The Same Old Tune
Even as the birds of springtime sing their new songs of the season, we must hit repeat as we report – once again – on our local market’s low inventory. A lack of available homes continues to dictate what’s happening in Bainbridge Island real estate. On April 1st, there were only 47 homes and 5 condominiums available for sale on the island. Within the overall market, certain price points have been more pinched than others (which is a snapshot in time and will change as the year goes on). For example, if you were looking for a home in the $600K to $800K range, you had only 5 houses to choose from and zero condominiums.
How Inventory Affects Sales and Prices
This extremely limited inventory helped drive home sales down more than 20% from last year. There are plenty of buyers out there; there are just not enough properties on the market to sell. The scarcity of inventory has increased competition and bumped median prices up more than 9%. The average, which is more a function of the price ranges where homes closed, was up more than 18%. The median cumulative days on market dropped from 26 in 2015 to 20 in 2016. To put this in perspective, the cumulative days on market in 2012 was 146 days.
The Story on Condominiums and Land
The condominium market is also suffering from lack of inventory. Last year at the beginning of April, there were 16 condominiums available compared to this year’s 5; both of which lie in sharp contrast to 2012, when there were 45 available. Consequently, sales dropped from 19 to 16, but the median price rose 23% to $430K. Land, on the other hand, experienced a 30% increase in sales to 13 parcels this quarter with a 26.8% increase in the median price to $225K.
The View from Inside
One might assume that a market like this, with rising prices and inventory competition, makes our jobs easier. The reality is that there are some basic principles, goals and strategies that any good real estate professional seeks to embrace, all of which must adapt to an ever-changing market. Regardless of the climate, we want our clients to achieve the best possible outcomes – both at closing and in the future. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when competition is fierce and time is of the essence. Given the complexities of the Bainbridge market, where most homes and locations are unlike any others, things can get even more challenging. It is not like buying or selling in a large subdivision where a product like Zillow has some merit. Here, each house has strengths and weaknesses and the success of a sale can pivot on those subtle nuances.
If you’re a Buyer
For buyers in this market, supply is tight and prices are rising. You almost have to assume you will be competing with others when you find the house you would like to make your home. Is the price fair? How high should you go? The specter of 2006 and 2007 should be in the back of your mind, as the concept of paying “whatever it takes” came back to bite many homebuyers. An agent brings knowledge of the current market, the choices it offers, what might be coming and how an individual house fits into the bigger picture – including the history of the neighborhood and often of the house. An agent will know whether a price is in line or whether the seller is being aggressive. When there are limited comparable properties, this expertise becomes extremely important. No one wants to hear, “You paid how much for your house?!”
In multiple offer situations, there are strategies to employ. You need to line up your resources to be “the best you can be.” Multiple offers often require that decisions be made quickly, so being prepared makes you a stronger buyer and one less likely to be disappointed later. If you are not a cash buyer, there are things you can do to compete with those who are. Get comfortable with the stack of forms you’ll be asked to sign. Ask your Realtor what it means to omit certain forms, how to read building inspection reports and Title reports. Learn how to spot red flags that make certain houses less expensive. Being a buyer in this market can be difficult, frustrating and even scary. A good agent can help you navigate the winding road to achieve the best results and avoid mistakes.
If you’re a Seller
Sellers may think they have it easier, but the reality is that a seller’s quest is the same in an ascending market as in a descending one. The two primary goals for sellers are to get the home sold in the timeframe desired and to maximize net proceeds. Buyers will be more attracted to, and will ultimately pay more for, a house that is optimized to appeal to a buyer and priced in a manner that a buyer feels is reasonable in the current market. Knowing the current market, as well as past and future markets and how a particular home fits into all of them, is essential in achieving the seller’s ultimate goals. But the work is just beginning when buyers first express interest. You have to know which of them will have the greatest possibility of actually achieving a closed transaction. It is surprising how many transactions fall apart in this market. Negotiating inspections, Appraisals, Sellers’ liability; what do all those forms mean and what are your responsibilities? There are many steps between deciding to sell and achieving your goals. The reality is that sellers don’t always get everything they hope to get out of a sale – even in a sellers’ market. But an experienced agent will help you prepare, present and respond so you can get the most out of any market.
Real estate markets fluctuate all the time, sometimes favoring buyers and sometimes favoring sellers. This is simply the nature of the business. But in the midst of all those ups and downs, one thing remains consistent: the beauty and livability of Bainbridge Island. At Windermere Bainbridge, we celebrate our island community and all it has to offer.
Good weather should be enjoyed to its fullest extent. To do that you have to actually go outside, but if your home lacks an enticing outdoor living space, there’s little incentive to venture out.
Outdoor living is seeing a bit of an explosion lately: Adding a deck is one of the most requested home projects today, and demand is steadily rising. New durable outdoor materials, furniture and accessories plus unique shade options and smart tech that lets us watch movies and have full kitchens have no doubt fueled the interest. So if you’re hoping to make the most of good weather in your area, a new deck has likely crossed your mind. Here’s what you’ll need to know about finally getting one.
Project: Adding a deck.
Why: To extend living space and enjoy the outdoors with an area for dining, grilling or lounging.
First thing to consider: You’ll want to decide whether your property is good for a deck or patio — or a combination of both.
Deck. A deck is a platform with decking boards, usually made of either wood or a composite material. A deck is ideal for sloped yards where you want a flat area. It’s also good for homes that sit high above the ground or atop a basement, because they can be built as high as you need. If your home sits higher than about 14 inches off the ground, a platform deck is probably for you.
Patio. A patio is on flat ground and is usually made of concrete, pavers, flagstone, wood or another hardscaping material. Doing a patio on a sloped lot is costlier and much more difficult, because retaining walls must be built to create a level surface. If your door opens right at the ground level, then a patio is the option for you.
