Foreclosure Breakdown: King / Snohomish / Pierce

In order to bring an even more complete picture of the Seattle-area foreclosure situation, I spent some time with Snohomish and Pierce County records, and pulled data on the number of Notices of Trustee Sale going back to 2000 for each county.

Here are charts of King, Pierce, and Snohomish County foreclosures from January 2000 through September 2008, with uniform y-axis scales to provide easier comparison:

Notices of Trustee Sale - KingNotices of Trustee Sale - SnohomishNotices of Trustee Sale - Pierce

The raw increase in sheer foreclosure volume has been fastest in King County, where January-September 2008 saw 2,166 more foreclosures than the same period in 2007. However, the percentage increase was largest in Snohomish County, where Jan.-Sept. foreclosures rose 86% over 2007. The percentage increase in 2008 through September was 83% in Pierce and 78% in King—a total spread of just 8 percentage points between the three counties.

Here’s another look at the data, scaled in terms of number of households per foreclosure (based on household data from the American Community Survey, assuming linear household growth between surveys):

Households per Foreclosure
Click to enlarge

Since early last year, King County has gone from 1 foreclosure per approximately 3,000 households to 1 per 1,281 as of September. Snohomish County dropped from 1 foreclosure per over 2,000 households to under 900. Pierce—having rarely been above 1,500 households per foreclosure—has dropped from 1 foreclosure per around 1,400 households to 1 per every 537.

For comparison, the latest press release from RealtyTrac shows the nationwide rate to be 1 foreclosure per every 475 households, and puts Washington’s statewide rate at 1 foreclosure per every 1,383 households.

One more take on the data, the following chart simply indexes the number of Notices of Trustee Sale to 100 in January 2000 for each of the three counties, to give a directly comparable perspective of the rate of change between King County, Snohomish County, and Pierce County:

Click to enlarge

Ther were 3.45 times as many foreclosures in King County in September 2008 as there were in January 2000, 3.65 times as many in Snohomish County, and 2.71 times as many in Pierce.

If you’re interested in an even more granular breakdown of the most recent data, check out the foreclosure heat map at, which color-codes each zip code based on households per foreclosure.

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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


    I was listening to Glenn Beck this morning and his Seattle neighborhood has whole blocks of “for sale” homes with distressed owners.

    He said this Halloween the more wealthy home owners brought candy bags to the disadvantaged “for sale” home owners to save them the cost of buying candy and keep the neighborhood trick or treaters’ bags full.

    Its getting grim in our city, but thank God for our kind hearts in America.

  2. 2
    tj says:

    Suggestion for a new poll. When will monthly sales volume and monthly foreclosures meet? I guess December 2008.

  3. 3
    mikal says:

    Software engineer, I’m not seeing that here. What part of White Center do you live in?

  4. 4
    The Tim says:

    tj, I don’t know if the foreclosure volume will get that high / sales volume that low, but I really doubt it will happen as early as December. Here’s a chart showing King County closed sales volume vs. NOTs.

    You can see that they’re definitely a lot closer than they were 2000-2007, when closed sales volume was over 1000% of foreclosure volume. But even with the dip in sales and spike in foreclosures, closed sales volume is still 300% of foreclosure volume.

  5. 5
    tj says:

    Yeah, looking at the numbers you have in the chart you are probably right The Tim that it’s to early probably more likely Dec. 2010.

  6. 6
    tj says:

    Sorry I meant Dec 2009. I have soon safeguarded with “whenever”…

  7. 7
    Steve Tytler says:


    Thanks again for all your hard work cruching the numbers. I really enjoy looking at your graphs.

    The stats once again prove that despite the increase in local foreclosure activity we will not come close to the foreclosure rates seen in California, Nevada, Florida and other housing bust areas.

    We have always been far below the national average in foreclosures during past housing downturns and it looks like the trend will continue this time as well.

    Keep up the good work!

  8. 8
    TheHulk says:

    Hey Steve,

    The only reason we are not (yet) at the foreclosure rates in AZ, NV or FL is because right now we are *only* 10% down from the peak. Call me again when we reach 20% below and the ARMs start resetting in 2009/2010.

    Seattle has just started up the foreclosure mountain. We will reach the bottom in the RE market in the sound once we reach the summit.

  9. 9
    Scotsman says:

    Steve- help me out here. How in the world do you come to the conclusion you have by looking at the material provided in this post? Are you seeing a reversal in the last couple of months, and assume foreclosure rates are heading down? I see the same head-and-shoulders pattern in the first months of ’07- and things have gotten considerably worse since then.

