Stanwood growth

Construction crews work on homes at the Mineral POint development in the Cedarhome neighborhood of Stanwood on Dec. 26, 2018.

Matthew Gardner will dust off his crystal ball and take a peek at what 2019 holds for the local economy and housing market.

Gardner, the chief economist for Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate, is the keynote speaker for the 2019 Economic and Housing Forecast community forum 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the Camano Center. The forum will take a macro and micro look at the economy, housing and the economic forecast.

“Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the US economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth,” Gardner wrote last month.

After that, Gardner warned the economy could enter a downturn.

“Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back,’ I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly or excessive corporate debt levels,” he wrote. “That said, … I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.”

Nationally, job growth is expected to ease from a projected 3 percent or so in 2018 — which would be a 13-year high — to about 2.5 percent in 2019, according to federal data. A 2.5 percent increase would be above the 2.2 percent average this decade.

As for the housing market, Gardner said he expects sales to continue increasing — upward of 6.9 percent, the highest level seen since 2007. However, new construction will continue to lag as builders continue to struggle with land, labor and material costs.

“If there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers,” he wrote. “While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.”

The forum is free and open to the public, but reservations are required by calling 360-387-4663. Doors open at 6 p.m. for a cocktail and heavy appetizer hour, followed by a 45-minute presentation from Gardner.

“This past year, our office has been inundated with questions about the economy and whether or not it’s still a good time to buy or sell,” said Marla Heagle, owner/broker of Windermere Real Estate Camano Island and Stanwood. “We encourage our neighbors to attend the forum to get a broader understanding of the current and anticipated state of the real estate market, locally and beyond. We are privileged to have a recognized expert in Mr. Gardner at this year’s event who will, undoubtedly, shine new light on the topic for us all.”

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

journalist (graphics, reporter, editor)

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