Sales Fall Off In Cheap King County Neighborhoods

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It’s been a few months since we took a look at the in-county breakdown data from the NWMLS to see how the sales mix shifted around the county. I like to keep an eye on this not only to see how individual neighborhoods are doing but also to see how the sales mix shift affects the overall county-wide median price.

In order to explore this concept, we break King County down into three regions, based on the NWMLS-defined “areas”:

  • low end: South County (areas 100-130 & 300-360)
  • mid range: Seattle / North County (areas 140, 380-390, & 700-800)
  • high end: Eastside (areas 500-600)

Here’s where each region’s median prices came in as of April data:

  • low end: $330,000-$520,000
  • mid range: $559,950-$964,250
  • high end: $699,475-$2,203,000

First up, let’s have a look at each region’s (approximate) median price (actually the median of the medians for each area within the region).

Median Price of Single Family Homes Sold

All three tiers saw large month-over-month gains in their respective median-median price, and they all three set a new all-time record high. Month-over-month, the median price in the low tier rose 6.7 percent, the middle tier increased 6.4 percent, and the high tier gained 3.6 percent.

Twenty-eight of the twenty-nine NWMLS regions in King County with single-family home sales in April had a higher median price than a year ago, while fifteen had a month-over-month increase in the median price. The only area that had a lower median price than a year ago was Area 390, Capitol Hill/Madison Park.

Here’s how the median prices changed year-over-year. Low tier: up 16.9 percent, middle tier: up 23.4 percent, high tier: up 19.7 percent.

Next up, the percentage of each month’s closed sales that took place in each of the three regions.

% of Total King Co. SFH Sales by NWMLS Area

Sales in the low and middle tiers fell between March and April, but the high tier saw a slight gain. Month-over-month sales were down 8.2 percent in the low tier, down 1.9 percent in the middle tier, and up 5.8 percent in the high tier.

Meanwhile, year-over-year sales fell in all three tiers. Compared to a year ago, sales decreased 2.0 percent in the low tier, fell 4.8 percent in the middle tier, and dropped 10.7 percent in the high tier.

After a few months of the low tier dominating the sales mix and the high tier making up a near record-low portion of sales, the mix has started to shift back toward a more normal mix, with cheap sales falling off and expensive sales gaining back ground. This kind of move will make the overall county-wide median increase even if all the regions weren’t seeing price gains individually.

As of April 2017, 35.8 percent of sales were in the low end regions (up from 34.5 percent a year ago), 35.4 percent in the mid range (up from 35.1 percent a year ago), and 28.8 percent in the high end (down from 30.4 percent a year ago).

Here’s that information in a visual format:

Bank-Owned: Share of Total Sales - King County Single-Family

Finally, here’s an updated look at the percentage of sales data all the way back through 2000:

% of Total King Co. SFH Sales by NWMLS Area since 2000

It’s interesting that despite the shift in the sales mix away from the cheap regions and toward the expensive regions, the county-wide median price increased less year-over-year than all three of the price tier aggregate regions. If the sales mix continues moving away from the cheap regions, I expect the next few months to see even bigger gains in the county-wide median price.


About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

43 comments:

  1. 1
    justme says:

    What I see so far from this data is that South King County “transaction market share” numbers are highest in January (except Jan 2015), meaning perhaps that contracts were entered in December? That could be construed as South KC being the land of end-of-year purchases.

  2. 2
    jon says:

    Looks like South King sales peak early in the year, then Seattle, and then the Eastside peak is later in the spring. That would explain the gradual increase in King County median price that tends to occur in the first half of each year.

  3. 3
    justme says:

    RE: jon @ 2

    Yeah, that is a good observation. The timing of the mix makes it looks like prices are rising more than they really are (apples to apples), and people get fooled into bidding more. Sort-of a self-perpetuation mechanism with no substance behind it.

  4. 4
    SeaTownDweller says:

    RE: jon @ 2 – Nice observation. I also add that the long term trend seems to be lower eastside % of SFH and higher south county % over time, would be interesting to correlate that with inventory change and affordability since the median sold price on the eastside is so high.

