In response to increasing buyer demand for housing in Pierce County and a persistent shortage of inventory, developers have been building new homes in Gig Harbor at a rapid rate. The Gig Harbor City Council recently responded to this development boom by passing a building moratorium on new residential development applications, forcing developers to put upcoming projects on hold.
I’ve had questions from several clients about what this moratorium means and whether or not they should be concerned about what that does to their plans to buy and sell property in Gig Harbor. As a result, I’ve decided to share the information here that I’ve recently been discussing with them.
Why did GHCC use a moratorium and what does it entail?
In a recent Tacoma News Tribune article, Gig Harbor council member Michael Perrow said the council had instituted the moratorium because they felt the “rapid pace of development has created vast concern” among community members and that vesting of certain permit applications would be “detrimental to public health”. The ordinance imposes a six month moratorium upon the receipt and processing of subdivision applications and applications for building permits and other land use development approvals associated with residential development. Click here for the full article.
What does this mean?
The city council is concerned that current zoning regulations may no longer be appropriate and/or sufficient in light of recent growth. Applications for new developments are coming in so rapidly that the city wants to take some time (6 months) to figure out what changes might need to be made to ensure that the infrastructure can handle this explosion of new residential development, and to determine how to slow down growth if necessary.
You already bought land and have submitted your applications. Now what?
There are exceptions to the moratorium:
- Any valid permits that were filed before the moratorium passed and simply need to be processed.
- Permits for repair, remodeling, restoration or additions to existing single-family dwellings.
- Replacement of any existing single-family dwellings.
- Permits and applications for “accessory uses and structures associated with existing residential dwellings units.”
- Applications for final plats or short plats.
- Any site improvements or utility extensions that are necessary to obtain approval for final plats, final short plats or preliminary plat applications submitted before the moratorium was imposed.
If you were thinking about purchasing land for construction in Gig Harbor, should you forget about it?
In my opinion, it’s safe to continue looking for vacant land in Gig Harbor if you are considering single-family new construction. According to The City of Gig Harbor, permits for a single-family home on an existing recorded lot will still be processed. If you are thinking about developing a subdivision, that is a different story. I would recommend taking a pause, because zoning and density regulations may end up changing in the near future. If the moratorium continues beyond the six months, we could see the prices for existing homes in Gig Harbor inflate more rapidly than they would without the building stop, which could be good for current home-owners. For full details on the Gig Harbor moratorium in the City’s own words click here.
How long will this moratorium last?
Mayor Kit Kuhn said that the city will need to entertain official public comment on the moratorium at the March 26th regular city council meeting before any timing decisions are finalized. Though temporary in nature, this moratorium is expected to last for at least six months.
Miles Eaton is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Click here to e-mail Miles or feel free to give him a call at (253) 355-5862.
Jeff Williams and Mark Pinto were recently interviewed by Kate Martin of the Tacoma News Tribune to explore the current trends for the over million dollar housing market in Pierce County. As the listing agents for three of the over million dollar listings that are currently pending sale in Pierce County, they shared insight about buyers for these luxury properties and their experience in the luxury market.
In recent months, dozens of million-dollar abodes have sold or are in the process of closing. If the pace keeps up, sales of homes worth a million dollars or more could eclipse the record of 86 sales set in 2007.
Where are these buyers coming from? Many fly in from other parts of the country, said Jeff Williams, a real estate broker for South Sound Property Group, part of Windermere Professional Partners. He works with fellow broker Mark Pinto.
“They could be coming for a job or lifestyle change,” Williams said. “It could be a second home for people who live in California.”
One historic home in Tacoma’s North End is listed by Williams and Pinto at nearly $1.3 million. Its sweeping views of Commencement Bay, and the Olympic and Cascade mountains drew 25 showings in three weeks — a pace unheard of just a few years ago, Williams said. The final sale price was not available.
Williams and Pinto work together to sell luxury and historic properties in Tacoma, Lakewood and Gig Harbor. They said the luxury or “trophy home” market has heated up in the county in the past six months to a year.
“I think it speaks to the confidence that people have in the market and the broader economy,” Pinto said. “They probably have been sitting on the sidelines in a house that they like, but they want to buy up to that aspirational house.”
Redfin recently conducted a study looking at more than 7 million home sales over the course of the past four years to determine what impact, if any, seasonality had on the sales process. Not surprisingly, the study confirmed that listing your home for sale in the springtime was likely to result in a quicker sale and a higher sale price (see full study here). What was surprising to some is that listing your home in the wintertime was a close second.
“Among spring listings, 18.7 percent of homes fetched above asking, with winter listings not far behind at 17.5 percent. While 48.0 percent of homes listed in spring sold within 30 days, 46.2 percent of homes in winter did the same.”
The study goes on to say:
“Buyers [in the winter] often need to move, so they’re much less likely to make a low-ball offer and they’ll often want to close quickly — two things that can make the sale much smoother.”
That’s why we encourage our clients to have their houses ready to go on the market in late January or early February. However, given the persistent shortage of housing inventory in the North End, we are telling our clients to list now if it makes sense for their schedule. If you’re thinking about listing your home for sale in the next 6 months, keep in mind that most of your competition will choose to list their homes in the spring. Listing your home this winter could position you more favorably with motivated buyers who don’t have a lot of good inventory from which to choose.
Mark Pinto is a top-producing Realtor with Windermere in Tacoma specializing in the purchase and sale of historic and luxury homes. Click here to e-mail Mark or feel free to give him a call at (253) 318-0923.
Diana Olick of CNBC recently wrote an article that sums up the reason for frustration for many home buyers and sellers in the South Sound region. Olick notes,
“Housing demand is rising rapidly, but a key cog in the wheel to homeownership is in deep trouble. The people most needed to close the deal are disappearing. Appraisers, the men and women who value homes and whom mortgage lenders depend upon, are shrinking in numbers.That is causing growing delays in closings, costing buyers and sellers money and in some cases even scuttling deals.
The share of on-time closings has dropped from 77 percent last April to 64 percent today for loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. Appraisal-related issues in these delays jumped by 50 percent in that time.” (Read the full article here)
Our advice to our buyers and sellers is to factor in a minimum of 2-3 additional weeks time from what we would consider a normal 30 day closing. It’s important to note that it’s become an even bigger problem for specialty properties such as waterfront, luxury and historic homes and for properties located in outlying areas such as southern Pierce and Thurston counties. With lenders being forced to pay premiums for appraisals, we’re hopeful it will lead to more qualified appraisers being attracted to enter the field. However, that transformation will not happen quickly enough to satisfy those of us that counsel home buyers and sellers every day.