February Neighborhood Months of Supply Update

I was going to spread out the stats posts a bit, but since people have been asking for months of supply (a.k.a. “absorption rate”) data after yesterday’s inventory post, I’m posting it today. For an explanation of what months of supply means, please refer to the original neighborhood MOS breakdown post.

Keep in mind that we are considering below 6 MOS to be a sellers market and above 6 as a buyer’s market. Based on the sketchy pre-2000 data we have available, the longest that King County as a whole has sustained a MOS above 6 was 4-5 months in the winter of 1994-1995. With February’s 6.14 MOS, the current run is up to six months.

In the graphs below, you’re looking at the MOS for the “Res Only” data from the NWMLS King County Breakout pdfs for July 2007 through February 2008. The bar graph is centered vertically on 6.0 MOS, so that it is easier to visually tell the difference between a seller’s and buyer’s market (i.e. – shorter bars mean a more balanced market). Each graph again has the same scale on the vertical axis and has the King County aggregate figure plotted in red, so they can be easily compared.

For a description of which neighborhoods each area encompasses, as well as a map of the areas and a link to the source data, visit this page.

Note: Area 100 MOS was over 21 in January, and has been clipped.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Note: Area 701 (Downtown Seattle) has virtually zero SFH activity, so on a suggestion from a reader, I’m using condo data for this area.

KC SFH MOS: Seattle
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

KC SFH MOS: Eastside
Click to enlarge

Just like last month, the north Seattle neighborhoods in areas 705 and 710 (Ballard, Greenlake, Greenwood, Lake City, Northgate, Wedgewood, etc.) stick out as being considerably less friendly toward buyers than the county as a whole or any other individual area. With MOS of 4.05 in 705 and a dismal 2.81 in 710, now is still a good time to be selling in north Seattle. The condo situation downtown is also pretty lousy for buyers, with a MOS of 2.21, but I would take the condo statistics with a grain of salt, considering how many new construction condos never make it onto the MLS.

Only one neighborhood in Seattle proper is now still a buyer’s market, area 380, which is described by the NWMLS as “Central Seattle SE, Leshi, Mt Baker, Seward Park.” Most neighborhoods in south King County are still firmly in buyer’s market territory, MOS higher than the county aggregate in 9 of 11 areas. The Eastside continues to be harsh on sellers, with only one area coming in with a MOS slightly lower than the county as a whole, area 540 (east of Lake Sammamish) at 6.07 MOS.

Yesterday I pointed out that the Eastside areas 510, 520, and 530 all had some fairly extreme spikes in inventory. With 13.18 and 10.95 MOS, areas 510 and 520 are both firmly in buyer’s market territory, while area 530 is much less severe, but still more of a buyer’s market than the county as a whole at 6.41 MOS.

King County’s islands are the two worst places to be selling a home right now, with Vashon (800) coming in at 14.40 MOS and Mercer (510) close behind at 13.18.

Here’s one more graph for you to chew on. In this one, you can directly compare each area’s MOS to one year ago’s value. February 2007 is in red, and 2008 is in blue.

KC SFH MOS: Eastside
Click to enlarge

There is not a single area that isn’t trending toward a buyer’s market compared to last year. In SFH, only one area had less than double last year’s MOS, area 710 (NE Seattle), which increased 53% from 1.84 to 2.81.

The three strongest areas as of last month were North Seattle (710) at 2.81, Ballard/Greenlake/Greenwood (705) at 4.05, and Queen Anne / Magnolia (700) at 4.28 (as well as Downtown condos (701) at 2.21). A few more areas dipped back into seller’s market territory last month, for a total of 11 out of 30 areas county-wide coming in below 6 MOS. The three weakest areas were Bellevue west of I-405 (520) at 10.95, Mercer Island (510) at 13.18, and Vashon Island (800) at 14.40.

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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
    frede says:

    does that huge spike in area 100 in january and the corresponding drop in february indicate massive relisting shenanigans?

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    Nope, it just indicates that area 100 had only 8 pending sales in January, vs. at least a couple dozen most other months.

  3. 3
    softwarengineer says:


    But what I’m really interested in, is what the charts have omitted. Like homes never sold or relisted.

