As we bid farewell to 2015 and begin charting the course for 2016, I always like to pause to reflect on the year.  In real estate there is rarely what is termed a “normal” or balanced market.  In 2015 we saw the return of the Seller’s Market and the year was somewhat stymied by low inventory. Below is a quick snapshot of the numbers.  More analysis is in the works so stay tuned for a deeper dive into last year compared to recent years. And of course, I will be putting together the annual list of my favorite 10 homes that sold in 2015.

Sunset behind Restoration Point on Bainbridge Island. As seen from the Bainbridge/Seattle Ferry. Jen Pells

 

378  total single family home sales

90 condo sales

205 sales under $700,000 sales price

72 sales over $1M sales price

25 sales over $1.5M sales price

$3,025,000 top home sales price

$666,000 median home sales price

$60,000 lowest home sales price

2,774 sq ft average size of homes sold

68 pieces of land sold

$3,360,000 top land sales price

$235,000 median land sales price

$60,000 lowest land sales price

1.85 acres average size of lots sold

 

For a quick comparison to 2014:

In 2014,  401 homes sold, but the median home price was $620,000.  In 2015 we saw supply and demand do its work.

All data taken from the NWMLS as of 1/2/2016.

Bainbridge Island Real Estate MarketOur Bainbridge Island Real Estate Market has seen impressive price increases in 2015. Now, as we look ahead to next year, we are all wondering what 2016 will look like. Will prices continue to go up?  Will interest rates go up and slow down price increases?   Click here to read the 3rd Quarter Report by Windermere’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner for his educated insight.

 

Eakin Drive sold by Realtor Jen Pells

Renting Can Make Sense

There are a lot of smart, pragmatic reasons for renting a home when you are new to a city.  It can be helpful to get the lay of the land, learn the neighborhoods, settle in a bit.  Wait to find the perfect house to buy.  But, as the inventory of homes available to buy is shrinking on Bainbridge, I am seeing more and more folks who never ever planned to rent enter into a rental or temporary housing here on the island. They are what I call the unintentional renters.

I am a Nester

When we moved here I KNEW there was no way I could rent.  Any viable option that we had was icky, for one, but secondly, I am just not a renter.  Do you put things on the wall? How do you settle?  I am just a nester. For my sanity I knew we needed to find our next home to buy and not do a transitional rental. For us it worked and it worked well.  We found a decent house in a great location.  We later gutted the house and made it our own, but the fact that we were settling in to our neighborhood and school and putting down roots right away was huge in our transitional process.

Low Available Inventory

Right now available inventory is not on the buyer’s side (in fact inventory is at historically low levels – read more about that here) so, many buyers are looking to rent as the next viable option since the house is not out there at the moment. And these wanna-be home owners are in turn making the rental inventory tighter.  I see some clients who do fine as renters.  They are so gung-ho about moving to a new place they do just fine settling in and meeting people. But, other times, usually when there is one party in the couple who is less gung-ho about the move, I see renting as a major contributing factor to families not settling in or transitioning well.

 Bainbridge Island | Jen Pells | Windermere RealtorCan’t Quite Put My Finger On It

Life is just not the same in a rental. Most likely you will rent in a different neighborhood than where you will buy and perhaps be in a different school district too.  As a renter, people can be less invested in making friends or settling in. They do not want to go through the effort for a temporary situation.  Renting can be seen as a great trial period to say, try Bainbridge on for size, but I see that trial period as a limited version of the real thing.  Sort of like only having access to Hulu versus Hulu Plus.  You are not going to have the same experience, and in the end, you could be less likely to fully commit to living on Bainbridge long term.

It Takes Two Years

I know if we had rented I probably would not be here right now.  My husband was the cheerleader for our move.  I knew Bainbridge was the right move for our family, but when we moved I left family, friends and a really good career in California.  I had a lot of things to miss, mourn, and rebuild after our move.  And six months in, during a dark December on Bainbridge, if I could have run back to California and ditched a rental, I probably would have.  Because yes, at that moment it would have been easier.  I have been honest before in other postings, that I think it takes two years to feel like you are home.