  5. 5
    Brendan says:

    What I would like to see is some up to date info on price to rent ratios.

    It seems like rent has leveled off. Average rent in Seattle is basically the same as last year. Yet we see massive increases in home prices. That suggests a disconnect between home prices and rent.

    The basic dynamic is massive apartment construction but very little condo construction. So if that disconnect gets too big we may see some conversions.

    My understanding is that condo construction is limited because state regulations make it extremely expensive compared to apartment construction. So conversions seem like the most likely avenue for new inventory to enter the market.

  6. 6
    justme says:

    >>So conversions seem like the most likely avenue for new inventory to enter the market.

    Yes, indeed. I have been predicting this for a while, on this very forum. Condo conversions are coming, I’m almost certain.

  7. 7
    jon says:

    The report has some predictions that some readers here may find interesting: http://www.kiddermathews.com/downloads/research/multifamily-market-research-seattle-2017-1q.pdf

    – vacancy rates are expected to jump up for the next few years
    – condo conversions in the future are not expected to be a major factor, because of renter-rights laws

    I wonder how many of the high rise apartments are being built just to get in on rising real estate values (i.e. a bubble). That would explain why so many are being built when rents are not going up.

  8. 8

    [Topic: New construction/Rental rates.]

    By jon @ 7:

    That would explain why so many are being built when rents are not going up.

    The buildings were probably past the point of no return well over a year ago, when rents were still rising. And it’s not like rents are low such that they would stop the project.

  9. 9

    [Topic: Seasonality.]

    By jon @ 2:

    Looks like South King sales peak early in the year, then Seattle, and then the Eastside peak is later in the spring. That would explain the gradual increase in King County median price that tends to occur in the first half of each year.

    Keep in mind that these are percentages of total sales. When I did the comparison from January to April there were only eight areas which actually had declining sales, and I don’t think I’d describe any as significant declines. But some areas went up faster than others, particularly the six high price areas I mentioned in the other thread. Those six area accounted for over half the increase in sales, thus increasing their percentage, but not necessarily meaning the other areas “peaked.” Some didn’t even go down, but just didn’t increase as fast as others, so lost position on a percentage basis.

    You do seem to have a very valid point/observation about the percentage difference being seasonal, and that affecting the median. I’m not really sure what would drive that. Anyone have any ideas?

    Disclaimer: Numbers and references to percentages from NWMLS sources, but not compiled by or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  10. 10

    [Topic: 1031 Exchanges–From Listings Still Scare Thread]

    By Erik @ 70:

    I’m kinda new to buying rentals, and I don’t really know how to avoid the tax hit yet. One thought I had was to do a 1031 exchange and sell a few rentals in exchange for one that is paid off. That way you’d have a nice cash flow for life. I’d be interested in hearing more ideas.

    1031 exchanges have some downsides, primarily that the basis in your new property will be reduced and dependent somewhat on your basis in the old property. It’s not a program where you just get to avoid paying tax without any hits. All you’re doing is delaying the tax (at some unknown future rate) and one of the biggest hits would be your depreciation expense would be reduced. On the other hand there are some people where they are very beneficial. And example of that would be an elderly couple one of which might have health concerns. Assuming they don’t repeal the excise tax and step up in basis provisions of the income tax, they could entirely avoid paying the gain on the death of one spouse.

    I wrote about 1031 exchanges years ago in a piece complaining about the quality of agent continuing education compared to attorney continuing education. If anyone wants to know the name of the attorney instructor just email me. I had a client use his 1031 services just last year and they were very responsive and surprisingly low priced. I think they would be best to advise you as to whether your situation is right for a 1031, as opposed to say using one of the title company services which do 1031s.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/realestate/2008/10/11/beware-the-clock-hour-course/

  11. 11
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 10
    If I owned 100% or a rental and refinanced to owning 25% of a rental, does that change my tax basis?

    Pretending am able to own a property outright via 1031 exchange, can I then refinance it pulling the equity out and change my tax basis? Then when I sell, my gains will be based on 25% of the value instead of the full value.

