True Story
In February, Lena Maul, co-owner of Windermere’s Lynnwood office, got a call from a couple planning to expand their family—they already had a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter—and they were outgrowing their Greenlake townhome. They had bought it in 2004 for $250,000 and estimated it was worth as much as $370,000 at the market’s peak. Now they were shopping for more expensive houses in the same neighborhood. After running the numbers, they hoped to land a property for around $470,000, even if they were able to sell their townhome for only $300,000. Sure, they might pocket $70,000 less on the sale than they would have 18 months earlier, but they stood to more than make up for that on their prospective purchase. “The houses they’re looking at now were $130,000 more in the height of the market,” Maul says. “So even with their $70,000 loss, they were still looking at netting a $60,000 gain.”

Realty Check
If you bought at the height of the market in 2007, no, now isn’t the best time to sell, unless you absolutely have to (in which case, you might want to refer to the question on short sales). You’re likely to take a bath in places like Alki and Laurelhurst, where median sales prices have fallen 22 and 37 percent, respectively, since then. “If you bought in the last 24 months and you have to sell now, you’re going to hurt,” says John L. Scott agent Bill Reid. (On the other hand, a couple areas have bucked the trend. Prices have jumped 13 and 25 percent downtown and in SoDo, respectively, in that same period.)

As of late February, the Greenlake couple was still wrestling with whether to list their home, and the one thing they kept coming back to was asking price. Maul says it’s all about sending the right message to your potential buyers. “There’s pricing in the market, and then there’s positioning in the market,” she says. “If you’re in the $500,000 price range and there’s 15 houses at $489,000 and 10 more houses at $495,000, wouldn’t it make a whole heck of a lot of sense to be at $480,000? That’s positioning.”

Last Word
No matter where you live, if you bought four or five years ago and you’re looking to move up, there’s a good chance you’ll make some profit on your current home, and more important, you’ll likely get an even better deal on the more-expensive home you’re trading up to. “The move-up buy is the most exciting buy right now,” says Maul. “You have an asset to make a gain on.”

Filed under