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Trendspotting

I’ve been gone a couple weeks on vacation, out of the country – where I was blissfully disconnected from the internet and all news of the US economy. In the course of catching up on goings on, I surfed over to Altos Research to see what they were reporting. I clicked through a number of the key population centers in King County and found the following:

Anyone notice a trend here? Now, these charts are based on median asking prices for properties that have been pulled off of publicly available sources of listings (e.g. REALTOR.com, Windermere). They do not represent homes closing. However, there does seem to be pretty similar trend across these cities. Asking prices have dropped fairly consistently since the late-April/early-May. As a matter of fact, through a set of random clicks – I only noted two communities (Sammamish and Medina) that seemed to be bucking the trend. I don’t claim this is scientific analysis – but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless. My buddy who runs Altos told me once that changes in asking prices were over 95% percent correlated with changes in closing prices. So if you think about homes taking 60-90 days to close, then shouldn’t we start seeing the same trend in closing prices in August and September? (and when do we get those August numbers, anyway?)

Addendum from The Tim

Speaking of trends, here’s a plot of the weekly “unique visitors” at Seattle Bubble over the same timeframe as the graphs above:

We were getting an average of 1,159 visitors per day back in October of last year, then 1,711 in March, and we reached 2,565 last month. Looks like the word is getting out…

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30 comments:

  1. 1
    biliruben says:

    They must be actively massaging the August numbers so that they are “newly refreshed” (god, I had those commercials) where the format excludes any price changes whatsoever!

    Don’t trouble your simple selves with changes.

    Changes? We don’t need no stinkin’ changes.

  2. 2
    Grvetti says:

    Pretty wild…

    I’ve actually taken a look around what’s on the block for homes in mythical Ballard and have noticed tons more inventory with prices moderating if not stabilized… some even going down if they sit too long.

    Asking price, is definitely another dynamic that can’t be underestimated. It seems the realism of the housing market is finally starting to sink in around here.

  3. 3
    Greg says:

    Speaking of Ballard, what ever happened to that guy who said that everything was fine? Hmmm.

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    Oh don’t worry Greg, I’m sure he’ll show up pretty soon, when the monthly NWMLS stats come out and show anything even remotely resembling an increase in prices, regardless of how misleading the stats may be.

  5. 5
    TJ_98370 says:

    So where did you go DJO? Someplace fun?

    Purely anecdotal – but in my ‘hood in Central Kitsap, the “For Sale” signs have popped up like I have never seen before. It seems to have accelerated about when news of tightened lending standards hit the media. I am not seeing any “Sold” signs either.

  6. 6
    EconE says:

    I told you that SB was gonna go mainstream.

    When are you gonna have your own T.V. show Tim?

  7. 7

    GREAT CHARTS DEEJAYOH AND GREAT WEBSITE TIM

    I’ve advertised Seattle Bubble myself all over the www, the mathematical evidence you folks gather is outstanding and makes the Seattle Times real estate section look like the National Enquirer in comparison.

    I’d add to your great chart references, that the hidden costs of getting a typical Seattle used house ready for selling can be cost prohibitive [perhaps that’s why a lot of today’s sellers try to spike prices so high, they have to or lose money] and then selling it for the price you list to a qualified buyer is the real pink pony, especially with all the deluge of unsold homes piling up with mass Seattle Baby Boomers anxious to sell down ASAP and retire.

    You may want to find the data on pre-selling costs for old Seattle homes; get the costs associated with roof replacemnents, rotted floors, insect/rodent destruction and rent tennant damages. Even a smart sample with seller feedbacks may be quite interesting.

    The Truth shall set us free. Thanks Tim!

  8. 8
    deejayoh says:

    TJ –
    I was down in S. America – snowboarding in Argentina and Chile. Back at work now :^(, but it was a ton of fun!

    Highly recommended if you are a ski or snowboarding fanatic

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    Dang, I’ve never been snowboarding in my life, and that sounds like a blast :^)

  10. 10
    TJ_98370 says:

    DJO,

    Sounds like fun. Unfortunately, my exotic travels this year are going to be limited to visiting Moscow, Idaho. :(
    I scored a cool Idaho Vandals baseball cap though. (I know how pathetic I sound so no need to point it out.)

  11. 11
    Chris says:

    DJO,

    Sweet trip! Was this at resorts, or were you accessing the slopes via climing, sno-cat, heli? I’d love to go climb and ski in the Andes. Wouldn’t mind doing a bit a fly-fishing in those countries either but that’s a different season.