    While you’re at it, who’s gowning to win the election? Thanks!

  10. 10
    mikal says:

    Scotsman, Obama is GOWNING to win. The election is over.

  11. 11
    buyStocks says:

    yep, check out this electoral vote bar chart. McCain would need to nuke a couple states to get back into contention.

  12. 12
    hmm says:

    @1 – I had no idea that Glen Beck lives in Seattle. If I ever bump into him I’ll have to let him know what a douche bag he is.

  13. 13
    David Losh says:

    It’s interesting that you can see so clearly, Steve.

    One factor may be the number of small builders Seattle has. There is a project close to me where all six units of a building went to foreclosure and sold. Right next door the same design is being built by what looks like the same builder. Of course the current project is cutting every corner it can.

    In the past Steve as you may recall lenders have cooped projects to get them finished so they can sell at a reduced cost. I counted four projects by the University all by the same builder, unfinished to one degree or the other.

    You are right we don’t see hundreds or thousands of homes in a housing tract come onto foreclosure all at one time as they do in California and Arizona, but the numbers will add up just the same as they always have. It will just take more time.

    OK it’s Saturday and instead of my usual pitch to contribute generously to this web site for all it provides to our community here in Seattle I’d like to point out what a perfect example Steve is of what’s happened to Real Estate.

    Without this site I would have never paid attention to Real Estate blogs or the nonsense that goes on there. Except for the radfun snake oil sales man going to Congress to promote his swindle using my tax dollars I would have never paid any attention to online brokerages without this site.

    This site has shown the idiocy of the Real Estate sales business model. As consumers you may be unaware of a Mike Ferry, or Brian Buffini, David Cox, or I hate to say it, a Tommy Hopkins. Tommy was one of the good guys in my opinion. He promotes the tricks of the trade in a constructive manner of hard work and dedication to a craft. Unfortunately it has devolved into a sign em up pitch of working the numbers.

    If you reach enough people by lead generation you have a higher probability of making the sale.

    You will never find a Real Estate professional on the internet. You will never get insight or information. It’s done by doing and once done you move on to live a life.

    So the people you meet here on the internet are generating leads. Be careful of what you think you know by being here. There are a lot of foreclosures and many more that should be. If you’ve been swindled, please contact Congress. If you own a home you paid way too much for fight back. If you have a loan not suited to you or your family contact Congress.

    I’m amazed that even today mortgage people advertise or are looking for business. These people are creating paper sold as securities backed by a depreciating asset. We all pay the consequence.

    Fight back.

  14. 14
    deejayoh says:

    When are they going to report the big month-end inventory adjustment? Usually it is in the wee hours of the morning. Right now it is still sitting about where it was yesterday

  15. 15
    deejayoh says:

    Ah – there it is at noon. Not much of a drop, only 302 listings.

    11.01.2008 11:00 11585
    11.01.2008 12:00 11283

  16. 16
    Buceri says:

    I have to agree that the region will not even come close to the forec. levels of FL, AZ, NV and CA. I’ll guess the activity volume was much higher in those places; in mid 2007, Miami had some 45 month supply of condos.

    I think Puget Sound flippers were small time compared to FL, for example, where some flippers “owned” 10-15 units in their “portfolios”. In a single month one of these clowns could walk into a bank and drop all the keys at once, while still maintaining his primary residence.

    Based on this; I would say that about 50-70% of foreclosures in FL are “real” homeowners, where in Seattle is probably 80%+.

    Absolutely no data to support this. Just anecdotal evidence, and being “familiar” with both markets.

  17. 17
    Blue says:

    Seattle is super strong. Microsoft,Google & Amazon and more companies are hiring ….

    I think home prices are just going to be up in 2009.

  18. 18

    “Seattle is super strong. Microsoft,Google & Amazon and more companies are hiring ….
    I think home prices are just going to be up in 2009.”

    Have another sip of that Kool-Aid, Blue.

  19. 19
    obelus says:

    Hey Blue,

    Something anecdotal but very telling for anyone to ever work in the “tech/internet” industry: Google has started to cut down on free food and drink for employees. This is the writing on the wall for layoffs and firings. Happened a lot in the tech industry during the dot com bust.

    Microsoft has an unannounced hiring freeze and Amazon is about to enter it’s work Christmas season ever. Just a prediction. Seattle area economy is about to come back to reality. It has been in “tech” bubble for a long time. Tech, in reality, is not that big a percentage of the economy, even before off shoring.

