Puget Sound Counties September NWMLS Update

Let’s check in on the NWMLS statistics from around the sound.

Here’s where the YOY stats stand for each of the six counties as of September 2008:

King – Price: -7.8% | Listings: +4.6% | Sales: +14.7% | MOS: 6.6
Snohomish – Price: -9.8% | Listings: -3.7% | Sales: -6.8% | MOS: 8.8
Pierce – Price: -11.6% | Listings: -9.9% | Sales: +26.7% | MOS: 7.6
Kitsap – Price: -13.9% | Listings: -3.9% | Sales: +32.7% | MOS: 7.1
Thurston – Price: -4.8% | Listings: -10.1% | Sales: +5.7% | MOS: 6.0
Island – Price: -3.4% | Listings: +1.5% | Sales: +1.1% | MOS: 12.0
Skagit – Price: -13.5% | Listings: -0.3% | Sales: -20.3% | MOS:10.4

Following below are the graphs you’ve come to expect. Click below to continue reading.

These graphs only represent the market action since January 2006. If you want to see the long-term trends, feel free to download the spreadsheet (or in Excel 2003 format) that all of these graphs come from, and adjust the x-axis to your liking. Also included in the spreadsheet is data for Whatcom County, for anyone up north that might be interested.

First up, it’s raw median prices.

Puget Sound Median SFH Prices
Click to enlarge

Median prices declined from August to September in all seven Puget Sound counties, with drops ranging from $500 in Thurston to $18,000 in Kitsap.

Here’s how each of the counties look compared to their peak:

King – Peak: July 2007 | Down 13.7%
Snohomish – Peak: March 2007 | Down 13.2%
Pierce – Peak: August 2007 | Down 16.0%
Kitsap – Peak: September 2007 | Down 13.9%
Thurston – Peak: July 2007 | Down 9.8%
Island – Peak: August 2007 | Down 18.6%
Skagit – Peak: June 2007 | Down 21.1%

Thanks to the minuscule drop in September, the median price in Thurston County has now dropped the least. Note that the spreadsheet also contains a “drop from peak” graph, similar to the one posted with the monthly Case-Shiller update.

Here’s another take on Median Prices, looking at the year-to-year changes over the last two years.

Puget Sound Median SFH YOY Price Changes
Click to enlarge

Everybody’s still bouncing along in the negative, with year-over-year drops ranging from 3.4% in Island County to 13.9% in Kitsap. Interestingly, those two counties were on opposite ends of the YOY spectrum last month, with Kitsap experiencing the smallest drop, and Island the largest.

Here’s the graph of listings for each county, indexed to January 2006.

Puget Sound SFH Listings
Click to enlarge

The number of listings sitting on the market declined across the board in September, with the largest month-to-month drop in percentage terms coming in Skagit, where listings fell 8% from August.

Here’s a look at the YOY change in listings.

Puget Sound SFH Listings YOY
Click to enlarge

Two more counties went YOY negative on listings, bringing the total to five of seven. King and Island are now the only Puget Sound counties where listings continue to come in higher than last year.

Pending sales, also indexed to January 2006:

Puget Sound SFH Pending Sales
Click to enlarge

Sales were all across the board in September, with Kitsap and Island seeing big month-to-month bumps, King staying relatively flat, and drops in Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston, and Skagit.

Lastly, here’s the YOY graph of sales:

Puget Sound SFH Pending Sales YOY
Click to enlarge

Wow. The dramatic upward spike on the year-over-year graph is extremely noticeable in every single county, although Skagit and Snohomish simply went from really negative to somewhat less negative. It will be very interesting to see if these September sales were essentially “borrowed” from October.

Island County has had over 12 months of supply for eleven of the last twelve months. Ouch. Overall, prices declines around the sound seem to be slightly accelerating, while listings appear to have topped out. The sales spike across the entire region is definitely interesting. We will be keenly watching to see if it was just an aberration, or whether it persists into October.

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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
    vboring says:

    Thanks again for the visual breakdown.

    Considering how important foreclosures are to price movements, I think it would be interesting to see monthly foreclosure data.

  2. 2


  3. 3
    Gene says:

    Do you have stats on how many homes actually did close? I’m starting to wonder if some of the “pending” sales are because closings are delayed and people can’t get mortgages…

  4. 4
    The Tim says:


    I have been tracking the ratio of pending to closed sales, but the series is incredibly noisy on a month-to-month basis. Here’s the last update from August, showing that 16% of pending sales never closed in the second quarter. I plan to do an update to that post with third quarter data once closed data comes out for October.