    Nice trends. It’s something that I have started to notice as of late on the listings. I’m looking forward to the Times’ explanations in the next few months.

  12. 12
    deejayoh says:

    Chris –
    It was mostly resort, with some hiking into off-piste stuff to catch the steep chutes. We went to Cerro Catedral and Cerro Bayo in Bariloche, Argentina and Valle Nevado just outside of Santiago, Chile.
    Bariloche is the place to go for fly fishing. I have been thinking about a winter trip (summer there) for that.
    We ate loads of bif de lomo, drank a lot of Malbec, and took tons of pictures. Only one storm came through while we were there, but it was still good. 9 of us ate a steak dinner at the best parilla in town with 3 bottles of great wine and the bill was $200 US. Best steak I’ve ever eaten.
    In terms of listings – I am seeing lots more FSBO these days. I noticed two right next to each other down in Madison Valley this morning – right off MLK. That neighborhood is so transitional – I gotta believe it is falling off a cliff.

  13. 13
    John says:

    Could this be the beginning of the end? Area homes have given up this year’s gains.

    A relative or two still tell me real estate always goes up and I will be priced out forever. No joke. Seattle hasn’t gone down much or people haven’t felt the decline yet. But how can anyone be optimistic about real estate if they have paid attention to what happened in other parts of the country and the subprime crisis? My conclusion is a lot of otherwise smart people are just too busy to watch the news or read newspapers.

    It will take -20% across the board until people start to notice something is wrong.

  14. 14
    Mike says:

    As I a buyer looking, I can say that the sellers sure have not gotten the message in these stats. We need a newspaper article to point it to them.

  15. 15
    David McManus says:

    Mike,

    I think they call that pure greed. Let them have their house sit on the market for 200-300 days; they’ll get the point.

  16. 16
    Angie says:

    Man, I guess you guys have been right all along! I’m gonna rush right over to Bellevue and snap up some of those $800K bargains.

    I notice that those graphs reflect 12 months, and half those graphs have downward slopes at the earliest points. Makes me wonder about these data in context of typical yearly fluctuations in the RE market. The smoothed (orange) curves for Bellevue, Redmond, and Federal Way are practically sinusoidal, and Kirkland is pretty close, too.

  17. 17
    Chris says:

    DJO,

    It’s an interesting thing about steak. We’re taught here in the good ‘ole USofA that we are the gold standard when it comes to beef. (Just ask my buddy who brokers meat to Costco). But a good friend of Tim and mine grew up in Bolivia and swears that the everyday steak in Bolivia is far superior to the the best steak he’s had in the States. But what would he know, Bolivians eat rocks. Right Tim?

    I guided with a guy in college up in AK that would guide in Argentina in the off-season. I don’t know if it was in Bariloche or somewhere else. I don’t think it was in Patagonia though. His pictures from there were amazing. I also worked with another guy that guided in Chile that also had an awesome operation. It seems that if you can stomach the airfare, the costs for great guided fishing are very reasonable.

    I wonder about the FSBO factor. As more people begin selling that are upside-down or close to it, I would think that there will be a larger percent that are FSBO in order to defray some costs of the sale.

  18. 18
    deejayoh says:

    Makes me wonder about these data in context of typical yearly fluctuations in the RE market.

    Angie –
    I considered that seasonality might be an issue, but based on history, the impact of that should be completely the opposite of what you see in these charts

    Check the history in Tim’s spreadsheet. May, June and July are three of the biggest months for median price appreciation, accounting for an average of 45% of annual appreciation between 1993 and 2007. So according to historical seasonality, the price should be going up for the last 3 months, when it has been going down. What is going to happen in the historically down months?

    There’s certainly a consistent influence at work here, but seasonality isn’t the answer.

    However, you do get points for the use of a $10 word ;^)

    Avg % of annual gain
    Mar-93 to Jul-07
    Jan: -0.01%
    Feb: 11.46%
    Mar: 28.61%
    Apr: 16.30%
    May: 17.09%
    Jun: 15.61%
    Jul: 12.73%
    Aug: -1.26%
    Sep: -12.23%
    Oct: 3.88%
    Nov: 9.24%
    Dec: -1.42%

  19. 19
    Old Ballard says:

    I’m not sure how much of its “pure greed,” some of it for sure. It’s self-defense. People isolate themselves. It’s safer to be detached. I think a lot people spend their lives maxed out mentally/emotionally. They only take on problems when forced to. My wife calls it, “swing in the river of denial.” They just don’t want their world coming apart on them. The longer they can go without dealing the better. It’s one of the reasons I believe things will get so bad. If you’re putting off problems till the last minute. It’s usually too late to do anything but damage control. That’s about all that can be done now, either by individuals or the Feds, damage control.