    I’m not a big fan of statistics Tim, numbers can be skewed a million ways….especially coming from the real estate wolf guarding the chicken house sources.

    What really impresses me is driving around or just plain watching your own neighborhood try to sell a house(s). Those pragmatic facts really impact one’s pocketbook, especially home owners already in a neighborhood with a home for sale for a year or more. Another thing I’m seeing more of lately, empty homes with for sale signs either…..that’s very ominous and your charts don’t help ferret that one out too.

    Have you guys noticed a lot of empty office space everywhere too, like me? Where did Albertsons go and why haven’t they returned or replaced with Safeway? Why have dollar stores and cash loan stores popped up everywhere lately [like a bad case of pimples]? Gas stations are closing around my neighborhood too and the remaining ones don’t have lines at the pumps either.

    This isn’t in your charts Tim, drive around, the data is there to see.

  4. 4
    hinten says:

    One thing to remember with stocks, homes, or any other asset. You only lose money when you actually sell, Until you sell any losses are just theoretical and on paper only. I don’t point this out to support the pink ponies but to clarify that even a ‘seller market’ in the current environment might just mean that sellers have gotten disillusioned about the market and have taken there properties off the market.
    I still think there are too many speculators (even the ones that only have one SFH) and until those people are out, one way or another (foreclosure, massive price drop, resignation to live in the home forever, etc.) we won’t see this market calm down.
    This is no different than any other market where sellers are liquidating their assets for pennies on the dollar (office furniture, stocks, houses, etc.) the only difference is that with homes it takes much longer and is more emotional.

    Once you have the large guys (Quadrant, DR Horton, etc.) clear their inventory we’ll see some normalcy. I’m already hearing rumors of investors buying up the inventory for pennies.

  5. 5

    The opposite is also just as true. How many people bought houses a couple of years ago, checked their values on Zillow to see how much their house was worth ((look at how much I’ve made!) just to see it vanish.

  6. 6
    Debra Sinick says:


    You are right that inventory has gone up on the eastside in general. However, in some areas, like area 530 in Redmond, near Microsoft, the inventory is lower than it was last October. In area 530, 98052, around Microsoft, you see everything happening. Of the four pending sales, two sold after months on the market and two sold right out of the starting gate. One pending sale was 3% over list price of $650,000. The houses that sold quickly all had updating and remodeled kitchens. This seems to be a hot button in the area. Most of the buyers are usually pretty busy techies who do not have time for home remodeling. There is no need to buy a home in the area that is not updated or in at least great condition.


    I am interested to see how April and May play out in area 530. I will be reporting on it as the weekly/monthly stats become available.

  7. 7
    NotaBull says:

    “However, in some areas, like area 530 in Redmond, near Microsoft, the inventory is lower than it was last October.”

    Isn’t inventory *usually* higher in October than it is in Feb/March, in all areas?

  8. 8
    deeplennon says:

    “Isn’t inventory *usually* higher in October than it is in Feb/March, in all areas?”

    Only 99.999% of the time.

  9. 9
    TJ_98370 says:

    Off topic –

    The Seattle Times, Kitsap Sun, and some Oregon newspapers are quoted in Ben Jones’ HBB today.

    So Inflated There’s Bound To Be A Correction

  10. 10
    The Tim says:

    Isn’t inventory *usually* higher in October than it is in Feb/March, in all areas?

    Here’s the King County SFH inventory for each of the last eight October / February pairs.

    Year: Oct. – Feb. – Pct
    00-01: 6,746 – 6,142 – 91%
    01-02: 8,302 – 6,925 – 83%
    02-03: 8,966 – 8,358 – 93%
    03-04: 8,127 – 6,688 – 82%
    04-05: 6,734 – 5,242 – 78%
    05-06: 6,014 – 4,999 – 83%
    06-07: 7,865 – 6,124 – 78%
    07-08: 10,756 – 9,875 – 92%

    So yeah, being just off the September peak, usually October inventory is quite a bit higher than the following February.

  11. 11
    Everett_Tom says:

    A nice CNet article on bubbles . Just like TJ above, a little off topic.

