Let’s take some time to check out the local press’ reaction to the undeniably slow NWMLS housing market statistics for October.
Once again, my favorite part of the NWMLS press release that accompanied yesterday’s numbers comes from Dick “Bottom-Calling” Beeson, NWMLS director and Windermere broker.
Windermere’s Beeson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors, reports “keen interest from sidelined buyers” because of dramatic dips in interest rates. “In fact,” he remarked, once unqualified buyers are now qualified because of the full 1 percent drop in rates – “and they’re buying.”
“If inventory continues to shrink, if lower interest rates are maintained, if homebuyers are stimulated through proposals like the $7500 tax credit plan the National Association of Realtors® proposes for every buyer (not just first time buyers), if GSEs (government sponsored enterprise) set their loan limits at the highest levels, and if the banks are required to work with existing troubled homeowners by reducing their payments or arranging repayments at lower interest rates (but not focusing on debt forgiveness), we could all breathe a bit easier for 2009,” Beeson suggests.
Wow, that’s a lot of “ifs” just for a “could” at the end. I don’t really see what Mr. Beeson is so worried about anyway though, because just last month he told us that “I think we’re as close to bottoming out in pricing as I expected.” Oh, and for the record, Mr. Beeson declined the offer I extended to him to respond to specific questions about the housing market and defend his position with specific evidence.
Anyway, moving on…
Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times: King County home prices fall 9% in November
November was a month marked by much economic uncertainty, but one thing is now certain. With home sales and prices down, it was not the month when the slumping real-estate market turned a corner. Far from it.
…21 percent fewer houses in the county sold last month than a year earlier, proof that buyers weren’t rushing to investigate the bargains that real-estate pros say are out there.
These trends were repeated throughout the four-county Central Puget Sound region.
The dark, rainy preholiday months rarely have strong home sales, and last month’s news — much of it negative — didn’t help buoy the consumer confidence that’s crucial for big-ticket purchases.
I’m pretty sure this will be our last monthly market update from our old friend Elizabeth Rhodes, who will reportedly be sailing off into the sunset later this month. Best of luck to you Elizabeth. It’s been fun these last three years. We’ll miss you.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Seattle-area housing market continues to slow
Area home sales showed no signs of rebounding in November, according to a report Thursday.
In a statement accompanying the numbers, real estate professionals emphasized the impact of foreclosure sales on price.
Others, such as Windermere Capitol Hill owner Pat Grimm, focused on differences in “real estate microclimates.” “I remind our agents that regional trends don’t always speak for all product types, property locations or price points,” he said.
“The pressures on supply and demand are never evenly distributed.”
What the heck is that really supposed to mean? I love the gobbledygook that real estate agents start spouting when they are faced with a situation that they can’t (or don’t want to) explain.
As seems to have become the custom, Aubrey had another, more in-depth article today on a different aspect of the local housing market.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Housing slide opens city living to first-time buyers
Cassandra Donovan and Karlis Ogle started looking at homes for sale this spring.
“We were looking up in Everett,” Ogle said Sunday.
“And Bothell,” Donovan added.
“We really initially didn’t even consider buying in the city,” Ogle said.
They were standing outside an open house in Seattle’s Meadowbrook neighborhood. Now listed at $379,000, the home’s initial asking price in July was $425,000. A house next door was on the market for $325,000, down from $350,000, the initial price in September.
For first-time buyers such as Donovan and Ogle, sliding Seattle home prices mean a chance to buy in the city, rather than “driving to qualify” farther away in King, Snohomish or Pierce counties.
Nice. As I have pointed out before, we need more stories like this, that frame falling home prices in positive terms, rather than purely focusing on the real estate salesperson’s perspective that it’s all “doom and gloom.”
Yoshiaki Nohara & Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: Home sales off 54% from 2007
Home sales in Snohomish County dropped dramatically in November, falling by 54 percent in comparison to year-ago figures, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Wednesday.
Many people stopped buying homes last month, just as they stopped buying cars and consumer goods. The sales shutdown was true throughout the region as sales dropped 47 percent in King County and 41 percent in Pierce County.
[Elliott Bay Mortgage chairman Jason] Bloom said some homeowners are taking advantage of lower interest rates to refinance their mortgages, but few people seem to be buying homes.
“What you are seeing is that people are waiting for home values to drop more,” he said.
Note that the Everett Herald story, unlike the Times and the P-I, is referring to the massive drop in closed sales, which was far greater than the drop in pending sales. Kudos to Yoshiaki Nohara & Mike Benbow for not ignoring the big drop.
I think this was my favorite part of the Herald story:
[Executive officer of the Snohomish County Camano Association of Realtors Nathan] Gorton said he hopes that home sales will pick up in spring. The slumping housing market is a root cause of the national economic crisis, he noted.
Mr. Gorton seems to be a little confused. The slumping housing market is not a cause of the economic crisis. The cause of the national/worldwide economic crisis is the excesses and reckless abandonment of sound financial priciples that has occurred over the last few decades, culminating with the building up the housing bubble from 2000 through 2006. The slumping housing market and the economic crisis are natural, predictable, and inevitable consequences of that foolishness.
Kathleen Cooper, Tacoma News Tribune: Home prices, sales in Pierce County take big fall
In the largest year-over-year decline in 2008, the median home price in Pierce County fell by 12.5 percent in November, according to figures released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The number of home sales closed also dropped to the second-lowest level this year, the data show. In November last year, 784 sales were completed. This year it was 463 – a 40.9 percent decrease. The largest decline, 42.1 percent, was in May.
Sharon Benson, Realtor and associate broker with Coldwell Banker Bain in Tacoma, attributes the drop in November closings to psychological effects of the financial news, specifically the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street banks that happened in October.
Those darn psychological effects. Of course, they’re the realtor’s best friend when home prices are rising up and out of control, and buyers are easily convinced that they’d better buy now or risk being priced out forever. Guess it’s a double-edged sword.
The Olympian had pretty much a non-story on the numbers, barely even covering the basic stats.
Update: Looks like The Olympian was just late getting their full story on the web. Here it is:
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Houses follow downward trend
Home sales fell again in November because prospective buyers got scared off by another wave of poor national economic news, said Bill Hutchinson, president of the Thurston County Realtors Association.
“It has really caused people to think again,” he said.
Hutchinson finds that frustrating, saying the national economic picture is not a reflection of the South Sound economy. County unemployment is lower at 5.6 percent, and the number of homes on the market also fell 7.76 percent in the November-to-November period, which could help stimulate the housing market, he said.
Never mind the crumbling national and worldwide economy. Here in the South Sound everything is dandy. Dandy, I tell you. Hey, why aren’t you buying?
(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 12.04.2008)
(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 12.05.2008)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 12.04.2008)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 12.05.2008)
(Yoshiaki Nohara & Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 12.05.2008)
(Kathleen Cooper, Tacoma News Tribune, 12.05.2008)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 12.05.2008)