A WARM REAL ESTATE CLIMATE
Summer has come to Bainbridge Island, and with it our traditional celebratory activities. We had an energetic Third of July street dance, a festive Fourth of July parade, and a successful Rotary Auction that grossed more than $600,000.
When we move our attention to local real estate statistics, everything appears to be equally sunny. Our median price is up 12.5%, home sales over $1,000,000 are up almost 28%, and condominium sales are up 36%! Still, if you talk to the experienced agents, they are detecting a shift. Let’s explore all the reasons why.
BUYERS BEHIND THE WHEEL
We talk all the time about buyers’ markets and sellers’ markets. But it’s really the buyers who drive any market. Even in an ascending sellers’ market, buyers (or lack of) create the excess demand over supply.
Bainbridge is blessed with a sophisticated and knowledgeable buyer pool. They are well educated and disciplined. These days, they’re also beginning to be more cautious. Maybe that’s due to world economics, a possible interest rate hike, or a general assumption that we’ve been on this run for more than a couple of years and we must be close to the top. You might ask, then, why are our statistics are so positive? There are several factors at work; signs that the market is not as heated as last year and is stabilizing. Here are a few specifics:
- Inventory, something we’ve lacked for a while, is creeping up.
- More price reductions and fewer multiple offers, with more buyers saying, “Let’s just wait and see what happens.”
- The number of homes under contract is down 17.3% from last year and hasn’t bounced back in the first part of July.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
We are hearing of a cooling in other markets, both to the east and the west. This is not a cause for great concern, as our market is dynamic, and this sort of shift requires adjustments in strategy rather than extreme actions. Knowledgeable advice will help both buyers and sellers negotiate the changes and still achieve realistic goals.
Speaking of the vitality of the market, statistical charts show vivid changes. In the first half of 2012, 48 homes sold in the 0-$400K price range. By 2014, that number was halved to 24 and has plunged all the way to 4 this year. These homes didn’t disappear; they just moved up into another price range. Right now, there is only one home for sale for less than $400,000 on Bainbridge. In 2014, 78 homes sold for less than $600K, while this year that number is only 19. Here is what’s happening at the other end of the pricing spectrum: In 2014, only 31 homes sold in the $800K-$1.5M range and this year there were 101 sales in the same price range. So as our market stabilizes, we must acknowledge that it has appreciated dramatically.
A BUSY CONDOMINIUM SEGMENT
With 62 sales in the first half of this year, you’d have to go back to 2007 to find a more active January-June period. The median was up 13.6% to $468K; matching the all-time median condominium price set in 2007. The condominium market has lagged the single-family residence market in price recovery from the peaks set in 2007, but the market has shown steady strength in the past year and a half. The condominium market benefits by offering residence on Bainbridge for less than most homes. It’s also shown an active upper end as people have downsized; which has been driven by success in the upper end of the house market. This success has happened despite low inventory.
The median price of land sales for the first six months also finally matched this segment’s 2007 peak. In 2007, the median was $406K and in 2018 it was $400K. As with condominiums, it has been a long road back to our previous highs, but they have arrived. The volume of 22 sales exceeded 2007’s 18 sales in the first six months but fell shy of 2015’s peak of 33 sales through June.
A POSITIVE TILT
All in all, we are giving our first six months of 2018 a very high grade. We detect some stabilization and cooling off in the home market, but Windermere is prepared to employ our strategies to guide both buyers and sellers toward their goals – regardless of shifts taking place.
While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. These are products and whole ecosystems that help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite technology gadgets to assemble an affordable, intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.
While home automation is becoming more prevalent, naturally there are more and more products becoming available as “smart devices”. Here are some of the more diverse home gadgets we have found, beyond thermostats and security cameras:
GE WiFi CONNECT WASHER AND DRYER
Check washer progress with an app that lets you monitor cycles and settings, extend drying times, monitor levels of Smart Dispense tanks, download custom specialty cycles and receive alerts when clothes haven’t been removed.
