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Seattle lands at No. 1 on list of top housing markets

Strong housing demand, rising home prices and healthy economic conditions pointing to future demand are some of the factors that landed Seattle at No. 1 on a list of the hottest single-family housing markets in the U.S. this fall.

That’s according to a new report released Tuesday from online real estate company Auction.com.

Auction.com ranked 50 U.S. housing markets, taking into account home pricing, sales, permit activity, economic growth and population growth.

The Pacific Northwest and Florida dominated the top spots. After Seattle came Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Palm Beach County — and Portland, Oregon.

In Seattle, according to the report, home price growth year-over-year is at 10.9 percent, and home sales are up 12.6 percent year-over-year. A big part of the growth, of course, is tech-related.

“Seattle’s economy is seeing healthy growth as the market’s large technology sector drives employment to new all-time highs,” the report said. It also noted that home prices jumped 4.4 percent over the last quarter. The report also attributed Portland’s rank to its growing tech sector.

Long-time residents and new homebuyers alike in the Puget Sound region are feeling the impact of those rising prices here. The median sale price of a single-family house in Seattle in September was $571,000, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. In King County, it was $490,250.

Those price tags are pushing people in Seattle out to the more-distant suburbs.

Many energy-dependent markets — several in the South — fell lower on Auction.com’s list this year due to falling oil prices.

Seattle and other tech hubs headed toward a housing bubble

Technology job growth in Seattle is leading to a booming housing market, but the backlash against the rising cost of home ownership may finally be taking its toll.

The percentage of Seattle residents who think now is a good time to buy a house dropped to 51 percent midway through the year, down from 57 percent at the start, according to the Zillow Housing Confidence Index.

If you’re a renter, the prospect of homeownership is likely less appealing than it was only a few months ago.

Two percent of renters in Seattle said they plan to buy in the next year, compared to 7 percent at the beginning of the year, the index said.

However, confidence didn’t slip in Seattle quite as badly as other tech hubs – such as San Francisco, Denver and San Jose – and Seattle now has the highest homeownership confidence among these cities.

Confidence plunged from 54 percent to 46 percent in Denver and 43 percent to 36 percent in San Jose. San Francisco’s drop was less extreme but with confidence already low, it hit 40 percent.

Buyers are so discouraged in tech hubs that Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell is watching the market closely for signs that homes are overvalued, which could mean another housing bubble.

“I don’t think we’re in a (housing) bubble – certainly not nationally – but for San Francisco and cities like it, I think we’ll have to get some more data points before we know that. It’s something we’ll have to keep a close watch on,” Gudell said.

Seattle and other tech hubs are following similar trends, although to a less extreme degree.

The lack of home-buying confidence in these areas comes from one major root cause: tech jobs.

While growth of the tech market makes Seattle an attractive place to move for tech professionals, their influx into the city has increased demand, and driven prices up.

“Rents have been rising quite rapidly and incomes have not kept up, so you’re spending a larger and larger share of your income on rental payment, so this makes it harder for first time homebuyers to save for a down payment,” Gudell said.

Meanwhile, 67 percent of adults surveyed in Seattle said now would be a good time to sell a home, up from 57 percent in January.

The drop in confidence over the first half of the year was significant among 18 to 34 year olds in tech hubs. In San Francisco, the percentage of them planning to buy a home within a year has plunged from 18 percent last to just 5 percent, and a similar pattern was seen in Seattle, Zillow PR specialist Jordyn Lee said in a blog post.

This is a stark contrast to Philadelphia, where home values were flat over the six month period. There, the percentage of 18-34 year olds looking to buy a home within a year had increased from one percent in January to 23 percent as of July.

Jeanine Stewart, Puget Sound Business Journal

These Washington cities are considered among “most livable” in U.S.