  5. 5
    mikal says:

    Is it just me or are the graphs going up? And isn’t a sellers market at six months of supply? And isn’t this the time of the most uncertainty in the market in 80 years? That said, I still wouldn’t be buying, but somebody is starting to.

  6. 6
    John Smith says:

    My theory on the sales spike is that it is a response to the 50 basis point drop on interest rates when the government took over Fannie & Freddie. It all happended at the same time. This 50 point drop was instantaneous, but only lasted 3 weeks. So, I don’t think these sales numbers will hold up.

  7. 7
    mukoh says:

    The drop in interest rates lasted only a week and a half or so really.
    A lot of people IMHO really figured and restructured to sit out instead of list in this market, while at the same time buyers are at least getting wiser and throwing offers 10-20% below the listing price and getting them accepted.

  8. 8
    MarkM says:

    Slightly off topic but an article about foreclosures in today’s Times:


  9. 9
    patient says:

    That upswing in pending sales is likely to be as rare as a zero down subprime ARM going forward.

  10. 10
    Alan says:

    Sales are increasing because prices are dropping. Supply and demand. Econ 101.

  11. 11
    mydquinn says:

    This blog has been a great resource. However, I have three issues that I wish Tim would resolve.

    1. The biggest problem with using median home prices as a measure of the market is that it does not control for median sizes of the homes being sold. If foreclosures are disproportionately affecting the bottom end of the market, the the fall of median home prices could be partly attributable to a fall in the median size/quality of homes being sold.

    2. The bubble burst has not only not been uniform across counties and states. It is also not uniform within counties. This lack of uniformity is captured in the “ring of fire” phenomenon. It seems misleading to lump data about Woodinville & Issaquah in with data about Greenlake & Ballard.

    3. I still have seen no explanation for Tim’s theory that Seattle lags the Los Angeles & San Diego markets by 17 months. The implication is that Seattle will behave just like those markets, but on a 17 month delay. The problem with this prediction is that technical analysis (mapping market inflection points onto each other) is not theory. This fallacy is evident in Tim’s creeping predictions. When Tim first started talking about the Seattle lag, it was 6 months. Then it was 8 months. Then it was 12. Then it was 13. Now it is 17. So while the market prices have definitely taken a hit and are likely to decline some more, there appears to be no reason to believe that things will get as bad in Seattle as they are in the country’s worst hit areas.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think we have some more pain & agony ahead, especially if Seattle’s net loses of jobs in the recession get into the 1000s. Rising interest rates will also continue to take a bite out of home values. But it seems relevant to test some of the more negative theories of the market with the same rigor as the positive theories.

  12. 12
    patient says:

    There are many reasons to believe that things will be a s bad in Seattle as in countries worst hit areas. It seem to me that prices are no longer controlled by supply and demand but by affordability. If you have 10 or 10000 overpriced homes on the market makes no difference. They all need to come down to affordable levels before they sell. Seattle’s prices are as was the case in California way out of whack with what the median earner can afford with today’s lending standards. And with the economy going into the dumpster even here in Seatlle with low or negative job growth and home debtors and consumers in general in distress it will get ugly, we are just a bit behind the curve that’s all.

  13. 13
    The Tim says:

    My response to mydquinn @ 11:

    1) I agree, but unfortunately median price is the best indicator the NWMLS publishes. Without direct access to the NWMLS database, I can’t get my hands on anything better.

    Of course, the Case-Shiller index does a great job of accounting for size, and I post regular updates whenever they release their new data. Their one downside is that the index for Seattle covers a huge area, all of King, Snohomish, and Pierce, which brings me to…

    2) This is the problem I am attempting to address with my regular neighborhood breakdown posts. If there’s something more specific you’d like to know that I could include in that post series, just let me know.

    3) The earliest mention I can find/recall of the California lag on this site is from the October 18, 2006 post: “Local Prices Are Not Headed Backward,” in which I quoted following from the Everett Herald:

    It used to be a popular notion among local real estate agents that the Northwest housing market lagged behind the California market by about six months.

    A few days later on October 20 I said:

    Since real estate trends in the Northwest are said to lag California by six months to a year,

    Note that I did not claim this theory to be my own at any point. In February of 2007 I investigated this theory using the Case-Shiller data, and determined that on the way up, Seattle appeared to lag San Diego by roughly a year, but again never made the claim that this meant Seattle would “behave just like those markets.” From that post:

    So what’s the conclusion? During the recent unprecedented run-up in home prices, price growth in Seattle has lagged the nation as a whole by roughly six months, and San Diego by approximately a year. Both of these measures have shown real price declines in the past year, despite many positive factors (such as job growth, low unemployment, good interest rates, etc.).