  20. 20
    CCG says:

    “the mathematical evidence you folks gather is outstanding and makes the Seattle Times real estate section look like the National Enquirer in comparison.”

    NE is more believable, as I don’t think they don’t tell any stories of a bubble that will go on forever.

  21. 21
    Lionel says:

    Even the Onion is more believable than the Seattle Times:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/mortgage_market_collapse

  22. 22
    incessant_din says:

    This unique visitor is interested in the Seattle area because I have invested quite a bit of education in aerospace engineering, and it seems that road leads north and west eventually. Call it hedging my bets. The 40 degree mist and unbelievably short winter days may be too much for this Californian, but what really scares me are lahars and pyroclastic flows. Came for the data, sticking around for the cultural insight.

  23. 23
    curioser says:

    How about a chime in from another recently new visitor. Found the site round about from Talking Points Memo to Max Speak to some other real estate bubble site, on which I saw the Seattle Bubble site in a side bar. Had no idea such a thing existed. Great to see sober analysis and good fact sifting. This whole thing frustrates the hell out of me (the market) as the same papers propping the market in good and bad times now write stories about the misinformed buyers who jumped in without proper consideration.

    Good to have a place that looks beyond the typical media, considers and interprets the data, and isn’t filled with commentary from reactionary attack dogs.

  24. 24
    jon says:

    Your average figures for August and September show losses for those months. The price per square foot graphs on altos for Seattle is more stable, and are positive from January until August. Days on market is dropping, while of course inventory is rising, so that must mean people are actually asking more market-oriented prices recently. That would explain the recent drop in asking prices. Not so scary after all.

  25. 25
    Eleua says:

    Well, it’s time to pat myself on the back again…

    A few months ago, I referred to this September as, “The September of Sellers’ Soiled Shorts.”

    What do you think? Are we there yet? The month is young, and the week of 9/17-9/21 is going to be a barnburner in the stock market.

    Anyone know any sellers that are looking for a clean pair of shorts, and a decent offer?

    Imagine what you will be thinking if your house is more than you can afford, the stock market takes a huge dump, and your neighbors are trying to sell as fast as they can.

    Oh, one more thing…October is coming, and with it…the pervasive, dark, gloomy, wet, cold Seattle winter. No buyers in sight.

    Yikes!

  26. 26
    Eleua says:

    Did I read that graph correctly?

    Asking price in Mercer Island is $1.8M?

    2000 census data shows MI with a household income of $90K. That’s 20X income! which beats 15X (Coronado, CA) as the most zany priced real estate I have ever seen.

  27. 27
    bitterowner says:

    “….and makes the Seattle Times real estate section look like the National Enquirer in comparison.”

    Truer words have never been written.

    On the lighter side – as a matter of coincidence, DJO, I was snowboarding in Valle Nevado outside Santiago yesterday (Wed). I wouldn’t be imaginative or exotic enough to plan a vacation there – I was there for work and had a day to kill before my flight home. The scenery was spectacular and the weather was about the best I’ve ever snowboarded in but I have to say the snow conditions were disappointing. East coast ice and hard pack all the way. The snacks were good though and the patagonian beef is great.

    And now back to financial armageddon….

  28. 28
    Buceri says:

    I’ve never thought I would read about Argentina here. My gaucho heart is smiling. I am glad you enjoyed it deejayoh. Next time spend some time in Buenos Aires and the Iguazu falls (in the words of an American tourist, “they make Niagara look like an overflowing bath tub”).

  29. 29
    Joel says:

    The economy is good therefore house prices can’t go down much. There’s a good reason housingpanic hates realtors, mortgage brokers, hedge fund managers and the Fed. This whole bubble thing hurts everybody, whether you participated or not.

  30. 30
    deejayoh says:

    Bitterowner – I totally agree on the Valle Nevado conditions. They hadn’t gotten any snow for a while when I was there – but it was a sunny day so we had spring skiing conditions until late in the day. At 10,000 feet, it gets a little cold! It was my least favorite of the 3 resorts I visited.

    Buceri –
    I take it you are Argentinian? I love the place. This was my 3rd trip – the other two have taken me through BA, I just couldn’t work the ticket on miles this year. I’ve heard about the falls but never visited. Perhaps when I take that fly-fishing trip…

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