Seattle area’s topsy-turvy home market ends 2018 with Eastside prices falling over the year

01072019_Bellevue_151741-768x494Home prices on the Eastside have now dropped on a year-over-year basis. In Seattle, the median house is nearly $100,000 cheaper than last spring. And across King County, the number of condos available for buyers has more than quadrupled in the past year.

The cool-down in the local housing market continued in December, ending a topsy-turvy year for real estate, according to new figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

King County’s median single-family home price ticked up just 0.6 percent in December from a year before, and condo costs rose at the same rate — the smallest annual gain since early 2012, when the market was bottoming out.

It’s a huge shift from the prior six years, where the average year-over-year increase was 12 percent, adding as much as $100,000 to the median home in a single year.

On the Eastside, prices fell 3.1 percent from a year before, the first time prices declined on a year-over-year basis since 2012. In the city of Seattle, prices ticked up just 1.9 percent from a year prior, amounting to a slight decrease on an inflation-adjusted basis.

Compared with the record highs reached last spring, prices are down $91,000 in Seattle, to a new median of $739,000, and they’ve fallen $69,000 on the Eastside, to $909,000. Most remarkably, in the last seven months prices have declined more than $170,000 in Queen Anne/Magnolia, the central Seattle area that includes Capitol Hill, and in East Bellevue.

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 11.38.21 AMBuyers who once had to make decisions on home purchases in a matter of days now have weeks or months to ponder their options and negotiate, because there are so many more homes to choose from.

The number of single-family homes for sale across the county in December jumped 148 percent from a year prior, the fourth straight month of record-breaking gains in inventory. Condo inventory skyrocketed 314 percent.

There were actually fewer people putting their homes up for sale than this time last year, but buyers continue to disappear from the market, with sales decreasing 19 percent.

It’s standard now for buyers to put contingencies that, for example, allow them to negotiate the price down if an inspection turns up anything broken. Previously, bidding wars were so heated that buyers had to sign away all their rights to win a home.

It’s been an up-and-down year for real estate here. When 2018 began, prices soared nearly 20 percent in January from the year prior, the most in the country. Those double-digit gains, which were the norm for years, continued through May, before an abrupt shift in the market.

Three other areas have lost more than $110,000 since the spring: Ballard/Greenlake, Shoreline-Richmond Beach and Redmond-Carnation. And in the condo-only market of downtown Seattle, prices decreased about 10 percent in the past year.

On the other end, prices soared 42 percent in Mercer Island over the past year (although there aren’t many sales there this time of year, so volatility is high), and were up 18 percent in Renton-Benson Hill and 10 percent in Kirkland-Bridle Trails.

We’re getting into the slow time of year for the housing market, but this year’s changes have been more significant. In the prior five years, prices rose an average of $3,600 from November to December across King County; this time they declined nearly $5,000.

Most people in the real-estate industry expect the market to stay cool for the next couple of months, since the short, rainy days make this a notoriously slow time for people looking for homes, regardless of how the market is doing. Brokers surveyed by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service expect things to pick back up in the normally frenzied spring market, but few are predicting a return to double-digit price gains.

“The last six to nine months have been a good reality check for buyers, that things can change, and I would be pretty surprised to see the spring market in 2019 bring a lot of [price] escalations and multiple-offer scenarios,” Culbert said.

Prices countywide have now fallen 12 percent since their spring peak, which, outside of the Great Recession housing bust, is the biggest seven-month decline since 2000.

There are several reasons for the fall: Interest rates, though on the decline recently, are up over the past year. Rents have stabilized over the past year, adding less pressure to buy now. Foreign buyer interest has dropped off significantly. And prices have gone so high that they have shrunk the buyer pool, leaving only high-income earners able to compete on most homes.

 “Buyers in December were reaping the benefits of market-weary sellers who were willing to give up part of their bloated home equity to make a deal and move on,” John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said in a statement.

Snohomish County is starting to follow King County’s lead. Inventory in Snohomish has also more than doubled in the past year while prices are up 4.5 percent, the smallest increase in two and a half years. The median house sold for $470,000, down from the record high of $511,000 in the spring.

The same shift still hasn’t really made its way to the rest of the Puget Sound region, however. Prices rose 7.5 percent in Kitsap County and 9.2 percent in Pierce County from a year prior, with a median price of $344,000 in both places. Both counties saw modest 13 to 19 percent growth in inventory.

