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A sellers' market - and a troops' market

South Sound homes are in short supply, but servicemembers have an edge

They’re in short supply, but with a VA loan and a little determination, servicemembers can find the South Sound home that’s a perfect fit. Photo credit: iStock

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There are plenty of good reasons for military personnel to shop for a home in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe you just transferred from active-duty to the Reserves or the National Guard and want to put down some roots. Maybe you want to open a successful string of sandwich shops. Maybe you just really like rain and the timeless appeal of Sir Mix-a-Lot.

However, unless your service gave you a bivouacking fetish, you're going to want a proper place to hang your helmet.

"The state of the market can pretty much be summed up in one word - Fast!" said Jaime Jorgensen, an agent with Paramount Realty in Olympia. "It's a huge sellers' market."

This owes a lot to people working in King County, but living in Pierce and Thurston counties. The housing costs here are half of what they are there, and there are more people who want to live here than there are places for them to live. In Pierce County alone, the average prices for a home have risen more than 10 percent since this time last year, while the number of available homes has dropped 33 percent.

"Homes are selling for well above asking price and within just days of being on the market." Jorgensen said.

Not good news for buyers, but music to sellers' ears, right? Nope. While a seller might make a pretty penny on their home, signing it over transforms them from "seller with an edge" to "buyer with nowhere to go." Having all the money in the world to buy a home doesn't help much if no one has a home to sell you. Even lateral moves to similar homes or downgrades to smaller ones can leave sellers-turned-buyers in the red due to steep competition from other motivated buyers. When a home has so many prospective buyers bidding on it, the prices skyrocket. As a result, even in this booming sellers' market, many home owners are holding onto their properties for fear of becoming the most well-to-do people ever reduced to living in their cars. This only adds to the inventory shortage, but that doesn't mean there aren't homes out there - and the unique perks available to service personnel can make getting one a little bit easier.

A VA loan requires no down payment, and many of the closing costs are paid by the seller. Disabled veterans are also eligible to have their VA funding fees waived. Plus, as a prospective buyer, enlisting a skilled real estate broker's services is totally free. If you're an active-duty homeowner who's ever gotten Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, you know that you'll likely be compelled to sell your home, regardless of the state of the market. Fortunately, it's a great time to sell - maybe to one of your comrades-in-arms.

"Today's buyer needs to be prepared to make a strong offer and have already been preapproved with a reputable lender," Jorgensen said. "They also need to ... be willing to act fast once they've found their potential dream home."

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