Realogics Sotheby's International Realty

State of the Market: Realogics Sotheby's International Realty Compares Region's Affordability to Other Pacific Rim Cities

Not so Bad — Seattle MSA is Effectively Twice as Affordable Compared to Vancouver, BC

It’s a new year, and that means that market pundits will review the year-end statistics. Despite the news from media headlines about meteoric increases in home prices around the Seattle metro area, we may actually still be undervalued. That’s the view of analysts at Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR), who have been studying the data for their year-end report. When dividing the median home prices (what we need to pay) into the median household incomes (what we earn), we find that the Pacific Northwest remains relatively affordable in comparison with the other West Coast gateway cities of Vancouver, BC, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Even upon isolating the specific market areas to include all housing types (condos, townhomes, co-ops and single-family or detached homes), RSIR found that the Seattle Metro Area (Seattle-Bellevue-Everett) and both the cities of Seattle and Bellevue are still far more affordable than their West Coast peers in the U.S., and certainly less expensive than the Vancouver, B.C. region.

“It’s a function of relatively high incomes in the region while corresponding home prices have not escalated as much as they have in other West Coast markets,” said William Hillis, RSIR’s Research Editor and Publisher. “That said, I do believe we will be playing catch-up now that we are experiencing increased demand from foreign nationals, and that we will start seeing more renters become homebuyers in the years ahead.”

Hillis notes that Vancouver, San Francisco, and Seattle have long experienced foreign direct investment from Asia, mostly from China, and as such have become a “hedge” city. In hedge cities the local price of real estate is not just influenced by local income or population growth, but by external demand forces like international homebuyers. Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that the benchmark value of a detached home in the Vancouver metro area is now $1.248 Million—up 24.3% in one year according to a new report by The Vancouver Real Estate Board and as reported in the Vancouver Sun (January 7, 2016).

Furthermore, if you isolate the single family market in Vancouver the effective cost of ownership is just shy of Hong Kong—the most expensive real estate market in the world.

“Clearly, Vancouver is one of the most unaffordable markets in the world based on prevailing incomes, but its residents are global citizens—just like London, New York City and Hong Kong,” adds Hillis.  “Even though prices here are rising, the Seattle area can and does attract similar buyers without as much of an affordability gap, offering its renowned quality of life with better prospects for capital appreciation. These are all reasons why we’ve become more favored over the more typical, more expensive West Coast gateways.”

To be sure, the Seattle/Bellevue area has witnessed a significant rise in international home buying, especially from China.  A year ago, China Daily accurately prognosticated the market demand by Chinese nationals hinting that Seattle may be “globally undervalued” (“Fengshui in Seattle: City’s real estate draws Chinese”).

In response to the trends, RSIR has played a leading role connecting homebuyers on both sides of the Pacific Ocean with their Asia Services Group (ASG) – a team of brokers specialized in the languages and logistics when working with a foreign buyer. The group recently sponsored the region’s first all-Mandarin magazine called Seattle Luxury Living as published by Tiger Oak Publications. ASG also built a custom WeChat app with adSage targeting the WeChat social media platform’s subscriber base of 600 million (and growing) in China and around the world. RSIR executives recently released a video documentary on the trends for foreign direct investment and immigration called East Meets West. 

Nowhere locally has the influence of foreign buyers been more evident than in West Bellevue (NWMLS #520), where 2015 ended with a median home price of $1,080,000, according to NWMLS data. That’s a 17.4% increase from 2014, and nearly 88% higher than the 2011 median home price of $575,900.

Hillis believes the recent turmoil in China’s equities markets will only drive more emigration and foreign direct investment to North America, especially to rising markets like the Seattle/Bellevue metro area. The recent corrections in the Shanghai Stock Exchange and regulations on housing reminds Chinese nationals that their economy (and their personal investments) are very much influenced by the government.

“We’ve been discovered,” said Hillis. “Global wealth is always flowing to emerging markets, and considering the relative value and lifestyle proposition we offer, it isn’t surprising that more and more foreign buyers are drawn here. Real estate in America is considered a blue-chip investment that you can enjoy. You can’t live in a stock portfolio.”

NOTE: Information was obtained by sources deemed reliable but cannot be guaranteed. E&OE.

Market Update: October 2015

October’s numbers are in and inventory continues to wane for King County Residential homes, down 15% compared to last month and 40% year over year. The median listing price was just under $530K, with an average sale price of $427K, up nearly $40K compared to the previous year. Buyers came out strong, as homes were on the market for an average of just 28 days, down 30% from last year’s numbers. In downtown Seattle, condo inventory was down 15% from the previous year but rose slightly compared to last month. The median sale price held steady from month to month but was up $35K from last year’s average.

For the latest numbers from areas around the sound, View October’s Market Reports >>

Experi Travel & RSIR Launch Luxury "Fly & Buy" Travel Program for Chinese Homebuyers on the West Coast

Representatives of Experi Travel and Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty announced today that they will be providing luxury, real estate focused, travel programs for Chinese nationals – now the largest and fastest rising overseas consumer group for Washington State tourism. The all-inclusive trips are designed to showcase the amazing quality of life that the West Coast has to offer Chinese homebuyers and a financial safe harbor for investors. Experi will deliver world-class tour operations and affiliates within the Sotheby’s International Realty network will be tapped to offer market intelligence while accessing the finest available real estate offerings in these highly desirable markets.

“We are honored to mark the special occasion of President Xi’s visit to the Pacific Northwest by announcing this unique initiative, combining both a luxury travel experience and the opportunity to explore extraordinary residential real estate opportunities in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles,” said Dean Jones, President & CEO of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty. “We know this demand already exists. We are excited to partner with leaders in the private travel industry while delivering the program in Mandarin with the appropriate cultural considerations and conveniences.”

Jones says specialized travel is already established with medical tourism, cosmetic tourism, eco-tourism and university tours. “Why not real estate tourism?” he asks. The luxury travel programs will be eight days long and will debut in November 2015.

In addition to touring pre-selected real estate properties, each guest will enjoy specialized shopping excursions for high-end products (fashion, artwork, automobiles, etc.) through a network of local luxury brand partnerships. Guests will also experience special behind-the-scenes access to events, educational opportunities and fine dining during their stays.

“Experi has always provided our guests with meaningful and exclusive shared travel experiences, and now with Sotheby’s International Realty’s incredible properties, we offer a once-in-a-lifetime trip for many to see what makes living in these top-tier West Coast cities so special,” said Rob Rector, Founder and President of Experi.

Rector says interest in travel to the US, and Seattle in particular, has increased since China’s 2013 box office hit, Beijing Meets Seattle (orFinding Mr. Right), which highlights a fairytale lifestyle in Seattle. “Then Obama’s Administration expanded the multi-entry visas for Chinese Nationals from one year to ten years, which effectively opened the US as a top travel destination and second home marketplace,” he said.

Commercial flights on the trip will be offered by Hainan Airlines internationally and Alaska Airlines domestically, however private aviation charters are also available through Experi. Fairmont Hotels will be providing the five-star accommodations in each city.

Read the Press Release >>

Market Update: June 2015

The number of active listings was down 5% compared to last month and 35% compared to last year in King County, with a median listing price of $529.5K. Buyers were out in full force, as homes spent an average of 26 days on the market, a 13% decrease from last year. Seattle urban condo sales were up 250% year over year, with an increased median sale price of $1.36M, up over $100,000 from last month’s $1.24M average.

For the latest numbers from areas around the sound, View June’s Market Reports >>