Sales of homes are accelerating thanks to low mortgage rates and lack of inventory in some markets (like Seattle). So it's very likely that a new homeowner might be on your gift list this year. What better way to acknowledge your new neighbor, cherished friend, or client than with a gift for the home. Again, Mr. Roger turns to Etsy…
RICHLAND, Wash. — Mike Lawrence is standing atop a grass-covered Columbia River levee looking north to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation — the government installation he managed more than two decades ago as it began its transition from super-secret nuclear weapons factory to colossal cleanup site.
Now, on a recent rainy afternoon, a torrent of cars splashes along Richland’s nearby George Washington Way, the gloomy weather in stark counterpoint to the Tri-Cities’ bubbling economy.
“Approximately $3 billion of federal money comes into this community every year,” Lawrence says. He’s talking about money for the environmental cleanup of Hanford and Battelle’s operation of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.
“That,” he says, “is a huge economic base.”
The enormous cash infusion — combined with the area’s scientific research community, its farming and food processing backbone and burgeoning wine-making industry — has helped push the Tri-Cities into the national spotlight as a regular entry in top 10 lists and a magnet for new people.
With a population of 258,400, Richland, Pasco and Kennewick made up the nation’s fastest-growing metro area from 2010 to 2011, with a population increase of 4.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Two years ago, Kiplinger rated the Tri-Cities among the top 10 places in the nation to raise a family. CNN/Money tabbed the towns as one of the top 10 likeliest places to make gains in housing values, owing to their stable economy.
Kennewick, Pasco and Richland metro population: 150,033 (1990) 191,822 (2000) 258,400 (2011) Includes smaller towns in the metro area
Kennewick: 44,670 (1990) 54,751 (2000) 74,665 (2011)
Richland: 32,315 (1990) 38,708 (2000) 49,090 (2011)
Pasco: 23,976 (1990) 32,066 (2000) 61,000 (2011)
Name change? Rapid growth might someday result in the communal name of the Tri-Cities changing to the Quad-Cities. The reason is the bedroom community of West Richland. It was the area’s growth leader during the past two decades, ballooning from 4,042 residents in 1990 to 12,200 in 2011.
Unemployment: October’s 9.1 percent rate for the Tri-Cities was higher than the state and nation. That’s typical, says Kennewick Mayor Steve Young, and in this case due to temporary contractor layoffs at Hanford and seasonal agricultural layoffs. “It’s always fluctuating high or low … It has happened for so many years, we don’t overreact to those numbers,” he says.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Washington Office of Financial Management Forecasting Division, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce
Forbes Magazine last year ranked the Tri-Cities the “11th geekiest” community in America because of so many academic degrees concentrated in one small spot.
Newcomers are sometimes put off by the arid and khaki-colored sagebrush hills and seemingly endless irrigated farmland and vineyards, but with a mere 7 inches of annual rainfall, 300 days of sunshine, seven golf courses, at least three Columbia River marinas and few traffic problems, this is a place with undeniable appeal.
“It’s a big city with a small-town feel,” says Jens Lee, spokesman for the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
No doubt the Tri-Cities would be smaller and poorer today had it not been for the 1945-91 Cold War and the arms race between the United States and Warsaw Pact nations.
The government processed tons of enriched plutonium at Hanford to manufacture tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. In the process, the 586-square-mile Hanford reservation became contaminated by 56 million gallons of dangerous radioactive chemical slurry. Much of those lethal substances now float in 150 giant underground tanks awaiting disposal.
Ninety percent of the Hanford reservation is supposed to be cleaned up by 2015, including 220 square miles along the Columbia River corridor, says Geoff Tyree, an Energy Department spokesman. The remaining 10 percent poses a larger problem and may not be cleaned up until 2060, he says.
Workers already have buried 14 million tons of low-level waste, soil and debris in a 70-foot-deep lined trench the size of 52 football fields.
Meanwhile, a more ambitious treatment plant is under construction by Bechtel Hanford Inc. to dispose of the tremendous volume of radioactive waste in the underground tanks. The “vitrification” process calls for the liquid to be removed from the substances, some dating to 1944, and then be “glassified,” or solidified, for long-term storage in stainless steel canisters.
Arguably the nation’s biggest single building project, the so-called “vit plant” has been under construction for nine years and isn’t expected to begin operating until 2019. Nearby, technicians have placed 2,300 tons of spent fuel rods in dry storage.
