It’s time for another reporting roundup. Let’s see what the local newspapers have to say about January’s not-so-positive numbers from the NWMLS. Will they claim that the market “bottoming out” and about to jump into full recovery mode? Or maybe they have finally come to accept the fact that Seattle will not avoid the downturn, which is really just getting started.
Read on to find out…
Drew DeSilver, Seattle Times:
Same sag story for home sales
Looking for a place to live in the Puget Sound region? You’ve got plenty of choices, many of them on sale.
Looking to sell your place? Um, better be patient.
Those were the messages embedded in the January housing sales figures released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The data showed home sales in the four-county region continued to sag last month.
Median sales prices — with the sole exception of single-family homes in King County — slipped further, more proof that the region has joined the nationwide housing slump.
Hey, wait a minute. That doesn’t sound like the Times’ usual upbeat real estate reporting. What gives? Oh, it’s Drew DeSilver, their actual business reporter. Seems Mr. DeSilver is more interested in actually reporting what’s going on than trying to spin the story to make the market look good. What a concept.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I:
House prices edge up; condo prices dip
Local real estate professionals say they have seen increased activity since the start of 2008, but January statistics the Northwest Multiple Listing Service released Wednesday still show a sluggish market, with an uptick in year-over-year house prices and the first condominium price drop in recent years.
Continuing the trend, the number of homes on the market increased more than 60 percent from a year earlier in Seattle and King County, and 35 percent in Western Washington. Pending sales decreased about 22.5 percent in Seattle and more than 30 percent in King County and Western Washington.
The median price of condos dropped 0.5 percent, to $305,000, in Seattle; 1.6 percent, to $270,500, in King County; and 0.7 percent, to $250,000, in Western Washington — the first posted year-to-year price declines for condos since the recent slowdown.
But looking at houses alone, the median sales price was $430,000 in Seattle, $435,000 in the county and $334,000 in the 19 counties in Western Washington — up about 1.2 percent in the city, and 1.3 percent in the county and region from January 2007.
Local land-use economist Matthew Gardner speculated that the recent tightening of mortgage standards could have a larger effect on condos, which tend to attract more young buyers with shorter credit histories and smaller down payments.
But it’s hard to make judgments on the housing market based on numbers from December and January, because that’s the slow time of year, he added. “I’d be more curious to see where we stand later on in the spring.”
Actually Matthew, it’s not that hard to make judgments based on December and January when you’re comparing them to the previous years’ December and January. It’s an amazing concept, these year-over-year comparisons. They have a way of ignoring seasonal issues.
Area sales should pick up in the middle of the first quarter with prices increasing by 3 percent to 8 percent, depending on the location, said Ken Bacon, a listing service director and associate broker at Windermere Real Estate/S.C.A. in Redmond, in a statement from the listing service.
Gardner expects area home prices to decline 5 percent in 2008, with larger drops in rural areas than closer to employment centers.
So, depending on whether you want to believe the real estate salesperson or the uncharacteristically-realistic “local land-use economist,” prices may be up 8 percent or down 5 percent this year. Or maybe both. Maybe they’ll go up 8 percent in the spring, then drop 12 percent the rest of the year, to finish down 5 percent. Or something. Now my head is spinning.
Devona Wells, Tacoma News Tribune:
Pierce County home prices decline 2.5 percent from previous year
Pierce County’s housing market got off to a bit of a rough start in 2008 with January home prices down 2.5 percent from the previous year as sales also declined.
Last year, prices appreciated 2.8 percent, though the last four months of the year saw either declining or flat home prices. Year-over-year sales for the month fell by 36.6 percent, with 563 homes sold in Pierce County in January, according to the listing service.
Real estate agents and brokers have said for months that such statistics point to a market that is normalizing after the boom years of 2004 and 2005. They also draw a distinction between small price declines here and deeper depreciation seen elsewhere in the country.
Said Mike Larson, president of Allen Realtors in Lakewood: “The numbers don’t make you jump up and down and start high-fiving each other, but when compared to the Midwest and Upper Midwest and areas really struggling, we’ve got reason to not be hanging our heads.”
Lagging prices mean the market is still in a period of adjustment, said Larson, also an MLS director. But once-hesitant buyers are beginning to pick up steam in the home-selection process, he said.
“The bottom is here or pretty soon, I think. I would be surprised if things don’t turn around real quickly,” he said.
Prepare for a surprise, Mr. Larson. I guess you haven’t learned the lesson about calling the bottom from David Lereah.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald:
Home sales slow, prices slip slightly
Home sales in Snohomish County continued to drop dramatically in January compared to a year ago, but median prices dipped only slightly.
The number of homes listed for sale last month was 47 percent higher than a year ago, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The market for condominiums was especially slow, as the number of those units for sale rose 83 percent, and both pending and closed sales for condos declined by more than 25 percent.
Given that change in demand, the median sales price for condos fell more than 3.6 percent, to $224,999 last month from $233,514 a year ago.
Sales of single-family homes also were off by more than 30 percent compared to a year ago, but sales prices suffered less.
The median price for a single-family home stood at $365,000 last month, down less than 2 percent from last year’s median of $370,700.
Those home prices coupled with low interest rates, a good selection of homes and a strong local economy are combining for some of the best conditions local buyers have seen in years, said Meribeth Hutchings, broker and owner of Windermere Real Estate in Lake Stevens. Additionally, financing is getting a little easier for buyers to obtain.
“We’re seeing an improvement in the market,” she said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. Buyers are beginning to understand that bad market hype isn’t specific to the Northwest.”
Nice. Start off with the hard statistics, and lead right into yet another local real estate agent calling the bottom. I like it. Maybe I should start a page where all we do is collect specific quotes from local agents calling the bottom or making unrealistic upbeat predictions. That could be fun.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian:
Home sales slide continues
For the second consecutive month, Thurston County home sales fell 30 percent in the year-over-year period, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Wednesday.
Regardless, median home price appreciation in the county continues to eke out small year-over-year gains.
Northwest MLS area services manager Jerry Wilkins said Thurston County homes continue to hold their values because of the county’s steady employment base.
“We have job growth but also stability, which is reflected not only in state government but other stable businesses,” Wilkins said.
Keller Williams Realty Olympia associate broker Phil Harlan said an influx of buyers from Pierce County also continues to prop up home prices.
As prices begin to decline, I think the opposite will start to happen. People realize that they can actually afford something decent closer in, so they get out of the outlying areas, which leads to more supply and less demand, which puts negative pressure on prices. I don’t guess you’ll read the local agents talking about that in the paper when it happens, though.
(Drew DeSilver, Seattle Times, 02.06.2008)
(Drew DeSilver, Seattle Times, 02.07.2008)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 02.06.2008)
(Devona Wells, Tacoma News Tribune, 02.07.2008)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 02.07.2008)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 02.06.2008)