Here’s the NWMLS press release that accompanied yesterday’s numbers: Pending Sales Up 4.1 Percent From Year Ago, Total Inventory Unchanged
Home sales around Western Washington during September rose 4.1 percent from a year ago, reversing a 19-month pattern of declines. Members of Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported 5,982 pending sales (offers made and accepted, but not yet closed), a gain of 234 transactions from a year ago. The totals cover 19 counties in the MLS service area.
NWMLS data show the last system-wide uptick in pending sales was February 2007 when members reported a 4.8 percent gain from the previous year.
In other key indicators of housing activity, Northwest MLS reported tightening inventory with a double-digit drop in the number of new listings added during September compared to 12 months ago, and total inventory at month end that matched year-ago numbers. Figures also show area-wide softening of prices compared to a year ago.
So the industry-promoted message this month is “focus on the increased sales and flat inventory.”
Let’s take a look at the newspaper writeups about yesterday’s data from the NWMLS. Let’s see how our local reporters did at staying on message.
Eric Pryne, Seattle Times: King County home prices slide again, but more people are buying
While prices continued their yearlong decline, the number of pending home sales in King County increased in September for the first time since the real-estate slump began last year, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service said Monday.
Brokers said it could be a sign the market has hit bottom and is starting to turn around. Or not.
“It’ll be more important to see how things go in October and November and December, now that we have the [Wall Street] bailout in place,” said Eirik Olsen, owner-broker of the ReMax Real Estate Center in Redmond.
Oh my. If local agents are counting on the Wall Street bailout to perk the local market back up, they’re in for a heaping helping of disappointment. Also, does Elizabeth Rhodes still work for the Times? She’s been AWOL for two months now. I miss her.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Area housing market shows signs of stability
The Seattle area’s real estate market showed signs of stabilization in September, according to new statistics released Monday.
Pending sales of houses and condominiums in Seattle increased 8.8 percent from a year earlier and 1.8 percent from August, while sales countywide went up 4.2 percent from September 2007 and declined 0.8 percent from August, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The inventory numbers were the bright spot in September’s numbers, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University. “That’s the first step that we really need to take to get the market stabilized.”
Crellin attributed the increase in pending sales to the fact that many buyers are having a tougher time getting loans approved.
“I think we’ve got a buildup in pendings simply because the time lags on getting through the approval process have clearly lengthened,” he said.
More buyers are getting off the fence, said Mike Skahen, owner/broker of Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle.
“I’m convinced that as the national financial crisis subsides and with Seattle’s good economy, buyers who have been waiting for the bottom will return and wish they had bought now.”
Yes, another bottom-caller. Get off the fence you fools, and buy, buy buy! If you don’t, you’ll be sorry! Note that Mr. Skahen’s comments are directly from the NWMLS press release, which also includes the following delicious morsel:
Commenting on the relatively low sales numbers over the past year, he remarked, “There must be substantial pent-up demand.”
Bzzt. Sorry, but you’ve got it backward, Mr. Skahen. The unusually high sales numbers 2003 through 2006 borrowed buyers from the future (as in, now). There is no pent-up demand.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: House prices drop 10% in Snohomish County
Home sales continued to fall in Snohomish County during September, but things picked up elsewhere in the Puget Sound area, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Pending sales were down 6.8 percent last month, combined with a 29 percent drop in closed sales for September, the listing service reported.
Not much to the Everett Herald report this month, more or less just a little blurb with the pertinent numbers.
Rob Carson, Tacoma News Tribune: Another big dip in Pierce County home prices
Home prices in Pierce County continued to fall in September, dropping to $241,950, a 10.4 percent decline from September 2007.
Home sales in Pierce County and around the country have been falling for the last year, though prices here declined less than elsewhere.
Brokers blamed the recent economic turmoil for the drop in overall activity but also said there is a perceived difficulty in getting home loans.
“For people with good credit getting a loan is not a problem,” [President of the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors Virgil ] Wells said. “It depends on your credit score. Obviously there have been some buyers cut out of the market simply because there is no longer a potential for zero-down loans.”
Buyers waiting longer for the market to bottom out could be making a mistake, Wells said.
“A lot of it depends on what the stock market does in the next few weeks,” he said. “That, and who wins the elections in November. There are too many variables for me to be able to predict a bottom with any accuracy.”
“I think we just need to get the media to paint a positive picture,” Wells said. “The fact is, this is the best time for buyers to buy since 1996.
Seriously, that darn media! If only they would be more positive, people would stop trying to time the bottom and the market could recover tomorrow. Wait, people really believe that? Yikes.
Also just a short blurb, nothing even really worth quoting in The Olympian: Home sales show an increase
So it would seem this month’s message is that after last month’s double-digit declines, the slight uptick in pending sales has signaled the end of the housing market downturn. Hooray, crisis averted! It’s back to double-digit price increases any day now for sure. We’ll all be rich.
(Seattle Times, 10.06.2008)
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 10.07.2008)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 10.06.2008)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 10.07.2008)
(Rob Carson, Tacoma News Tribune, 10.07.2008)