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 indicators aligned "for spring market to remember"
“The market is struggling to provide enough inventory for anxious buyers seeking to take advantage of low interest rates,” reported Dick Beeson, principal managing broker of RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Also, he lamented, considering 25 percent of the selection is distressed, “It leaves some buyers with tough choices.”
“Low supply and high demand continue to drive our market,” stated Northwest MLS director John Deely. He said multiple offers are the “rule rather than the exception” for new listings in core urban areas that are priced well. Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, noted a new listing in North Seattle recently drew 12 offers and the property was bid almost 10 percent above its listing price.
OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate Company, noted the month’s supply of homes in King County has dipped to about 1.2 months, well below the six-month threshold that many in the industry consider to be “normal.” Jacobi, who is also on the MLS board of directors, noted supply is at its lowest level since May 2005 during the peak of the housing boom. “The impact of low inventory levels is stiff competition among buyers, often resulting in homes selling for well over asking price,” he remarked. Also, he added, the imbalance also leads to rising median prices.
J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott, Inc., attributes surging sales and prices to several factors, including positive job growth, historically low interest rates and fewer homes being listed. “This restriction of homes for sale is prevalent in the price ranges where more than 90 percent of activity is taking place, causing prices to rise,” he stated.
It is still worth pointing out that home prices are not really “surging,” with the non-distressed median price only up 3.8% as of January. That said, the market right now is definitely not buyer-friendly.
Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.
Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times: Inventory crunch drives King County home prices up
First-time homebuyers are jumping into the market, observers say, since housing prices hit bottom a year ago. When the median house price in King County hit $308,125 in February 2012, that was the lowest level in eight years.
But inventory isn’t keeping pace for several reasons:
Some sellers are waiting for prices to climb higher before listing their homes. Others still owe more on their homes than they’re worth.
A third group of sellers is unwilling to interrupt the cash flow they receive from renting out their homes at high rates.
Eric Pryne has retired, so Sanjay will be taking over the reigns for real estate reporting over at the Seattle Times. He’s done a good job in the past filling in when Eric has been out, and this month’s article is no exception.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: More home sales, fewer listings driving up prices
A continuing shortage of homes for sale drove up prices in the Seattle area in February, according to a new report. But there are signs the market could be changing.
…Pending sales — which don’t all close, but can be the best indicator of recent activity — fell 1.6 percent in Seattle and rose just 0.5 percent countywide. That could reflect an abating of the sales surge or people having trouble finding something to buy.
Short article this month from Aubrey, but he still squeezed an insight in there, pointing out that sales are likely to switch from year-over-year gains to losses soon.
Kurt Batdorf, Everett Herald: County home prices surge as inventory shrinks
Shrinking home inventory once again drove a double-digit increase in year-over-year median home and condominium sales prices in Snohomish County.
“In my 37 years working in the real estate industry, I have never seen inventory this low,” Diedre Haines, regional managing broker for Coldwell Bank Bain-Snohomish County and a member of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service board of directors, said in a news release.
This month’s Herald article is little more than a minor rewrite of the NWMLS press release.
Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune: Home sales, prices continue to climb in Pierce County
The Pierce County housing market put together another impressive month in February, highlighted by a double-digit increase in median prices, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Tuesday.
That’s welcome news for homeowners, but median prices still have a way to go to match the median prices set during the boom in housing.
Allen Realtors of Lakewood President Mike Larson said all the metrics he follows — transactions, pending sales and phone calls to the office — are on the rise.
“We’re finally seeing some traction and momentum and that’s fueling what we’re seeing in values,” he said.
He also said he senses more confidence among consumers, partly because the election is over. Larson admitted the national economy is not exactly rosy, citing the sequester, but the “stock market is setting records just about every day.”
It’s not clear exactly what this agent means by “we’re finally seeing some traction,” but right now the market is being pretty limited by the lack of inventory. I don’t really see how an extreme shortage of homes for sale is “traction.”
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Thurston home sales increase in February
The Thurston County housing market continued to show improvement in February, with home sales rising nearly 30 percent in the year-over-year period, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Tuesday.
“I think the real estate recession is in the rearview mirror,” Windermere of Olympia real estate agent Gregory Moe said.
Home sales rose 29.9 percent to 200 units last month from 154 units in February 2012, the combined single-family residence and condominium data show.
The Olympian’s article is pretty short and to the point.
(Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times, 03.05.2013)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 03.05.2013)
(Kurt Batdorf, Everett Herald, 03.05.2013)
(Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune, 03.05.2013)
(Rolf Boone, The Olympian, 03.06.2013)