Sorry about the delay, waking up late then my speaking engagement this morning at the senior center followed by driving down to Vancouver took up more of my time than expected. On with the roundup!
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:
Western Washington housing market "energized" and showing signs of "definite turnaround"
Northwest Multiple Listing Service brokers reported double-digit gains in both pending and closed sales during April compared to a year ago, but the most eye-catching number may pertain to prices. For the first time in more than four years (since January 2008) the year-over-year change in selling prices was positive.
Prices for single family homes continued climbing. The median price for last month’s closed sales was $250,000, up from both a year ago ($242,950) and from March ($234,487).
While cheered by the figure that snapped a 50-month string of negative numbers for year-over-year price comparisons, Northwest MLS brokers said consumers must be realistic in their expectations. They also noted the market recovery will be slow and incremental.
Tight inventory is creating sellers’ markets in some areas, according to reports from MLS directors. Inventory is down more than 27 percent for the Northwest MLS market overall, and by even larger margins in three counties: Snohomish (down 46.2 percent), King (down 39.4 percent), and Pierce (down 28.6 percent). Brokers say as demand outstrips supply, competition may intensify, especially for homes that are well-priced and in good condition in desirable locations.
Talk of a seller’s market has to be tempered, Wilson emphasized, because “when sellers hear these words in the news they instantly think their homes are worth a lot more money….and they are not. Even if our home prices appreciated 2-to-3 percent a year – which they aren’t currently — it will take many years for homes to return to the values that we saw a few years ago,” he suggested.
Despite his cautionary words, Wilson was upbeat. “We continue to see an increase in activity across the board. More people at open houses, more listings coming on the market, more buyers making offers and more multiple offer situations on correctly priced and staged homes.”
Weirdly, this is the most moderatly-toned release I’ve seen from the NWMLS in years, despite this being the first month in years that they actually have something moderately substantive to crow about. So strange.
Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.
Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times: King County home prices rise with fewer houses for sale
“We’re at the beginning of the prime selling season, so to see this sort of strength coming out … this is very good news for the industry,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies.
“The very tight inventory of homes available for sale coupled with the stabilizing prices are probably going to convince some sellers that it’s now safe to come back into the marketplace,” Crellin said.
That doesn’t necessarily mean prices will grow rapidly.
Ding. Thanks to Sanjay for getting in touch with me to get the story on the decline in sales of bank-owned homes.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: House prices rise in King County, surge in Seattle
House prices rose for the first time in a long time in King County last month, while they surged up by double digits in Seattle.
Writing on Trulia, real estate broker Kary Krismer threw some cold water on the King County increase.
“(D)on’t get too excited,” he wrote. “Remember the median is affected by mix.”
Lender-owned “REO” homes, which tend to sell for less, made up 22 percent of all house sales in April 2011 but less than 17 percent of sales last month, he wrote. “Fewer REO sales means a higher median, all other things being equal.”
Nice work Kary, getting the story out to the P-I. In other news, has anyone else noticed that the P-I uses the same photo every month on the NWMLS article? Plus it’s a photo of a For Sale by Owner sign, which, if the house sold, wouldn’t even be included in the NWMLS stats.
Michelle Dunlop, Everett Herald: Home prices rise 10% in Snohomish County
Northwest MLS director Meribeth Hutchings, broker and owner of Windermere Real Estate in Lake Stevens, credited favorable interest rates and low inventory for spurring activity.
“The demand for ‘good clean homes’ is extremely high,” she said. “Our primary buyer today is still the first-time homebuyer.”
No particular insight in this month’s Herald article. Mostly just a regurgitation of the press release.
John Gillie, Tacoma News Tribune: Many in state see uptick in median home prices
For the first time in more than four years, the median price of homes sold in Western Washington turned upward in April, a report reveals.
Frank Wilson, managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo, said sellers should not read too much into the positive news.
“When sellers hear these words in the news, they instantly think their homes are worth a lot of money … and they are not,” he said.
“Even if our home prices appreciated 2 to 3 percent a year — which they aren’t currently — it will take many years for homes to return to the values we saw a few years ago,” Wilson said.
Seriously, what has gotten into these agents? Now that we may finally actually be at the bottom they’re saying everything but calling the bottom. So weird.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Thurston home prices rise for second consecutive month
Thurston County median home prices rose more than 2 percent in April, the second consecutive month of price increases and another sign that the once-struggling housing market may have finally hit bottom.
Year-over-year median prices rose nearly 5 percent in March and climbed another 2.75 percent in April, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Thursday.
As usual, I could only find the blurb, unfortunately.
(Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times, 05.04.2012)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 05.03.2012)
(Michelle Dunlop, Everett Herald, 05.03.2012)
(John Gillie, Tacoma News Tribune, 05.04.2012)
(Rolf Boone, The Olympian, 05.03.2012)