Like other states, Washington has some rules that govern real estate transactions, foreclosures and the division of property during divorce. Read on to learn about the rules that impact the Washington real estate market:
In the state of Washington, sellers are required to fill out a property disclosure form unless the buyer waives their right to disclosure in writing. The seller is required to disclose information regarding the following:
Judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure
The state of Washington allows both judicial and nonjudicial foreclosures. While judicial foreclosure requires the process to take place in the courts, nonjudicial foreclosure is handled outside the court system by the mortgage lender or their representatives.
In the state of Washington, lenders cannot pursue homeowners for a deficiency after a nonjudicial foreclosure if their home sells for a price that is less than the amount owed. With a judicial foreclosure in Washington, on the other hand, lenders can go after homeowners for a deficiency.
Equitable distribution state
Washington is an equitable distribution state, meaning that property is to be divided “equitably” upon divorce. The division of assets does not have to be 50/50. Factors considered by Washington courts during equitable distribution can include the nature and extent of community property, any separate property acquired before and during the marriage, the duration of the union, the economic situation of both parties and where any children may reside after the divorce.
Washington state law does not require an attorney to be present for real estate transactions to move forward. Instead, buyers and sellers can work with their real estate agents, a title company and an escrow agent who can handle the paperwork involved in the closing of their home as well as any issues regarding the transfer of ownership. However, escrow agents are not attorneys, so they cannot offer legal advice throughout the homebuying process. Buyers and sellers are also legally able to work with any title company and escrow company of their choosing.
The state of Washington levies a real estate transfer tax whenever property is sold. This tax works out to .0128% of the total sales price, although cities and counties can charge additional real estate transfer taxes that vary by area.
In Washington, the median property tax in 2019 is $2,631 on a home worth the median value of $287,200, or 0.92% of a home’s value, according to Tax-Rates.org. This makes Washington the 11th most expensive state in terms of property taxes when you consider median income. Property taxes vary throughout the state though. King County, which includes Seattle, reported an average of $3,572 in taxes on homes in its jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Ferry County, which has the lowest property tax rate in the state, collects an average tax of $941.
The state of Washington has several programs that allow individuals to reduce their property taxes. For example, grants are available to disabled veterans and widows who meet certain conditions, provided they have a disposable income of $40,000 or less. Senior citizens and disabled persons may also receive a reduction in property taxes owed if they own and occupy their home and have a disposable income of $40,000 or less.
In Washington in 2019, the conforming loan limit for single-family properties is generally $484,350. However, some areas with a high cost of living are granted higher conforming limits. King County, Pierce County and Snohomish County have a conforming loan limit of $726,525.
Conforming loan limits are the maximum limits that mortgages must adhere to in order to be purchased by government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mortgages that fall under conforming limits are advantageous because they tend to come with lower interest rates that can help you save money over the life of the loan. Loans that don’t meet conforming limits are known as “jumbo loans.”
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission oversees a handful of programs that can help Washington homebuyers purchase a property or receive down payment assistance. Eligibility requirements vary by program.
In addition to programs offered statewide, some cities and counties in Washington have their own down payment assistance programs. There are programs available in Seattle, Bellingham and Tacoma, as well as in East King County and Pierce County.
This program helps Washington residents purchase a home using a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage with a reduced interest rate. Homebuyers may also qualify for up to 4% of the first mortgage loan amount in down payment assistance. A need-based down payment assistance program is also available in amounts up to $10,000, although separate income limits apply.
This program is for low- and moderate-income Washington residents who want to purchase a first home, although it can also be used by families purchasing a home in a targeted area of the state.
Participants can use this program to qualify for a larger mortgage using flexible underwriting criteria. Down payment assistance in the form of a second mortgage is also offered, although you must meet separate income requirements based on county of residence and household size.
This Washington-based program provides up to $15,000 in down payment assistance to individuals with disabilities or households with a disabled person. HomeChoice provides assistance as a second mortgage that must be repaid, and it is meant to be paired with the House Key and Home Advantage programs. Individual counseling is a requirement to qualify.
A 1% interest rate applies on the second mortgage for first-time homebuyers or those who haven’t owned a home in three years. However, you don’t have to be a first-time homebuyer if you are buying in a targeted area of the state.
This program is intended to help homeowners purchase energy-efficient properties or older homes that can be upgraded for energy efficiency. It is meant to be paired with the Home Advantage loan as well as down payment assistance.