The reservation’s cleanup budget typically hovers around $2 billion a year, says Hanford spokeswoman Lori Gamache. In addition, the reservation consumed $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus money between May 2009 and September 2011.
Lawrence, who managed Hanford from1984 to 1990, is chairman of a 4-year-old community group called the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative that’s looking ahead to the cleanup’s end.
Members want to maintain the economic vibrancy here by transforming part of Hanford into an energy production area for wind, solar, hydro, bio-fuels and possibly even small modular nuclear reactors, he says.
“We really think our high-tech future will be in the energy area,” says Lawrence, who’s lived in Vienna, the rainy north of England and Washington, D.C., but chose to retire in the Tri-Cities. “We are strong subscribers to the all-of-the-above strategy.”
Another $1 billion in annual federal money undergirds the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where 4,100 scientists and technicians are developing electric vehicles, advanced battery technology, “smart” appliances, enhancements to the electrical grid and ways to cut dependence on foreign oil and halt terrorism, says Greg Koller, spokesman for the lab.
Add in the Hanford brain trust and the count rises to roughly 13,000 scientists, technicians and researchers in the Tri-Cities, many with advanced degrees.
“I think we’ve got the highest number of Ph.D.s per capita in the state of Washington and probably the U.S.,” says Gary Petersen, vice president of the Tri-City Development Council in Kennewick.
Irrigated agriculture employs 18,000 workers nearby, including 5,895 at the 160 vineyards within a 50-mile radius of the cities. Another 5,000 people are employed in food processing, an estimated 10 percent of the state’s total. Half of them work at a Lamb Weston potato plant in Pasco, hence the area’s fame as the “french fry capital of the world.”
The elbow-to-elbow towns also form an educational and medical hub: One of Washington State University’s three four-year branch campuses is in Richland. Not far away is Columbia Basin College in Pasco, which also has a branch campus and nursing school in Richland. A satellite campus of the University of Phoenix is in Kennewick. Richland, Pasco and Kennewick each have a hospital, and Kennewick General Hospital is building a new satellite hospital, scheduled for completion in 2014.
The wine business in Benton and Franklin counties generates $960 million in gross revenue out of a statewide $8.6 billion for the industry, according to Washington State. WSU will break ground next fall on a $25 million Wine Science Center in Richland that will be a research and teaching facility and offer degrees in wine making and grape growing.
Yet despite the area’s supercharged atmosphere, there’s something down to earth and practical about people in this trio of towns.
Many scientists and researchers here earn $75,000 to $100,000 annually, yet pretentious homes and high-end automobiles are comparatively rare.
“Folks at the top tend not to live in a way that sets them too far apart from others, and it’s not unusual to see one of the top CEOs in Dockers and a polo shirt,” says Melissa O’Neil Perdue, a Portland native and spokeswoman for Washington State University Tri-Cities.
Of local restaurants, she adds, “You can find a $30 plate in the Tri-Cities; you’d be hard-pressed to find a $50 plate.”
Ben Bridge Jeweler at the Columbia Center Mall no longer stocks Rolex watches, although it’s possible to buy a $1,400 designer handbag at the Coach store.
– Richard Cockle, Oregonian
Sure, there have been all kinds of natural disasters, not to mention strange weather patterns in general. (One mild winter in North Dakota last season was awesome, yet terrifying, because it's so uncharacteristic. This one's rounding out to be pretty similar.) And even though I might have been a little nervous about it myself when I first heard of the whole "2012" thing a few years ago, I'm now convinced that…
Group draws from diverse architecture and real estate community.
December 6, 2012 (Durham, NC) – George Smart, Executive Director of Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), has announced the 2013 TMH Advisory Council.
Triangle Modernist Houses is dedicated to documenting, preserving, and promoting modernist residential design in North Carolina. The TMH Advisory Council is comprised of a diverse cross-section of the design, real estate, and preservation community.
August 22, 2012 10:00 ET
National Association Realtors Reasearch Center
WASHINGTON, DC–(Marketwire – Aug 22, 2012) – Sales of existing homes rose in July even with constraints of affordable inventory, and the national median price is showing five consecutive months of year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Monthly sales rose in every region but the West, where inventory is very tight.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, grew 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in July from 4.37 million in June, and are 10.4 percent above the 4.05 million-unit pace in July 2011.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said housing affordability conditions are very good. “Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates. Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand,” he said. “However, the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions.”
NAR is asking the government to expeditiously release the foreclosed properties it owns in inventory-constrained markets.