    If there is no way around it, I could just treat the rent as a retirement annuity.

  12. 12
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 10
    Another idea I had was just moving into my investment property for 2 years before I sell it to avoid capital gains. If I purchased a property as an investment and rented it out immediately, do I have to convert it to owner occupied, or can I just move into the property for 2 years to avoid capital gains?

  13. 13
    Jasper says:

    RE: Erik @ 11 – Erik, you need to sit down with a short book on the basics of landlord tax law. Can your CPA or real estate lawyer recommend one to you?

    If they can’t, you should read IRS publication 551. Oh, and find a more helpful CPA and real estate lawyer. According to The Millionaire Next Door, successful investors are willing to pay for good accounting and legal help.

  14. 14

    RE: jon @ 2
    Or Its Simply a Way to Get the Upper Tiers Sold

    You sell the lower tier which allows a buyer to “buy up”….house sales have always generally depended on first time home buyers biting whether we like it or not. Its called a normal real estate market.

    Stability in real estate sales depends on a constant flow of first time buyers too.

    But what if the first time buyer doesn’t qualify for lower tier on a low down payment mortgage? The whole house of cards suddenly collapses without warning? Likely, soon IMO, at a theater near you [remember 2007].

  15. 15
    Erik says:

    RE: Jasper @ 13
    Good ideas. IRS publication 551 sounds pretty boring. I’ll see about a publication on landlord tax law.

    I should probably learn the laws before I learn about the loopholes.

  16. 16

    RE: Erik @ 12
    Don’t Let the New Tax Trump Laws Fool You Erik

    They’re tossing around elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for debt reduction…a wrench in the gear works for any flipper trying to plan purchase choices. A flat tax favoring no one IOWs.

    The new tax law middle income reductions means deduction exclusions too.

    A tax man today is useless in the new “Drain the Swamp” cataclysmic changes lately …wait and see to plan your investment strategy away from financial ruin.

  17. 17
    Sea says:

    Eric @11. You have some homework to do. How much equity you have in a property has zero to do with your tax basis. Tax basis is simply your purchase price + improvements less depreciation. It doesn’t matter if its paid for or you owe 100%.

    Even if you were able to get primary residence status you would still have recapture all the depreciation taken over the years it was a rental and pay 25% on that depreciation. So say you paid $500k, rented for 5 years, depreciated $18k per year ($91k total) you would owe $23k in recapture tax.

  18. 18

    [Topic: Income Taxes]

    RE: Jasper @ 13RE: Erik @ 12RE: Erik @ 11 – I agree with Jasper about consulting a tax adviser and reading whatever you can on landlord taxation.

    I would be concerned that whatever you did moving the property to a 25% interest might have triggered an income tax and/or a state real estate excise tax. Also, I’m pretty sure that you would still have to recapture your depreciation if you convert to a personal residence, but I’m not sure at all how they deal with the gain. I would suspect they value the property at the time you convert the use and then don’t tax you on anything after that, but I’m also not sure of that either. And I don’t know how costs of sale work into that–I suspect they allow you to allocate part of that to your capital gain, but again not sure. Consult a tax adviser.

    There may be a way to purchase income property in an IRA or other retirement asset, but that would limit your ability to get to the funds for quite some time. Again, consult a tax adviser.

  19. 19

    [Topic: Income Taxes]

    By softwarengineer @ 16:

    RE: Erik @ 12
    Don’t Let the New Tax Trump Laws Fool You Erik

    They’re tossing around elimination of the mortgage interest deduction for debt reduction…a wrench in the gear works for any flipper trying to plan purchase choices. A flat tax favoring no one IOWs.

    I’m not even sure exactly what you’re talking about, but the proposal would have kept the mortgage interest deduction, but after a much larger standard deduction, so less benefit (and for many no benefit beyond the increased standard deduction). It would be great for people who own free and clear.

    I really doubt there would be any impact on flippers–their interest would likely remain a business expense and fully deductible without regard to the standard deduction.

    Again, consult a tax adviser.