  12. 12
    Shawn says:

    that cnet article is as if it were talking to Seattle! “The answer is ego. Each of us has the capacity to completely ignore all logic and reason, to delude ourselves into believing that we’re so special that nothing bad will happen to us. When we take risks that our bank accounts can’t cash and deep inside we know better, we’re being just a little bit too full of ourselves.”

  13. 13
    Scotsman says:

    Well I’ll be. Now that I look at it, inventory was higher in SEVERAL areas back in October than it is now. We must be transitioning back to a buyer’s market. I
    take everything I’ve ever said about some silly bubble back…. and apologize for for any coarse or inflammatory comments I’ve made.

    Gotta go, it’s a great time to buy……… /sarc off

  14. 14
    Wait it out... says:

    Off topic too.

    Fired for not wanting to fool the public anymore…? In Bend, OR.

    They’ve been having some bubble action down there too….


    (Hope this link works)

  15. 15
    george says:

    “One thing to remember with stocks, homes, or any other asset. You only lose money when you actually sell, Until you sell any losses are just theoretical and on paper only.”

    Hinten: no…but when a stock broker uses that line, it’s time to find a new one. :-)

  16. 16
    Garth says:

    That pretty much confirms what I have been seeing in my neighborhood (part of 710)

    The only inventory that seems “stuck” is those that are unable to be financed with a conventional loan (as is stuff mostly, one just added a rent to own sign!).

  17. 17
    vboring says:

    re: you only lose money when you sell

    the hardest part of investing isn’t figuring out when to buy. it is knowing when to sell a falling asset.

    the difference between (well, one of the differences) is that you can sell a stock in 10 seconds, lick your wounds, and get back in the game.

    houses are a different story. even when times are good, it can take months to sell. plenty of time to second-guess your price, presentation, choice of realtor (or not). when times are bad, you could find yourself paying a mortgage, maintenance, insurance, etc for a year on a depreciating asset, eating your income and your equity.

    this is why the mortgage/rent ratio may swing below the historic norm. enough people could get burned badly enough by RE that the market wisdom could become that houses in Seattle are terrible investments. that smart people rent.

  18. 18

    Sometimes you can’t sell a stock in ten seconds and lick your wounds.
    About ten years ago I bought a stock which came highly recommended (one similarity between RE and stocks is the number of shysters pushing their products), so I bought some. The very next day the stock was delisted and the CEO arrested for fraud. I hope he’s still in jail.

  19. 19
    Garth says:


    Your expectations of the majority of people’s reaction are not very realistic.

    The same people that are being foreclosed on right now, often vote against their personal interests and certainly view home ownership as a visible display of their success. Few people look to friends and family who are renters as financial role models that is the reality.

    I predict a shocking amount of those who are foreclosed on will blame the type of loans, and hop right back in 7 years from now (or sooner if they can find a foolish co-signer)

  20. 20
    b says:

    Garth –

    The people you talk about follow the herd, which is why they were (and are) buying at peak prices anything they can shoehorn themselves into. If conventional wisdom turns to RE being a poor investment (see Japan, 90-now), they will follow the herd that was as well. Not to mention the fact a declining market will make it impossible for them to get a loan without a large chunk of money down, something financially foolish people will never have.

  21. 21
    Debra Sinick says:

    “The most extreme action last month seemed to be over on the Eastside, where the inventory in areas 510, 520, and 530 (Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond) is just exploding” The Tim.

    Since The Tim mentioned inventory on the Eastside was just exploding, I looked at area 530, 98052 and compared it to last fall when the amount of inventory was higher than now. Last fall inventory was exploding in this area. It is less now than it was then. Whether inventory is higher in October every year is a different issue than the fact that inventory in the fall of 2007 was higher in 98052, area 530, than it is now.

  22. 22
    Scotsman says:

    Debra- are you serious? Did you read what you wrote?

    My kids go to private school for a reason.

  23. 23
    what goes up comes down says:

    Scotsman don’t waste your time, I think Debra rode the short bus.

  24. 24
    Markor says:

    What was wrong with what she wrote? I don’t see it.