Given population and demographic demand, Yun said existing-home sales could be in a normal range of 5 to 5.5 million if all conditions were optimal. “Sales may reach 5 million next year, but it will require more sensible lending standards and stronger job creation to push beyond that,” he said.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.55 percent in July from 3.68 percent in June; the rate was 4.55 percent in July 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.
“Fewer sales in the lower price ranges are contributing to stronger increases in the median price, but all of the home price measures now are showing positive movement and that is building confidence in the market,” Yun said. “Furthermore, the higher median price naturally means more housing contribution to economic growth.”
The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $187,300 in July, up 9.4 percent from a year ago. The last time there were five back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was in January to May of 2006. The July gain was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier.
Distressed homes3 — foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts — accounted for 24 percent of July sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), down from 25 percent in June and 29 percent in July 2011.
Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in July, while short sales were discounted 15 percent.
NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said pricing is the primary factor in determining how long homes stay on the market. “Correctly priced homes, regardless of price range, are selling quickly these days,” he said.
“Fully one-third of homes purchased in July were on the market for less than a month, and only 21 percent were on the market for six months or longer. Sellers should carefully consider a Realtor’s ® advice about marketing their homes,” Veissi said.
Total housing inventory at the end July increased 1.3 percent to 2.40 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.4-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 6.5-month supply in June. Listed inventory is 23.8 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.3-month supply.
Yun said there are distortions in housing inventory. “The total supply of housing inventory appears to be balanced in historic terms, but there are notable shortages in the lower price ranges which are limiting opportunities for first-time buyers,” he said. “The low price ranges also are popular with investors, so entry-level buyers are at a disadvantage because many investors are making all-cash offers.”
First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of purchasers in July, up from 32 percent in June; they were also 32 percent in July 2011. Under normal conditions, entry-level buyers account for four out of 10 purchases.
All-cash sales slipped to 27 percent of transactions in July from 29 percent in June; they were 29 percent in July 2011. Investors, who account for the bulk of cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in July, down from 19 percent in June; they were 18 percent in July 2011.
Single-family home sales increased 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.98 million in July from 3.90 million in June, and are 9.9 percent above the 3.62 million-unit level in July 2011. The median existing single-family home price was $188,100 in July, up 9.6 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 4.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 490,000 in July from 470,000 in June, and are 14.0 percent higher than the 430,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $180,700 in July, which is 7.7 percent above July 2011.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 7.4 percent to an annual level of 580,000 in July and are 13.7 percent above July 2011. The median price in the Northeast was $254,200, up 3.5 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 2.0 percent in July to a pace of 1.04 million and are 16.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $154,100, up 5.8 percent from July 2011.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 2.3 percent to an annual level of 1.77 million in July and are 8.6 percent above July 2011. The median price in the region was $162,600, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West were unchanged at an annual pace of 1.08 million in July but are 5.9 percent higher than a year ago. With pronounced inventory shortages, the median price in the West was $238,600, a jump of 24.5 percent from July 2011.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.
1 Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from multiple listing services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. A rebenchmarking of home sales is done periodically using other sources to assess the overall home sales trend, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample — about 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month — and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to a seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.
3 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), all-cash transactions, investors and first-time buyers and are from a monthly survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at Realtor.org.
4 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).
The Pending Home Sales Index for July will be released August 29 and existing-home sales for August is scheduled for September 19. The commercial real estate market report and forecast is out August 27; all release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.
Information about NAR is available at http://www.realtor.org. News releases are posted in the website’s “News and Commentary” tab. Statistical data in this release, as well as other tables and surveys, are posted in the “Research and Statistics” tab of http://www.realtor.org.
There’s Always More To The Story
Posted by Denise Lones on July 26th, 2012
Recently one of my clients forwarded an article to me about unemployment in their area. The gist of the article was that jobless claims are up in the Kennewick area.
When the contents of this article hit my client’s marketplace in the Tri-Cities (Kennewick-Pasco-Richland cities located in Eastern Washington), he told me the article had people so concerned that it felt as though the residents were running amok in the streets in fear of Godzilla. It was very much creating an atmosphere of doom, gloom, and fear.
As you can imagine, this made me absolutely crazy.
The whole picture of what’s happening in the Tri-Cities is very different. In fact, Fiscal Times recently named the Tri-Cities as the #1 city people are moving to in a recent article.
So here’s the question – what is the truth about the Tri-Cities area?