LOGITECH HARMONY ELITE, UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL
More than just a TV remote – the Logitech Harmony Elite offers all-in-one control of up to 15 home devices including your TV, satellite or cable box, Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, Blu-ray player, game consoles, plus connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors and more. There’s even a free app that turns your smart phone into an additional remote.
PETZI TREAT CAM
Missing your pet while you’re away? The Petzi Treat Cam provides a way to connect with them through your smart phone from anywhere. Dispense treats, watch live HD video and speak with your pet using the 2-way audio.
FRIGIDAIRE SMART WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER
A wifi connected air conditioner that you control through an app on your smart phone allows you to turn the unit on or off, change temperature, control modes and adapt fan speeds – especially handy if you want your home cooled off before you get home!
SAMSUNG FAMILY HUB REFRIGERATOR
A few years ago, having a French door refrigerator with cameras, wifi, and a gigantic touchscreen would have been the stuff of dreams. Today it is a reality. This high-end fridge will let you peek inside it while grocery shopping, search for recipes on the 21.5 inch display, mirror your smart TV so you can keep watching your movie while you grab a drink, share calendars, photos and best of all – it even keeps your food cold.
In honor of Earth Day, I thought I would have a little tribute to the color green. While a pale, almost neutral green is common in design, it takes guts and color savvy to really sock a punch to a room with green. These are a few great examples where the designer is a green maven.
This room has such a fun vintage feel without the burden of all of grandma's clutter. Keeping all of the other major pieces a stark white really showcases the green color.
I LOVE this room; my eye was immediately drawn to the Egg Chair in that gorgeous shade of green!
I think I'm drawn to this room because it looks like it was inspired by the Farnsworth house. The green accent mimics what is going on outside the structure.
The designer of this bathroom understands color and balance. The green is allowed to shine against the white while a little punch of orange provides great contrast.
Speaking of orange and green – being fearless with color can be intimidating but rewarding and well worth it when done properly. The balance of the orange and green is so refreshing and exciting.
Also, chocolate brown looks fantastic with green.
This calm traditional room probably would have seemed like the same old, same old without that brilliant hit of green provided by the duvet and throw pillow.
Here the green tiles add a bit of whimsy to an otherwise very modern kitchen.
And finally, who says wreaths are only for Christmas? A living wreath planted on a moss ring provides lovely greeting at your front door.
4479 Pleasant Beach Drive NE
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Offered at $1,150,000
Luxury seaside living in the heart of Pleasant Beach Village, just steps to restaurants, arts, theater and parks. Incredibly light this beautiful home features open gracious living with 9 foot ceilings, hardwood floors and propane fireplace. Wonderful low maintenance, single-family home features 3 bedrooms including Master bedroom with private balcony overlooking the water, sweeping views, walk-in closet and Jacuzzi tub. Incredible amenities include a bright gourmet kitchen with pantry and private patio, skylights throughout, central heat and cooling and a 2-car garage. NWMLS #893331
Singing a Familiar Song
In 2015, we watched as a trend that began in 2012 continued. For the past several years, we’ve had a steady decrease in available homes accompanied by increased values. In 2015 we saw more of the same – or less of the same, depending on one’s perspective. We are living and working in an ongoing environment of real estate scarcity. Still, we keep our eyes on the future rather than the past to see what the market will do next.
The Ebbs and Flows of an Island Market
As with all markets, we are subject to demand (buyers) and supply (sellers). The majority of our buyers come from two sources: island residents seeking to change their Bainbridge addresses (>40%) and people moving here from the Seattle environs (~30%). We are all aware of the craziness of the Seattle marketplace. Seattle is experiencing phenomenal economic and job growth, a lot of it right downtown. Seattle Metro real estate is also a fairly closed system, with little room for additional housing unless you want to live in an apartment tower or spend a lot of time on the freeways going east/south/north. The consequence of this growth has created some serious traffic issues and prices (for those who succeed in the multiple-offer frenzy) are a lot higher there than here. Once you factor in the great reputation of Bainbridge schools, it is little wonder families of downtown workers look to the island as a real estate alternative to Seattle.