What do you want your deck to do? Typically, people want a deck that’s multipurpose, with areas for eating, cooking and hanging out. But, as with most things, the sky is the limit. So depending on your budget, consider things like a fireplace or fire pit, a hot tub, a kitchen, a water feature and more.
Figuring out what you want your deck to do will also help determine its size, safety measures and traffic flow. Do you host a lot of parties, or is it just you and a partner? Do you have a lot of kids? The last thing you want or need is a deck that’s too small or too large for your needs.
Also consider privacy on your deck. If you don’t want to feel like you’re on a stage performing for your neighbors, you’ll want to think about adding an arbor, a pergola, latticework or something else to create privacy.
How will you access the deck? If you currently have a door that leads outside to where you’ll want your deck, then congratulations — you’re in good shape. But if you’re adding a deck to a portion of your house that doesn’t have a door, then you’ll have to add an opening, which can increase costs drastically depending on whether you’re planning for a door in a load-bearing wall or not.
If you’re using your deck for dining al fresco, you’ll want it located as close to your kitchen as possible.
Consider how it will look. When adding a deck, it’s best to consider the style and architecture of your house so that the addition either blends in with or at least complements your home. A trained professional will be best suited to make recommendations on deck style, materials, color and more.
Know Your Material Options
The two main options for decks are wood and composite boards. Historically, wood has dominated decks, but lately composite boards are more in demand. There was a time when many home owners associations didn’t allow composite decks, because they didn’t look realistic and had other problems. Now it’s the complete opposite. Many developments don’t allow wood decks because without proper care, they can start to look bad in five or six years when they start to weather.
Composite boards. Composite boards, seen here, are engineered products that are a mixture of wood fibers and plastic; a lot of the material comes from recycled plastic grocery bags. Some companies use old shredded carpets for wood fillers. Newer composite boards are wrapped in a thin plastic layer so they won’t stain or fade. These are more expensive than wood boards but often come with a warranty of 20 to 25 years, are low maintenance and can be made to look almost identical to any species of wood out there. Plus, they stay the same color as the day you installed them.
Wood. Many wood species are less expensive than composite but can weather over time and drive up maintenance costs. If you don’t take care of the wood, it can rot, dry out, warp, crack and splinter, and nails can pop out. But if you’re willing to maintain it, wood decking is beautiful, especially up close. Shown here is an ipe deck, which is a Brazilian hardwood known for its natural durability and for being weatherproof.
Keep in mind that the availability of certain woods varies across the country. Redwood and cedar are popular deck choices on the West Coast but check with your HOA about any restrictions on using wood or composite decking.
Shade. If it’s too sunny or raining, you won’t be enticed to use your new outdoor space unless you have some shade or some sort of covering. There are endless options here, from large umbrellas and retractable awnings to pavilions, gazebos and screened-in porches. Of course, the more elaborate, the more expensive it will be. You can have a deck porch with finished ceilings, fans, TVs, heating and A/C, fireplaces and more. If your deck will be raised 8 or 9 feet off the ground, consider converting the space below into a dry area for entertaining or storage. To do this your deck builder will integrate panels beneath the decking so that water falls through, gets collected and is sent to a downspout. That way you have a dry, shaded extra patio spot.
Lighting. A good lighting plan will greatly extend the time during which you can actually use your deck. Consider ambient lighting for lounging, task lighting for things like cooking and grilling, and safety lighting for stairs and railings.
Who to hire: A professional deck designer-builder is recommended for this project. A pro will meet with you, take measurements and photos of your site, and talk with you about your needs. He or she can make suggestions on blending the deck in with your existing home, and is knowledgeable about local building codes and obtaining the proper permits. A professional will also map everything out in 3D software and look at traffic flow and placement of furniture, to gauge whether the deck is too big or too small. What’s more, if you’re doing a deck, try to find someone who specializes in decks. If it’s a patio you’re looking for, look for someone with patio experience, as different approaches are required for each. If you’re adding an outdoor kitchen, you’ll need someone to do the plumbing and gas lines. If you’re adding an entertainment system or lighting, you’ll need an electrician as well.
Permitting and codes: If your deck is more than 200 square feet, you’ll likely need a permit. If your deck is more than 30 inches off the ground, you’ll need a permit. If you’re doing retaining walls that are higher than 3 feet, you’ll need a permit. Higher than 5 or 6 feet and you’ll need an engineer.
Plus, every county has different building codes for decks. Some places allow cable railings; others prohibit them. If you’ve got a septic tank or well on your property, that can affect where your deck can go. Deck builders will be able to read your site plan, assess where the setback is and if there’s a well or septic tank, and create the drawings to submit for a permit.
When to do this project: When the weather is nice is obviously a good time to build a deck, but adding a deck is also a good opportunity to think about your backyard as a whole. Many deck builders work with landscapers, pool companies and other outdoor professionals to create a full-package makeover.
How long it will it take? An average deck that’s between 300 and 500 square feet will take about one to two weeks to build. If you’re adding a porch, pavilion or gazebo, it will take at least another week. A simple townhouse deck without many corners that’s 100 to 300 square feet could take as little as three to four days. But it all depends on where you live. Other factors include whether you’re in a flood zone, whether you’ll need to cut down trees and whether you have a septic tank or well on your property. A good deck professional will be able to look at your site plan and determine these factors.
Join us June 27 and 28 as we showcase some of the finest waterfront homes in Western Washington. Have you dreamt of owning a little piece of Pacific Northwest paradise on the water? This is your opportunity to take a peek at what's available. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 27 and 28, over 125 waterfront homes throughout Western Washington will be open for you to view – just look for the blue balloons. To see what will be open in your area visit www.waterfronthomeswa.com.