    Therefore, a reasonable person would conclude that there is a very real possibility that Seattle will also experience price declines in the coming year.

    A few months later in June 2007 I did a more precise assessment of the data and determined the 17 to 18 month number. From that post:

    Those curves sure look similar to me (note: “similar” not “identical”).

    And of course, every time I’ve posted the 17-month delay graph lately, I have followed it with qualifiers like “for entertainment purposes only” and “not intended to be predictive.”

    When it comes to mentions of Seattle’s market lagging behind California, you seem to have constructed a picture in your head of what was said on this blog that does not quite match reality.

  14. 14
    mikal says:

    mydquinn is correct about comparing comparing Ballard/Greenlake and Bothell/ Issaquah. Those of you that can’t afford further out now will most certainly never be able to afford closer in later. Everything is relative. Some of you could work for the Bush White House with your spin. The lag time has always seemed nuts to me as well. We still aren’t out of the worst of it for many areas if not all, but I’m guessing that some of you will be saying it is a momentary trend upward and will most certainly will go down atb the time it doesn’t.

  15. 15
    TJ_98370 says:

    Wow! The end of the world as we know it! Wasn’t that a REM song?
    Hard times have some flirting with survivalism
    Economic angst has Americans stockpiling ‘beans, bullets and Band-Aids’
    SEATTLE – Atash Hagmahani is not waiting for the stock market to recover. The former high-tech professional turned urban survivalist has already moved his money into safer investments: Rice and beans, for starters…….
    …….“There are a lot more people — a lot more eager people — who are trying to get themselves squared away logistically,” said Rawles, who lectures and writes books on preparing for and surviving “TEOTWAWKI” — The End Of The World As We Know It……


  16. 16
    patient says:

    So The Tim, do you personally think Seattle will continue to track San Diego pretty close with a 17m lag as it has the last years or do you predict a significant deviation in say the next two years? Perhaps this is like asking a politician for a straight answer? Anyway, great job with this site. It’s excellent!

  17. 17
    TJ_98370 says:

    Kitsap’s pending sales may be up, but it appears that the upper end of the market is slowing way down. In my neighborhood, real estate in the $250k to $350k range is selling, if the value is there. However there is a home for $550k (< 5 yrs old, 10 acres) and another for $825k (< 5 yrs old, waterfront) that have been on the market for over a year.
    I know the above is anecdotal, but you tend to notice things when you drive thru the same neighborhood on a daily basis.

  18. 18
    mikal says:

    Tj, those are the same people that bought at the peak. They probably also think the world is only 6000 years old.

  19. 19
    The Tim says:


    So The Tim, do you personally think Seattle will continue to track San Diego pretty close with a 17m lag as it has the last years or do you predict a significant deviation in say the next two years?

    I suspect the lag factor will continue, with respect to the direction of prices, though at some point I expect the magnitude of price changes to deviate again, since Seattle (arguably) does not have as far to fall from the bubble peaks as SoCal.

    Disclaimer: Not a data-based prognostication or prediction—just an off-the-cuff opinion.

  20. 20
    mydquinn says:

    Thanks, Tim.

  21. 21
    patient says:

    Thanks for the quick no nonsense answer, The Tim. It just seems like the inflation and deflation of a housing bubble follows some very dominant factors that make other fundamentals almost redundant. My guess is that they are affordability and psychology. Once you hit the affordability roof for whatever reason the deflation is pretty similar in pace and size except for a very rare few “superstar” (NYC, perhaps Hawaii) markets that could defy local factors due to very strong national and global appeal.

  22. 22
    Ray Pepper says:

    Tim, Can I post a GEM of the month alert thats not listed anywhere on the MLS or Craigs? One of the bubbleheads most likely will want it. Can you have a place on this site that I can throw these out there from time to time. I will NEVER want any form of commission. I seem to have 1 that crosses my path each month.

  23. 23
    deejayoh says:

    If you want market statistics for Seattle that are normalized for home size, you can also use the Radarlogic data – which tracks sales prices at the $/sqrt level

    It also tracks Case Shiller very closely

  24. 24
    Joel says:

    Can you have a place on this site that I can throw these out there from time to time.


  25. 25
    Dalya says:

    The number of pending sales YOY is increasing just because it was dropping 12 month ago.

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