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KIRKLAND, Washington (Aug. 7, 2017) - New figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service indicate home sales and prices, like July's temperatures, sizzled. Prices area-wide rose slightly more than 9 percent from a year ago, but several counties near job centers saw larger price increases, including King County where the median price jumped 18.6 percent.
The latest report confirmed what most buyers and brokers know: inventory shortages persist even though MLS members added slightly more new listings last month than the same period a year ago.
"We should be entering the summer doldrums, but I don't see that happening," reported Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-South Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood. "Inventory remains low, but prices and demand continue to increase, prompting murmurs of a looming bubble," she commented, adding, "Some say yes, and just as many are saying no" when asked about the likelihood of a bubble.
In some areas, inventory is showing some signs of growth, Haines noted, but it's still "way below what would be considered anywhere near normal. Frankly, I am not even sure anymore exactly what normal is - perhaps the current low inventory status is the new normal."
Northwest MLS members added 12,300 new listings during July, a meager 122 more than the same month a year ago, but well below June's total of 13,658 new listings.
At month end, there were 15,749 total active listings, down 13.9 percent from the year-ago total of 18,287. Measured by months of supply, there was only about six weeks (1.6 months) in the MLS system overall, which encompasses 23 counties. Twelve months ago it was closer to two months of supply (1.93 months).
King County continued to have the skinniest supply at only one month, but in many parts of Seattle and the Eastside the supply slipped below a month. Four to six months is typically considered a normal, or balanced, market according to many industry analysts.
George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties and a director with Northwest MLS, said the already-low inventory is being further squeezed when homeowners who move up are choosing to rent their current home instead of listing it.
Condo inventory is especially depleted, with only 1,330 total active listings area-wide. That's down more than 21.5 percent from a year ago. Condos currently make up only 8.4 percent of the selection in the MLS database. (In 2015, condos accounted for 16 percent of residential sales.) Both King and Snohomish counties have only about three weeks of supply.
Despite sparse inventory, demand remains strong in most areas, with both pending and closed sales outgaining the volumes of a year ago. However, some brokers are detecting a slowdown, which they attribute to various factors from tight inventory and spiraling prices to the hot summer season.
Area-wide there were 11,800 pending sales during July, up 1.3 percent from a year ago when members logged 11,645 pending sales. King County, where inventory dropped nearly 20 percent, was one of nine counties that experienced a decline in year-over-year sales; mutually accepted offers in King County slipped about 7.4 percent.
"Even the fast-paced market could not stop buyers' desire to get out and enjoy the warm, sunny weather that arrived in July," said Northwest MLS chairman John Deely. "An increasing number of properties have gone without offers on the published offer review date, and many have had no offers within the typical one week review date," he stated. "Many properties have seen offers trickle in, after the review date has come and gone, with offer prices at or over the list price," added Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain Seattle. He also noted brokers are seeing a decrease of the percentage of list price to sale price ratio "as sellers' pricing pushes the pricing boundaries to new heights."
Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of more than 2,200 member offices includes more than 26,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.
"In some areas, inventory is showing some signs of growth, Haines noted, but it's still "way below what would be considered anywhere near normal. Frankly, I am not even sure anymore exactly what normal is - perhaps the current low inventory status is the new normal."
KIRKLAND, Washington (Jan. 5, 2017) - Like many other months of 2016, December was frustrating for buyers across Washington state as they encountered depleted inventory and rising prices. Post-election hikes in interest rates - with more on the horizon -- added to would-be homeowners' worries.
Northwest Multiple Listing Service statistics for December show year-over-year drops in new listings, but gains in pending sales, closed sales and prices. Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) in the four-county Puget Sound region reached their highest level since 2005.
"The data just keep telling the same story - low inventory and increasing prices," remarked Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. "As one of our brokers put it, 'Sellers received an awesome Christmas gift in December, but buyers, only a lump of coal.'"
Brokers added 4,217 new listings to the inventory during December to bring the supply up to 10,571 listings. The volume of new listings surpassed the year-ago figure of 4,041, but supply still fell, dropping to only 1.4 months for the Northwest MLS market area covering 23 counties. Both King and Snohomish counties reported less than a month of inventory.
