Skagit’s Housing Market Staying… Strong?

Slowdown denial is in full force up in Skagit County, where in an article titled “Skagit’s Housing Market: Staying Strong,” a monthly rag called Skagit County Business Pulse has apparently resorted to publishing outright lies.

People will go to great lengths these days to own property, especially packages with added value. Despite the high cost of housing — a 38.3 percent increase in Skagit County alone in the past year — buying activity is up and inventory down.

Bzzt—three lies in one sentence. According to the most recent NWMLS figures, Skagit County home prices were up just 5.27%, sales were down 27%, and listings were up 51% in September vs. a year earlier. August figures are similar.

Skagit home sales have been driven by three principal demand sources, according to Jim Scott, president of the North Puget Sound Association of Realtors and owner of Windermere Real Estate/James Scott Associates in Mount Vernon.

“One is the continued growth of our county’s work force, another is the desirability of our county as a place to live and raise kids, and the third is pressure from tight housing supplies south and north of us,” he states. “We value our climate and our culture so much we’re willing to pay a premium to protect and enjoy it.”

Inventory in Snohomish County (south of Skagit): up 28% YOY. Inventory in Whatcom County (north of Skagit): up 72% YOY.

According to the latest figures from the 17-county Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) in Kirkland, the average price of a home in Skagit County in August was $318,454. That was a drop of 8 percent from July when the mean was $344,440, but considerably above that for the previous August, when it was a mere $230,250.

You might be wondering: “why are they referring to average prices instead of median, and why are they using August numbers, when September statistics have been out for a month?” Well I don’t know why they would choose to print average prices, but it is rather convenient that the average they quote is considerably higher than the August median of $270,000. As far as the August vs. September question, the median dropped about $5,500 from August to September, which doesn’t really fit well with the title “Staying Strong” subtitle.

Where in many locations around the country the housing boom shows signs of slowing — the so-called “bubble” bursting, as some pundits would have it — sales activity in Skagit County has increased appreciably over one year, from 645 units in August 2005 to 972 in the same month this year, even though pending sales dropped from 259 to 209 in the same period and new listings decreased from 307 to 300.

While they did manage to sneak a little bit of truth into this paragraph (pending sales drop & new listings) the author apparently needs to take a course on how to read the NWMLS report. What the writer refers to as “sales activity” is actually total number of active listings—inventory.

Our real estate reporting here in Seattle usually leaves a lot to be desired, but at least the local papers don’t waste our time with completely false data like this. Of course, if they do, rest assured that I’ll be here to call them out.

(Skagit County Business Pulse, 11.2006)

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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
    WaitinginMarysville says:

    “a 38.3 percent increase in Skagit County alone in the past year “

    I think he meant the asking prices were up 38.3%.

  2. 2
    PugetHouse says:

    OUCH! BTW, here are some Skagit stats I posted on Friday.

    1. Units
    2. Avg SqFt
    3. Med SqFt
    4. Avg Price
    5. Med Price
    6. Med Price/SqFt
    7. Days on Market (avg/median)


    Note that median price and median square foot price can go in opposite directions. The latter is more steady in Skagit and more relevant to valuations but less relevant to market volume.

  3. 3
    synthetik says:

    I wonder if the historic flooding in Skagit will drive prices even higher… as we all know, they aren’t making any more land; and from the looks of it, much of that land has been carried out to sea.

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