Demand for homes is on the rise, and the inventory is shrinking quickly, especially for many neighborhoods in demand in the South Sound.
In particular, because increasing home prices are nudging sitting sellers to place their homes on the market and spurring buyers to jump into the fray, the Mortgage Bankers Association expects applications for new-home loans are expected to increase 55 percent this year.
Home prices are set to jump another 6 percent this year, too, according to a CoreLogic report. And housing construction has spiked 60 percent across the country in the past two years.
That's especially good news for related industries that garner regular homebuyer dollars.
“It's definitely a factor in why we've been more busy,” said Island Rock & Water landscaping owner Sean Scanlan.
His company, based in Gig Harbor, serves that area as well as Tacoma and the Key Peninsula. A large part of the uptick on his residential side of the business, he said, is due to a mix of a less edgy market and the affordability of numerous unoccupied homes.
“Either people are buying new houses and they need landscaping, or, what I've seen even more, is that people have bought houses that had been empty for a couple of years and the yard needed a lot of work,” he said.
Selden's Home Furnishings in Fife, which carries mostly high-end brands and offers a full range of luxury home services from carpeting and flooring to draperies and blinds, is also experiencing a boost as the housing market gains traction.
Better yet, said sales manager Robert Borghesi, it's the return of the company's main clientele: the wealthy, who have held tight to their spending dollars until now. Just on a recent Wednesday afternoon, two customers placed separate orders totaling $12,000 and $20,000.
“What we're starting to see (is) big projects, people doing whole houses again, or at least a few whole rooms at a time, and they need everything,” Borghesi said. “We're also seeing a lot of people buying those more expensive, high-ticket items.”
At M J's Housekeeping, which has offices in Tacoma and Olympia and serves most of the South Sound, owner Mary Jane McKinnon said that the recent rise of her residential housecleaning clientele may indeed be an offshoot of the strengthening housing market. However, she said that it likely has more to do with the economy.
“A lot of our regular customers who left during the recession have now found jobs again and can fit us into their budget,” she said. “Also, we're having a lot of people call because they now have some discretionary income and they just want someone to come in and clean once in awhile.”
For AAAC Electric owner and Residential Electric Services contractor Holley Smith, whose business serves South King County, commercial business has grown roughly 10 to 15 percent so far this year, and residential customer growth has been right behind it at 5 percent.
Instead of the housing market, though, he explained that it's the rise in residential construction and rentals that are driving this trend.
“Most of our growth has been in the high-volume residential rental market, where (construction) is trying to capture the current demand for (multifamily) rental projects,” he said.
At Dave's Carpet & Furniture Cleaning in Centralia, co-owner Pat Tessan said that new home sales are indeed part of the reason for the recent surge in his clientele.
“We have seen a rise in the cleaning of new homes before people are moving in, both through the realtors and the home buyers,” he said.
Like other service-based industries, though, he added that the strengthening economy hasn't hurt other branches of his business, either.
“There's also been a rise in upholstery and area cleaning, and things like that,” he said. “The more money you have, the more you want your things to look nice.”