~Mike Rosenburg, Seattle Times

Air BnB Will Begin Designing Houses in 2019

p-1-90271599-exclusive-airbnb-will-start-selling-houses-in-2019

After launching a home-sharing revolution, Airbnb’s founders started asking themselves, “What’s next?” They successfully created a global network of more than 5 million homes, castles, and treehouses for rent, and their business is worth an estimated $38 billion. But what else could Airbnb become?

It’s a question that led chief product officer and cofounder Joe Gebbia to start Samara, a futures division of Airbnb, in 2016, meant to develop new products and services for the company. Gebbia’s answer to what Airbnb can be next: architect and urban planner. Not just the company that provides the housing–the company that provides the houses.

Today, Samara is announcing a new initiative called Backyard, “an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes,” according to a press statement, with the first wave of test units going public in 2019. In plain language, that means Airbnb is planning to distribute prototype buildings next year.

The name “Backyard” might imply that Airbnb just wants to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), those small cottages that sit behind large suburban houses and are often rented on Airbnb. But Backyard is poised to be much larger than ADUs, in Gebbia’s telling. Yes, small prefabricated dwellings could be in the roadmap, but so are green building materials, standalone houses, and multi-unit complexes. Think of Backyard as both a producer and a marketplace for selling major aspects of the home, in any shape it might come in.

“Backyard investigates how buildings could utilize sophisticated manufacturing techniques, smart-home technologies, and gains vast insight from the Airbnb community to thoughtfully respond to changing owner or occupant needs over time,” Gebbia says. “Backyard isn’t a house, it’s an initiative to rethink the home. Homes are complex, and we’re taking a broad approach–not just designing one thing, but a system that can do many things.”

As grandiose as that sounds–and ironic, given that Airbnb itself may be responsible for measurable increases in real estate pricing–there is a real need to rethink housing. The UN predicts the world will construct 2.5 trillion more square feet of buildings worldwide by 2060–which, as Gebbia points out, is the equivalent to another Paris every week. Buildings are environmental nightmares, too, contributing to 39% of CO2 emissions in the U.S.

Gebbia says there is a moral imperative to ensure that new homes are designed well, with a small environmental footprint, and he suggests Backyard is up to the task. But the initiative also represents a significant opportunity for Airbnb to diversify its business. The company is a digital product, after all, ever vulnerable to being replaced by a hungry competitor. Buildings are physical entities. They’re real estate and the world’s infrastructure. A software company that wants to future-proof itself could do worse than investing in buildings.

“Probably” a Backyard prototype. [Photo: Samara]
Airbnb didn’t share many specifics about what it’ll release next year, but my conversation with Gebbia, in addition to some of Fast Company‘s previous coverage of Airbnb’s futures lab, offer some hints.

The spaces will be designed to be shared, from the ground up. What exactly that looks like remains to be seen, but the suggestion is clear: They will be optimal Airbnb rentals to anyone who is interested in hosting, or perhaps even investing in the big business of backyard cottages.

They will also be adaptable. That doesn’t just mean adding a few guest bedrooms and an extra bath to rent out. It means creating spaces that evolve and even reconfigure to the occupants’ changing needs. We’ve seen this sort of approach in MIT’s CityHome project (which later became the company Ori). Ori sells robotic furniture, such as walk-in closets that expand out of flat walls, and beds that can drop down from the ceiling on a whim. It’s telling that Backyard’s project lead, Fedor Novikov, has researched robotic construction for NASA.

The spaces may also support co-living, like at the Yoshino Cedar House. This was the first living space that Airbnb built. Designed by Japanese architect Go Hasegawa, it’s a community center and rental property that Airbnb commissioned to spur tourism in the small town of Yoshino, Japan. The space is not only Dwell bait, with its austere cedar plank construction that sits beside a wide, idyllic stream; it also houses dozens of people under one roof in a grand co-living experiment. “I picture Western guests walking up, stepping inside, and you’re interacting with the community from the minute you arrive. If you want to tour the sake factory, or the chopstick factory, or take a hike, the locals are right there,” Gebbia told us in 2016. By March of 2018, the house had home welcomed 346 guests, and generated $25,000 in bookings along with an estimated $50,000 in local spending.

