It’s time once again for the monthly reporting roundup, where you can read my wry commentary about the news instead of subjecting yourself to boring rehashes of the NWMLS press release (or in addition to, if that’s what floats your boat).
To kick things off, here’s an excerpt from the NWMLS press release:
Northwest MLS brokers notch this year’s best monthly tally of sales during August
“For the first time in a long time, I can say with confidence that things feel better,” said Northwest MLS director OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. “We shouldn’t get too distracted by the large increase in pending sales,” he cautioned, noting, “It’s a positive sign, but these figures are being compared to last summer’s post-tax incentive doldrums. With that being said, we’re excited about the positive momentum in the market.”
“With a low level of home inventory for sale and historically low interest rates, we are seeing a healthy volume of sales activity causing multiple offers,” observed J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.
Commenting on the latest numbers, NWMLS director Frank Wilson emphasized, “A real estate market is about activity and momentum.” He also noted historic affordability, with the cost of a home better matching income levels and extremely low interest rates contributing to favorable conditions. “We continue to live in a real estate market of extreme affordability, affordability levels that have not been seen in decades,” he stated.
They forgot to mention the “high open house traffic.” I like how they’re focusing on “momentum” from a period when sales were at record lows. Sure, we’ve moved out of the gutter, but we’ve got a long way to go before we get back to anything resembling a “normal” market. Here’s a quick look at August single-family closed sales in King County for every year since 2000:
Sure, 2011 looks great compared to 2010—the lowest year on record—but even during the worst year of the dot-com recession in 2002 we had 25% more sales in August than we did this year. But never mind the data. Let’s throw out nebulous concepts like “activity and momentum” and tell ourselves that everything is coming up roses.
Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.
Eric Pryne, Seattle Times: Local home sales on pace to top last year’s total
More houses are likely to sell in King County this year than in 2010, when federal tax incentives fueled the market, observers agree.
But sales volumes are far off the frenzied, pre-bust pace of 2006 and 2007. And prices remain flat: The median price of a single-family home sold in King County has barely changed in six months, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service says.
Buyers closed on 35 percent more houses in August than in the same month last year, according to statistics released Tuesday by the listing service.
The big year-over-year increase wasn’t a surprise: After federal tax credits that were part of the Obama administration’s economic-stimulus package expired around mid-2010, home sales fell into a lull that persisted well into fall.
It’s nice to have Eric back again. The intern produced pieces that were certainly better than the shameless cheerleading that used to be pumped out on these pages by our old friend Elizabeth Rhodes, but Eric is still the best at telling the complete story, in my opinion.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Home sales surged in August, while prices fell
Local home sales shot up in August by the largest percentage in years, while home prices continued to sag, according to a new report.
Last month’s sales rose 36.4 percent in King County and 28.3 percent in Seattle from August 2010, when the market was still hung over from the expiration of a home-buyer tax credit, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Tuesday.
Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University said we won’t have an “apples-to-apples” comparison until next month, when September numbers come out, because the tax-credit hangover had worn off by September 2010.
The text of Aubrey’s article is much more even-toned than the headline. I suspect Aubrey didn’t choose the “home sales surged” title. I don’t agree with Glenn on this one. I think that the sales hangover didn’t really wear off until October last year. I think we’ll still see pretty unnaturally high year-over-year numbers next month. October 2011 will probably see more sales than October 2010, but it most likely won’t be 30% more.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: County housing market shows signs of an upswing
August was the best month for home sales in Snohomish County since April 2010, the month the nation’s homebuyer incentives expired.
There were 916 homes sold in the county last month, a 42.7 percent increase from August 2010, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Tuesday.
The huge jump in sales isn’t a big surprise.
Because of the low prices, many people who didn’t have to sell their homes now kept them off the market. Listings in the county totaled 4,425 homes in August, a 26 percent drop from a year ago.
Short article, but Mike does hit on a good point there about inventory. I suspect we’ll be seeing pretty low inventory for quite some time, given the large number of bubble buyers who are essentially stuck in their homes.
John Gillie, Tacoma News Tribune: Central Puget Sound area housing sales up from 2010
Encouraging news for the Puget Sound housing market emerged Tuesday with the release of new sales figures for August.
Pending sales for the four-county central Puget Sound area, King, Pierce, Snonohomish and Kitsap, were the highest they’ve been in August since 2006, said the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. And closed sales were up significantly in all four counties.
“For the first time in a long time, I can say with confidence that things feel better,” said John Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. But Jacobi cautioned that the 26.42 percent increase in pending sales in the 21 Washington counties that Northwest MLS covers was so large in part because August 2010’s pending sales were relatively weak.
“We shouldn’t get too distracted by the large increase in pending sales,” he said. “It’s a positive sign, but those figures are being compared to last summer’s post-incentive doldrums.”
Al Morken, broker with Better Properties Real Estate’s North Proctor branch, likewise was cautious about pending sales because so many fail to close because of strict credit requirements, more diligent home inspections and inconsistent appraisals.
Despite the warning about pending sales given right in the NWMLS press release, let’s dedicate half of our article to talking about pending sales. That sounds like a good plan.
John Gillie, The Olympian: Thurston’s August pending sales up year-over-year
Encouraging news for the Puget Sound-area housing market emerged Tuesday with the release of sales figures for August.
Thurston County saw pending sales increase from 344 in August last year to 370 last month, said the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Pending sales for the four-county central Puget Sound area – King, Pierce, Snonohomish and Kitsap – were the highest they’ve been in August since 2006, said the Northwest MLS. And closed sales were up significantly in all four counties.
Closed sales in August reflected that same positive news in those four counties, while closed sales in Thurston County last month were down slightly.
Pierce County saw a 44.24 percent increase in closed sales last month. King had a 36.4 increase. Kitsap figures reflected a 36.36 percent bump, and Snohomish had a 42.68 percent increase.
Thurston County’s closed sales were down 2.44 percent, the new figures showed.
Argh, I hate it when they publish basically the same exact article in the News Tribune and the Olympian. However, it is interesting that Thurston County isn’t seeing the same big year-over-year increase in closed sales. Not sure why Thurston would be left out of this party. I’ll have to dig into that a little more to see what’s going on down there.
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 09.06.2011)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 09.06.2011)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 09.06.2011)
(John Gillie, Tacoma News Tribune, 09.07.2011)
(John Gillie, The Olympian, 09.06.2011)