BI doesn’t just lack affordable housing

Everybody knows about the lack of affordable housing on Bainbridge Island. It’s talked about all the time, at least by city leaders.

But what’s not often talked about at that level is the lack of any housing at all.

Dennis and Matthew Paige of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty on BI say in an email that only 10 homes and 12 condos are for sale on the island right now. They said things usually slow down in late fall, but there are usually up to three times more listings than there are now.

“We continue to see record levels of low inventory with a steady demand,” they say in the email, adding it can always be a challenge finding a good home at a good price on BI, but it’s even harder now.

When there are new listings, they said there are often multiple offers over the asking price, and they sell within a week. “Of the 138 home and condo sales that closed in the last 90 days, over half of them went for above their list price,” their email says.

In the past six months, 49 homes sold for $2 million or more, double the number (23) sold in the previous six months at that price. The median price is $1.128 million, up $155,000 from the previous six months.

The Paiges said it’s “definitely a great time to be a seller, but a tough market for buyers.” As an example, they said there is less than one month’s supply of homes available, when in a balanced market there would be a six-month supply.

Barb McKenzie of Coldwell Banker Bain said most houses that come on the market now have a “Review Date,” which allows up to seven days to view a home and make an offer if they have to fly in from another state or just want some time to think about it.

With so many people working from home, she said: “They are willing to wait for something to open up. They are taking their time to find the right home for them.”

McKenzie said many people are cash buyers, often because they had so much equity in their previous home. Sometimes they rent month to month so they will be ready to pounce when the home they want becomes available.

“I don’t recommend renting and waiting for prices to level off,” she says in an email. “Who knows when that will be? No crystal ball, unfortunately.”

Carleen Gosney of Windermere Real Estate said interest rates won’t keep people from buying. “Interest rates are predicted to rise slowly in the coming months but economists expect rates to remain relatively low,” she said.

Gosney said buyers often are motivated to jump in the market and buy when they think interest rates are trending higher. “Between lack of inventory and buyers motivated to catch interest rates before they move any higher I expect our housing market to remain strong through the winter season,” she said.

Randi Brown of John L. Scott said sellers can get a higher price if the house from day one is market-ready, meaning they prepare the house and property “so that buyers will envision themselves in the home, and it presents beautifully and feels inviting.

“Remember the five rights to selling your home: House right, yard right, marketing right, price right and the right real estate expert,” she said.

Brown said a larger down payment can help if the home escalates above listing, but there are other options. “When a seller is presented with multiple offers the strongest offers can be cash or have a significant down payment,” she said. However, “there are several ways to make a stronger offer besides a larger down payment. When drawing up an offer for our clients we discuss all the strategies and their potential risks.”

Kitsap County

The housing market is much better in other areas of Kitsap County. That’s due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made many businesses realize that employees don’t always need to come into an office, said Doug Miller of South Kitsap Properties.

Also, buyers get more bang for the buck in the Kitsap Peninsula. “Buyers want to come to an area where they get more house and land for the money. They can have views here they could never afford in Bellevue, Seattle or Tacoma.”

The number of homes on the market countywide is down roughly 30% from last year. Meanwhile, the pricetag on the average home sold in the county rose to $588,000, compared with $447,000 prior to the pandemic.

“I feel bad for buyers that have been in the market these last few years,” he said. “The prices are appreciating so quickly, and certainly out-appreciating where pay raises are at, regardless of your profession. Housing is becoming less affordable,” he said.

Miller said it’s still not a bad time to buy because people can still build equity and interest rates are still low so you can “buy a house and see significant savings on interest payments.”

A Kitsap County home has increased in value an average of 14% since last year, Miller said. “You won’t find a single investment, other than maybe cryptocurrency, that has met that kind of traditional return.” The value of a typical home in the county has virtually doubled in value in the last 10 years, Miller added, and experts predict property values will continue to appreciate for another few years.

Still, it’s wise for prospective home buyers to understand there are times following periods of soaring home valuations in which prices can drop, leaving some homebuyers realizing they overpaid. The most-recent example was 2008-11 when home values in the county dipped 11%.

When buying, it’s possible to put in an escalation clause in which, say, the bid is $500,000 but the offer can go up to $550,000. The higher bid is triggered only if another offer comes in over the asking price, Miller explained.

Also, getting a preapproved loan will avoid delays during bidding, he said. A larger down payment is also a plus. Down payments have doubled in the current market, Miller said, adding between $20,000 and $50,000 are fairly common.

Homes are selling faster. “In Kitsap County, the days on the market [for a home] is basically two weeks. That is 40 percent less than it was last year,” Miller said.

Renting until you find the home you want or looking for a home farther out are options for home buyers.

Miller doesn’t recommend building from scratch because of problems in permitting and finding a builder. “Because of so much new construction, finding a contractor and subcontractors available and willing to take on single-family homebuilding is hard because they all are doing large developments now,” he said.