Paul's Bellingham Blog

My thoughts on Bellingham, the Real Estate market, and more

New Census and Home Value information for Bellingham

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The population continues to grow in Bellingham, now 83,365 at end of 2015, up 3% from 80,867 in 2010.
That is within the city limits, but the population is an estimated 104,356 when including everyone who lives within the Bellingham address, which includes the community of Sudden Valley and the surrounding unincorporated areas of Bellingham.
And no surprise, with the population growth, lower unemployment rate (now 6.8%), andlack of new construction in Bellingham since 2010.. home values are increasing. Home values are up 7% year over year right now as of April 2016. With less then 3 months of inventory in Bellingham (meaning if nothing new came on the market, all homes would be sold within 3 months at current sales pace), that points to prices continuing to rise at a modest rate for the next year.

Inventory Shrinking in Bellingham & Whatcom County

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The active homes for sale has been steadily dropping right now in Bellingham & Whatcom County. This is always the case in the fall, but see the chart to the right–you can see that compared to October of last year, the active listings in Bellingham (the green line) are down about 40%, yet pending sales (the skinny red line) are up!

Bellingham WA (and all of Whatcom county) home sales have been on a slow and steady increase over the last 3 years. But based on the tight supply and growing demand, there is no question market values (not just sales, but actual home values) are trending up….and at a faster pace.

The momentum  & strength of our local market is definitely increasing every month right now.

Why I am still with John L Scott Real Estate after 12+ years

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I am often asked why I don’t start my own Real Estate brokerage, or create a bigger team, or move to a larger company. I have stayed at the same office, with the same company, and kept just 1 office assistant for over 12 years. This is rare!

Most agents change companies at least once (if not multiple times). Then as they start to become highly productive, they will hire a sales team (buyers agents and/or multiple licensed assistants) or start their own real estate company. While I totally respect the agents who expand their business this way, there are several reasons I have stayed my course.

1) When you hire Paul you get Paul.
The idea of leveraging your time with a team or even a company does have its appeal. However for me I love having a direct relationship with my clients. I very much enjoy the skills involved in managing the inherent complexity of making a Real Estate choice. Buying or selling Real Estate is not a walk in the park, and I want to be there every step of the way for my clients.

2) My association with John L Scott enhances my brand, and my ability to deliver top-notch services to my clients. John L Scott Real Estate is a great company, with millions invested in marketing, the website, and even an awesome Real Estate android/iPhone app. Being a part of a large company gives me (and in turn my clients) access to the most innovative Real Estate tools available. Smaller companies cannot always provide and invest in this kind of technology.

2) My office: Not too big, not too small…
Our office in Bellingham is big enough to create a great team environment for networking, but small enough (about 40 agents) to have a boutique / big family feel. I get amazing support from the office staff and branch manager Darin, allowing me to again, focus my time on marketing & showing property.

So in sum, by not spending my time building a real estate team or a company of my own; by staying with a company like John L Scott; by not moving around to different offices looking for greener pastures; I have been able to focus ALL of my time and energy on simply working with my clients; focusing my time and talents at getting better at what I do; mastering the craft of being the best Realtor I can be for my clients.

It’s also helped me have a balanced life. Having some free time still with my family (we have 2 little kids 3 and 5!) and friends, is important to me.

This is not to say anything negative about agents who build teams or small companies. Some of the agents I have the most respect for have gone this route (even my Dad did!). It is just an explanation of why I personally choose to work the way I do.

Maybe one day I will be more interested in the building a Real Estate empire of my own. Right now I still love working with clients and helping people buy and sell houses. Keeping it simple.

Webcast about Bank Owned Homes and Short sales

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I was just interviewed about foreclosures and short sales, here is the video below:

City of Bellingham will now require you to register all rental properties

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The City of Bellingham has enacted into law a rental registration program. Fees will be $10 to register each rental unit for up to 20 units, $8 a unit for over 20 unites, and registration will begin July 1st. The city will be inspecting all rental properties every 3 years (that is the plan at least). And the registration will require landlords to post the registration in rental properties, and comply with a check list of safety and hazard compliance measures (things like carbon and smoke detectors install and no safety hazards).

It will be interesting to see how this works out. Some homes that are run down will have a hard time complying, and landlords will need to put money into these homes, and then ultimately raise rents to account for that. This should create some benefit in many cases for renters (to be renting a safer home that is to code and compliant)…But it may also create an even bigger shortage of affordable rentals in town. Many of the most affordable rentals are once where landlords have slacked on the maintenance, but kept rents low. As owners go in to make updates and comply, there is no question some rental rates will rise.

So like it or not, it’s happening. You can find more information at

Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Market Update

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Through August of 2014, home sales (up 4%) and home values are both up slightly from 2014. The market started out relatively hot this early spring, but through the summer the slight increase in home sales has been offset by a higher inventory and more homes for sales. See chart below for Whatcom County listings, and solds. You will see it is very similar to the 2013 summer months. Except in 2014 July/August, home sales are up (dark green) and more homes for sale (light green).

Unlike Seattle, where values have been sky rocketing and there is a severe lack of inventory, Bellingham and Whatcom County have been experiencing a more predictable, slow and steady housing rebound. I consider this a good thing, as home values seem to be rising at a pace that is sustainable right now.

Additionally, supply and demand in Bellingham and Whatcom county remains steady. A “hot” market would be definied by less then 3 months supply of inventory on the market. A “slow” market would be defined by 8+ months supply of inventory on the market. Whatcom county has had between 5 and 7 months supply of inventory available for the last 15 months, very consistently. See chart below:

For home owners and investors a like, this should be considered good news all around. Bellingham and Whatcom County continue to have a strong housing market, with much less volatility and much more predictability then many areas around the state and country.