The article talking about increases in unemployment discounts – or completely ignores – the many other factors that make this area a phenomenal place to live. Great health care (three hospitals – and folks, that also translates into great employment opportunities). Wonderful weather (300 days of sunshine each year!). Superb wineries (which support a $350 million tourism industry). Fantastic opportunities for outdoor recreation.
And there are employment opportunities in the area. Don’t let one media source fool you into thinking the area is sinking into a huge recession. Yes, employment is an important indicator of a community’s health. But it’s only one measure of the desirability of any given area. And of course, employment fluctuates over time. It’s not a static measure of an area’s performance. Before you panic based on one measure of economic health it’s important to take a more global look – one that includes other measures of performance.
Actually, the article about Tri-Cities reminds me of an article written about the Seattle real estate market a couple of years ago, when it was reported that the area had record low rates of depreciation. Yes – home prices did depreciate in Seattle, just as they did in almost every community across the country. What the article didn’t report was that, since 1976, homes in the Pacific Northwest have appreciated an average of 6.9% per year. So let’s put that article in perspective. Many years of strong appreciation, followed by a year or two (or even three or four) of depreciation still equals a good thing. In fact, a very good thing.
In the Tri-Cities, unemployment claims are up. But I think the reporter hurriedly glossed over the fact that unemployment numbers were lower in this area for several years due to the enormous amount of stimulus money eastern Washington communities received as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition, to the fact there were more jobs created and the late farm working season is skewing these numbers.
Prominently featured was a story about a woman, aged 62, who has been out of the work force since she last worked as a nanny – 11 years ago. The reality is that anyone who has been out of the work force for over a decade would likely struggle to find work in most communities in the United States today. Using this woman’s story to make an emotional point about employment opportunities in Kennewick is an example of the kind of bias in reporting that tugs at readers’ emotions rather than allowing them to assess the situation based on the facts.
In time, no one will remember this one biased article about Kennewick. It will fade away, and likely will be forgotten.
What won’t fade away are the fundamental attributes of the Tri-Cities area. It is a thriving and growing community. I’ve long said that this part of Eastern Washington will continue to grow at a healthy pace. It simply has too much going for it… and with housing very reasonably priced, homeowners get real value for their housing dollar.
If I was a betting person, I’d be “all in” on the future of the Tri-Cities.
Next time you read an article that predicts gloom and doom based on one or more factors, I encourage you do look at the numbers carefully before buying in to the hysteria. Do a little research of your own to uncover mitigating factors.
More importantly, I hope that you will challenge the information. Touch base with the reporter and ask questions. Write to the editor and share your point of view, backed up with data you may have. It’s important for every one of us to take action when we discover inaccuracies in reporting.
RICHLAND, Wash. — While the real estate market continues to struggle across the US, the Tri-Cities has made the list of one of the fastest growing markets in the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pasco-Kennewick-Richland is the one of nine cities to have home values projected to grow by more than 3%.
According to the Case-Shiller Housing Index, house prices in the US are projected to decline 4% by the end of this year. Out of 384 of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas examined by the Case-Shiller Housing Index, only 50 of those will remain unaffected by the dropping prices while as a whole, prices are projected to decline for at least another 12 months before things start improving.
Without those 50 fortunate areas where housing prices are expected to increase, the gains will be not be extraordinary, but rather quite modest.
Our area’s home values are projected to grow by 3.6% this upcoming year. Paul Roy, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Tomlinson says he’s seeing a few things in the area. “We’re seeing more buyers taking advantage of the extremely low interest rates. We are seeing more inventory. We’re also seeing our days on market for those homes that are priced competitively for the market, those houses are getting multiple showings and multiple offers in less than 30 days”
Dave Sparks is building a new home in the Heights at Meadow Springs Community in South Richland. He said it took him ten days to sell his old home in Horn Rapids. “This is the second house we’ve sold in the last three years, and both times within 30 days,” says Sparks.
He says the area is up and coming. “There’s about five or six houses here that have been built in the last six months. There’s been 3 or 4 sold already in the last few days around here.”
Roy says while values all around the US are dropping, this entire region is picking up. Here is the list of the nine fastest growing cities (metropolitan areas in the US)
1. Madera-Chowchilla, CA
2. Glen Falls, NY
3. Medford, OR
4. Coeur d’Alene, ID
5. Hagertown-Martinsburg, MD-WV
6. Eugene-Springfield, OR
7. Lewiston, ID
8. Kennewick, Richland, Pasco, WA
9. Danville, VA