It seems that every time the local press prints a story that is slightly less than 100% “rah-rah, go home prices” people come crawling out of the woodwork to accuse them of using “doom and gloom” or “sensationalism” to sell papers. Accusations like that really amuse me, since (as regular readers of these pages know well) the vast majority of real estate stories printed by Seattle’s two dailies are overwhelmingly positive about the market, despite looming signs of a slowdown.
Case in point. Take a recent AP story about the nation-wide housing slowdown. The P-I reprinted the story in its original form: Housing sales drop in 40 states. However, over at the Times, they couldn’t let a headline like that slip by. No, that just won’t do. So they whipped up their own version (additions in bold): Housing sales fall in 40 states; but not in Northwest
The slump in housing deepened in the final three months of last year with sales falling in 40 states and median home prices dropping in nearly half the metropolitan areas surveyed.
The Pacific Northwest bucked that trend, with the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area prices rising 11.3 percent in the fourth quarter, the National Association of Realtors reported today. Spokane prices were reported up 12.2 percent, and Portland up 11.2 percent.
At this point I imagine the Times was pretty proud of themselves. But apparently after going to print, someone thought: “You know, adding just one paragraph might not be enough to get the message across. The Puget Sound housing market is so blisteringly red-hot that it deserves more than that. Let’s add a bit more and print it again.”
The slump in housing deepened in the final three months of last year, with sales of existing homes falling in 40 states and median prices dropping in nearly half the metropolitan areas surveyed.
Although Washington state’s sales of houses and condominiums declined 16 percent, prices continued to climb, thanks to a generally strong economy.
In the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area, prices rose 11.3 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday. Spokane prices were up 12.2 percent, and Portland up 11.2 percent.
Formerly red-hot areas were among the hardest hit as the five-year housing boom cooled considerably in 2006.
While some economists think the worst may be over for housing, others predicted more price declines to come in some areas until near-record levels of unsold homes are reduced.
The Puget Sound area is not now reporting an excess housing supply.
At the end of January, King County had a three-month supply of unsold homes, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
There, that’s better.
You want another example of the sensationalist doom and gloom reporting we are subjected to by the local press? Okay, how about Aubrey Cohen’s twist on the AP story, appearing in today’s P-I: Area’s housing prices still strong
Whatever is happening to the region’s housing market, its home prices held up better than in much of the nation.
The price of a typical house in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area was $372,900 in the final three months of 2006 — up 11.3 percent from the same period in 2005, according to data the National Association of Realtors released Thursday.
The association did not release figures just for Seattle, but the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported the city’s median price for houses and condos increased by more than 9 percent in each of the final three months in 2006, compared with the same months the year before.
I do have to give Mr. Cohen some credit though, as he did manage to bury a little bit of a warning in there between the sub-headline “Homes here buck national trend” and all the starry-eyed cheerleading:
Seattle isn’t in the clear, however. The number of homes on the market increased for seven straight months, compared with the same months in the prior year, while year-over-year sales declined for six straight months before going up in January, according to the Northwest MLS.
The rate of price appreciation slowed in recent months, with a year-over-year increase of just 0.8 percent in January. January’s median was down 9.5 percent from December. Some analysts have speculated that Seattle will see year-over-year price declines.
What can you say. They’ve got to throw in a little “doom and gloom” to sell the ‘papes, right?