I devote this column to looking ahead, a forecast of 2013’s real estate market. 

After nearly five years of declining values and false starts, I’m happy to report that the recession is in the rearview mirror and a healthy economic recovery is on solid footing — particularly in Seattle.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Seattle economy was poised to come out of the recession first and remain healthy for years to come. Indeed, Seattle real estate is recovering at a faster pace than the rest of the nation: It’s no longer a buyer’s market in Seattle. It was recently reported that Seattle is among the top-10 seller’s markets in the nation. Record-low interest rates and the shrinking inventory of available homes are driving the rapid turnaround in home prices.

 

Pent-up demand

The newest data shows that the annual slow-down in November sales didn’t really happen as expected: Buyers kept buying. For my business, December is already busier than November. You can attribute the surge in business to pent-up demand that has been idle, waiting on the sidelines for a sign that real estate is once again a safe investment. 

In 2013, there will be more good news for the Seattle real estate market. You can expect double-digit increases in property values. Expert forecasts predicted a 15-percent increase in home values between June 2012 and June 2013. At midpoint (December 2012) King County real estate values have increased 14.9 percent. 

Seattle is ahead of the expert forecasts by a substantial margin. I’m confident we will see an additional 10-percent appreciation in 2013, making for a cumulative increase in home prices of 25 percent in just two years. 

A better year ahead

If you’re planning to buy a home in 2013, I encourage you to fast-forward your plan to buy. Each passing day means higher prices. 

If you’re planning to sell in 2013, I recommend listing your property in the first quarter, January to April. The data shows that early buyers tend to pay more for what they want. In addition, if your home is in good condition and in a nice neighborhood, you should expect multiple offers, which result in a sale at full price and likely in excess of the listed price. 

For sellers, be wary of “pre-approval” letters from buyers. The lending landscape has changed dramatically: It’s more difficult for buyers to qualify for loans. Some lenders will cough out an official-looking letter, promising the buyer is qualified. Ask lots of questions about the buyer’s qualifications before you enter into any contract. 

For buyers, 2013 is going to be a better year for obtaining a mortgage loan. For years, lenders offered unrealistic loans to buyers, resulting in the mortgage meltdown — all that has changed. New lending guidelines have made getting a mortgage much more difficult. 

You can expect lenders to relax the rules a bit in 2013. It will become easier to obtain a new mortgage in 2013, especially later in the year. Unfortunately, while it will become easier to qualify for a mortgage, home prices will continue to rise. If you have good credit and you are pre-approved for a loan, get in touch with a Realtor today — there is no advantage to waiting. 

For real estate investors, 2013 will bring both good and bad news. Competition for investment properties will increase, driving up prices — that’s the bad news. Investors looking to buy should buy early and ride the wave of rising appreciation for the remainder of the year. 

There is also good news for those who own investment properties. The value of your investment will increase in 2013. (Although, it’s possible an increase in the capital-gains tax may take a bite out of your profits if you sell in 2013.)

Thank you to all my readers, and especially to those who sent me questions in 2012. I prepare each column with a goal of demystifying the process of buying and selling real estate. Your questions help make this column better. 

RAY AKERS has been a licensed Realtor for more than 25 years and is a lifelong Seattle resident. Send your questions to ray@akerscargill.com or call (206) 722-4444.