Times’ Report Not Consistent With Figures

I could be missing something here, but yesterday’s blurb in the Seattle Times about the March sales figures seems to me to be blatantly misrepresenting the facts.

Western Washington home prices continued to climb last month as 17 of 20 counties reported price increases of 20 percent or more compared with a year earlier. That’s according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which released March sales numbers today.

I honestly have no idea what sales numbers Ms. Rhodes is looking at, because as you can see for yourself (pdf), the NWMLS figures track 17 specific counties (and apparently 3 more classified under "others"), of which only 10 "reported price increases of 20 percent or more compared with a year earlier," 5 (and "others") reported price increases ranging from 2.90% to 18.09%, and 2 have not been tracked individually for an entire year. Furthermore, as I said yesterday, on the whole listings are up, and "pending sales" are down. Of the 17 counties that are individually tracked, only King, Lewis, Cowlitz, and Kittitas saw reduced inventory.

Something’s fishy about Ms. Rhodes’ blurb.

(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 04.06.2006)

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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:

    I find the King County numbers somewhat perplexing. Rising median along with decreasing number of sales? Declining inventories?

    I suppose it could reflect the elimination of speculators from the buyer pool. Fewer transactions (therefore fewer closes and less inventory), but the buyers who remain are not bargain hunting (therefore price increases).

    (Your link is to a local file, so it’s not downloadable.)

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    Whoops, I goofed on pasting in the link. Thanks for the heads up. Sorry about that. It is fixed now.

  3. 3
    Anonymous says:


    I saw this posted late last night, and noticed the same thing. In particular, she states that the reason for rising median prices is that inventory is supposedly down, and cites a figure of 5100 available homes. You can’t find that number *anywhere* in the NWMLS release, and the real inventory numbers (6359 active listings) show a significant *increase* in inventory.

    Puzzling. Glad I’m not imagining things….

  4. 4
    Anonymous says:


    Strike that last comment.

    I was referring to today’s headline story: “The Median Home Price in King County Hits $405,000,” (link) and going off of the NWMLS press release, which doesn’t break down the numbers to exclude condo sales.

    If you exclude condos, you obtain the inventory number (5100 houses) mentioned in the article. Still, that’s only slightly down over last year (-2.75%), while the pending sales are WAY off (-10.6%). You could easily make the argument that the cooling sales are prompting people to hold back on listing their properties. And as I said before, if you consider condos, inventories are actually *up* in King County — and we all know that condo sales are leading indicators for real estate…

    All told, something is fishy about Ms. Rhodes’ articles. It seems that she cherry-picks her numbers to create the sexiest possible story — one of hot sales and low inventories leading to high prices.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    Anon@10:35 –
    Indeed. I read today’s story as well and intend to post about it later today when I get home from work. There’s definitely some sweet cherry-picking going on in some of the more lengthy write-ups in the local rags.

  6. 6
    Anonymous says:

    Sigh. I shouldn’t post before the first cup of coffee…I need to clarify my previous post(s).

    The way I’m reading the numbers, inventory is slightly *down* year-over-year, but *up* month-over-month. But both pending sales and closed sales are *way* down year-over-year. It’s kind of interesting that the NWMLS data doesn’t emphasize the fifteen percent drop in closed sales, year-over-year (for condos and homes), but doesn’t that figure seem like a bad omen?

  7. 7
    Anonymous says:

    Incidentally, I just exchanged emails with the reporter responsible for these stories.

    I pointed out the 15% and 8% declines, and suggested that she look into them a bit. We’ll see if she takes the pointers to heart….

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