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:
Prices "spiking" as home buyers compete for scarce inventory
“All price ranges are feeling a lift,” reported Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Northwest MLS director John Deely echoed that comment: “We are seeing many homes in Seattle meet and exceed pre-bubble price levels,” stated Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.
“The recovery continues on a slow and steady pace in most areas and surging hard in others,” concluded Darin Stenvers, vice chair of the MLS board.
The upward spike in prices is largely the result of limited supply. “Whenever we get down to a severe shortage of homes for sale, we get double-digit home price appreciation,” observed J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.
Demand continues to outpace supply, creating high absorption rates, Deely stated, adding “Open houses are drawing large crowds.” For example, he reported several open houses from the past weekend experienced traffic exceeding 50 people per day.
Sweet, we’re back to using the old realtor standby of “open house traffic” as a measure of market demand. Never mind that pending sales had their first year-over-year decline in nearly two years. Open house traffic is on the rise! The market will expand forever!
Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.
Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle Times: King County house prices jumped almost 20 percent over year
About a quarter of buyers are paying all cash for homes, said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. The rest are putting down, on average, between 20 and 50 percent cash, he said.
“I think that is pretty shocking,” Jacobi said. “It’s crazy.”
Foreclosed properties are drawing an even higher rate of all-cash offers. Seattle real-estate broker Keith Brown, who sells only foreclosed homes, estimated that roughly half the offers on a property he lists are all cash.
“I’m not quite sure where everyone is coming up with all this cash, but there’s definitely been a huge increase in the last few months,” Brown said.
Data > anecdote. All-cash deals were 38% of the Seattle-area market in 2011. I happen to have just run these numbers for Q1 in King County, and it’s up to 42%. Mr. Jacobi and Mr. Brown’s observations are both underestimating the scope of all-cash transactions, and overstating the recency of any change. All-cash deals have been growing steadily and strongly since 2007. There has been no sudden increase of all-cash sales in 2013.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Homes even harder to find in Seattle area in March
Observers of the local real estate market had hoped March would come with increasing listings, helping ease the area’s shortage of homes for sale. It didn’t, although there was a sign the sales surge could be starting to abate, or at least that people are running out of homes to buy.
“I’m a little surprised that we didn’t pick up more listings than we did,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. “I was really hoping that we’d start to see some balance coming into the listing side of the equation, and these numbers indicate that we’re going to have a really challenging summer. … These numbers are just amazingly low.”
It gets old talking about how few listings there are, month after month, but when that’s still the biggest story in the real estate market, leading with something else doesn’t make sense.
No article has been posted yet in the Everett Herald. I’ll update this post later if they post an article today.
Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune: Pierce County real estate market continues rebound
Pierce County’s streak of improved home sales and higher median prices continued in March, with both sales and prices rising again, likely cementing the view that the slower housing market finally is behind us, according to new Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Thursday.
But the March data also show that sellers are beginning to sense a new direction in the market. For the third month in a row, new listings are outpacing the figure from last year.
Sounds like the inventory situation might be a little better in Tacoma than it is in the Seattle area.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Home sales in county continue to rebound
The March housing data is in for Thurston County and it looks a lot like it did in January and February, with home sales and median prices showing positive gains, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Windermere Olympia is the busiest it has been in the past four years — particularly for those homes priced between $185,000 and $225,000, which in some cases are attracting multiple offers, owner Steve Garrett said.
“Activity has picked up ten-fold,” he said, adding he expects a very productive 2013.
Ten-fold from… last month? Last year? 1880? Hmm…