Paul's Bellingham Blog

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

Review of 2013 Whatcom County Real Estate, Predictions for 2014

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2013 ended up being the strongest year for Real Estate in Bellingham and Whatcom County in 6 years (since 2007). What we saw was a slow but steady growth in both homes sales, and rebounding home values. The spring and summer months were very strong, and then flattened out a bit in the fall and winter.

-Over all for Whatcom County, home sales were up over 5%, compared to 2012, and home values were up 3%.

-Average days on market fell from 93 days to 74 days.

-Bellingham posted even stronger numbers with home sales up by over 10%, and average price of closed sales increasing by 6%.

I believe 2014 will be an even stronger year. January has been very busy, and as long as interest rates stay in the mid to low 4’s, we should be looking at accelerated growth in sales, and in home values (home values are usually slower to increase then sales).

I am predicting sales to be up by another 5-10% this year, and that should push values up a little bit (perhaps 2-6% increase in value depending on location and price range in the county) in the under $500,000 market. $500,000 to $750,000 is becoming a strong market in Bellingham, and the $750,000 and up market is improving but still a little bit soft.

For homes priced under $350,000 in Bellingham, and priced under $250,000 in the county, it is officially a HOT market again. Not quite as “hot”, as the 2005-2006 years, but I would argue a better recovery, because values are increasing slowly, allowing for more sustainable home values.

Above is the average dollar per square foot for home sales in Bellingham, closing out the year at $173 a sq. ft on average. You can see it bounces around, but is clearly trending up. Also note the $155 a sq. ft. average for Decemeber of 2012.. This is a good indicator of values appreciating in Bellingham.

If you’d like more statistics and information on your specific neighborhood, you can contact me by clicking here, or 360-920-5901, or

A First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit that could save you over $10,000

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The National First Time Home Buyer tax credit that was available a few years ago got a lot of press, but very few are aware of the tax credit available in Washington state to first time home buyers today. This credit is called the Mortgage Credit Certificate, and the savings can trump the savings in the Federal Tax Credit offered in 2010 of $8,000. I have had multiple clients in the last 2 years take advantage of this, but virtually none of the buyers are aware of it before I bring it up. Part of the reason for that is a lack of press about this credit. The other reason is that many banks and lenders do not participate in this program. You do need to use a lender or bank that participates, and those participating lenders can be found on the MCC website.

The only criteria is you need to use a participating bank, be a first time home buyer, and make less then $90,000 gross per year. The tax credit features a 20% tax credit on the interest you pay on the loan. On a $250,000 house purchase, the average tax credit is about $175 a month. Over a 5 year period, that ends up being $10,500 in tax credits! You can find out more by contacting me at or 360-920-5901, or go to the Washington State Housing Commission website at .

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.

2013 Mid-Year Market Update (ALL Positive!)

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Looking at the numbers for the first half of 2013 in Bellingham and Whatcom County, there is nothing but positive news to report!

Sales are up and inventory is down, thus supply and demand is kicking into effect, and home values are finally beginning to rebound.

Unlike the Seattle area, the Bellingham market has not exactly caught fire, but Whatcom County home values have increased by approximately 2% on average, and Bellingham home values have increased by approximately 5% in the first half of 2013. Our local market is showing a sustainable, steady and consistent trend of home values increasing and the general market improving.

The average dollar per sq. foot has increased to it’s highest level on average in 6 years ($154 a square foot county wide and $177 a square foot on average in Bellingham).

With interest rates rising slightly recently, it will be interesting to see if the market continues to rebound at this current pace. There is no question though the market is on the upswing in our area.

To chart shown is of stats through May. Stats updated through June will be updated soon on this blog.

Take Aways from Economic Forecast from Lawrence Yun

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I was fortunate to get to attend a 2 hour economic forecast seminar with Lawrence Yun.

Yun is the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, and he has been listed as one of the top 10 economic forecasters in the country by USA today, and one of the most influential people in Real Estate by Inman News. From nearly 2 hours of economic forecasting, here is the most important predictions:

-Iinflation could rise to 4% to as high as 6% a year in 2014 through 2015. But Yun projects inflation around 2% in 2013.

Interest rates should remain low for the short term future. The Fed will continue to borrow at zero percent through 2015 if unemployment remains above 6.5%, (which it is expected to stay above 6.5%).

Yun projects rates to rise to 4.5% by summer of 2014, and 5.5% by summer of 2015.

-Median home values projected to rise 10 to 15% total over the next 3 years (National average).

-Rental rates expected to continue rise locally, and nationally.  Home values and rent rates are expected to climb primarily based on lack of supply and a growing demand. Household formation overdue to climb up since many young people have been living with their parents and others living with roommates. As job growth continues, people will be looking to get into move into buy their own home or apartment.

Supply will stay low due to new home inventory being at a 50 year low. New home construction has been way below the historical average for 5 years. So the population is growing, and new home construction is not keeping pace. This is especially true in the Northwest.

-The forecast was very optimistic, with it a clear message from Yun that “now is the time to buy”. Below is a chart Yun presented showing that home values are still low. This is based on a long term average of 4% home appreciation.

See this link for chart. 2013+NAR+Economic+Forecast++-33

Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate Market Update: Homes Sales Up in 2012

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No silver lining needed in reviewing the numbers from 2012. Home sales were up, inventory was down, and all indicators were absolutely POSITIVE for Whatcom County Real Estate over the last 12 months. 2,077 single family homes were sold in 2012, which is the best year for Bellingham and Whatcom County Real Estate since 2007 (5 years!). Home values also began to stabilize. Home values remained basically flat throughout most of the county. However Bellingham saw median home values rise 3.8%.

Home values around the county should continue to stabilize (where as they had been slowly dropping in value over the last 5 years), while Bellingham has really turned the corner. There is approximately only a 3 month supply of homes available in Bellingham, and when the supply level falls below 4 or 5 months, that usually means that supply and demand will push home values up.

I am optimistic about 2013, but for this trend to continue, the foreclosure rate will need to continue to drop, and interest rates need to remain low to keep home ownership at the affordable level it is right now.

See the chart below to review home sales for Whatcom County over the last 14 months.

The Northwest Premier Networking Realtors

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Every Thursday I meet with a select group of 18 of the top Real Estate brokers from all of the Real Estate companies in Whatcom County. We meet to promote our listings, stay on top of market trends, discuss local Real Estate news, and to find out about listings coming on the market for our buyers. Here is a video showcasing what the group is all about.

Interesting Facts about Bellingham Washington Video

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Here is my latest video talking about more interesting facts about Bellingham and Whatcom County

Under $300,000 and Over $300,000 are Two Different Markets

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86% of the home sales in Bellingham and Whatcom County in the last 30 days have been homes under $300,000. And in Bellingham, inventory and selection is very low in this price range. The smallest selection we’ve had in over 5 years! That means if you are considering making a move this winter, you need to recognize there is two different markets. If you are interested in buying under $300,000, you really need to recognize it’s a very solid market (possibly on the upswing), especially in Bellingham. The best deals in the best locations are going to sell fast. And if you have a house to sell and you’re waiting until next spring to list, it might makes sense to list your home this winter instead. Lack of selection means lack of competition for sellers.

If you are looking to buy or sell a home over $300,000, it’s very different. Sellers should be more motivated because there is very little activity happening right now. If your buyer, there is some excellent values available.