Trish Gale joins The Muljat Group

Trish GaleJan. 5, 2018


Trish Gale, who has nearly four years of experience as a real-estate broker in Whatcom County, has joined The Muljat Group in Bellingham.


Gale, a 12-year resident of Bellingham, soon will be a licensed managing broker and is working toward a diversity certification.


“After years in sales and service, I know how to negotiate on your behalf while balancing the emotions that come along with buying and selling homes,” Gale said. “My direct communication and ability to build relationships keeps you central to the process by setting clear expectations and doing what I sayI’m going to do.”


The Muljat Group, which has the highest volume of sales per agent in Whatcom County, is located at 510 Lakeway Drive. For more information, call Gale at (360) 296-2667 or visit


Home prices had big jumps in 2017, but they may not be as high this year BY DAVE GALLAGHER

JANUARY 03, 2018 05:04 PM

UPDATED JANUARY 04, 2018 04:18 PM

ew housing project off June Street in the Cordata neighborhood of Bellingham, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018.
Philip A. Dwyer



Diva Menke joins The Muljat Group


Diva Menke-Thielman

Dec. 27, 2017

Diva Menke, who has recorded $2 million in sales in just 18 months as a real-estate broker, has joined The Muljat Group in Bellingham.

Menke, a Western Washington University graduate and a local musician, is a 13-year Whatcom County resident.

“It’s my belief that buying and selling should be a fun process where you feel empowered,” Menke said. “I am available day and night and work hard for my clients with integrity and communication.”

The Muljat Group, which has the highest volume of sales per agent in Whatcom County, is located at 510 Lakeway Drive. For more information, call Menke at (360) 920-6456 or visit

Plenty to Be Thankful for in Real Estate


Plenty to be thankful for

The housing market may be facing some headwinds with ongoing inventory shortages and the looming threat of tax reform from lawmakers, but don’t let these stories spoil your outlook completely. There are several factors sparking more optimism in real estate lately. Here are a few housing indicators you can be thankful for this season:

1. New-home sales neared a postrecession high in October.

Some inventory relief may be coming to the housing sector. Housing starts—which reflect combined totals within the single-family home and multifamily sectors—rose 13.7 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.29 million, the Commerce Department reports. This marks the highest reading for new-home production since October 2016 when total starts reached a postrecession high of 1.33 million. Broken out, single-family housing increased 5.3 percent last month, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 877,000. Single-family starts are now up 8.4 percent from a year ago.

2. Existing-home sales posted strongest pace since earlier this summer.

Inventories may be low, but that isn’t keeping sales down. Total existing-home sales—which include single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops—rose 2 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Tuesday. Sales are now at their strongest pace since June. “Job growth in most of the country continues to carry on at a robust level and is starting to slowly push up wages, which is in turn giving households added assurance that now is a good time to buy a home,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

3. Mortgage rates are still under 4 percent.

Home shoppers are still locking in mortgage rates that are low by historical standards. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.90 percent in October, according to Freddie Mac.

4. Homes are selling fast.

Forty-seven percent of homes sold in October were on the market for less than a month, according to NAR’s latest housing report. On average, properties stayed on the market for 34 days in October, which is down from 41 days a year ago.

5. There are more equity-rich homeowners.

As more homeowners see the savings being built up in their homes, they may be enticed to cash in. The share of equity-rich properties rose to a new high in the third quarter, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ Q3 2017 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report. Twenty-six percent of homeowners with a mortgage—or more than 14 million—are now considered equity rich. ATTOM Data Solutions defines “equity rich” as when the combined loan amount secured by the property was 50 percent or less of the estimated market value of the property.

—Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine


Homes Are More Affordable Than 20 Years Ago




Homes are actually more affordable now than they were in the late 1990s, according to the latest Mortgage Monitor Report by Black Knight Inc., a mortgage data and performance information provider.

Interest rates have plunged by 40 basis points over the past six months. However, the bulk of the potential savings is offset by the accelerating rate of home price appreciation across the country.

“Rising home prices continue to offset the majority of would-be savings from recent interest rate declines, which has kept affordability near a postrecession low,” says Ben Graboske, executive vice president of data & analytics for Black Knight. “That being said, when viewing the market through a longer-term lens, affordability across most of the country still remains favorable to long-term benchmarks.”

As of September, 21.4 percent of the median income nationwide was required to purchase a median-priced home. From 1995 to 1999, that percentage was 24.2 percent, and from 2000 to 2003 it was 26.2 percent, according to Black Knight’s report.

While the monthly payment needed for a median-priced home is up $100 from a year ago, the national “payment-to-income” ratio remains 2.8 percent below averages from the late 1990s, according to the report.