How much will a Backyard house cost, ballpark? “It’s too early to say,” Gebbia says. But based on both Gebbia’s comments and the looks of Airbnb’s models–which appear to feature modular floor plans and interchangeable roofs–it seems likely that Backyard will be a housing system that can be tailored to particular contexts rather than one, perfect, prefabricated home. And you won’t need to be an Airbnb host to buy into the initiative. “Backyard is about creating new options for people, whether they’re Airbnb hosts or not. We’re interested in making it easier for people to find new places to call home,” Gebbia says.

As for the business plan: Gebbia wants to see Backyard get as big as Airbnb itself. “Airbnb didn’t have five- or 10-year metrics at day zero, we just focused on building something we thought could help solve a problem, while bringing people closer together,” says Gebbia. “We’re optimizing for Backyard’s potential. We’re interested in thoughtfully exploring the opportunity and doing something transformative, similar to how Airbnb did when it started.”

~Mark Wilson, Fast Company

Economist: Seattle’s slow housing market only a blip

house-620-ap

You may have heard that the big chill has suddenly hit the Seattle housing market. According to the Case-Shiller home-price index, Seattle home prices are falling faster than the rest of the country. The Emerald City was leading only a few months ago.

But we mustn’t read too much into it, says Chief Economist Matthew Gardner at Windermere Real Estate.

“In terms of overall house prices, in the last couple of months we’ve seen some significant softening,” Gardner told Seattle’s Morning News. “There are some out there that are projecting a bubble, a major correction in housing values — I don’t see it.”

According to the Case-Shiller home-price index, single-family home costs declined 1.3 percent in September, following a 1.6 percent drop the month before. What’s especially striking is how widespread the drop is; it extends from Pierce to King to Snohomish counties.

“We’ve certainly reached a peak with a lack of affordability. There must be a ratio between home prices and incomes — we’ve breached that, but it doesn’t mean that housing prices are going to correct in the downside,” he said. “Housing is not a stock. You shouldn’t look at it on its value day-to-day, month-to-month, or even year-to-year. It’s shelter, first, and an asset, second.”

Increasing supply of town homes, duplexes, triplexes, ADUs, and small cottages, could potentially mitigate the housing crisis says Gardner. He also believes we need to improve transit substantially and increase density around transit centers as means of making it easier for people to live somewhat near job centers, where Seattle home prices are normally higher.

Gardner says that part of the reason that prices have softened is that plenty more units are coming on the market and that people are trying to time the market. Invariably, when you get more supply, with a still reasonable demand, home price growth softens.

“I think a lot of those will trail off this month as they classically do in December. The big question is going to be is how many more units we see coming online in the spring market.”

~Kiro Radio Staff

Seattle’s housing crunch and single-family zoning–Part II

11302018_housingapartmaridon_172928-768x505
The single-family zones that make up about 75 percent of Seattle’s residential land have accommodated just 5 percent of all new housing added in the city this decade, according to a planning commission’s report released earlier this month. Findings of the report are in my blog from last week.

The second part of the report lays out recommendations to help fix some of these issues. The planning commission has no power to make these changes — it must ask the mayor and City Council to do so.

The 16-member planning commission, volunteers appointed mostly by the mayor and City Council, is generally made up of professionals in the land-use world — from architects to urban planners to affordable-housing builders. They plan to hold public workshops in different parts of the city to talk about the report’s findings and will work with city leaders to sharpen their recommendations, which were purposely left “pretty vague,” Parham said.

 The commission advocates for extending existing “urban villages” — places near transit where more development is allowed — an extra quarter mile or so, which would allow more density on the edges of single-family zones.

It also wants to allow more “low-density” housing like one-story apartments, duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes, which were mostly legal throughout Seattle before zoning laws were adopted in the 1950s, ’60 and ’70s, in parts of single-family zones near parks, schools and other services, and on corner lots.

And, it advocates for banning McMansions, similar to new rules on Mercer Island, and allowing owners of existing large houses to convert them to duplexes.

“My hope is, 10 to 15 years from now, single-family zones may not look a whole lot different but there would be more people living there,” Parham said. “We’re not talking about towers or even modest apartment buildings — we’re talking the type of buildings that already exist right now” because they were built before zoning laws.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office, in a statement responding to the report, did not comment on any of its specifics but noted the mayor “recognizes that too many families are getting priced out and pushed out of Seattle, and we urgently need more affordable and equitable housing options for homeowners and renters throughout Seattle.”

“We are currently reviewing the Commission’s report, and we look forward to listening to them, communities, and neighborhoods as we continue to build a more affordable and equitable Seattle,” said Kamaria Hightower, a Durkan spokeswoman.