The first year is a roller coaster ride.  I recall loving Bainbridge and then hating it.  The first year is very bogged down with the logistics of moving physical stuff and paperwork and changeovers.  It is so hectic and yes, just plain exhausting. It was not until the second year that I felt like I had time to truly explore and discover Bainbridge.  In year two I hit the trails, parks and quaint shops. In year two, I realized I was spening more time outdoors than I ever did in California. In year two, I put pictures up on the wall (yes it took me that long) and I finally felt like I was home.

Bainbridge Island | Jen Pells | Windermere RealtorFeet on the Ground

In year two I got my feet on the ground. And yes, anytime before that I think I probably would have used those feet to bolt back to that comfortable environment of the ‘known” in California. I predict with more people renting we will likely see some more of that happening. I have seen this once or twice with clients in my eight years here already. For one family they looked for ten months and then moved back to the east coast. I certainly felt like they abandoned ship much too early, but the fact that they rented gave them that easy out.

Other Options

Since I am often the one talking my buyers out of “settling” on a house (I know not a good business model in the sales world) I am often the one helping them find temporary housing. A lot of different options exist on Bainbridge.  If you are like me and you feel like you are not a renter, I suggest going into a short-term furnished rental on a month to month basis. Since we are a vacation destination, we have a lot of rental options here. That way you can pounce when the right house comes up and your rental period is as short as possible.  If you are more open to traditional renting I suggest you get the shortest lease term possible, say three months with a month to month option after that. If you have to pay a bit more for that shorter lease term, I think the flexibility is worth it. I also suggest you try and find a rental in the area you’d like to buy.  If you want to be on the south end, rent on the south end.  But minimally, if you have kids, getting in the school district you want to be in should be a goal. Please email me if you are interested in a list of short and long term rental options.

Mentally Unpack . . .

If you are entering into a rental or renting right now, you are in a trial period yes, but remember your rental is likely temporary and not your eventual reality.  You will have a different mind-set once you have purchased and moved into your home.  For many people, only the commitment of a purchase allows you to fully unpack mentally and physically. But, don’t worry, you’ll get there.

 

Our Winery list is a pretty good one, considering we a small island.  The full list and links are below as well as a list of tasting rooms.  The Winery Alliance of Bainbridge Island coordinates collaborative events for all the wineries and is a great resource for islander wine lovers or those visiting the island to explore. Wineries on Bainbridge Island

Wineries

All seven wineries listed below are open for tasting.  Visit their linked sites for hours and special events.

  • Amelia Wynn Winery – A craft winery established in 2008 producing Bordeaux, Rhone, and Northern Italian varietal wines.
  • Bainbridge Vineyards  – A winery that produces approximately 1,200 cases of hand-crafted wines annually made exclusively from Island-grown grapes and fruit.
  • Eagle Harbor Winery – Eagle Harbor Wine Company sources most of its grapes from the Walla Walla Valley AVA, specifically from blocks at Dwelley farms vineyard. They produce approximately 2,500 cases a year.
  • Eleven Winery – A small, family run winery, Eleven produces about 2,000 cases of wine each year using Washington grapes.
  • Fletcher Bay Winery – Fletcher Bay Winery specializes in producing premium, rich and full bodied red wines by using Columbia Valley’s top quality grapes from some of the best vineyards in Walla Walla and the Yakima Valley. They have recently ventured into whites with a Pinot Grigio, made with grapes from the Yakima Valley and they have been very well-received by wine connoisseurs
  • Perennial Vintners– Specializes in the delicate wines from the maritime-influenced cool climate viticulture of the Puget Sound AVA. They’ve pioneered the establishment of an underappreciated grape named Melon de Bourgogne here in the Seattle area.
  • Rolling Bay Winery – Specialize in creating limited quantities of hand crafted premium wine from grapes grown on Snipes Mountain, one of Washington State’s newest AVAs and oldest vineyards.

Tasting Rooms near the ferry

  • Harbor Square Wine Shop and Tasting Room | 756 Winslow Way E • 206.780.1626 –From the ferry terminal look for the colorful, modern, condo development.  They are on the street level facing the ferry parking lot.
  • Island Vintners | 450 Winslow Way E • 206.451.4344 –A collaborative tasting room for Amelia Wynn Winery and Fletcher Bay Winery.  On Winslow way, just steps from the ferry dock.
  • Eagle Harbor Winery |  278 Winslow Way E • 206.842.4669 –Tucked back in the Winslow Mall.  A short walk into town, they are on the north side of Winslow Way.