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The spring market is hot, hot, hot

Spring has sprung in the world of real estate. In particular, the Seattle housing market is starting to become active again, especially in that sweet spot of houses priced between $450,000 and $1 million. The sky is brighter in the market for homes more than $2 million — especially in light of a winter season that was longer and darker than what we’ve experienced in previous years.

We entered 2017 under a cloud of uncertainty cast by the presidential election. This cloud affected both domestic and international markets. Consumers had palpable fear and anxiety about the future, and may have delayed big ticket decisions, like home purchases.

Timing is everything, and activity over the winter was slow. But the timing for sellers this spring is shaping up just right — we’re seeing buyer interest and activity speed up and grow strong. In fact, the forecast is for a traditionally active spring market.

The numbers for the end of February into late March are compelling, and indicate a lasting upswing. Homes priced between $450,000 and $1 million are getting multiple offers after only a short time on the market and are selling at an average of 104 percent of the list price. That’s not surprising, as this sector remained healthy even during the winter doldrums.

Top-tier properties

There are signs that the true luxury home market — the market for homes priced at $2 million and above — has perked up after a lag. Some continue to struggle, and have remained on the market for months. But turnkey trophy properties are being snapped up fast. I had a new construction listing in early March, priced at $1.55 million. We had 200 people come through to see it opening weekend, with 50 more showings during the week.

It was a dream scenario. There were no competitive houses on the market. We had a one-week offer-review period. At the end of the period, we had several offers, with a cash buyer who paid $140,000 above the asking price with no contingencies and only a two-week settlement. If you have a super listing, it will sell quickly — and for top dollar.

The most recent data bears that out. While there are some properties priced above the $2 million mark that continue to languish, four homes in that price range had offers accepted quickly — all less than nine days on market.

Buyers ready to go

Late last fall, I had a listing that was in great condition and priced competitively. It attracted a lot of people interested in showings. And yet, it couldn’t seem to bring in an offer. At $899,000, it would have sold in just days at any other time. I was confident, the sellers were confident, it merely was a bad selling climate in the late fourth quarter, so we took it off the market. The goal was to let the clock restart and to relist in the height of the spring selling season.

We didn’t have to bring it back on the market. Without relisting, and being officially off the market, we got a full-price offer from a savvy buyer. The buyer had seen the home earlier, was ready to buy, and knew it would sell quickly once it was relisted. The buyer didn’t want to leave that to chance.

What to expect

As we continue through spring, all the data points to a robust, active and much more traditional season in Seattle real estate. Even with the announced interest-rate rise, we’re looking at a hard-charging market. That means different things depending on who you are.

As a seller, understand that the pricing and the condition of your home are paramount if you’re looking to sell quickly and achieve the highest price possible. Though we’re still looking at low inventory, the homes that have been sitting for weeks or months are there for a reason. If you’ve been on the market for a long time, it’s time to re-evaluate your property versus the competition.

Buyers should be prepared. All the buyers — even the cash buyers — that were sitting on the bench over the winter are back in the game. Have your cash ready, your financing ready to go, and be willing to make quick decisions.

If you’re a new buyer, get yourself in the mindset that it’s tough out there. There’s competition, and sometimes it’s cutthroat. You’ll be facing off against other buyers who may have come close and lost in a previous bidding war or two and are going to be fast and aggressive. You and your broker need to have some hard conversations to prepare for battle. Know that you must be strong and scrappy to get the home you want.

By Chris Sudore