Has Sammamish real estate hit bottom?
February 2, 2011
By Caleb Heeringa
NEW: Feb. 1, 9:45 a.m.
Sammamish saw a slight improvement in real estate sales in 2010, thanks in part to a federal tax credit for first-time home-buyers in the early part of the year.
But buyers rushing to complete deals by the April deadline may have contributed to a bit of a sluggish second half of the year, which saw a 15 percent drop in home sales compared to the same period in 2009.
And the numbers still aren’t what they were a few years ago, before one of the worst recessions in decades hit the country – Sammamish included.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ve turned a corner,” Sammamish Finance Director Lyman Howard said of the real estate market. “But it’s a mixed bag – Sammamish is subject to the same forces as the rest of the country.”
The tax credit, $8,000 for first-time home buyers and $6,500 for second-time buyers, led to a big uptick in sales in March (65) and April (99), compared to 30 or so sales in the same months in 2009.
April’s sales were the most in a single month since July 2007.
Sammamish also outpaced the rest of King County both by the rate and price of home sales – it saw a 10 percent increase in sales year-over-year compared to 4 percent for the county as a whole.
The county also saw the median price of sales drop from $380,000 to $375,000, whereas Sammamish, with its glut of luxury homes, saw homes sell for a bit more – from $534,500 in 2009 to $564,625 in 2010.
While most real estate agents agree that we’ve hit the bottom as far as the market goes, no one’s quite sure how long we’ll stay there.
“I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods,” said Sam DeBord, an agent with Coldwell Banker Danforth who works across the Eastside. “I know I’m a real estate agent and I’m supposed to make that (optimistic) speech, but we could see a long slide at the bottom here. The job market will be everything. If businesses don’t start hiring … it may be another year or two.”
DeBord said the “great recession” represented a significant price correction in the market that sellers now have to come to terms with. For those that bought at the height of the boom, that often means dropping their asking price and selling at a loss if they wish to move immediately.
“There’s plenty of sellers that only a few years ago thought their home was in the $800,000 area and then saw the market drop 25 percent – that’s a big drop,” DeBord said.
Despite the down economy, Roland Fink, a local realtor with John L. Scott, said Sammamish is relatively lucky compared to some areas. Great schools, low crime and its proximity to job centers and recreation opportunities continue to help the city rank high on national “best places to live” lists.
“There’s a lot of optimism,” Fink said. “There’s been so much positive press for Sammamish in the last couple years … People are still coming here from all over the world.”
Fink said since the state widened Highway 202 he’s seen an increase in people from the Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond areas willing to consider Sammamish as a home.
Fink said it’s a buyer’s market right now, with prices and interest rates both remaining relatively low.
Even those content with where they live should look into refinancing their homes with a lower interest rate, he said.
Nation-wide, the average 30-year, fixed rate mortgage had a 4.45 percent interest rate in the third quarter of 2010, compared to 5.16 percent during the same period in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Prices are down, interest rates are down – it’s a golden opportunity to buy,” Fink said.
Fink and DeBord both agree that real estate in Sammamish and the rest of the Seattle area will likely get back to the prices that were seen before the recession, but how long it will take to get there is anyone’s guess.
“It will take a long time,” DeBord said. “We’ll certainly get there, but it’s not going to be five years. By the time there’s the next boom in the tech industry … people tend to forget these sorts of (recessions.)”
Fink is a bit more optimistic.
“This is America – prices go up,” he said. “People love to own their home … it’s the American Dream.”
Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this story, visit www.SammamishReview.com.