  20. 20
    Thaxter says:

    WIth the spike in foreclosures one would think you’d see a corresponding drop in real estate prices but it’s still so high out there. I’m looking to rent something near UW that is tolerable and alllows cats, and it’s hard going out there. Although this is off topic, has anyone had experience commuting from North Tacoma to the UW? The 586 express goes daily, but am wondering from first hand experience what that’s like. Any feedback appreciated, as the Tacoma rents and the quality of their propeties is just a lot better than in Seattle.

  21. 21
    Ray Pepper says:

    The Hulk. You are dead on! Being from Reno Nevada and watching their market turn 2.7 years ago was amazing. We do have a vastly superior job base here but the Foreclosures will continue to escalate in huge numbers. People will NOT stay in their homes when they are upside down triple digits. You can bank on that!! Let me say this again. **People will NOT stay in their homes when they are down 100k+ in their homes. ***They will buy another and let the former lapse into foreclosure. This has been happening for 2 years now in the previously mentioned areas and the “walkaway homes” will occur here as well. Not to mention Washington being a Non Recourse State as well. That will even increase our Foreclosure rate higher.

    Prices will continue to trendline down while stabilization in Reno, Sacramento, Vegas, and AZ will occur first since they have come down 50% off their highs. Investors are you upside down in your rentals? I hope to GOD you have been sobbing to the Banks and having them restructure the Loans to suit your needs. They DO NOT WANT THESE HOMES BACK. They will drop the rates on 1 year increments as long as you still qualify to make the new loan payment. Be smart people. The opportunities you have as homeowners will NOT occur again in your lifetime. You came into the investing game because you thought you knew what you were doing…..The rules have changed and you NOW hold the DECK. Remember you always want to be the dealer. Be smart!! I can’t say this enough.

    Look back to 2001, add 10% and that will be a decent gauge to the value of your property going forward. Find your GEMS, take your time, and for godsake investors stop rushing to find something. I truly believe the bottom will be prolonged for a few years not a single month.

    Bank on Dec 2 to slow down the sheer masses of Foreclosures coming. Homeowners(who qualify) will be given the BREAK of a lifetime on their owner-occupied homes. Take it.

  22. 22
    Alan says:

    Ray, Are you for hire to help a landlord renegotiate their loan with the bank?

  23. 23
    deejayoh says:

    has anyone had experience commuting from North Tacoma to the UW?

    How much do you value your time? I think you’d be better off going north or east, rather than trying to commute through about 5 traffic jams a day.

  24. 24
    Ray Pepper says:

    Sorry Alan. I’m not. Landlords/investors/homeowners MUST remember the banks do NOT want these properties back. They will do a wide variety of changes to the loan in 2009 to accomadate the owner. However, you MUST qualify and show “inherit need” for the modifications and the ability to correct this deficiency within a reasonable period of time. Wells Fargo are now dropping their HELOC 2nd’s on 1-4 year plans from 6% to 1-2% thereby decreasing payments on those who own the loans nearly in 1/2 and increasing cash flow of the owners remarkably. I have NOT even addressed the firsts yet!!

    Its sad for me to advise this but as the banks begin to modify the loans back to their initial status in 2012-3 the property owner will again have the choice to assess if the property is still worth keeping.

    The entire game has changed. The rules are out the window. Be smart. Assess your portfolio, target the dogs, and protect the GEMS. Homowners who own 1 property (owner occupied) get yourself ready for Dec 2. Your once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity is near so prepare yourself with education and knowing exactly what your property is worth. **

    If you are upside down 50k or more in your home start your education process TODAY. You then will be ready for December 2.

  25. 25
    mukoh says:

    You are throwing some bits out there that 90% of the people do not have. :)

    Banks are easier to work with then some people think.

  26. 26

    HI HMM

    Have you ever noticed the far left [Glenn Beck is Moderate Right] always calls anything that differs from their agenda KKK, haters, douche bag, etc…..I have.

    I wasn’t talking about Beck’s politics anyway.

    P.S.: I’m old fashion liberal for clear environmental population reduction….what are you, progressive liberal for 10 billion on planet earth?

  27. 27
    Thaxter says:

    “How much do you value your time? I think you’d be better off going north or east, rather than trying to commute through about 5 traffic jams a day.”

    Thanks DJO– I suppose you’re right. I’ve been thinking the same thing. Looking into Lake City and Lake Forest Park . .

  28. 28

    […] in October a reader commented that the rapidly rising volume of foreclosures would could meet and even exceed the monthly volume […]

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