  20. 20
    Erik says:

    RE: Sea @ 17
    Tax law is probably the most boring topic for me, so I’ve always avoided learning about it. Any books you can recommend that won’t bore me to death?

  21. 21

    [Topic: Income Tax]RE: Erik @ 20

    I went to law school because income tax was the most interesting area of accounting. I discovered it’s one of the most boring areas of the law, but I still find it interesting.

    I’m glad I don’t work in the area because it changes almost every year in some way. Dealing with prior years’ taxes would be like if you had to work on office computers and some were Dos, some were Windows 3.0, some Windows 3.1, some Windows ME, some Windows 95, etc. You’d have to constantly be thinking–now how did this work then?

  22. 22
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 21
    My uncle is a tax attorney in California. Makes tons of money. He invited me to come learn the business and get my law degree and all that while I worked for him. I just couldn’t see myself being happy looking up tax codes all day.
    Same reason I didn’t become a software engineer, seems tedious. Those jobs are lucrative. I just don’t have the personality for them.

  23. 23
    justme says:

    China funny-money continues to dry up in New York, and prices are falling. But Seattle is Prime! It’s different here! Ot at least Eastside is different, some people seem to think.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy-property-overseas-insig-idUSKBN1850WY

    “Among the sprawling colonial homes and well-tended lawns on the north shore of New York’s Long Island, there are signs that Chinese policies crafted 11,000 kilometers away are taking a toll. In the past year, there has been a slowdown in the stream of affluent Chinese looking for luxury homes in the area, property brokers said. Over the past eight months, the Chinese authorities have introduced a series of measures to make it more difficult for Chinese to move capital out of the country as they seek to keep the Chinese currency, the yuan, from falling.”

    “Kirschenbaum, who estimates half of her buyers are Chinese, said prices of homes in the neighborhood costing more than $2 million have fallen about 10 percent in the past year. Jason Friedman, a real estate broker who also specializes in luxury housing on the north shore, said a building boom that began a couple of years ago in the area in response to the surge in Chinese buying interest is starting to weigh on the market now. ‘There were no restraints at the beginning, and then…they turned off the faucet. There was a very short period when you had all the money and then suddenly it was taken away,’ Friedman said.”

  24. 24

    [Topic: Tax Education]

    RE: Erik @ 22

    You might want to consider auditing a tax accounting course. You might find that very educational and interesting. Based on my limited experience at the UW, business schools tend to teach more from a tax planning perspective, where the law schools tend to teach more from a “your client did this, what’s going to happen to them” perspective. But I also had the advantage of having one of the best tax professors ever in business school.

    http://depts.washington.edu/foster/bill-resler-beloved-lecturer-tax-accounting-passes-away/

    He’s also the coach in the documentary Heart of the Game, about the Roosevelt Girl’s basketball team. Well worth a watch.

  25. 25
    Sea says:

    Erik @20. The tax code for rentals isn’t really that complex, do some internet reading and you’ll get most of it unless you plan on doing more complex things like segmented appreciation. I assume you already know what items can be deducted as expenses, capitalized and the like so then its really just what happens with your profit (taxed as regular income often times) and depreciation recapture at time of sale.

    Loop holes? Well not sure where you’ll find those, but one that will hurt you, if you don’t depreciate you still have to pay recapature tax like you did when you sell, so better take that deduction every year.

    If you consider a 1031 exchange there are very specific rules to follow (including the sum of your new properties must have a higher basis than the old).

  26. 26

    [Topic: 1031 Exchanges]
    By Sea @ 25:

    If you consider a 1031 exchange there are very specific rules to follow (including the sum of your new properties must have a higher basis than the old).

    It’s been about 9 years since I’ve last studied 1031s, but I don’t think you worded that quite right and I don’t think it’s all or nothing. As I recall, you can retain some cash from the sale, but you’ll pay tax on that amount.

    The bigger issue is you have to nominate the property you’re going to buy within 45 days of the sale and actually purchase it within 180 days (based on something I just read to refresh my recollection of the rules). That can be very tough, particularly in a market like this.

