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.

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.

2 Free Real Estate Apps for your Phone or Tablet

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Here is 2 apps I recommend that you can find in the Android Play app store or Apple store.  Both apps are free!


HomeSnap is an innovative app that allows you to take a picture of a home when you drive by or arrive, and it will instantly provide you the listing detail information, or the tax information. It does this by taking the GPS coordinates that your camera provides, and locating the information on the home based on that. This can be extremely helpful to even just get the tax information on a home that off the market as well.  You can also add friends and family to your home search, so you can share pictures and listings with them easily. It also has categories to search, including “see expensive homes” or “see great investments”.

John L Scott Real Estate App

The John L Scott application shows ALL listings, from all Real Estate companies. And unlike Zillow, it has a direct feed from the lcal MLS, so you are getting accurate information updated multiple times a day, showing all available listings. It sounds bias coming from a John L Scott Realtor, but this application is a good one. John L Scott was the first local/regional company to come out with a Real Estate application for Washington state, almost 2 years ago.

The GPS tracking works perfect, so when driving around you see all homes for sale around you. You can also specify a search, and if your using a Realtor (like me hopefully) you can register with an account and link up with your Realtor as well.

New USDA Maps for Whatcom County, Bellingham, Ferndale and Lynden Rural Housing Loan

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USDA (The Rural Housing Loan) has been the most popular Zero down loan program on the market in recent years, and starting October 1st, the areas you can buy a home with USDA is going to be shrinking. What USDA will define as being “Rural” moving forward will not include the city of Ferndale as well as the city of Lynden, along with the city of Bellingham.

Attached I’ve included copies of the new boundaries for Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale.


USDA MAP – Ferndale

USDA Map – LYNDEN ineligible area

You need to stay outside of these areas if you want to consider a Zero Down USDA loan after next month.

There is however a conventional loan program that is zero down that has arrived through the Washington State Housing Commission. Contact me for more details.