In 2016, the housing market is recovering nicely from the 2008 crash; fewer homes are “underwater” and values are going up nationwide. The highly-regarded Case-Shiller Index recently reported that values nationwide have increased 5.1% from 2015.
While this is good news for homeowners who are seeing their equity increase again (or negative equity turning positive), homeowners in the Seattle area have a real reason to rejoice: according to Case-Schiller, Seattle homes increased in value at nearly the highest rate in the nation—11%, second only to first-place Portland, Oregon’s 12.6%.
This high rate of appreciation, together with mortgage rates that remain at historically low levels, means that many homeowners who bought their homes with small down payments and mortgage insurance can now get rid of that expense because they may have enough equity that their lenders will allow its removal. Removing mortgage insurance can be as simple as borrowers getting an appraisal to satisfy their lender that the loan is less than 80% of their home’s current market value.
Higher appreciation could also make refinancing at a lower interest rate feasible, too. Any homeowner who was frustrated a year ago because they didn’t have quite enough equity to refinance to a lower rate mortgage may discover that this important money-saving strategy has become a reality. Depending on the size of the loan, even a ½% drop in the rate can save many thousands of dollars in interest.
This healthy rate of appreciation is not necessarily good news for everyone, however. Those who have been on the fence about becoming homeowners risk seeing home prices get beyond their reach. The home that is affordable today at $400,000 may be unaffordable in a year, when the same home could bring $425,000 because of the rising market. Add the likelihood of mortgage rates inching up from today’s historically low levels, and that same home would cost $200 per month more, possibly unaffordable.
This is not to suggest that the outlook is gloomy for Seattle homebuyers. Don’t be fooled by the common narrative about the “normal” 20% down payment, or the impossibly strict lending guidelines. In the words of a certain gentleman from Delaware, that is all “malarkey!” The most important thing is being aware of the rise in home prices and then deciding when and how to act to offset upward-trending expenses.
Purchasing a home in the Seattle market today means not only being protected from rising prices, but having a sound investment for the future as your largest and most important investment—your family’s home—continues to rise in value.
If you’re selling and buying a home in Seattle at the same time, you can take advantage of the equity that appreciation has built into your current home. To manage the move-up process, you’ll want to come equipped with the knowledge and techniques to have a successful experience. One way to improve your preparation is by downloading our free ebook by clicking the button below.