Critical response
 Any sort of changes to single-family zones is bound to encounter resistance.

In 2015, then-Mayor Ed Murray unveiled plans to add more housing to single-family zones; the backlash was so swift that he canceled those efforts two weeks later. Right now, local density opponents are challenging and delaying plans to ease restrictions on homeowners’ ability to add backyard cottages and mother-in-law units, as well as a separate effort to upzone denser parts of the city and about 6 percent of single-family areas.

It’s easy to see why: People who bought into quiet, suburban-style streets often did so because it provided the space, quiet and parking they craved, away from the hustle-and-bustle of downtown. While plenty of residents in those areas have come around to the idea of added density as they watch their kids grow up and be priced out of the city, the idea of changing neighborhoods midway through the game has not sat well with a lot of homeowners.

“Homeownership is a key for neighborhood quality,” said Toby Thaler, president of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, who was critical of a lot of the recommendations made to add density to single-family zones. “If you let the entire single-family zones become rental, the cohesion of the neighborhoods, especially the close-in ones, is essentially going to get eroded away. It’s a disturbing trend and it’s part of the whole erosion of homeownership.”

Frank Fay, a member of the Wallingford Community Council, said existing zoning citywide includes plenty of room for more development in non-single-family zones.

“There’s no lack of places that can be developed for more dense housing,” Fay said. “There’s no reason that you have to rezone single-family zones for that.”

 Thaler also noted that most of the planning-commission members are involved in the development community in some way: “There’s almost no public-interest representation on that body.”

Parham countered that most of the commission members are homeowners and many live in single-family zones.

“That’s a false argument,” Parham said. “We’re all citizens of Seattle and live in neighborhoods just like everybody else.”

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Seattle’s housing crunch could be eased by changes to single-family zoning, city report says

11302018_family-housing_165538-768x500

The single-family zoning that dominates Seattle has priced people who aren’t rich out of most of the city’s neighborhoods, is contributing to income and racial inequality, and has forced the city’s booming population to crowd into small pockets of the city, a new planning-commission analysis concludes.

The advisory report released Monday stops short of recommending major citywide density but advocates for some mild changes that could affect districts that are mostly detached houses now. For instance, it asks for more duplexes near schools, expanding the boundaries of urban villages by a few blocks and reducing lot sizes to squeeze more homes into streets.

Like most cities, Seattle sets zoning rules that outline what can be built in different areas — from skyscrapers downtown and in South Lake Union to suburban-style homes with driveways in Magnolia and Crown Hill.

Facing historic population and housing-cost growth, the city has allowed taller buildings and more housing in some of its dense neighborhoods near transit — think central Ballard or the Junction in West Seattle.

But it’s kept single-family neighborhoods almost entirely unchanged: Residents in those areas dominate the electorate and many have been fiercely protective of keeping their neighborhoods the same, making any proposed changes there radioactive.

Now, the planning commission’s report, a year-and-a-half in the making, is the first effort from City Hall in years to tackle the single-family zoning issue here. Cities from Minneapolis to Portland to Vancouver, B.C., are moving to allow denser housing like duplexes in single-family areas.

Among the findings of the report:

• Single-family neighborhoods mostly accommodate high-income and white residents.

As the median cost of a house has soared to $750,000, “making homeownership impossible for those with modest incomes,” single-family homeowners make more than twice as much as those living in other types of housing. The household income gap between renters and homeowners has grown from $43,000 a decade ago to $65,000 now. Only one-third of single-family-zone dwellers make below the city’s median income (compared to two-thirds of people living in the rest of the city) and the disparity could widen as soaring property taxes push poorer homeowners to sell.

About half of white residents in Seattle own homes — while just one-fourth of black and Hispanic residents do. The commission argues a big part of the disparity is due to redlining and racial covenants, which decades ago prevented nonwhites from living in some desirable single-family zones, making it impossible for families of color to pass homes down through generations. Current zoning “perpetuates that legacy” by allowing only expensive housing there.

  • Growth in the city has been highly unequal because of zoning. Of Seattle’s 135 Census tracts, 31 have actually lost population since 1970 despite the city adding 180,000 people in that time frame. Almost all of the areas that lost residents were in single-family neighborhoods, often in upper-income areas close to the water where housing has not been added. For instance,the Madrona Beach (median home: $1.1 million) and Seward Park ($880,000) areas each lost about 750 residents.