Movement on the Rock
Then there are the Bainbridge buyers. Many island residents have been holding on to their homes purchased between 2006 and 2008, waiting for prices to come back up so they can move without taking an equity hit. In general, prices have gradually risen since 2012, which has brought home values closer to the peak prices of 2007. (Prices have grown >35% since the beginning of 2012 but certain areas/locations/amenities have outpaced appreciation relative to other island neighborhoods.) At the current rate, we should surpass the average price peak of 2007 at some point during 2016. (The average price in 2007 was $820,569; in 2015 it was $790,534.) The “upper end” segment (>$800K), which has been the slowest to recover, had a strong 2015 with sales up 35.6% from 2014 (137 versus 101). It is interesting to note this segment accounted for 36% of all the sales in 2015.
The Challenge of Choices
The only apparent impediment to local people moving around the island is a lack of choice. Bainbridge residents are reluctant to put their homes on the market because they cannot find alternatives that justify moving (and their current homes appreciate the longer they stay in them). The current demand is outstripping current supply, which creates price increases and buyer frustration. The demand comes from the fact that Bainbridge is a pretty great place to live so people want to move here. As long as Bainbridge Island is perceived to be a desirable community there will be demand from people wanting to live here. There aren’t many alternatives for families wanting great access to downtown Seattle, fabulous schools and a more relaxed lifestyle than Seattle provides.
Low Supply and High Demand
The effect of this demand will be continued buyer frustration, higher prices and a demand for more inventory (growth of the number of homes available, otherwise known as new construction and development). If our demand stays the same (and there is no reason to doubt that it will, at least in the mid-term), prices will rise more than if there is new inventory. For those of you who have been here for a while, you’ll remember how quickly our prices appreciated in the last decade (2002-2007).
The good news is that there are new construction projects being built and being planned. As home prices and demand have increased, builders have re-emerged. We had 68 land sales last year (with a median price increase of 27%, from $185K to $235K), the most in over a decade (and a long way from 2008’s 15 sales). Some of these are for single family; some are for developments. Grow Village, developments on Wing Point, Wyatt Way and Lovell, Weaver, Sunrise Bluff on the mid to north end are actively being pursued by builders. Pleasant Beach and “The Roost” on Point White in the south end want to move forward and will, just as soon as some issues with the local sewer infrastructure are answered. Some of these projects will come on line this year, and some in 2017. Last year, we recorded 21 new construction sales, a 31% increase over 2014 and a 420% increase over 2013.
The Word on Condominiums
Condominiums were dramatically affected by the lack of inventory. Active listings (listings not under contract to be sold) went from a peak of 16 in May down to only 4 in mid-December. That’s right. In mid-December, there were only 4 condominiums available island-wide. With that in mind, it is surprising that sales were only down 11% (90 versus 101). The median price, however, grew 11.2% ($372,500 versus $335,000) which surpassed the single family median increase. This was due primarily to sales between $400K-$500K increasing from 19 to 25 in 2015. (In both years, 86% of all sales were less than $500K.)
A Fresh Take
We expect 2016 to be an interesting year. There is little evidence to a slowdown in demand so the challenges sellers and especially buyers experienced in 2015 will probably not abate. There is a “buzz” that more people are thinking about selling this year, which will help. However, there appears to be a resurgence of a “no growth” attitude, which will drive prices higher. The trick is enabling growth so it maintains the qualities we currently have and allows Bainbridge Island to retain its distinct personality and charm.
With so many choices at homeowners' fingertips, picking out a kitchen counter is no easy task. Since this surface area ends up influencing many kitchen palettes, it's important to choose something that looks good to you, will hold up under the kitchen activity of your household and has a price tag that suits your budget.
I've gathered a selection of 15 popular kitchen countertop materials handily in one place to help you find the choice that suits you best.
Soapstone Kitchen Counters
Often used in laboratories for its resistance to stains, chemicals and bacteria, soapstone is a durable and natural choice for a kitchen. At $80 to $100 per square foot installed, it might be on the more expensive side, but it can be a lifetime investment.