“In looking at the affordability landscape across the country, we certainly see varying levels of affordability in each market compared to their own long-term benchmarks,” Graboske says. “But, by and large, the overall theme is that affordability in most areas, while tightening, remains favorable to long-term norms.”

Black Knight researchers note that 47 of 50 states’ payment-to-income ratios remain below their 1995–2003 averages. Hawaii, California, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., are the lone exceptions, where payment-to-income ratios are higher today than their long-term benchmarks.

Source: Black Knight Inc.


Seattle marks a full year as America’s hottest housing market, with no end

seattle-870282_1920The median price of a home across the Seattle metro area has now soared 80 percent since bottoming out five years ago, and it’s up 20 percent over the old pre-bubble peak a decade ago.


Mike Rosenberg

Seattle Times business reporter

Seattle is now a full year into its reign as the hottest housing market in the country, an unusually long surge that doesn’t look likely to end anytime soon.

Single-family home prices across the metro area grew 13.2 percent in August compared to a year prior, easily the most in the nation and twice the U.S. average, according to the monthly Case-Shiller home-price index, released Tuesday.

Las Vegas replaced Portland as second behind Seattle after the two Pacific Northwest cities had been the top two markets since last year.

Fastest-rising home prices compared with a year ago

1. Seattle 13.2%

2. Las Vegas 8.6%

3. San Diego 7.8%

4. Detroit 7.2%

4. Denver 7.2%

4. Portland 7.2%

Source: Case-Shiller home-price index

Seattle has had the biggest annual home-price gains of any region in the country for 12 straight months. That’s the fifth-longest streak in the country since 2000, and the longest since Phoenix led the nation in home-value increases for 13 months in a row from 2012 to 2013.

Seattle has been a national standout like this only once before. From the summer of 2007 through mid-2008, as the U.S. housing market was heading toward collapse, Seattle also topped the country for a year straight, right before home costs plummeted.

This time, the trends nationwide look different. During the bubble a decade ago, home costs just about everywhere were soaring at eye-popping rates, similar to what Seattle is dealing with today.

Now, Seattle is an outlier — everywhere else is experiencing growth that’s slightly or moderately above average for that region, while prices here are increasing nearly three times as fast as the historical average.

Overall, home costs here are growing at more than double the national rate of 6.1 percent. That’s been the case for the last year. And home prices continue to outpace wage growth, which was 3.6 percent nationally in August.

So when will Seattle’s run as the hottest market end? Probably not anytime soon, given the gap between Seattle and the rest of the country. The second-hottest market, now Las Vegas, saw prices grow 8.6 percent, nearly 5 percentage points less than Seattle.

Still, there are signs of at least some slight cooling locally.

Compared to just a month ago, prices here ticked up just 0.2 percent, among the lowest rates in the country and the slowest since last winter (although that’s typical for us this time of year — when adjusted for normal seasonal changes, our month-to-month price growth beats out the national rate). And the year-over-year price growth of 13.2 percent was down a bit from the peak surges seen earlier this summer, when costs soared as much as 13.5 percent, which had been the biggest jump since the bubble a decade ago.

Plus, we are heading toward the slowest time of year for home shopping, when buyers are more likely to avoid bidding wars and prices usually drop a bit from their spring and summer highs.

“There are early signs that price (growth) may have peaked” in Seattle, said Cheryl Young, a senior economist with Trulia.

But the Case-Shiller data show the mini-slowdown is happening only for luxury homes and in expensive neighborhoods. Prices for cheaper homes, which are generally in outlying suburbs, are rising at their fastest rate in more than three years.

The Puget Sound region continues to stand out for a few reasons: Tons of well-paid tech-job openings have drawn in scores of new residents while fewer and fewer people are selling their homes, leading to intense competition among buyers. Seattle also is among the most coveted markets for foreign investors. And rents here are soaring at close to the fastest rates in the country, with the average two-bedroom rent now topping $2,000, pushing more people into the homebuying market.

Jeff Reynolds, a Windermere broker who blogs for, noted this week that there are only five condos available in downtown Seattle for under $500,000, and that price now typically gets you a small one-bedroom. Reynolds found significantly more condos for under half a million dollars in the downtowns of peer cities — even San Francisco has more (although those other cities have larger condo markets than Seattle).

Overall, prices here have soared 80 percent since bottoming out five years ago — only San Francisco and Las Vegas have had bigger price increases during that span, and prices nationally grew 46 percent over that time frame. And home values locally are up 20 percent over the old pre-bubble peak a decade ago, behind only Dallas and Denver.

The median house now sells for $725,000 in Seattle and $855,000 on the Eastside. It’s $450,000 in Snohomish County, and near $315,000 in both Kitsap and Pierce counties.

Mike Rosenberg: or 206-464-2266; on Twitter @ByRosenberg.