Thanks to the great outdoors, a strong economy and diversity, Washington is teeming with some of the nation’s most livable small to mid-sized cities, according to ranking site Livability.com.  Bellevue ranked No. 2 out of 100 small to mid-sized cities on the list. Rochester, Minnesota ranked No. 1. Madison, Wisconsin, Santa Barbara, California, and Boulder Colorado, rounded out the top five spots on the list.

Other Washington cities that made the list were: Olympia (No. 20), Kirkland (No. 25), Richland (No. 64), Renton (No. 66), Bellingham (No. 72), Bothell (No. 80), Pullman (No. 91) and Issaquah (No. 95).

Livability.com cites Bellevue’s quality schools, proximity to outdoor recreation, mix of businesses and ethnic diversity as key reasons why it ranked so well.

The site collaborated with urbanist Richard Florida, assistant clinical professor Steven Pedigo from the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities at NYU School of Professional Studies, and data specialists Economic Modeling Specialists International to define the ranking methodology which looks at economics, housing, amenities, infrastructure, demographics, social and civic capital, education, and health care.

Russell Wilson buys $6.7M Meydenbauer Bay mansion

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has bought a $6.7 million mansion in the Meydenbauer Bay area of Bellevue on Shoreland Drive.

While the whole transaction is shrouded in legalese and lawyers from coast to coast, the Puget Sound Business Journal has learned that the home belonged to former Microsoft manager Harish Naidu and his wife Shalini Naidu.

Harish Naidu started at Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in 1988 and rose steadily through the ranks until 2011, when he left the company to run a Bellevue unit of Scantron called GlobalScholar.

Built in 2008, the Bellevue home went on the market at $8.8 million in 2010 and has been on and off the selling block at various prices ever since.

An early listing had this description: “This Mediterranean is truly unique. Sitting above Lake Washington with 220 degree views. Spectacular finishes suited for your world class buyer, 500-year-old hand carved entry, custom crafted cabinets carved by Romanian artists, marble, granite and wrought throughout. Panoramic views from every room.”

The mansion is 10,210 square feet on 0.67 acres with 84 feet of high bank waterfront. It is extremely private, but not gated.

It has towering ceilings, Mediterranean finishes inside and out, a master bedroom with glass turret providing a 180-degree view of everything, but no one can see in. The master suite is one of the seven bedrooms in the home and there are also seven bathrooms.

The kitchen is custom-made with an enormous center island. The media room or theater has huge Tibetan doors. There is a great area for poker, and a wine cellar for 2,000 bottles of vino.

It’s a close-in walk to Old Bellevue, and not far from Bellevue High School where Russell Wilson’s sister is going, and will be playing on the girls’ basketball team.

TMZ is describing the house as “insane,” but those in the know say it is a perfect private sanctuary for Wilson who has been looking for a house for several years. Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood was where folks thought he would land, close to Children’s Hospital where he is so active in helping youngsters in need.

Seattle-area banks rush to transition to new EMV credit cards as analysts warn fraud could increase

Major U.S. credit card companies will next month swap out cards with magnetic strips in favor of new, more secure Europay, Mastercard, Visa (EMV) technology. But transitioning to those little embedded chips could actually increase fraud – at least at first, according to a new report.

Visa and Mastercard set an October deadline to roll out new cards with both traditional magnetic strips and EMV chips, which create temporary payment credentials for each transaction. That’s when consumer finance website NerdWallet says credit card users will be at greater risk for fraud.

As a result, Puget Sound-area banks and credit unions are working overtime to shift to the new cards.

Sean McQuay, NerdWallet’s credit card expert, says EMV chips are more secure when it comes to a physical card. But, while the nation transitions to the new system, traditional cards will be targeted more often.

“Fraudsters will be getting while the getting’s good,” he said Wednesday.

EMV technology is used widely around the world and has been more than a decade. The United Kingdom adopted the chip in 2005, and McQuay says it’s been pretty successful. Since then, the report says counterfeit fraud – when hackers steal credit card information and add it to a physical card – has decreased 63 percent.