Altogether, single-family zones that make up the vast majority of the city’s residential land have accommodated just 5 percent of new housing units built this decade,

• Land use is unequal, as well. Although prior analysis has pegged single-family homes as making up about two-thirds of the city’s residential land, the report says 75 percent of land available for housing is reserved for single-family lots. When looking at all land in the city — including parks, streets, schools and businesses — 35 percent is used for single-family lots, compared to 12 percent for other types of housing. The report notes this creates an equity issue for families, as well, since nearly all of the city’s schools and parks are in pricier single-family zones.

 

• Although concerns about “neighborhood character” aesthetics often frame debates about preserving single-family zones, buildings are in fact getting bigger in those neighborhoods.

Because developers have been tearing down smaller, older homes in favor of large new ones, the average size of a new detached house in Seattle has soared 31 percent since 1990, from 2,660 square feet to 3,487 now. Those new houses are often one or two stories taller than neighboring houses and carry a median price tag far above $1 million.

• Seattle’s housing stock is mostly either very dense (like high-rise apartments) or not at all (like a detached house). The so-called “missing middle” types in between — like duplexes, row houses and one-story apartment buildings — make up just 18 percent of all housing units.

To be continued in next week’s blog…..

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Inventory of for-sale homes across the U.S. improving

should-you-rent-or-buy
While home prices are still rising, the pace of increased values has been slowing in recent months, as has the number of home sales. The long drought of listings, at least on a national basis, has finally broken, with Realtor.com reporting that new listings were up 4 percent in October 2018, compared with October 2017.

The majority of markets across the United States saw an increase in the number of homes for sale this October, compared with October 2017, with increases of more than 32 percent in San Jose, Seattle, San Francisco and Nashville.

One more indication that the housing market might be getting better for buyers is that the number of price cuts on homes for sale recently reached the highest level since 2014, according to researchers at Trulia. The number of price cuts was unchanged for the first half of 2018, compared with the first half of 2017. But in July and August the researchers began to see more price cuts, compared with those months in the previous year.

Price cuts vary widely by neighborhood and often are clustered in specific areas or price ranges. Typically, Trulia found that more price cuts can be found in more expensive neighborhoods.

The researchers found that there were more price cuts this August, compared with August 2017, in 63 of the largest 100 metro areas. In the Washington region, though, price cuts actually declined slightly, from 19.7 percent of all homes in August 2017 to 18.9 percent of all homes in August 2018.

~Michele Lerner, Washington Post

Fall real estate cool-down gives negotiating power to the buyers

105280251-1533243657174seattle.530x298

If you’re in the market to buy a house, you could be in luck. Compared to this time last year, house hunters have a better selection — and perhaps more negotiating power.
Even with the usual fall decline in houses going up for sale, there are still 4.7 percent more houses for sale now than October 2017, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s (NWMLS) latest report.

“The increase in standing listing inventory brought more choices to buyers and the meteoric price increases of the spring market have slowed,” MLS director John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said. “Sellers responded by capturing available buyers with competitive pricing or by quickly adjusting pricing.”

Home and condo prices are also the lowest they have been in months, averaging $613,509 in King County, which is down $93,741 compared to last month. Homes are also on the market longer, which can leave sellers antsy to close — and ready to strike a (relative) bargain.

“Buyers are catching on to their newfound ability to negotiate. For the first time since 2012, closed sales system-wide rose from September to October,” said Robert Wasser, a branch manager with Windermere Real Estate in Bellevue.
Don’t get too excited by that drop, though — prices are actually up $48,509 compared to October of last year. Although, that increase could be good news for both buyers hoping to invest and sellers looking to make a buck in the long run.

“Home prices in King County are up nearly 8.6 percent year over year, so we’re still experiencing significant appreciation,” Mike Grady, the president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, said in the NWMLS report. “And sellers can still expect to get good prices. All this without the frenzy. A win-win.”

~Natalie Guevara, SeattlePI

Was this House Remodeled? How to Spot Home Repairs When You’re House Hunting

signs_of_home_repair-d615db-1070x530

Searching for that perfect fixer-upper to call home can be a bit overwhelming, can’t it? As a prospective buyer you’re really forced into some heavy duty priority juggling. Neighborhood, sale price, house features, yard features, cost of improvements and as-is condition are just a few of the big ones.

What about identifying problematic old repairs? What was done? Was it done right? Is something being covered up?

