Updated HARP Goverment Loan Refinancing Program Starts March 15th

House Under Water

If you are like many home owners in America you may owe more on your home than the home’s appraised value. If you are feeling like you are under water on your home and not sure where to turn then the new HARP program might be just the help you have been needing.

The government’s Home Affordibility Refinance Program (HARP) has been updated and goes into effect March 15th  . Under the new program regulations homeowners who owe more than their house is worth can refinance at lower rates regardless of the home’s  appraised value if the loan is held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and the homeowner is current on their payments. For details, go to http://www.makinghomeaffordable.gov/programs/lower-rates/Pages/harp.aspx. To see if your mortgage is held by Fannie or Freddie, go to www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup or http://www.freddiemac.com/mymortgage. For free help, call 888-995-4673 – 24 hours a day.

If you have questions regarding the local Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate markets feel free to visit our website www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com or call us toll free at 1-888-713-3056.

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Bellingham Real Estate Market Home Sale and Pricing Update

real estate marketThere are some odd things going on in the real estate market.

  • Trend lines of average and median prices for the past 3 years have been down, but the units sold trend has been stable.  We crossed the tipping point this month…all trend lines are now heading down both for Bellingham and the county as a whole.
  • With that said, sales for the first two months of the year are up strongly in all areas except Bellingham and Birch Bay/Blaine. 
  • The number of short sale and bank owned properties on the market has been dropping over the past 2 months, and the number of those types of properties sold is down from last fall.
  • The Bellingham market is the largest in the county and has typically been the strongest, but that doesn’t seem to be the case lately.   

Indications of shifts in market activity to areas outside Bellingham started showing up at the end of the year.  Bellingham inventory continued lower than the prior year, but the number of pending sales also started to decline.  In some other areas of the county, however, pending sales were climbing.  Look at the numbers as of the end of February in the table below.

Comparison of Month End Active and Pending Residences in 5 areas
  Feb 2011 Feb 2012 % Change
Bellingham      
Active 491 358 -27%
Pending 127 119 -6%
       
Ferndale      
Active 189 146 -23%
Pending 37 51 28%
       
Sudden Valley      
Active 60 71 18%
Pending 22 24 9%
       
B Bay/Blaine      
Active 194 157 -19%
Pending 38 42 11%
       
Lynden      
Active 129 116 -10%
Pending 24 40 67%

So why are pending sales so strong, particularly in Ferndale and Lynden, compared to Bellingham?  In looking at the individual properties represented in these numbers, the increases seem to be driven by new construction.  Ferndale and Lynden went into the recession with large numbers of platted lots available.  Prices on those lots have come down and new houses are being built.  While some of that is going on in Bellingham, it is a much smaller percentage of the market.  Read On….. 

For ongoing real estate numbers and details on all the Whatcom County market areas, go to main website. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report.

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Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Update

A Mixed Bag

If you drop a dozen ping-pong balls on a somewhat rough surface, what happens?  In my experience, they go every which way, none of which are predictable.  It is somewhat like the real estate market right now…some areas are up, some are down, some are up one month and down the next.  Trying to make some sense out of it month by month can be really frustrating.

Let’s start this report by looking at who went up and who went down, but then we’re going to talk about trendlines

Bellingham’s September home sales were up strongly from last year in terms of number of homes sold, but the prices dropped – 14% for the average and 12.5% in the median – and that tended to be the pattern throughout most of the county.  Only Lynden saw the number of sales drop, but they came off an incredible increase in August.  Birch Bay/Blaine was the only area where average and median prices were higher than a year ago – by about 7.8%.  Over all, September had the 3rd highest number of home sales in Whatcom County so far in 2011.

As the table below demonstrates, the distribution of sales across price ranges in Bellingham continued to stay heavy on the lower end.  In fact, nearly all the additional sales over last year were below $300,000. This, in itself, pulls down both the average and the median prices.

 

Bellingham Sales Distribution

To learn more about what is happening in the Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Markets visit and read the complete article complete with graphs visit the Bellingham Real Estate Update Page.

For ongoing real estate numbers and details on all the Whatcom County market areas, go to www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report.

