Paul's Bellingham Blog

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

USDA (Zero Down Loan) Changes are delayed!

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The USDA Rural Development program, which is designed to make rural housing more affordable, offers one of the only loans available today that is Zero Down. A rate today with USDA is zero down with about a 3.0% rate locked for 30 years! So really a program that makes buying cheaper then rent in most cases right now.

Currently the only area excluded from the map is the city of Bellingham, and in Skagit County, the city of Mount Vernon. The map is changing, and the city limits of Ferndale, Lynden, Burlington, and Anacortes will soon be excluded as well when they create the new map. The GOOD news is that they just delayed this change from October 1st, to March 27th, 2013! This gives zero down home buyers plenty of time to find to find a home if they want to take advantage of the USDA loan product while it is still available in these Skagit and Whatcom County cities.

If you have questions about this, feel free to give me a call at 360-920-5901, or contact me here.

Market Update: Looking back at 2011 and What’s Ahead in 2012


In looking at all of the numbers from 2012, their is many positive signs. Year over year, sales were up slightly, yet inventory has come down note-ably in all areas and price ranges in Whatcom County.

The most recent snapshot of Whatcom County home sales is December (see chart below). 144 homes closed in December of 2010, and exactly 144 homes also sold in December of 2011. Pretty amazing how that number is exactly the same. But the good news was that inventory dropped from 1,287 homes available in 2010, to 1,150 in 2011.  And pending home sales (homes under contract) rose slightly from 97 at the end of 2010, to 102 at the end of 2011. That is the good news..

The sobering numbers are found looking at home prices. The average dollar per sq foot a home was selling for in December of 2010 was $157, compared to $134 at the end of 2011, and the medium home price dropped from $252,000 to $229,000.

So values have still been dropping substantially over the last year in Whatcom County, but the numbers vary depending on the city and price range within the County you are in.

Bellingham home values were down less then 4% in 2011, compared to most areas of the county experiencing between 5 and 7% drops in home value. Sudden Valley took the biggest hit, with home values dropping by 8% in 2011.

So home values have continued to slowly decline, but all signs point to that trend slowing down and values leveling out. This is especially true in Bellingham, and in the lower end of the market (under $300,000).

So what’s the take away?

For sellers who are serious about pricing there home right, there is less competition, and homes are selling faster.  And with prices leveling out in most areas of the market, you can price your home right and have a good chance of selling and getting a reasonable offer. The other good news is the average home is selling closer to asking price right now then it was a year ago. Buyers are paying an average of 96% of list price compared to an average of 94% of list price in 2010. More and more of the really good deals are seeing multiple offers again as well!

For buyers, interest rates are back down at all-time lows (around 4.0% for 30 year lock) and there is opportunities every day in this market.  So it will continue to be an excellent time to buy in 2012.