Robert Wasser, owner/broker at Prospera Real Estate in Seattle, said his analysis of the MLS data indicates the supply of single family homes for sale in King County just hit a post-recession low. "The only other time supply fell below one month was around this same time a year ago," noted Wasser, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors.
At month end, MLS figures show inventory (10,571 listings) was nearly 15.6 percent below year-ago levels (12,522 listings), with about 90 percent of the selection being single family homes.
Seventeen of the 23 counties in the MLS report had double-digit drops in active listings at the end of last month compared to December 2015.
Northwest MLS members reported 6,401 pending sales during December, up from 5,970 for the same month a year ago for a year-over-year gain of 7.2 percent.
"The housing market remains frenzy hot on a seasonal basis," exclaimed J. Lennox Scott. Noting sales activity was substantially higher than the number of new listings, he said such conditions "continue to foster a competitive market where homebuyers are just waiting for the next new listing to come on the market."
Commenting on strong sales in the Central Puget Sound region, Scott noted King County recorded the biggest year-over-year jump in pending sales of single family homes, surging nearly 11.3 percent, well ahead of Kitsap (up 4.5 percent), Pierce (up 4 percent) and Snohomish (up 3.2 percent).
"Buyers pursued homes aggressively all through November and December with little to no slowdown amid fears of rising interest rates and worsening inventory levels," said MLS director George Moorhead. "Inventory levels have dropped to their lowest level, which makes buyer frenzy even more intense as prices approach double-digit appreciation," he added. Moorhead, the designated broker at Bentley Properties, calculates buyers have lost $37,000 in buying power due to interest rate increases. He likens the situation to having two cars, "one going forward, and one going in reverse. The gap is widening too fast for some buyers."
Closed sales also finished on a strong note with brokers reporting 7,575 completed transactions during December. That's up more than 6.8 percent from a year ago when members notched 7,091 closed sales.
Prices area-wide also continued trending upward, rising nearly 9.2 percent from a year ago. The overall median price for single family homes and condominiums that sold during December was $343,950; a year ago it was $315,000.
King County prices jumped 12.2 percent, from $450,000 in December 2015 to $505,000 for last month's sales. For single family homes (excluding condominiums) the median price for December's sales was $550,000, unchanged from October and November. Prices peaked this year in King County in June, reaching $573,522.
Condo sales slowed compared to a year ago, due at least in part to a sharp drop in inventory (down more than 19 percent). Pending sales were essentially flat (up 0.73 percent). Closed sales for December slipped nearly 6 percent, while prices on last month's completed sales of condos rose 9.8 percent. The median price on last month's closed sales of condos was $280,000. Condo prices in King County jumped more than 12 percent, from $279,975 a year ago to last month's sales price of $314,000.
"Looking ahead to 2017, the Seattle market will continue to perform well, even with the expected interest rate increase," stated OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. The regional economy is in full stride, he noted, adding, "This will continue to create increased demand for housing across the board. Price growth should start to cool a little as inventory levels rise modestly, but overall, 2017 should be another banner year for the housing market."
Consumers should expect prices to continue edging upward, suggested Moorhead. "NAR indicates we are 70,000 units short of meeting the housing needs in the Puget Sound area. Builders are just flat out running out of urban land to work with," he said. Moorhead believes rising costs for construction labor are the driving force for price increases. Builder confidence continues to grow, reaching its highest levels since 2005, he noted, but added, "Naturally, some trepidation is heard as some feel this level of growth in the market is completely unsustainable."
Grady believes the pattern of low inventory and increasing prices will continue. "We believe it is a predictor for what to expect throughout 2017," he commented. "There's simply not enough new construction to fill the needs of new employees being hired both locally and new to the state. The key is employment," Grady continued, saying "There's no reason to think that a new administration will cause employment to slow down; rather, it's more likely we'll see it increase in the Puget Sound region so we're off to another strong start in 2017," he stated.
Scott, the chairman and CEO of John L. Scott, expects a higher number of new listings will start to show up in mid-February - "just in time for the spring housing market rush."
Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state
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