    Also, in Erik’s case, I’m not sure how you would do a foreclosure purchase as the second half of a 1031. Maybe the hard money lender could facilitate that, but I would question whether it could be done at all.

  27. 27

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 19
    Consult a Tax Advisor On the New Tax Bill No One’s See Yet

    LOL….how about we go to a psychic or medium instead?

    The big possibility on taxes of capital gains (real estate); this potential tax on flippers could/may be butcher axed if/when we incorporate a border tax on import deficits….that is what the voters wanted, irrespective of the open border path to ruin we’re on now…$20T deficit.

    I know the NWO foreigners would be the losers then….so what? Seattle Real Estate would hypothetically soar up in price with a strong possibility of transitioning back to a “solid jobs” manufacturing country with double the present incomes and more employer paid health care instead.

    If you say there is no hope for old fashion American manufacturing engineering prosperity again [with lower taxes], there is no hope. If you are a possibility thinker, there’s always hope. You hopeless open border pessimists can team together [like Black Sabbath’s “Witches at Black Masses”] and spew negative possibilities against American middle class families….yet most Americans don’t like the direction you’re leading us. They have family and children to protect against open border unfair/illegal job competition lowering wages, all ethnic groups do. Tax laws will change.

  28. 28
    justme says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 27

    >>$20T deficit.

    You meant $20T DEBT, not deficit. The deficit is the yearly change in debt, not the total debt.

  29. 29
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 26
    I’ll ask the agents that deal with this stuff whether or not it can be done at the auction tomorrow. I’ll let you know what they say about selling and buying a foreclosed property at the auction via 1031 exchange. I think it can be done, but I will verify.

  30. 30

    [Topic: 1031 exchanges/foreclosures.]

    RE: Erik @ 29 – I’m not sure the agents you’re talking to even know what they’re doing in the more routine situations (e.g. IRS liens, lis pendens, etc.). I would talk to a 1031 facilitator.

  31. 31

    [Topic: Squatters.]

    Relief for owners from squatter situations.

    http://komonews.com/news/local/new-law-helps-landlords-to-remove-squatters

    The legislation is SB 5388.

    This would be useful for more than mere squatters in vacant houses. I think it was one of the protests during the late 90s where protesters took over a building near Denny right across from a police station. This would have helped give powers to clear them out.

  32. 32

    RE: justme @ 28
    Thank You

    Semantics is a joke though compared to the HORRIFYING size of our fiscal debt.

  33. 33

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 31
    Homeless Camps and Squatters

    Signs of the economically destroying NWO….pan handlers now seen everywhere ya look…..

  34. 34
    Deerhawke says:

    Quick question for Kary, Ardell and the other realtors out there. I am negotiating a private sale of a house in the $1.75M+ range. What is the normal earnest money percentage. I have heard 2.5% and 5%.

    If there is no standard percentage, what would you suggest to the buyer in a normal transaction in this market?

  35. 35
    Andrew says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 31 – Thanks for sharing that, Kary. I’m glad that progress was made, but am surprised to find it to be a break-through. Previously, what options did property owners have if someone illegally has access to keys of their house (either rental or unoccupied or primary residence for that matter), then proceeds to enters and occupies the property ?

  36. 36
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30
    I don’t know a 1031 facilitator or I would ask him/her. I decided to not go to the auction this week, so I’ll let you know next week.

  37. 37

    [Topic: Earnest Money]

    RE: Deerhawke @ 34

    I’m not going to suggest what is “normal.” But I would note that there is a statute on the topic. http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=64.04.005

    I would note that if you’re using the standard statewide forms, the loss of EM is very rare, so the amount of EM is more of an academic issue. But what you don’t want is to have someone tie up your property and then must be able to walk away without much consequence. The actual damages you’d suffer though if they did that would probably be a negative number in this market.