    I like your blog Debra; I put it on my housing favorites. I’m watching the Eastside closely, esp. around Microsoft. House prices may well fall 30% nationwide on average. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll fall around Microsoft or other greater-demand and/or rising-demand areas. When house prices are flat nationwide do some areas rise 30%? Sure they do.

    Right now my thinking is that no place in the Seattle area will escape a bludgeoning, and Seattleites are still realizing the magnitude of the issue, hence some sales at close-to-peak prices (including my own house, thank goodness). I tried to buy a house at 20% off peak but couldn’t sell my place in time (could’ve owned two houses, but I was too chicken). Now I’ll rent & hope for most everything to fall 20+%. If prices fall to 2004 levels, I’ll be happy.

    I’ve noticed what seems to be an explosion of rentals on the Eastside. There are some spectacular deals relative to house prices, like two 4br houses on Lake Sammamish with boat docks for $2200-$2300. That is telling, I think.

  25. 25
    Buceri says:

    Debra – you probably missed a punctuation or lost your train of thought (something I do all the time). Your last sentence is something Bush would say. (“you see, water is wet….so when it rains you get water on you, hence, you get wet…you understand??”)

  26. 26
    amazedrenter says:

    “Whether inventory is higher in October every year is a different issue than the fact that inventory in the fall of 2007 was higher in 98052, area 530, than it is now.”

    [Shaking head in disbelief while laughing out loud.]

    Tim, can you add a comment filter, excluding any comments that don’t pass a basic critical reasoning exam? You may actually be able to charge Realtors(TM) for this service, as it will help maintain their credibility.

  27. 27
    Garth says:


    I have said it many times before, but this is nothing like Japan.

    A lifetime of seeing evidence and being told that owning a home is the prefered financial path won’t be overcome by the state of the market currently, just like people started buying stocks again pretty quickly after 2000. Commenters on this blog don’t generally buy conventional wisdom about real estate, but they are a tiny fraction of potential homeowners.

    People who advocate renting do not have a wealthy association to advertise and lobby the benefits in good times and bad, and the bulk of renters have worse rent to income ratios than the mortgage to income ratio of homeowners (look at the census for Ballard). There is a small subset of renters who are maximizing the financial benefit (many, me included before I bought, saving for a future purchase) some by doing some labor and paying in time instead of money (Tim, Lake Hills Renter, me at my old apartment), others by becoming craigslist and moving experts.

    I don’t see how the conventional wisdom is going to change, especially in Seattle, where by definition we have not even had the bubble yet.

  28. 28
    WestSideBilly says:

    Garth has a valid point. People have heard the conventional “wisdom” – housing is a good investment, renting is throwing away money, etc – for their whole life. The last few years in Seattle have convinced a lot of people that $400k for a starter home is perfectly reasonable.

    A few months of low sales, prices holding steady, and so forth will not erase all that. In a few cases I’ve shown people that renting for the next 5 years with some very reasonable assumptions (stagnant prices, 4% annual rent increase, etc) would result in them being $100k or more ahead of “building equity”. Their response was basically “yeah, but I own the house, instead of just throwing away money on a rental.”

  29. 29
    dg says:

    Is there any reason to believe that Japanese didn’t hear the same thing during their lives about real estate as an investment? I see the point of the group think but once you turn the lemmings away from the water…they keep going until something else stops them.

    You still can’t beat the underlying economics of the situation even with a buy or die attitude. If the bank won’t lend or lends to you at a reduced rate then the laws of supply and demand will be at work. All the lemmings were able to get a loan and now they can’t. The demand curve must shift when you fundamentally change the amount of potential buyers.

  30. 30
    Buceri says:

    “Commenters on this blog don’t generally buy conventional wisdom about real estate, but they are a tiny fraction of potential homeowners.”

    I agree Garth.

    “The last few years in Seattle have convinced a lot of people that $400k for a starter home is perfectly reasonable.”

    Absolutely WSBilly.

    Japan – memory is very short. One theory says the lack of a serious recession in generations is what makes Americans so oblivious to financial reality. There are probably few Americans that heard scary accounts from grandpa/grandma about the great depression.

    On the other hand, even though the Japanese lived la vida loca during the 80s (when they surpassed the US as the largest economy in the world), most of their money was coming from exports, please correct me if I am wrong, and not from local consumption. Their savings rate is huge; it seems that they are always getting ready for an economic catastrophe (unlike Americans). Measuring in generations, they are much closer to their misery years.

