Time for yet another thrilling installment of “see how the local press repackaged the NWMLS press release.”
First, for comparison, here’s the NWMLS press release that accompanied yesterday’s numbers: Western Washington Home Buyers Starting to Grasp “unique housing opportunities”
“I believe these results are reflective of what might be called a “mental filibuster” for potential home buyers — they are struggling between the desire to buy a home and the uncertainty of what might come next in the way of government stimulus, tax credits or lower mortgage rates,” observed Ron Sparks, managing vice president of Coldwell Banker Bain. Agents are reporting “tremendous activity” at open houses, with the last few weekends generating the best activity in several months. Despite the high interest, what’s stopping buyers, according to Sparks, is weak consumer confidence.
Ron Sparks also commented on housing affordability, saying it’s at its best in decades. “This certainly appears to be a once in a generation home buying opportunity, but it’s also coupled with a once in a generation economy,” he stated. The question for all potential home buyers is not whether the current economic troubles, or the unique housing opportunities they now possess, will end, Sparks suggested, adding, “Rather, they might ask where they will be living once they do.”
Mr. Sparks’ statement regarding housing affordability is flat out false, unless his definition of “decades” is “four years.” 2005 was the last time affordability was as high as it is now. In reality, home prices will still have to drop at least another 15 percent or so just to bring affordability back to its 1993-2002 average.
So what’s the story from the press going to be this month? Have we “hit bottom” yet again? Are buyers flocking to open houses, with the market “set to get its mojo back” in March, just like it was last year? Read on to find out.
Eric Pryne, Seattle Times: February home sales figures in King County continue yearlong decline
The numbers, already bleak, just get bleaker.
King County single-family homes sold last month for a median price of $375,000, the lowest since May 2005, according to a report released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
I still don’t see what’s so “bleak” or “dismal” about affordable housing. I thought that was something everybody was in favor of.
So, against such a dismal statistical backdrop, how do you explain what happened late last month when Windermere agent Dorothy Franklin listed an 82-year-old, five-bedroom house in Green Lake, just four doors from busy Aurora Avenue North?
Simple. Because at $390,000, the home was priced 5-10 percent below both the “Zestimate” and the neighborhood median, and more importantly, nearly $100,000 below nearby comparable properties on the market. When a realistically-priced home sells, it’s no mystery.
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Prices still dropping as city’s home sales lag
The only sign of stabilization was a drop in the total number of homes on the market. After posting their first year-to-year declines in nearly three years in January, inventory levels dropped again last month — down 2.6 percent in Seattle and 4.2 percent countywide from February 2008.
“I’m delighted to see that the inventories available for sale are stabilizing and in most cases are below the same month last year,” said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University. “Clearly, we need to reduce inventory in order to get the market stabilized.”
The lack of life in sales numbers is a problem, he said. “I see no reason to think that the market is going to pick up a great deal of steam in the short term. Prices are continuing to soften, but they’re not low enough yet to encourage large numbers of buyers back into the market.”
As I pointed out yesterday, inventory may be slightly lower than last year, but it’s just barely below record highs right now, and climbing just as fast as it did in 2008. Crellin’s comment that even lower prices are needed to bring back home buyers. We’re seeing it happen in California, and it will happen here too, once prices get low enough.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: County’s real estate brokers hope market has hit bottom
The recession may still have a ways to go, but some real estate brokers think home prices are done making major drops.
“I think we’re pretty close to the bottom,” Vern Holden, who owns the Mill Creek Windermere office and several others, said Wednesday.
Holden said people aren’t buying things they don’t have to buy these days, and that includes homes. “It’s partly psychology,” he said.
Buyers “are just not interested in getting a Mustang or free landscaping,” he said.
He said he believes potential buyers either need to see a series of things happen that make them feel better about the economy or they need a financial deal that they can’t refuse. “The biggest factor now is interest rates,” Holden said. “They’ve been pretty good, but they could be better.”
Excellent. I have noticed that since I called him out, our former bottom-calling champ Dick Beeson seems to have backed away from the bold bottom predictions. It’s nice to see someone else stepping up to the plate.
Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune: Slouching toward recovery?
The area’s inventory is shrinking. The number of homes and condos for sale decreased by 20 percent over the year to 6,262 active listings last month. Those in the real estate industry regard this as good news as declining supply tends to bolster home prices.
Cheryl O’Brien, an agent with John L. Scott in Gig Harbor, said her office is done taking what she calls “unmotivated listings,” or homeowners who maybe don’t need to sell but wanted to see what they could get for their homes.
“If you need to sell, we can get your house sold,” she said. “But you have to really want to sell.”
How delightful. A real estate agent boycott of wishy-washy sellers. More power to them. It’s best for everyone involved if we can clear the market of the dreamers and get down to realistic valuations from truly motivated sellers. I don’t think that’s what Ms. O’Brien has in mind, though.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Decrease in houses available could boost market, agent says
South Sound real estate professionals said Wednesday they were surprised by February’s home-sales results. Real estate agent Bob Jorgenson of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty said prospective buyers might have “crawled back on the fence,” waiting to see how the federal government’s stimulus plan would affect the housing market.
He acknowledged, too, that some prospective buyers are waiting to see whether mortgage interest rates drop below 5 percent.
Still, Jorgenson said he has been busy, showing some houses three or four times a week, and “street traffic” has been strong, with prospective buyers picking up 25 to 30 fliers at some properties.
What possible use could a “prospective buyer” have for 25 to 30 fliers from the same house? Free wallpaper? Free fuel for their barrel fire under the bridge? I don’t get how that’s a sign of market activity picking up.
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 03.04.2009)
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 03.05.2009)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 03.05.2009)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 03.05.2009)
(Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune, 03.05.2009)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 03.05.2009)