But it got worse before it improved. Counterfeit fraud in the UK peaked in 2008 as credit card customers used cards in areas without the infrastructure to support the new chips – especially abroad. McQuay says that will likely happen in the U.S.

Although many users will receive EMV cards this fall, it could be much longer before customers can use those cards universally. Engraved numbers have stuck around for more than 30 years after the magnetic strip was introduced.

Tukwila-based BECU has already started to mass-issue new credit cards and will begin switching out debit cards later this year. BECU spokesman Todd Pietzsch says the company thought delaying the transition would put customers at risk.

“We didn’t want to be late to the party,” he said. “We knew we could be singled out.”

McQuay says a slow transition could create hotspots for fraud, and users who swipe instead of “dip” the chip could be at greater risk. While card issuers and retailers aren’t required to make the switch, they will be liable for fraudulent transactions if they don’t. Making the switch could cost the retail industry between $20 billion and $30 billion, David French of the National Retail Foundation said.

One of the biggest risks, McQuay says, will be swiping cards at gas stations. It’s more expensive for automatic fuel dispensaries to upgrade – they can’t just replace a card reader. They have to tear out the whole pump. Self-serve gas stations will have a two-year extension before liability shifts. Owners won’t be on the hook for fraudulent purchases until 2017, and many may not make the switch until then.

Gas stations already have the most commonly hacked payment systems. McQuay says that will likely get worse as more retailers switch to the more secure system and hackers have fewer places to steal information.

 

Seattle area one of the least affordable in the U.S. for renters

We’ve heard a lot lately about rising home prices in the Puget Sound region and how difficult it can be to buy a house here. But the alternative – renting – isn’t great either.

Renters in the Seattle area pay more than 31 percent of their income toward the rent, according to new data out Friday from online real estate company Zillow.

That’s more than the national average of 30 percent, and more than residents of Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Las Vegas. It’s also up sharply from the average for Seattle over the last 30 years.

Rising rents is a major issue in the Seattle area as some push for rent control laws and changes to the way the city handles affordable housing. There’s concern that the increase in rents will send many more people outside of the city, which puts a strain on the city’s already heavily used public transportation system.

Zillow suggests the answer is simpler: Buy a home.

People in Seattle pay only 22.7 percent of their income toward their mortgages. Of course, many people who own homes make more money than those who rent, so even if the mortgage payment is significantly more than renting, the percentage of a person’s income that goes to it would be less.

It’s also just not easy to buy a home in the Puget Sound region. There simply aren’t enough homes on the market to meet demand and real estate agents are having to be creative to help their clients find a place to buy.

A home in Seattle metro area costs $595,000 less than in Silicon Valley

If you’re wondering why Silicon Valley tech workers are flocking to Seattle – and why Valley companies are opening and expanding their offices here – home prices are a good place to look.

The median home price in the Seattle metro area, which includes Tacoma and Bellevue, rose 7.8 percent compared to the previous quarter to $385,000 according to new data this week released from the National Association of Realtors. And while the implications of a jump that large should not be ignored, when you compare Seattle to other fast-growing regions, it looks downright affordable.

The San Jose metro area topped the list as the most expensive market, with a median home price of $980,000. San Francisco wasn’t far behind, with

Bottom of Form

The Seattle housing market is hot right now. The supply of available homes has hit record lows and as a result, home prices are increasing dramatically. Buyers routinely enter into bidding wars and homes often sell for significantly more than the asking price.

That’s worth it, though, if you’re a tech worker looking for an affordable home in a city full of tech jobs.

The Seattle metro area’s median home price was just a little more than the median home price for the entire Western part of the country, which was $325,200. The national median home price was $229,400, which is up more than 8 percent.

Emily Parkhurst, Puget Sound Business Journal

JP Morgan Chase tops international risk list

A failure of JPMorgan Chase poses the greatest risk to the international financial system, even when compared with banks in Europe and Asia, according to a new government study.

