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An insider's guide to entering Seattle's housing market

Seattle is a beautiful Pacific Northwest cultural hub with many satisfied residents and people from out of town who want to move in. That reputation has made housing tricky to find.

In fact, Seattle is consistently rated as one of the country's finest cities. For example, in U.S. News' rankings of the best U.S. metro areas, based on quality of life and the job market, Seattle came in sixth, with an overall score of 7.2 out of 10.

It should be no surprise then, that Seattle real estate values have gone up 8.9 percent the past year, according to Zillow, which also predicts those values are going to keep rising.

"As people look at the news headlines, it’s easy to see how challenging the buyer’s market is in Seattle right now," Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty broker Phil Greely said. "Bidding wars and record prices make buying a house or condo in Seattle seem impossible. This leads to the common question: Is this a bubble? My take is that it's not."

Because more people are moving in, and the beautiful scenery can't be developed into additional real estate, the housing market is likely to stay a seller's market.

"A recent report has roughly 200 people from out of state relocating to King County every day, but less than 30 housing starts are applied for each day," Greely said. "We are short on housing, and it’s compounding."

That means you'll need a unique approach to find a great place to call home.

Pay a large down payment

This is not always possible. However, if you have access to a sum of money, such as an inheritance, a large down payment is a wise idea.

Some people have family members who are willing to give or lend money for a down payment. When you have such an option, take advantage of it, as the bigger the down payment, the less interest you will pay over the years.

In every real estate situation, paying more, sooner is an option that could save you thousands in the future.

Avoid wasting money

The buying frenzy is primarily in the resale market. A single-family home that may have been affordable five years ago is now priced out of most people's reach.

As such, avoid bidding wars on hard-to-get pieces of real estate, namely medium or large family homes, which can quickly escalate the cost.

Next, avoid the temptation to rent and wait for the market to calm down, something unlikely to happen soon. This gamble will probably result in you wasting money on rent you'll never get back.

"Instead, shifting your high monthly rent into a mortgage payment that builds you equity is a wise move," Greely said.

If that sounds like something easier said than done, consider looking at properties you don't have to pay for right now.

Pre-sale properties

A savvy route to take to break into the real estate market is to investigate pre-sale opportunities, which are less common than resale options. With pre-sale condos, like those offered by NEXUS in downtown Seattle, buyers who plan ahead can lock in prices two years in advance. Doing so means you won't have to make payments for a couple years, but you'll be building equity as the property increases in value.

Additionally, condos can be built in more desirable areas than single-family homes, and include amenities, such as workout areas and zero property maintenance.

Find out how you can take advantage of this opportunity in Seattle's hot real estate market by visiting nexusseattle.com.

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