Granite Kitchen Counters
There are plenty of reasons granite is so popular — this natural stone has plenty of character, with unique grains, colors and customizable finishes. When properly sealed, it's one of the most durable options out there. While it can cost as low as $50 per square foot installed, prices can go up quickly with more exotic slabs and difficult installations.
Copper Kitchen Counters
It certainly isn't common, but a copper countertop is surprisingly easy to clean and maintain. However, it's not for perfectionists — since it's a "living" surface, it reacts to different substances, creating a blend of matte reds, browns and greens. But for those who love the look, the minimum $100-per-square-foot cost is worth it.
Engineered Quartz Kitchen Counters
Perfect for the customized home, engineered quartz comes in just about every shade imaginable. This engineered product combines ground quartz, resin and pigments for a tough, nonporous material. Great ecofriendly attributes makes it a safe bet for green homes, too. Get ready to pay up, though, since costs range from $95 to $105 per square foot installed.
Tile Kitchen Counters
One of the more affordable counter choices (starting at $30 per square foot installed), ceramic or stone tile is incredibly durable, and one of the few DIY countertop options. Maintenance can be difficult with all that grout, but choosing a durable and dark grout can make things easier.
Ecofriendly Kitchen Counters
A little research is really all that's required today to make your new kitchen ecofriendly. The wide variety of material styles and costs — from salvaged wood to Bio-Glass to bamboo (shown in this photo) — means you can find just the right green countertop material for your home.
Zinc Kitchen Counters
You don't see zinc countertops in many modern kitchens, but this metal exudes warmth that has made it popular for centuries. Zinc's tone darkens with time, adding patina. Its antimicrobial properties make it a smart choice for a cooking space. This beautiful material typically costs $100 and up per square foot, installed.
Recycled Paper-Based Kitchen Counters
Recycled paper sounds like the worst possible material for a kitchen countertop, but this ecofriendly choice has surprising durability. When blended with resins and pigments, it has the look and feel of soapstone — but at $40 to $80 per square foot installed, it's a fraction of the cost.
Plastic Laminate Kitchen Counters
Although it's sometimes scoffed at by stone lovers, plastic laminate still has a serious fan base. The wide range of customizable edges and finishes means it can work in any design. At $8 to $20 per square foot installed, its affordable price makes it a winner for many. However, it's not the most durable of countertops, so it may not be best for heavy-duty cooks.
Recycled Glass and Cement Kitchen Counters
Although it's expensive ($100 to $160 per square foot installed), this unique combination of glass and cement is a surefire way to add character to your kitchen. Ecofriendly, durable and customizable, this countertop material is a top choice for a "forever home".
Marble Kitchen Counters
Marble has an unrivaled, classic look that always seems to be in style. For lovers of white kitchens in particular, marble offers more variety than almost any other material. Marble is known more for the patina it develops with use than for its durability. It's a softer stone than granite, and can scratch and stain easily; the cost typically ranges from $70 to $100 per square foot installed.
Concrete Kitchen Counters
Pigments, stains and dyes can create concrete counters with color and visual texture. With the right sealer, a concrete counter can be well worth its cost — at least $100 to $150 per square foot installed.
Stainless Steel Kitchen Counters
Professional chefs love stainless steel because it's non-staining, heat resistant and easy to clean. While it certainly makes fingerprints and scratches stand out, it's a great choice for hardworking kitchens that don't need a perfect look. A price tag of $80 to $90 per square foot installed means it's more affordable than most stone counters, too.
Solid-Surface Kitchen Counters
Is it stone, wood or plastic? This miracle material has the ability to emulate just about any look without the same damage risk or maintenance. Prices range from $50 to $100 per square foot, depending on the manufacturer.
Wood Kitchen Counters
For some, wood and countertops just don't seem to mix. But a high-quality wood with the right kind of sealer can make for a beautiful, warm and long-lasting countertop. The price varies substantially depending on the type of wood you choose, but butcher block counters tend to range from $30 to $85 per square foot, for materials only.