Here’s what I said on December 18th:
I predict that sales will be abysmal this month (worst December on record), and that the real estate mouthpieces quoted in the NWMLS press release (and subsequently in the local papers) will blame the low numbers on the weather. As if we never have inclement weather in December.
And here’s the NWMLS press release that accompanied yesterday’s numbers: Northwest MLS members expecting "market observers" will become "market participants"
Frigid temperatures and record snowfall brought home sales to a standstill for several days in December. The unusual weather, when coupled with the expected holiday slowdown, contributed to a 17.6 percent slide in pending sales compared to the same month a year ago, according to figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
“December typically has a slowdown in sales due to the holidays, but the recent snowfall compounded this seasonal slowing,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “On the flip side, we should see deferred buyer activity from December pushed into January,” he remarked.
Worst December sales on record? Check. Predictably lame spin about the weather? Check. Plus as an added bonus we get another easily verifiable rosy prediction from Lennox Scott. Sweet.
So how reliable was the local press this month in repeating the NWMLS nonsense? Read on to find out.
Karen Gaudette, Seattle Times: Seattle-area home sales fall in Dec. to end a down year
December’s typically a slow month for home sales. Throw a snowstorm and flagging consumer confidence into the mix and you get the 11th consecutive month that home prices sagged in the Puget Sound region compared to the same month a year earlier.
“It was an unusual year. We’re glad it’s done,” said Mike Skahen of Lake & Co. Real Estate.
The silver lining? Median sales prices for single family homes in King County crept back above $400,000 for the first time since September, though they’re still down from a peak of $481,000 in July 2007, according to figures released Tuesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS). And sales prices for condominiums held steady and even climbed in some parts of the region.
The Times story manages to keep the weather scapegoating to just the first paragraph. Most of the article is full of anecdotes and personal stories of people that bought last month.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Housing prices rose despite holidays, snow
It’s hard to judge the market’s direction based on December numbers, because there always are very few sales during the month, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.
“December data’s always really squirrelly because of the holidays,” he said, adding that last month’s snow exacerbated the slowdown.
Pending sales, which best reflect December activity, dropped 27 percent for houses and condominiums from a year earlier in Seattle and nearly 22 percent countywide. While the annual decline in Seattle was in line with those from recent months, the drop in the county was actually the second-smallest since July 2007, despite the snow.
Aubrey did a pretty good job of highlighting the fact that December is always slow, and that last month’s slow sales had more to do with the economy and the existing market trends than any weather event.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: Recession, weather drag on home sales
Take what’s typically the worst month for home sales. Add a recession. Then put in a couple weeks of terrible weather that paralyzed travel.
That’s what real estate agents faced in December in Snohomish and Island counties. So it’s no surprise that home sales were so terrible that they dropped by nearly 36 percent in Snohomish County and 20 percent in Island County in comparison to a year ago, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Take what’s typically a spin-filled sales pitch disguised as a press release from the NWMLS. Add a reporter. Then put a couple paragraphs of fluff, including quotes from discredited salesmen. That’s what readers of this month’s article faced in the Everett Herald.
Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune: Few within Pierce County in the mood to buy a home
Snow, cold temperatures and a sluggish economy pushed Pierce County’s median home price down by 13 percent in December, according to figures released Tuesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. That was the largest year-over-year monthly decline in 2008.
The end-of-the-year snowpacolypse didn’t help the already weakened real estate market as the weather kept buyers and agents from touring homes or even making it to work.
“I wasn’t seeing too many faces during the last half of the month, and a lot of it had to do with the weather and it being too dangerous to drive,” said Dick Beeson, an NWMLS director and broker/owner of Windermere/Commencement Associates in Tacoma.
There are only a couple of reasons I can imagine a reporter would continue to go to Dick Beeson for comments about the local real estate. They’re either lazy, or malevolent. Probably lazy.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Houses hit the market, Foreclosures cause uptick in new listings
The number of Thurston County homes newly listed for sale rose 13 percent in December 2008 compared with December 2007, a possible sign that more foreclosed properties were coming on to the market, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Tuesday.
The data show that 216 homes were listed for sale in December 2008, up from 191 in December 2007.
Typically, December is a slow period for the housing market. Thurston County Realtors Association President Mark Steves said the increase could be a sign that more bank-owned properties were put up for sale, or that more homeowners in foreclosure were forced to sell their houses.
Although December listings were higher, year-over-year sales fell 33.8 percent to 174 units from 263 units, combined condominium and single-family home data show.
When there are more homes on the market, “buyers don’t have a sense of urgency to write a (purchase) offer” because there is so much to choose from, Steves said.
“As the inventory cuts down, there are more buyers competing for the same home,” he said.
Unless of course the number of buyers “cuts down” faster than the number of homes on the market, which is what has been the trend in most places lately.
The Olympian also published this blurb on last month’s numbers: Winter weather affects December home sales
All in all, a pretty predictable set of stories from the local press this month. Most of these articles could have easily been written before Christmas, with blanks left to fill in once the numbers came out. Disappointing, but not unexpected.
(Karen Gaudette, Seattle Times, 01.06.2009)
(Karen Gaudette, Seattle Times, 01.07.2009)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 01.07.2009)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 01.07.2009)
(Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune, 01.07.2009)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 01.07.2009)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 01.07.2009)