 90,000 births annually and in part because more than 27,000 jobs were added in the first quarter – the vast majority of which happen in the central Puget Sound Region.

Life style changes, whether new jobs or children led to housing changes (each new job creates the need for up to ½ new housing unit)

What does this mean?

Is the recession over?

That surely seems to be the thinking of three developer who in combination purchased or applied for permits for more than 5000 housing units in the last 30 days!

Mobility vs. Homeownership…why most Americans put down roots.

Single Male BuyerSo, my morning began with a Seattle Times article that says that more apartment hi-rises are being rushed to development because demand for rentals–especially from younger workers–is out-stripping supply (“Hot Market for Rentals Inspires Twin Towers” 4.20.11).
Fair enough. But it was the following statement, a phrase I’ve seen used again and again in media reports, that frankly baffles me a little;


“…younger workers are turning to apartments because they recognize owning a home could interfere with their ability to go where the jobs are  (in the future)”.


Sorry, I’m just not buying it.

Sure, this strategy might sound reasonable if you’re single, 23 and seeking your particular spot in the world…but is that still the best strategy when you’re 28? 31?

As a young man, I was left my hometown of San Diego and ventured to Nebraska, lured by a job with Omaha Magazine. The magazine soon folded, and after enduring two of the most horrific winters imaginable (a fierce two minute hail storm once dimpled my car so thoroughly it became more golf ball than automobile), I packed up and returned to San Diego. Eventually, the terrific job I have now opened up in the Pacific Northwest, and once again my wife and I were off to a new location.

Each time I relocated, I already owned a home. Each time I relocated, I also bought a home in my new location. Homeownership was not a personal hindrance, and it didn’t keep me from making career decisions (even bad ones, like Omaha). If you’re thinking “Sure Sparks, but look how much tougher the housing market is now”, you’ve never tried to sell a split-level home in Omaha, believe me. But I did it, and others have done it too.

Many people today are looking at the market through the prism of the last few years. This is completely understandable, especially for younger adults who have only experienced the wild highs and disappointing lows of this historically unique real estate cycle. If you stepped into an elevator that had only two buttons, “PLUNGE” and “SOAR”, how comfortable would you be getting on that elevator, especially the first time?

Historically, we know that most real estate cycles are not ‘epic’ events, as this one was. We also know that renting is not the personal choice for the majority of Americans. As we mature and our adult lives and relationships take hold, long-distance job hopping becomes much more daunting. Most people put down roots, make good friends, and become ingrained in the culture of a city or neighborhood. They don’t call them “the ties that bind” for nothing.

People love owning their own space. Homeownership isn’t for everybody, but neither is the nomadic lifestyle of a contract worker, constantly seeking the next employment perk.
So, is this renting strategy permanent, or simply a knee-jerk reaction to deal the economic fears and apprehensions of the moment? One thing we can be sure of…these economic circumstances will always ebb and flow, and things will always change.

Ultimately, I believe that younger people facing the reality of ever escalating rents and highly regulated living space (no pets, no noise, no painting, no car washing, no parking, no changing anything…!), will elect the path that two out of every three Americans choose…Own Sweet Own.

Ron G. Sparks

Washington Foreclosure Crisis? It depends where you look.

A recent article appearing in the Seattle Times, “Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Win Right to Mediation” contained this statement regarding Washington State’s foreclosures;

The move by state lawmakers to require mediation comes as the foreclosure crisis in Washington continues. In the first three months of the year, more than 5,600 homes were seized and more than 7,000 were headed to foreclosure auction, according to RealtyTrac.

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Well, as I have noted before, this type of broad statement is not particularly useful unless given local context. While there’s no denying that foreclosures are still highly impacting the Washington market, in some areas the story can be told in a more positive (and locally accurate) way. For example, here is what’s happening in the city where I work, Bellevue;

Bellevue Foreclosures March 2011

Notice of Trustee sale filings have remained relatively flat for the last 5 months. On a daily average basis, Back to Bank sales (REO) dropped 27.5 percent. Notices of Trustee Sale fell 13% over the prior month, and 44% over the prior year. As you can see in the graph, relative to the Seattle Times statement that “more than 7,000” houses are heading to auction, a total of only 130 notices have been received by Bellevue homeowners through March 2011 (Jan. 46, Feb. 45, Mar. 39. Source: Foreclosureradar.com).

It surprises most people when I tell them that at the beginning of April, there were just 7 bank-owned properties available for sale in all West Bellevue. That’s right, seven. Want to look for a bank-owned home in Central Seattle? Also, just 7 choices. Mercer Island? Only 2 bank owned homes on the market.

Of course, if the numbers quoted in the Seattle Times article are accurate, this also means that other areas and neighborhoods in Washington are still experiencing the full misery of foreclosures. However, as most Puget Sound real estate cycles begin and end in the urban-core areas of Seattle and Bellevue, the improvement occurring in those markets can certainly be perceived is good news.

This is another validation of our industry’s mantra “All real estate is local”. So, try not to make assumptions about the neighborhoods you’re interested in, especially if those assumptions are based on what’s happening statewide…be sure to check out what’s happening locally!

President’s Point of View (POV)

Re Barcamp Seattle video panel
CB Bain's Michael Ackerman, Video panel at RE BarCamp Seattle

During recent weeks I have personally engaged in many business conference and “un-conferences” including CBBain|Seal’s Design Your Digital Plan, the Seattle RE BarCamp and Coldwell Banker’s International Generation Blue Experience (#genblue) in Las Vegas.

The way I see it… Social networking is nothing new. I have been social networking in real estate for 32 years! What’s really exciting is these new tools enable us to socially network more efficiently and effectively, whether we use email newsletters and Outlook or Twitter/Facebook/Blog.

However, in the end, just like the printed Duvall Report of the 70s, the postcards of the 80s or the customer networking parties of the 90s…the success of “social networking” as a business development strategy remains the same: totally and completely on one factor: YOU have to DO IT.

You and you alone…
Week after week…
Month after month…
Year after year.

Relationships require your commitment. Plain and Simple.

Mike Grady, President

CB  Bain | Seal