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

Western Washington Real Estate Market Update

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The following analysis of the Western Washington real estate market is provided by Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. We hope that this information may assist you with making better-informed real estate decisions. For further information about the housing market in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

The Washington State economy added 96,900 new jobs over the past 12 months, representing an annual growth rate of 2.9%—still solidly above the national rate of 1.5%. Most of the employment gains were in the private sector, which rose by 3.4%. The public sector saw a more modest increase of 1.6%.

The strongest growth was in the Education & Health Services and Retail sectors, which added 17,300 and 16,700 jobs, respectively. The Construction sector added 10,900 new positions over the past 12 months.

Even with solid increases in jobs, the state unemployment rate held steady at 4.7%—a figure that has not moved since September of last year.

I expect the Washington State economy to continue adding jobs in 2018, but not at the same rate as last year given that we are nearing full employment. That said, we will still outperform the nation as a whole when it comes to job creation.

HOME SALES ACTIVITY

There were 14,961 home sales during the first quarter of 2018. This is a drop of 5.4% over the same period in 2017.

Clallam County saw sales rise the fastest relative to the first quarter of 2017, with an increase of 16.5%. In most of the other markets, the lack of available homes for sale slowed the number of closings during this period.

Listing inventory in the quarter was down by 17.6% when compared to the first quarter of 2017, but pending home sales rose by 2.6% over the same period, suggesting that closings in the second quarter should be fairly robust.

The takeaway from this data is that the lack of supply continues to put a damper on sales. I also believe that the rise in interest rates in the final quarter of 2017 likely pulled sales forward, leading to a drop in sales in the first quarter of 2018.

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HOME PRICES

With ongoing limited inventory, it’s not surprising that the growth in home prices continues to trend well above the long-term average. Year-over-year, average prices rose 14.4% to $468,312.
Economic vitality in the region is leading to robust housing demand that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of new construction homes— something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. As a result, home prices will continue to rise at above-average rates in the coming year.

When compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was strongest in Grays Harbor County at 27.5%. Ten additional counties experienced double-digit price growth.
Mortgage rates continued to rise during first quarter, and are expected to increase modestly in the coming months. By the end of the year, interest rates will likely land around 4.9%, which should take some of the steam out of price growth. This is actually a good thing and should help address the challenges we face with housing affordability—especially in markets near the major job centers.

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G3DAYS ON MARKET

The average number of days it took to sell a home dropped by seven days when compared to the same quarter of 2017.

King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 24 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain essentially static relative to the same period a year ago.
In looking at the entire region, it took an average of 61 days to sell a home in the first quarter of this year. This is down from 68 days in the first quarter of 2017 but up by eleven days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2017.

Anyone expecting to see a rapid rise in the number of homes for sale in 2018 will likely be disappointed. New construction permit activity—a leading indicator—remains well below historic levels and this will continue to put increasing pressure on the resale home market.

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CONCLUSIONS

This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the first quarter of 2018, I have left the needle at the same point as fourth quarter of last year. Price growth remains strong even as sales activity slowed. All things being equal, 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for sellers but, unfortunately, not for buyers who will still see stiff competition for the limited number of available homes for sale.

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~Dr. Matthew Gardner, Windermere Real Estate

The Seattle Area Housing Market: Big Demand, Little Supply

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Home buyers in the Seattle area are up against the toughest purchasing prospects in the country.

The Seattle Times cited the monthly Case-Shiller home price index, which showed a 12.3-percent year-over-year increase for single family home prices in the metro area in March. It’s the fastest growth in more than three years and easily outdistances increases in Portland (9.2 percent), Dallas (8.6 percent), Denver (8.4 percent) and Boston (7.7 percent).

Seattle also more than doubles the national average for price gains, which are at 5.8 percent.

Seattle-based real estate company Redfin released its Demand Index on Tuesday, and it shows what buyers are certainly learning the hard way as prime selling season approaches — there just aren’t enough houses available for interested parties.

Seattle is the most inventory-constrained metro, as measured by months of supply, but it also has the third smallest amount of inventory, following Oakland and San Francisco, Redfin said. Seattle posted the largest year-over-year decrease in inventory, down 35 percent from last April. In the same period, the number of Redfin customers making offers climbed by 36.9 percent, an indication that the market is more competitive for buyers this year than it was last year.

“There’s no indication that this market is going to see a drastic increase in supply or a drop in demand, so waiting isn’t an option for a serious buyer,” said Redfin Seattle agent Kyle Moss in the company’s blog post. “People intent on purchasing this season should be discerning and focus on the one or two criteria that are most important to them, like commute time and/or schools. From there, carve out a list of homes that meet your qualifications and work alongside an agent who has experience winning offers in competitive situations to build and execute a competitive strategy that fits your budget.”

That inventory crunch, in a city attracting thousands of new well-paid tech workers to companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Expedia and others, is leading to the highest rate of bidding wars among the cities that Redfin tracks in other hot markers. In Seattle in April, 88.7 percent of homes received multiple offers, outpacing Los Angeles (79.3 percent), Oakland (78.6 percent), San Diego (77.5 percent) and Washington, D.C. (73.9 percent) among others.

The Times said extra offers often drive prices higher, and the typical single-family house in the city last month sold for a record $722,000.

~Kurt Schlosser, Geekwire

February Local Market Update