If your neighborhood would like a presentation or a link to your website of up-to-date information on real estate in the neighborhood, we can provide it – just give us a call.

            www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com also includes a constantly updated list of newly listed properties and a list of properties being offered as short sales & foreclosures (REOs), as well as the entire listing database of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, fully searchable to your specifications.

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When Will the Real Estate Market Be Normal Again?

First, let’s set the context.  During the 1990’s about 2600 homes sold in Whatcom County every year.  At the beginning of that decade the average price was $109,351 and the median was $86,350.  By 2000, average prices were up to $167,038 and the median was $144,500.  In 2000, 2911 homes were sold, rising to 4454 in 2004 and dropping to 2204 in 2009.  The average price countywide peaked in 2007 at $340,448 with a median of $290,725.  The charts that follows give a visual look at the change.

  Whatcom County Real Estate SalesBellingham Real Estate Prices

The number of sales in Bellingham peaked in 2004 at 1425 homes and was around 800 in 2010. Sale prices peaked in 2007, averaging $375,000 with a median of $315,000.  Last year Bellingham homes sold at an average price of $334,301 and a median of $277,500. 

While prices have certainly been affected by the recession, unit sales have been hit much harder.  This trend seems to be continuing, with 1st quarter Whatcom County sales down 21% from 2010, but median prices up 2.3% and the average dropping just 1.5%.  Bellingham 1st quarter sales were up 2.7%, with the median up 8.7% and the average up 3.5%.  And remember, these numbers are against the period when first time homebuyers were being given a tax credit of $8000 and repeat homebuyers could claim $6500.

The market has definitely become more “normal” in terms of the distribution of sales.  More sales have moved into the mid-range as opposed to the lower end.  At the same time, the upper end has returned to a more typical percentage of the market than it was several years ago.

Short sales and bank owned properties continue to make up about 20% of the sales in Bellingham, while they formed 14% of homes actively on the market and 35% of those under contract to sell at the end of March.  They do not seem to be having a particularly negative effect on sale prices.

 Inventory levels are lower than they have been since March of 2006.  The number of homes under contract but not yet closed is remaining consistent with numbers seen in March since 2008. 

So what does all this mean?

As we go into what is typically the most active real estate sales time of the year, these numbers bode well for sellers and should be a bit of a red flag to buyers.  Choices are down and some sellers are getting a bit more stubborn.  More buyers seem to be looking for property.  We are seeing low offers negotiated into something approaching list price and great properties with multiple offers.  On the other hand, it is only the best properties that can demand the best prices – what an idea…that is true in any market!  

And that leads me back to the question with which we started, “When will the market be normal again?” My conclusion is that there is no “normal”…there is simply the market.  The basics of buying or selling in it are the same as they always have been.  The best properties sell for the best prices because they are the most attractive.  It was just that for a while we were all afraid we were going to miss the opportunity to buy anything, ever, so we would take whatever we could get and pay whatever it cost.  That market isn’t normal, it isn’t sustainable and hopefully it won’t come back. I think we are reaching equilibrium…and perhaps that is what normal is.

 For ongoing real estate numbers and details on all the Whatcom County market areas, go to www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report. 

            www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com also includes a constantly updated list of newly listed properties and a list of properties being offered as short sales & foreclosures (REOs), as well as the entire listing database of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, fully searchable to your specifications.

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Bellingham Real Estate Update. So is the Market Up or Down?

Both.  Bellingham residential, single family sales numbers were up by 18.4% for the first 2 months of the years and Lynden matched its 2010 sales.  Whatcom County residential sales as a whole for the two month period dropped 38 units…down 17.3% from 2010 numbers.  Median sale prices were up 8.5% in Bellingham, although the average sale price dropped by 2.8%.  As a whole, average prices throughout the county dropped 2.7% and the median was down 1% from the first two months of 2010.

Considering that the first months of 2010 had the bonus from the Homebuyer tax credits, Bellingham did very well.  Why is the rest of the county struggling?  There are a number of possibilities:

– The most highly serviced areas are typically the most stable in price and demand.  In Whatcom County, that is Bellingham.

– The Homebuyer tax credit benefited lower priced home sales the most.  Since home prices in general tend to be less outside Bellingham, the county areas could be competing in 2011 against higher relative sales numbers in 2010.

