Paul's Bellingham Blog

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

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.

Why You Should List Your Home Priced Right, Move-In Ready

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Many sellers I meet with often want to list at a price slightly above market value, to leave negotiating room and see if they can make more money on there home sale. Other sellers have a hard time spending money on repairs and updates hoping to sell “as is”. This is not always a bad strategy, but the numbers provided by the NW Multiple Listing Service and recent research, indicate that the odds are against you if you list your home in below average condition, and/or overpriced.

For listings taken from January 1st, 2013 to February 28th, 2014 in NW Washington:

Homes Sold in first 30 days: 42%.  Sold in 31-60 days, 14%, Sold in 61-90 days:  7%, Sold in 91-120 days 5%.

You can see that if you do not get your home sold in the first 30 days on the market, your odds of getting an offer drop off significantly. That is a good reason to list your home priced competitively from the beginning.

For sellers who do not want to put money in to the home, research indicates the best return is ALWAYS getting the home in good condition prior to listing.

A recent survey by the PulteGroup revealed that 65% of home buyers prefer spending more money on a home that is move-in ready, compared to doing renovations. In addition, homes that are “staged” also have been shown to sell for as much as 8% higher then non-staged homes.

So getting your home in good condition and priced right pays off.  And you don’t need to do everything on your own. For sellers in Whatcom and North Skagit county, we have great resources to help you coordinate repairs/landscaping/cleaning/staging to prepare your home for sale.

We help you position the price right, but also help get it show ready to help you get top dollar. We know what repairs will give you a maximum return and what updates are not worth doing prior to listing.  Contact me today for more information.

(below is a staged home listed and sold in 2014 in Burlington)

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.

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