The housing market has been a hot topic for the past few years, especially since the pandemic era’s historically low interest rates caused a chaotic frenzy. As the market continues to evolve, it’s best to stay informed with the most current and accurate data available. Trying to stay up to date can seem like a daunting task. Working with mortgage experts from trustworthy, local community banks like First Fed can smooth out the process and ensure the best possible outcome. Mortgage Loan Officer Tiffany Bergsma-Evans sat down with WhatcomTalk to check in with the latest housing market trends and what rising interest rates mean to homebuyers.

Tiffany Bergsma-Evans, First Fed Mortgage Loan Officer. Photo courtesy First Fed

“Housing market trends are just the overall view of the housing market at a national, regional, and local level,” says Bergsma-Evans. “No two markets are the same. One of the challenges I see is the focus on presenting national or even regional numbers through social media, or general media, when most people want to know what’s happening in their local market.”

In Whatcom county, the housing market held strong through the pandemic years with high demand and low inventory. “We saw a lot of retirees moving into the area and people relocating due to our amenities,” says Bergsma-Evans. “Where else can you go from the mountains to the ocean in an hour? Or a day trip to Canada?”

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped priorities and shifted focus on lifestyle choices. “We have a quality of life that is in demand. That demand accelerated greatly during Covid, coupled with people working remotely,” says Bergsma-Evans. “They started looking for areas that were less expensive than the major metro areas. We saw an exodus from higher price markets to more affordable ones.”

The housing market is cyclical and subject to change through many different factors. “Mortgage lending and real estate go hand in hand,” says Bergsma-Evans. “Obviously when there are more homes on the market being sold, there are more loans being written. A recent statistic reported that we are at an all-time high for the number of cash buyers in the overall market. So it’s even more important to get pre-qualification in order to compete effectively.”

As interest rates rise, the housing market has begun to shift from a supercharged sellers’ market. “Homes are less expensive than they were in the spring. And we are still seeing pricing coming down. There are more homes on the market, fewer bidding wars, and homes are starting to sell at their listing price or slightly under. This means buyers are having some success in negotiating home prices down,” says Bergsma-Evans. “Buyers are also having success with contingent offers, like selling their existing home first to free up funds for the purchase.

Tiffany Bergsma-Evans with her dog Kingston. Photo courtesy First Fed

In light of higher interest rates, some buyers are pulling back from the market and homeowners aren’t listing their properties. Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining. “I’ve had people who have been looking for months finally get their offers accepted,” says Bergsma-Evans. “It’s a better market for first-time home buyers because there is less competition.”

When assessing the direction of the housing market and interest rates, and deciding whether or not to sell or buy, it is essential to keep everything in perspective. “Date the rate, marry the house,” says Bergsma-Evans. “It’s important to move quickly when you find the home that fits your lifestyle and budget. When rates fall, you can refinance and free up funds for other investments.”

The slower market also affords homebuyers the opportunity to avoid waving contingencies like home inspection and gives them the chance to request repairs. “Buyers have more negotiating power and more options than just a few months ago,” says Bergsma-Evans. “I have watched enough real estate cycles, being in the industry since 1990, to see the peaks and valleys. COVID really did throw a huge curveball with unprecedented low rates and high demand, which created the perfect storm. Now it’s starting to return to a more balanced market.”

Tiffany Bergsma-Evans at the First Fed Fairhaven branch. Photo courtesy First Fed

First Fed embodies the qualities and values needed to navigate the ins and outs of current mortgage lending. “First Fed is poised for growth in our market area. We offer competitive loan products at competitive rates,” says Bergsma-Evans. “I consider myself a relationship-oriented lender, not a transaction-based lender. I’m looking to establish a relationship with the borrowers I work with, beyond just doing their loan. I want to be their loan officer for life.”

As housing continues to evolve, it’s crucial to work with a trusted mortgage lender who has first-hand knowledge of the local market. To connect with Tiffany Bergsma-Evans or another First Fed mortgage lender, visit: https://www.ourfirstfed.com/personal/home-loans/meet-the-team.

First Fed is a member FDIC and equal housing lender.


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