– As shown in the table below, demand for homes in the $300,000 to $750,000 price range in Bellingham increased substantially in 2011, perhaps reflecting increased confidence among the population with steady jobs or more move-up buyers.  Anecdotally, we saw more out of area buyers for Bellingham property, and as a group they usually spend more for houses.

– Higher gasoline prices due to the uncertainty in the Middle East may also be keeping buyers closer to the primary service center in the County.

Bellingham Real Estate

So what does all this mean?  Bellingham sales numbers in January and February continued their gradual increase, and since Bellingham is the indicator for an upturn in the Whatcom County housing market, that could bode well for the entire county.  One bright spot throughout the county is that inventory levels are  lower in all areas than they were a year ago.  Typically they tend to rise quickly after the first of the year, but that has not happened in the first two months.  Pending sales, on the other hand, are rising.  Distressed sale percentages seem to be relatively stable at around 20% of the market in Bellingham. To learn why we are optimistic about the market and where we see the market heading visit the Bellingham Real Estate Update Page for January and February.

For ongoing real estate numbers, go to www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report.

 If your neighborhood would like a presentation or a link to your website of up-to-date information on real estate in the neighborhood, we can provide it – just give us a call.  www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com also includes a constantly updated list of newly listed properties and a list of properties being offered as short sales & foreclosures (REOs), as well as the entire listing database of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, fully searchable to your specifications.

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Bellingham Real Estate Market Update

 The artificial market created by tax credits resulted in the expected fall off the cliff in July, with the number of homes sold in the county as a whole down 22.8% from June sales.  The only area that held its own compared to June was Bellingham, where one more home sold in July.  Other areas dropped – from 68.8% in Sudden Valley to 52.2% in Lynden and 40% in Birch Bay/Blaine.  Ferndale was down just 4.2% in July, although they were caught in August with a drop of 56.5% in sales from their July number.

Typically, July sales are higher than June.  It was expected that they would be lower this year, but what really matters is how we are comparing to last year in the same months.  One would expect July and August to perform less well relative to last year because of the compressed demand in the early summer, and July lived up (or down) to that expectation.  In Whatcom County as a whole, 36.6% fewer units sold.  There wasn’t one area in Whatcom County that sold more houses in July 2010 than in July 2009.  By August, however, things were looking up a bit in most areas, with Sudden Valley & Birch Bay/Blaine up 15.4% & 21.7% respectively, Lynden matching August 2009, and Bellingham down just 4.7%.  Ferndale was hit hard – down 52.4% from sales in August 2009 and Nooksack Valley dropped 81.8%.  As a whole, the county sold 13.3% fewer homes in August of 2010 than 2009.

Chart

 For the complete article on the Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Update visit the July and August Real Estate Update page.

For ongoing real estate numbers, go to www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report.

 If your neighborhood would like a presentation or a link to your website of up-to-date information on real estate in the neighborhood, we can provide it – just give us a call.  www.johnsonteamrealestate.com also includes a constantly updated list of newly listed properties and a list of properties being offered as short sales & foreclosures (REOs), as well as the entire listing database of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, fully searchable to your specifications.

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Bellingham Real Estate Questions

Short Sale Impacts

Today’s question goes to the heart of the real estate market difficulties – the impact on people.

“Will a Short Sale impact my credit score?”

Yes, a short sale will negatively impact one’s credit score, but at this point there is no definitive answer as to how much.  The general feeling seems to be that it will have less of an impact than a foreclosure or bankruptcy would.  On the other hand, late and missed payments also have a negative impact on credit score, so it is important to look at the choices available to you and try to weigh them as best you can.  Your credit score impacts more of your life than just a future home purchase – it can also impact insurance rates and the ability to get any other kind of credit. 

A short sale has a specific impact on your ability to buy a home in the future beyond its impact on your credit score.  Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac have established specific time periods after one goes through a short sale, foreclosure or bankruptcy during which they will not be considered for a home loan.  Since in today’s markets the majority of the home loans are sold to either Fannie or Freddie, that can be a major limiter to a future home purchase.  Generally speaking, there is currently a 2 year prohibition on a loan after a short sale and a 4 year prohibition after a deed in lieu of foreclosure or an outright foreclosure.

If you have experiences or information about short sales, credit scores or real estate issues in general, please share.  The knowledge you have could be a real help to someone else.

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