    I would also suggest you contact an attorney to do the contract for you, and perhaps even the escrow services (if that is possible). Someone like Marc Holmes might be perfect assuming he’d just charge you for the legal services. Unlike most attorneys he would have both access to the statewide forms and his own. As a member of the NWMLS though he probably would have to report the sale after the fact, but I don’t see a downside to that. http://holmeslawgroup.com/ If your contract is not valid in any way, your ability to keep the earnest money would be nil, and fighting over it might result in your owing attorney fees. So paying an attorney in advance is well worth the cost.

  38. 38

    [Topic: Squatters.]

    By Andrew @ 35:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 31 – Thanks for sharing that, Kary. I’m glad that progress was made, but am surprised to find it to be a break-through. Previously, what options did property owners have if someone illegally has access to keys of their house (either rental or unoccupied or primary residence for that matter), then proceeds to enters and occupies the property ?

    I was never involved in that type of action, but I assume it was some sort of an unlawful detainer action which would take a couple of months and involve service by publication on a bunch of John and Jane Does. The police would just tell you “it’s a civil matter” and not get involved until there was an order of a court telling them to act.

    Keep in mind that the entire area of unlawful detainer was designed to keep landlords from using self-help for evictions, but still allowing them a fairly speedy process. So the owner taking action on their own would be risky/expensive.

  39. 39

    [Topic: 1031 Exchange/Foreclosure]RE: Erik @ 36

    A facilitator I know answered, saying it is possible, but there are hoops to jump through, and more hoops in the likely event that your proceeds from the 1031 sale are not enough to buy the foreclosure property.

  40. 40
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 39
    I don’t understand. “and more hoops in the likely event that your proceeds from the 1031 sale are not enough to buy the foreclosure property.”

    Could I not trade 2 condos with $150K equity for a total of $300k equity for 1 condo that sells for $300k at the auction? This would be a like exchange and I would own the 1 condo outright.

    Good to know it is possible. That usually means if you have a crafty facilitator they can make it happen. If it works, I could possibly buy a few properties with instant equity and trade them for a fully owned property. That would help my life out a lot.

  41. 41

    [Topic: 1031.]

    By Erik @ 40:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 39
    I don’t understand. “and more hoops in the likely event that your proceeds from the 1031 sale are not enough to buy the foreclosure property.”

    Could I not trade 2 condos with $150K equity for a total of $300k equity for 1 condo that sells for $300k at the auction? This would be a like exchange and I would own the 1 condo outright.

    Yes I think you can do that, but good luck meeting the time deadlines I mentioned above–particularly the identifying the property within 45 days. Unless you could manage to get both condos to close on the same date . . .. But again, you’d need to consult with a facilitator or other expert in the field.

  42. 42
    justme says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37

    http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=64.04.005

    Kary, I read the statute, and it seems to say “Loss of earnest money is limited to 5% of the agreed-upon sales price, unless buyer has agreed explicitly in the contract hat earnest money shall, as a percentage, exceed the 5% number”. In other words, just filling in a larger dollar (not percent) number than 5% will not put the buyer on the hook for more than 5%, but writing a clause that says that earnest money constitutes X% and Y$ is nevertheless valid and enforcable also when X>5.

    Is my reading of the statute correct? In other words, the statute exists to protect buyers from inadvertently or by fraud being lured into promising earnest money above 5%, without an explicit statement alerting the buyer that the earnest money constitutes more than 5% of the price.

  43. 43

    [Topic: Earnest Money Forfeiture.]
    RE: justme @ 42 – I have not researched the statute recently, so there may be case law I’m not familiar with, but I read the statute as more creating a safe-haven, where you’re not likely to be subjected to litigation for retaining an EM less than or equal to 5%. Above that amount and you’d need to rely on common law, which looks to various factors, including whether of not the amount forfeited would be a reasonable estimate of the likely anticipated damages. Here is one case discussing them in another context–but that might show you why you don’t want to rely on the common law. http://law.justia.com/cases/washington/supreme-court/1987/52455-6-1.html

    If you could point to the specific language you’re looking at that would indicate something else that would be helpful. I will tell you I’ve had offers come in with EM in excess of 5% and I haven’t considered that an advantage, but that’s been a while.

    Disclaimer: To get legal advise about your specific situation you would need to hire and consult an attorney to represent you.

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