Even if you have a real estate professional on your side, and you should, the decision as to when and where to make an offer falls squarely on your shoulders. Once you’ve made your offer and the seller has accepted it, chances are you’re in for some expenses. Home inspectors, termite tests, surveys and more are usually at the buyer’s expense.

What if you had a little bit of knowledge that could help you narrow the field? What if you could recognize potential problem areas before making the offer and investing in an inspection?
While certainly not a comprehensive list, there are a few things that might alert you to a previous repair.

Wall or Ceiling Texture
Wall and ceiling surfaces can be very hard to match exactly. Look closely at the texture on the walls and ceilings, both within a room and from room to room. If you see a difference, you’ll know that someone did some wall or ceiling replacement somewhere along the line.

Mismatched Floorboards
Another hard-to-match surface is hardwood floors. Pay close attention to the floors as you walk through a prospective purchase. Look for “lines of demarcation” that show a difference in flooring. Look at the color, the wood grain, width of planks, visible nails, etc. Even a perfectly repaired floor usually leaves some telltale sign.

Newer Electrical Switches and Outlets
Also take a look at components like electrical outlets and switches. Are they different from one room to the next. If so, it’s a sure sign some remodeling or repair work has been done.

New Roofing
Sometimes it pays to have a closer look at things that are seemingly “wonderful upgrades,” such as a new roof, new siding, etc. These are certainly good things in and of themselves, but not if they are merely a Band-Aid atop a more serious problem.

What You Want to Know
You may be wondering what the point of all this is. The bottom line is that these little indications just give you something to ask about. They give you a reason to learn more about the house itself and the work that has been done. The more you know before you make your offer, the less likely you’ll be to get into a contract on a house that you really don’t want.

If there’s been a new roof, ask if there were leaks. Ask to see up in the attic and look for large sections of replaced roof decking. If you see that, look closer for rotten framing or damaged ceilings below.

If a wall or ceiling looks to have been repaired, ask why. What was done? Was there damage repaired or was it a remodel? Was the contractor who performed the repairs licensed and did he or she offer any sort of warranty on the work? Is that warranty transferable to a new owner?

Avoid Putting Sellers on the Defensive
One word of caution: Be careful not to sound like you’re just looking for a problem for the purpose of beating the price down or making trouble. It’s a fine art to ask about these things without putting the seller on the defensive. Once that happens, the deal can go south very quickly.

It’s worth the risk, however, to really know what has gone on and why. So keep your eyes and ears open! Previous repairs and remodels are part of a house’s history (if it’s more than a few years old), so don’t let your newfound eye for detail turn you away. Just enjoy the process of learning the history of a house.

~Tim Layton, RealEstate.com

Eastside Market Review – Third Quarter 2018

The Eastside Market Review is showing that the market has slowed somewhat in the 3rd quarter of 2018. It looks like we are transitioning into a more balanced market.  Read the full report below:

https://windermereeastside.com/2018/11/06/eastside-market-review-third-quarter-2018/

eastsidemarketreview_q3_2018_cover

Seattle home sellers are lowering list prices faster than anywhere else

Earlier this week the news was that the average Seattle-area homebuyer has been successfully able to negotiate a deal at below list price for the first time in four years.

But that’s only half the story: In a lot of cases, sellers are now doing the work for buyers by lowering the list price themselves.

At the start of the spring, when the local market was still on fire, just 5 percent of all homes on the market in the metro area had a reduced listing price, according to Zillow.

Now, 22 percent of all listings are being pitched at a reduced price, the most since Zillow began tracking the data in 2010.

Seattle-area-home-sellers-CHART1-WEB-1020x680

Nowhere else in the country has seen a change that dramatic.

On average,  sellers cutting their list price here have reduced it by 3 percent, the same as the national average. In the city of Seattle and the Eastside, that translates to a cut of about $25,000 to $30,000.

It’s a double advantage for buyers: Not only are list prices dropping, but the average buyer is then able to knock the price down further in negotiations, a reversal from recent years in which bidding wars designed to escalate list prices were the norm.

That’s another area where Seattle stands out on the national stage.

In the city of Seattle, homes now go for 0.6 percent below list price on average, after selling for 4.1 percent above list price a year ago. That 4.7 percentage-point shift is the biggest in the nation among the 50 biggest cities, according to data from Redfin.

However, the fact remains that Seattle has some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and the changes in recent months haven’t put much of a dent in that. Five years ago, the median house in Seattle cost $461,000. It peaked this spring at $830,000 — an 80 percent rise over five years.

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times