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Longview couple is outbid on five local homes amid competitive, costly market

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First-time homebuyers

Lisa and Sean Britt pose on their front porch on May 4 in Longview. The Britts recently closed on their first home purchase in April.

Sean and Lisa Britt had put off buying a house in Longview for years.

For the last five years, the Britts rented homes across Cowlitz County, moving from Kalama to Lexington to Longview, paying the same monthly rent for smaller amounts of space. At their last two rental homes, the couple was told 11 months into their stay that their house was going to be sold.

Still, the couple put off buying a home until the beginning of this year in the hope that costs would eventually drop.

“I kept waiting for the market to flip around but it increasingly got worse,” Sean Britt said. “I felt foolish, waiting for this miracle flip that isn’t coming.”

Data from Northwest Multiple Listing Service from relators across Washington shows the median home price in Cowlitz County was $385,000 in April. Since January 2021, the median price rose by $70,000.

Sean and Lisa Britt had gone through the home-buying process separately before, during their previous marriages in the early 2000s. The couple said they were not prepared for the competitiveness and costs of the current market.

The Britts were outbid on five houses before they closed on a house in West Longview in early April.

The Britts toured the home on March 12 as part of a series of six visits. They liked the neighborhood, but not the layout of the home itself. By then, the couple had lowered their expectations and focused on the house’s potential. Sean Britt, who worked at construction and contracting jobs over the last 30 years, felt confident he could make needed renovations.

The Britts called their realtor the next day, who put in an offer around 4 p.m.

By 7 p.m. the offer was accepted.

“The rental market is just horrible. All of the housing markets are horrible right now,” Lisa Britt said as the couple settled into their living room one May afternoon.

“It was almost like hitting the lottery,” Sean Britt added.

Overvalued market

A recent report by Moody’s Analytics found Longview was one of the 30 most overvalued housing markets in the United States.

The report by Moody’s chief economists found that homes in Longview were priced at 44% over their expected value, based on what was expected given the local wages and salaries.

Moody’s Economist Matthew Walsh focuses on Washington and other parts of the western United States. Walsh said a lot of the overvalue is based on people moving to the area from more expensive markets in Portland and California.

While Moody’s expects prices across Washington will stabilize or drop slightly over the next few years, Walsh said the limited housing supply keeps that adjustment from happening as quickly as the rise in prices.

“I have a hard time seeing where enough supply would come from to bring prices down significantly,” Walsh said.

The number of active listings in Cowlitz County rose from 65 in April 2021 to 102 last April, according to Northwest MLS.

Bremerton, Bellingham and Spokane ranked ahead of Longview in Moody’s list of overvalued housing markets in Washington.

Buyer concessions

Mike Bettineski is a mortgage broker for Guild Mortgage in Longview. He helped the Britts set up the loans and mortgage plans for their new house.

Nationwide, mortgage rates hit their highest level since July 2009. Bettineski said rising mortgage and interest rates are limiting the competitiveness of first-time homebuyers’ offers.

“For the most part, first-time buyers don’t have the large down payments. While other people are selling their homes and taking advantage of the equity they have and using that as a down payment,” Bettineski said.

Lisa Britts’ sons are struggling in the local housing market as well. One is still looking through the same realtor the Britts used. The other recently closed on a home, moving with his wife and children from an apartment, though with even more difficulties than the Britts faced.

“They were getting so desperate to get a home that they offered to do their own repairs, and hope to get reimbursed later,” Lisa Britt said.

That proposal didn’t end up happening as the seller handled their own repairs.

The Britts, however, spent the majority of April renovating their new home before moving in. They hired teenagers to haul out trash that the previous owners left behind. Sean Britt replaced huge sections of the flooring and plumbing systems, improved an interior wall and power washed the siding.

On their first weekend in the new home, a few of the Britts’ grandchildren spent the night. The family went out in the morning to buy everything they needed to set up a backyard garden.

“It’s a different joy when you walk around on the floors that you redid, in a home that you own,” Sean Britt said.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Mike Bettineski's last name. 

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