    Wow….way off topic!!!

  31. 31
    Debra Sinick says:

    Still doesn’t change the fact that inventory in the specific area I mentioned is lower than last fall. Like it or not, Scotsman, amazed renter, etc.

    Amazed renter, what is the disbelief here? Here are the facts from last fall:




    Take your pick. In all of the posts above, the inventory is higher than it is now. Last August I started tracking the data weekly to see what was happening in the Redmond/Microsoft area of 530.. The market numbers are the market numbers.

    And, by the way, a comment about inventory being higher or lower is obviously not the complete picture of the market. There still is a huge difference in the absorption rate, as we all know, between last March and this March. Close to 60% of the available homes sold last March in area 530, which includes East Bellevue and parts of Redmond. This March, the absorption rate is 15.5%.

    Thanks, Markor!

    Thanks, Markor, for your thoughts. I write several eastside blogs.

  32. 32
    hinten says:

    Oh my, Bubbleheads experience cognitive disonance when they learn that location matters in real estate value.

  33. 33
    Markor says:

    “Whether inventory is higher in October every year is a different issue than the fact that inventory in the fall of 2007 was higher in 98052, area 530, than it is now.”

    [Shaking head in disbelief while laughing out loud.]

    I don’t see anything wrong with that sentence. To me, she’s saying that inventory was higher last fall than now, and that fact remains regardless whether inventory is higher every October. So it may be misleading to say that inventory has “exploded” now, and be better to say that it is now re-approaching its October 2007 level.

  34. 34
    b says:

    hinten –

    Nobody believe that location does not factor into real estate value. The problem is that people are confusing value with price, which are not the same thing. In the vast majority of areas in Seattle, the value of an area has not changed significantly in the last 4 years of price runups. It is very easy to tell we are in a bubble, prices have doubled (or more) whereas the value has stayed exactly the same. Without wages also doubling during the same period, it is clear the prices are not reflecting value anymore. The market will correct this, belief in the bubble or not.

  35. 35
    Markor says:

    I don’t see how the conventional wisdom is going to change, especially in Seattle, where by definition we have not even had the bubble yet.

    It will change if prices fall 30+%. The tail can wag the dog, until it can’t. Doubtless lots of conventional wisdom fell during the Great Depression too.

  36. 36
    The Tim says:

    Ok, let’s be clear here. What I said was “the inventory in areas 510, 520, and 530 is just exploding.”

    “Exploding” is a description of the rate of change. To say that inventory is “exploding” says nothing about whether it has exceeded any previous records.

    Refer to Merriam-Webster’s definition:

    intransitive verb
    3. to increase rapidly

    I hate to get so pedantic, but I stand by my statement that inventory in areas 510, 520, and 530 is indeed exploding. Sorry, but whether or not inventory was higher in October than it is now has zero relevance as to the truth of that assertion.

  37. 37
    b says:

    Markor –

    I think the problem is that she used this fact, which is true, to imply that some areas are still hot markets. This is disingenuous at best.

  38. 38
    b says:

    Garth said,
    A lifetime of seeing evidence and being told that owning a home is the prefered financial path won’t be overcome by the state of the market currently, just like people started buying stocks again pretty quickly after 2000.

    How many people do you know were clamoring to buy Pets.com stock after the bubble burst? Conventional wisdom a year before then would’ve been that buying such a stock was a surefire path to 400% gains. In the 80’s conventional wisdom was that you should learn Japanese because they would buy America within a few years. In 2002 conventional wisdom was that Iraq had tons of WMDs and was itching to kill us all.

    The point is that as soon as there is enough data to show that conventional wisdom is now wrong, the conventional wisdom will flip to the opposite side. It will take several years of price declines and bad news to make this switch, but it will occur eventually. People will no doubt still buy homes, but they will not buy houses anymore (subtle difference). The conventional wisdom will become “its not really a great investment, but you can live in it”. Just like how the conventional wisdom 4-5 years ago because “buy one, install granite, sell for $200k more and laugh all the way to the bank”.

