March Sales Figures Roundup

Okay let’s try to group the rest of the March articles into one post. The Seattle P-I assures us that everything is perfectly normal.

Pending home sales in Seattle and King County fell again in March, while home prices continued to climb. Real estate experts said the declining sales shouldn’t be cause for concern and likely reflect a “normalizing” of the market after many years of strong sales.

More significant, some say, is the reduction in home listings, a reflection of the housing shortage that is also helping drive up prices.

Cute. “Normalizing.” Well at least they didn’t say that there’s a buyer frenzy. And I love how a 3-5% reduction in listings is “more significant” than a 8-10% decrease in pending sales. Yeah, I’m buying it… wait, no—I’m not.

The King County Journal takes it a step further and leads the cheer for the supposedly still-booming market:

Median home sales prices jumped more than $20,000 in one month’s time in southeast King County and almost $12,000 on the Eastside, shattering housing market records.

In southeast King County, the median price for closed sales of homes and condos in March rose to $314,975, up from $294,000 in February and the previous record high of $309,000 set in January.

On the Eastside, the median price of single-family homes and condominiums whose sales closed in March rose to $476,475, smashing the “old” record median price of $464,500 set just the month before.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service officials, who released the March report Thursday, and local real estate agents attribute the surge in home sales activity this past month to the growing economy, relatively low interest rates, “attractive financing” options, and an increase in available properties to choose from.

“Attractive” if you don’t care about prudent investing for the future, I suppose. And what’s with the phrase “surge in home sales activity”? Again, pending residential home sales in King County were down 10.6% from March ’05. I guess since it’s a smaller negative number than February (-14.56%), that constitutes a “surge.” Weee!

Bucking the trend, the Tacoma News Tribune actually dares to report signs of the slowdown:

Homes are coming onto the market and basically sitting there in many parts of Pierce and King counties, according to a new report released Thursday.

But being on the market longer doesn’t mean the homes are any cheaper.

That’s a refreshing bit of relatively balanced reporting on this month’s numbers. Of course, the slowing signs are a bit harder to ignore in Pierce County, with a 27% increase in listings and a 10% decrease in pending sales.

  Listings Pending Sales Closed Sales Sale Price
’06 ’05 % chg ’06 ’05 % chg ’06 ’05 % chg ’06 ’05 % chg
Comb: 4,412 3,483 26.67% 1,731 1,924 -10.03% 1,541 1,527 0.92% $259,970 $220,000 18.09%
Res: 4,037 3,147 28.28% 1,601 1,795 -10.81% 1,448 1,411 2.62% $260,300 $224,950 15.71%
Condo: 375 336 11.61% 130 129 0.78% 93 116 -19.83% $205,700 $166,000 23.92%

You can run, but you can’t hide, Seattle. The real estate slowdown is at your doorstep and you can only deny it entrance for so long.

(Kathy Mulady, Seattle P-I, 04.07.2006)
(Clayton Park, King County Journal, 04.07.2006)
(Barbara Clements, Tacoma News Tribune, 04.07.2006)

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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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    Anonymous says:

    Until the news are doing feature stories on how people lost their shirts in real estates, I am not going to believe that the prices have declined significantly. 10% is chump change.

  2. 2
    concerned says:

    Seattle realtors are not just simply “denying” there is a RE slowdow, they are actively lying about it.

    Do not take my word for it. Do your own research.

    The MLS list in Seattle is highly manipulated.

    Properties are taken off and reassigned new numbers, pictures, etc. and presented as “New on Market!!!!”

    Properties are sold for 10’s of thousands to 100’s of thousands under Original Asking Price. You will not hear about that from the realtors in Seattle.

    You will only hear about the handful of properties that went over asking.

    From this point on, if you over-pay for a Seattle property, you have no one but yourself to blame. No whining allowed next year when you find the property you bought this year has now been devalued and you are “equity negative”.

    It is very easy to discover the truth about the Seattle market by simply following any MLS list diligently for a couple of months.

    If you are relying on a Seattle realtor to inform and educate you on the Seattle market, you are not taking resposibilty for your own future financial well being.

  3. 3
    S Crow says:

    Perspective, research & long term outlook.

    Those are some of the ingredients that will allow buyers a bit of market fluctuation insulation and peace of mind when they buy. If you are purchasing to live in a home, if you are like me, it’s tough to get emotion out of the transaction. If someone purchases for an investment, then it’s business and numbers and strategy.

    If people research the micro-markets in Seattle and vicinity (ie, Queen Anne property vs Ballard vs. Capitol Hill vs. Bryant/Greenlake or others) know what they can afford, are patient and get good financing squared away, you should be fine.

    With so much information available to consumers (you can find out what property has turned over in a short period of time, lagging on the market…to those that are the best condition/price in the area)nowadays it’s difficult to be at a disadvantage.

    In a changing market, be patient and you are bound to be in a position of bargaining strength sooner or later.

    Remember, a healthy chunk of people are busy at work and life and following the real estate market is not on the radar–rightly so since they are “in for the long term.”

    What’s different about our existing bubble? Blogosphere. I wish we had it in 1989-90. Would have saved me some mistakes. Today,we all can see the market shift unfold on a swift basis, in front of our very own eyes. Wasn’t so before.

  4. 4
    Anonymous says:

    Amen to both of the above posts.
    Take your time.
    Buy wisely.
    Buy a home you can easily afford and will love to live in for a long long time (forever?).
    Forget about :

    Homes are for life and living. Period.

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:

    The Real Esatate section of todays’ Seattle Times (Sunday, April 9), has the YOY March 05- March 06) tables for King County.

    It shows that the median price has fallen in 3 areas. The areas are hard to determine precisely because the map’s really dorky but 2 are in Seattle proper and one is on the East side- looks like right over the 520 bridge between Bellevue and Kirkland.

    In city Seattle, one area fell from 339K to 325K. The other, from 439,900 to 439K.
    On the east side, from 646,675 to 449K (yes, that’s right, a 30% drop from March ’05 to March “06).

    Just getting started.

  6. 6
    Anonymous says:

    Buy a home you can easily afford and will love to live in

    Wow, condescend much?

    Judging by this weekend’s openings, there are approximately 0 matches for those criteria, at least for me. Maybe your idea of “easily afford” is different than mine. Anything over $400K would stretch my wife and I past the ability to put aside any other savings, visit my relatives, or afford decent health insurance.

  7. 7
    Anonymous says:

    Wait, I take it back. Just found the perfect house for $375K – what a gem!

    MLS# 26049357

  8. 8
    The Tim says:

    Wow, that’s great, Anon@10:27. I just had to send it to America’s Overvalued Real Estate.

    P.S. – Would you all mind clicking “Other” instead of “Anonymous” when you comment and at least put in some name? It’s hard to know who’s who when there’s 6-12 “anonymous” comments in every thread. Thanks.

  9. 9
    statistics says:

    These Eastside figures make no sense at all. according to the Seattle Times Sun. RE section, YOY March sales are off in every part of the Eastside.
    500: -31.6%
    510: -17%
    520: -11.1%
    530: -14%
    540 -29.4%
    550: -21.9%
    600: -22.3%

    On top of that, in section 520 the median price dropped fron 646K to 449K. Wow.

    In Seattle, every section also saw a decline in sales,except one which held steady. the declines were from -4.7 to -41% in the 8 sections.
    Two Seattle sections had YOY median price drops. One was from 439.9 to 439. The other from 339K to 325K.

  10. 10

    […] probably correct for such a broad area, but as we all know thanks to the huge headlines last week, King County’s median home price of $405,000 is 30% higher than that, and 41% higher than the […]

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