The New York-based bank was given a “systematic importance score” of 5% in a report that measures the threat to global financial stability should any one of the world’s 30 largest and most-interconnected banks fail.

JPMorgan was followed by London’s HSBC, which scored 4.8%, and New York’s Citigroup, which scored 4.3%, according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the Office of Financial Research (OFR), a unit of the Treasury Department.

Some U.S. banks have griped about tighter capital requirements and other new regulations in the past, saying such restrictions place them at a disadvantage compared with oversees competitors. But OFR’s report showed that U.S. banks dominated the top 10 list of risky global banks, including JPMorgan at No. 1, Citigroup at No. 3, Bank of America at No. 7, Morgan Stanley at No. 9 and Goldman Sachs at No. 10 with a 2.5% risk assessment.

Wells Fargo scored No. 18, behind the Bank of China, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

OFR’s report also showed that many U.S. banks currently fall short of their European and Asian peers when it comes to their capital ratios relative to risk.

But that’s expected to change under new Federal Reserve rules, released last month, the report suggested.

In July, the Federal Reserve released stricter rules for determining how much capital the nation’s eight-largest banks must hold to protect against future calamities. Under the new rules, the Fed imposed a new  “risk-based capital surcharge” for banks with at least $250 billion in total assets, or at least $10 billion in foreign exposure, that rely heavily on short-term wholesale funding, including overnight loans.

The surcharge will be phased in from Jan. 1, 2016, to Jan. 1, 2019, and will impact JPMorgan, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, State Street and the Bank of New York Mellon.

Measuring bank’s “systemic importance” and fiddling with their capital requirements has become regular practice by U.S. government agencies following the housing meltdown, which resulted in fears that many banks were too big to fail. That led to trillions in tax-payer dollars being spent toward bailing out the financial system, which was collapsing under the weight of complex mortgage securities that had turned sour.

 

 

Want to buy a home in Seattle? You need to make $71,000 a year.

Yes, the flood of tech workers is driving up home prices in the Seattle area. But at least it isn’t as bad as San Francisco.

The median home price in the Seattle area is $352,400, which puts the city No. 7 on a list of the most expensive cities in the country to buy a home, according to new data released this week by mortgage finance company HSH.com.

To afford that, a person would have to make $71,702 per year, according to the company. Nationally, a person needs to make $47,253 per year to afford a home.

But compare that to No. 1-ranked San Francisco, where the median home price is $748,300 and a person would have to make $141,416 to afford to buy a home, and things look pretty good here in Seattle.

In many of the hottest Seattle neighborhoods, though, home prices are far higher than the median. That’s driving buyers outside the central core, which is helping the markets in nearby Snohomish and Pierce counties.

The median prices of condo and house sales that closed in April were up more than 13 percent in Pierce and Snohomish counties compared to a year ago.

Demand from buyers from outside the region is driving prices up as tech companies open offices in the Puget Sound region and bring workers here from away.

One out of four people in the Bay Area has searched for a home outside that region, and many are looking here. One in every 13 prospective homebuyers who live in the Bay Area is looking for homes only in the Pacific Northwest, according to data from online real estate brokerage Redfin.

 Emily Parkhurst, Puget Sound Business Journal

Quarter of a million homes regain equity in first quarter

Finally some good news for a change! Although 5.1 million properties under water 6 years after the recession ended seems like a lot still.

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — In the first quarter, 254,000 properties regained equity, CoreLogic reported. The total number of mortgaged residential properties with negative equity is now at 5.1 million, or 10.2% of all mortgaged properties, down from 10.8% in the fourth quarter and 12.9% in the first quarter of 2014. Negative equity, often referred to as “underwater” or “upside down,” refers to borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. The national aggregate value of negative equity was $337.4 billion at the end of the first quarter.

By Steve Goldstein
Published: June 16, 2015 8:35 a.m. ET

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