  39. 39
    Markor says:

    Good post b. I only wish the switch would happen faster! But, like many conservatives still believe Iraq was responsible for 9/11, many people will have to find their cupboards bare before they’ll even begin to understand that the country has been financially devastated by crooks.

  40. 40
    Greg Perry says:

    I think the problem is that she used this fact, which is true, to imply that some areas are still hot markets. This is disingenuous at best.

    Yet even as the The Tim’s charts show, 710 has moved into a Seller’s Market. Several areas have improved from buyers markets to balanced markets.

    In the core areas, inventory is absorbing in the lower prices and many price ranges within core NWMLS areas are considered sellers markets, or on the verge of transitioning to sellers markets.

    On the Eastside there are 3 areas that are building inventory. They are 510, 520 and 530. 510 and 520 particulaly are being impacted by high end inventory which currently has a very low rate of sale.

    AR’s for the Eastside, in the last 14 weeks, (averaged every 7 weeks),

    Area 500 has lost 27 weeks of inventory.
    Area 540 has lost 12 weeks of inventory
    Area 550 has lost 11 weeks of inventory
    Area 560 has lost 15 weeks of inventory
    Area 600 has lost 10 weeks of inventory.

    All of these Eastside areas are absorbing inventory…not building inventory.

    Again, all of these areas are greatly impacted by the high end, which has a very low rate of sale. Area 550 alone has sold 1 home out of 38 in the price above $1.5 million. If the high end was not currently BUILDING inventory AR’s for these areas be even better.

    While I won’t call the markets hot (by my definition extreme seller’s markets), we are definately seeing sellers markets throughout the core areas.

  41. 41
    Greg Perry says:

    I should have noted….
    Area 510 increased 18 weeks of inventory
    Area 520 increased 8 weeks of inventory
    Area 530 increased 5 weeks of inventory

  42. 42
    b says:

    Greg –

    They may very well be sellers markets. But claiming that they are sellers markets based on the fact that inventory is lower now than in October is bullshit.

  43. 43
    Greg Perry says:

    I agree.

    And claiming the market is tanking based on supply side numbers only is bullshit as well. :)

    A sellers, balanced or buyers market can only be defined by absorption, which is the ratio between supply and demand.

  44. 44
    deejayoh says:

    It’s interesting to see how far we have come from the “Seattle is immune” arguments that were posted here not so long ago. the tone of this thread is “certain neigborhoods are still doing ok”.
    Probably true, but what’s the next step?

  45. 45
    Bits_of_Real_Panther says:

    As long as mortgage interest is tax deductible there will be a strong bias toward home “ownership”

  46. 46
    Garth says:

    Real estate in Seattle zip codes continues to look really strong, Seattle proper still has not actually had the bubble this blog is named for.

    Japan’s stock market had P/E ratios by financials over 60 and most of the inflated stock value was based directly on inflated real estate. The combined plumetting of both and banks carrying the majority of their loans on their balance sheets at the time is why it has taken so long to come back. Also, since the S&L crisis was happening here at the same time, CDO’s and SIV’s we not yet invented.

    Pets.com was a stupid idea in 1999, just like the journal article I read today that said home equity loans became a popular way to finance expensive electronics and vacations the last several years is a stupid idea. Stocks of internet companies with real businesses grew, and ipo’s of stupid internet ideas are dead, but the tech market survived, and shortly after thrived.

    A year ago the consensus among commenters here was that 20% declines for Seattle were a lock and almost here, sniglet as always predicted a depression. Where are these properties? (Seattle zip)

  47. 47

    I don’t know that we’ve seen or will see 20% declines, but some Seattle zipcodes have seen declines and some properties in those zipcodes stay on the market for long periods.
    They are: 98106,98116,98108,98125,98178, some 98118, some 98144. Highland Park, South Park, Southeast Seattle (excluding Lakewood/Seward Park+ Columbia City, Rainier Beach, South Beacon Hill, Olympic Hills, parts of Lake City, Rainier View. These are all in the Seattle City limits, and they’re sluggards.

  48. 48
    mikemcc says:

    Hey! No swearing! Kids read this stuff, and it just isn’t necessary.

  49. 49

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