Key indicators for Western Washington housing still rising, but brokers detect slowdown and uncertainty

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Early seasonal snow and questions swirling around the tax plan unveiled last week by House Republicans could make the usual seasonal slowdown more pronounced, say industry leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. For October, however, key indicators trended upwards.

Pending sales rose nearly 8 percent from a year ago, closed sales were up 5.2 percent, and prices jumped about 8.2 percent, with 14 counties reporting double-digit gains. Even the number of new listings improved on the year-ago total.

Northwest MLS figures for the 23 counties it serves show members added 8,466 new listings to inventory during October, outgaining the year-ago total of 7,575 by 11.8 percent. Buyers outnumbered new listings, with 10,586 of them having their offers accepted. That number of pending sales was up nearly 8 percent from the same month a year ago.

“The challenge for buyers actually isn’t lack of choice, it is the rapid pace of sales,” suggested Ken Anderson, president/owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty.

“The market in Thurston County has never been better for sellers, and they’re getting the message,” Anderson remarked. His analysis revealed a 10-year high for sellers coming to market during October. “These savvy sellers are not waiting until spring to sell. They are taking advantage of today’s great market and making their move now,” he reported.

Buyers may find themselves in a quandary as the year winds down as they contemplate limited supply, possible upticks in interest rates and tax reform. Last week’s announcement of a provision in a GOP tax proposal to cap the mortgage interest deduction is concerning to buyers, brokers and builders.

“Imagine if the proposed plan to cap the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000 is approved in a market that is starved for homes and where the median price [for a single family home in King County] is now $630,000,” said O B Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. “Homeowners may be less likely to sell because they would be giving up their grandfathered tax credit on their current home. That’s fewer homes for sale in a market where we really need them,” he stated, adding, “There could also be a flood of new buyers trying to purchase before the plan is passed, adding to the already hyper-competitive market conditions.”

Northwest MLS data show 66 percent of single family homes sold so far this year (Jan. – Oct.) in King County had selling prices of $500,000 or higher.

Within King County prices are considerably higher. In Seattle, year-over-year prices jumped 17.6 percent, from $625,000 to $735,000. On the Eastside, the median price for a single family home rose 10 percent from a year ago, increasing from $768,000 to $845,000. Nevertheless, high prices did not seem to deter many house-hunters.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, noted October was the “best ever for sales activity in the Puget Sound region. With a large buyer pool for each new listing, we saw a higher percentage of new listings sell within the first 30 days of coming on the market,” Scott reported, while also noting the seasonal change in housing market dynamics. “As we enter the winter market, the number of new listings being added will be in short supply from now through February,” he explained.

Inventory remains low in many counties in the Northwest MLS system. Overall, there is only 1.5 months of supply of single family homes and condos combined. In King County, it’s less than one month. Industry analysts say four to six months typically indicates a balanced (or “normal”) market.

Most brokers agree inventory will not grow over the next few months. “Sellers who bring their homes on the market over the next three months will have a lot of interest because of the pent-up demand of buyers who are going to have fewer houses to consider,” suggested Wilson.

“Homebuyers in our area are at a real disadvantage right now,” commented Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. “They have to be pre-underwritten with their lenders, put forward a conventional or better offer, put down substantial earnest money, and hope that multiple offers do not escalate the price out of their affordability zone.” He fears “more and more buyers will be sidelined.”

 

~Northwest Multiple Listing Service

 

 

 

King County home prices grow $100,000 in a year for first time; West Bellevue jumps 41 percent

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The median King County home price has grown more than $100,000 in just a year.

Following up on a record-breaking spring, the county’s real-estate market had its hottest month of July since such monthly records began in 2000, with prices rising 18.6 percent from a year ago.

The new median price is $658,000, or $103,000 more than last July, according to monthly data released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Just a down payment on the median house costs about $20,000 more than a year ago. So first-time buyers who didn’t save up that much in the past year are further from buying a house today than they were a year ago.

 

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George Moorhead of Bentley Properties in Bothell said his office is working with 60 first-time homebuyers right now — and it’s been a struggle to find something for any of them.

“First-time homebuyers are really feeling the pinch. Some of them have been looking for a home for almost two years,” Moorhead said. “They have to keep going further and further out just to find something that’s worthwhile. It’s just slim pickings out there.”

Trade-up buyers are dealing with a similar crunch. One-third of homes across the region sold for at least $1 million this past month, according to John L. Scott Real Estate.

“Anything between $900,000 and $1.3 million, you’ll still find yourself in a multiple-offer situation — six to 10 offers,” said Lori Holden Scott, a John L. Scott broker who deals with pricier homes.

While prices have been going up for so long that increases might seem inevitable, this month’s surge is actually a bit unusual.

 

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Median prices in Seattle ($749,000) and the Eastside ($860,000) did dip slightly from June’s record highs. Both were still up about 15 percent from a year prior.

West Bellevue had the county’s biggest price jump — up 41 percent from a year ago, to a new median price of $2.3 million, the priciest region in the county. Areas that saw prices zoom up more than 20 percent in the past year include West Seattle, Sodo/Beacon Hill, Central Seattle/Capitol Hill, Shoreline, East Bellevue and Redmond.

Countywide, the annual price increase in July was the largest ever in terms of absolute numbers. But the 18.6 percent growth was a bit slower than in some previous months.

“I don’t think anything is slowing down,” said Laurie Way, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.

Both Moorhead and Way think the market has to cool a bit eventually; it’s just unclear how long that will take.

The very-long-running trend of declining inventory continues, as fewer people put homes up for sale while those properties that do hit the market get snatched up in about a week, on average.

And Moorhead said more repeat buyers are choosing to rent out their old homes, banking on getting steady rental income while knowing they could sell the home later — perhaps at an even higher price. He said his last four homebuyers all rented out their old homes.

The number of homes for sale across King County dropped 18 percent from a year ago and is at the lowest point on record for this time of year. Sales were down slightly, as well.

One bright spot for buyers: Condos across the county cost a median 5.7 percent more than a year ago, the second-slowest growth in the past two years.

 

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Downtown Seattle, where condos are the only homebuying option, actually saw prices drop a tick from a year ago. Enumclaw was the only place where single-family-home prices decreased.

Elsewhere, Snohomish County surged to a record median price of $453,000, growing 11.9 percent from a year ago.

Both Pierce and Kitsap counties dipped a bit compared with last month’s record prices, but they still were up significantly from a year ago. Pierce’s median price is $312,000, up 9.6 percent from a year ago, while Kitsap reached $322,000, an extra 11 percent from this past year.

~Mike Rosenberg, Seattle Times

Another Record Month for the East Side Market

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It was another month of record-setting home prices in June as the area yet again took the prize for the hottest real estate market in the country. In a bright spot for buyers, the number of new listings added in June was the highest total for any single month since May 2008. While inventory is still low, the pace of sales is slowing and the number of multiple offers are down, suggesting that we may soon see a slight reprieve from the last year of rapid-fire growth.

For the full report see: East Side Market Review