Despite Odds, Ownership Rate Moves Higher


Despite tight housing inventories and rising home prices, the homeownership rate rose slightly in the third quarter and reaching the highest level since 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday.

The homeownership rate rose to 63.9 percent in the third quarter, up slightly from 63.5 percent a year ago, the Census Bureau reported.

While the uptick isn’t considered statistically significant, economists were still somewhat upbeat that the homeownership rate has now moved up for a second consecutive quarter. Also, more Americans are showing a preference for owning: The number of owner households increased by 755,000 from a year ago, while the number of renter households fell 348,000, according to the Census Bureau report.

Still, finding a home remains a challenge for many Americans. The inventory levels for both new and existing single-family homes is about 20 percent below the long-term average.

The homeownership rate sank to a 50-year low in the second quarter of 2016. It still remains below its historic norm of around 65 percent. In the years leading up to the housing bubble, the homeownership rate set a high of more than 69 percent.

The homeownership rate is showing the largest rebound in the Midwest, where the ownership rate climbed to 69.1 percent from 68 percent in the second quarter. The Midwest is also considered a place where home prices remain relatively affordable compared with other regions of the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reports. The homeownership rate mostly remained flat in other parts of the country that have seen home prices rise more quickly.

“The American dream of homeownership remains elusive, as the third-quarter figure shows little change in the overall  rate,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of REALTORS®. “The reason is simple. There is just not enough supply of homes to fully satisfy the desire to own. The lack of inventory has pushed up home prices by 48 percent from the low point in 2011, while wage growth over the same period has been only 15 percent.”

Source: “U.S. Homeownership Rises Slightly in Latest Quarter,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 31, 2017)

Chris Schwitter joins The Muljat Group

Oct. 31, 2017Chris_Schwitter


Chris Schwitter, a Whatcom County native with a strong technology background, has joined The Muljat Group in Bellingham as a real-estate broker.


Schwitter, a graduate of Bellingham Technical College and Squalicum High School, said his extensive knowledge of Bellingham’s neighborhoods and Whatcom County’s communities helps him find properties that meet the needs of clients.


“With a degree in computer networking, I also can use technology to effectively market properties online where most buyers are now searching,” Schwitter said.


The Muljat Group, which has the highest volume of sales per agent in Whatcom County, is located at 510 Lakeway Drive. For more information, call Schwitter at (360) 393-5833 or visit


New-Home Sales Hit 10-Year High

New-Home Sales Hit 10-Year High – Muljat Group

Sales of newly built single-family homes rose 18.9 percent last month, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. This represented the highest sales rate since October 2007, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 667,0new-home-2351377_192000 units, after an upwardly revised August reading. Compared to last year, new-home sales are 8.6 percent above their level during the same period in 2016.

"New-home sales have bounced back from a few soft months and have returned to the strong growth trend we saw earlier this year," says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "As existing home inventory remains tight, we can expect new homes sales to continue to make gains in the months ahead."

These gains in sales continue alongside tight inventory, providing downward pressure on affordability. In a recent REALTOR® Magazine column, National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist Lawrence Yun urged the industry to recognize the impact that the "massive housing shortage" has on the overall the economy: “We need more construction. An economic boom, not unlike the one we had almost 70 years ago, could result.”

Looking deeper into the sales data, Chief Economist Danielle Hale noted a contrast between pricing and the amount buyers ultimately pay for new homes. “The growth in prices for new homes also shows signs of slowing, though that hasn’t yet appeared in home listing prices, which are up 10 percent from a year ago,” she says. “The discrepancy between list price increases and sales price increases suggests that some buyers may have reached a limit on the price increases they can afford, but sellers have not yet caught on.”

New-home sales increased in all four regions, rising 33.3 percent in the Northeast, 25.8 percent in the South, 10.6 percent in the Midwest, and 2.9 percent in the West. Home sales in the South had been greatly hampered by hurricane-related setbacks. All regions showed an increase in sales from last month, and all regions except the Midwest also show growth when compared to a year ago.

Source: “New Home Sales Pace in September Hits 10-Year High,” National Association of Home Builders (Oct. 25, 2017) 



The Muljat Group adds Solveig Johnson

Oct. 17, 2017


Solveig Johnson, who already has 140 home sales in less than four years, has joined The Muljat Group in Bellingham as a real-estate broker.


Johnson has earned the ASP Home Staging certification, which she utilizes to prepare properties so they gain maximum return for sellers. Before entering the Whatcom County real-estate market, she was an outside sales consultant for high-end salons for seven years.


“I’ve also personally been involved in three successful house ‘flips,’ so I’ve gained practical knowledge about the costs and added value of making various improvements to a property,” Johnson said.


The Muljat Group, which has the highest volume of sales per agent in Whatcom County, is located at 510 Lakeway Drive. For more information, call Johnson at (360) 303-8048 or visit Johnson