Let’s check in on the local papers (or digital former papers, as the case may be) to see how this month’s NWMLS stats are being spun to the populace.
First up, here’s the source material: the NWMLS press release that accompanied yesterday’s numbers: Brokers report signs of improvement in “real-time” housing market
NWMLS director Dick Beeson believes continued reduction in inventory will spur buyer activity. “Well priced and well conditioned properties will generally be the first ones purchased,” Beeson, the broker/owner of Windermere Commencement Associates in Tacoma, predicts.
Beeson said open house traffic and calls from “for sale” signs have increased twofold in recent weeks. Buyers are scouring the Internet before calling or visiting open houses so they tend to be knowledgeable about options in their price range, he remarked, while noting they’re still seeking assistance from Realtors® in navigating the negotiation and closing process.
“As expected, the numbers reflected in the March report continue to show year over year declines. However, these historical comparisons fail to tell the story of the real-time market, which is beginning to show true signs of improvement in many areas,” said Ron Sparks, managing vice president of Coldwell Banker Bain.
Encouraged by some of the positive indicators in the latest MLS report, Sparks acknowledged “we’re not out of the woods quite yet, but market improvement must begin somewhere.” NWMLS director Dick Beeson agreed. “All in all, we are seeing generally increased interest at all levels of the market, high and low end. We may not soon see 2005 or 2006 levels of sales numbers, but we’re holding our own and progressing steadily in the right direction.”
I will say that the two stand-out statistics in this month’s numbers are the record-setting drop in median prices and the slightly-larger than usual spring increase in pending sales. As prices continue to fall, we can expect to see sales continue to recover.
However, if other markets across the country are any indication, the return of buyers will not stop prices from falling further. Prices will stop falling only once they reach levels that can be supported by the fundamentals. Of course, don’t expect to read that in any of these press reports.
Eric Pryne, Seattle Times: Double-digit price declines making homes more affordable, attracting first-time buyers
House prices in King County slid again in March, recording the biggest year-over-year drop since the market peaked in summer 2007.
But statistics released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service also suggest sales activity may be starting to pick up as first-time buyers and investors search out bargains, especially in lower-priced neighborhoods.
But the broker-owned listing service also reported that pending single-family home sales — offers that have been accepted but haven’t closed — surged 33 percent from February’s total, the biggest monthly jump since the real-estate downturn began.
Sales almost always increase as winter ends. But the monthly bump was only 6 percent between February and March 2008.
Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University, called the increase “an encouraging sign.”
Not surprisingly, pending sales increased most in areas with the most affordable homes.
It’s nice to see Mr. Pryne changing his tone from last month, as he comes to realize that lower home prices are not “bleak” but rather “attractive.”
Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: Spring hits Seattle-area housing market
Seattle-area home sales found some spring bounce in March, although prices continued to sink, according to a new report.
March’s pending sales of houses and condominiums surged 28 percent in King County and 35 percent in Seattle from February, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service said.
Prices were down from February and from March 2008, while the number of homes on the market dropped from a year earlier for the third straight month.
“I’m expecting the market’s going to continue to be soft for the remainder of the year,” said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University. “I am unwilling to be terribly optimistic at this point in time, but I think there are some glimmers of hope in these statistics.”
“Buyers are out there, and they’re beginning to make some offers,” Crellin said. “Closed sales numbers are still depressingly low.”
Pending sales show more recent activity, although some end up falling through.
I think that is the first mention in the major local media outlets of the increasing disparity between pending and closed sales, a phenomenon we have been observing here since last August.
Mike Benbow, Everett Herald: Pending home sales offer hope for local market
Home sales and prices in Snohomish County continued to fall in March in comparison with a year ago, but real estate agents were given hope by a surge in pending sales, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
There were 485 homes sold in the county last month, a 41 percent drop from March 2008. Pending sales of 865 — offers that were accepted, but not closed — represented a 5 percent drop from a year ago, but it was the highest monthly total since last fall.
This article seems to be nothing more than a roundabout way of saying “it’s spring.”
Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune: Home sales up from ’08 but median price falls
Pending sales of homes and condos in Pierce County increased compared to last year at this time as home buyers spent March snapping up properties in the lower price ranges.
The county counted 1,043 pending sales in March, up almost 3 percent from a year ago, according to figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Low interest rates, a new $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers and more training for real estate agents on how to navigate sales of foreclosed and bank-owned properties have spurred sales of less-expensive properties, local real estate agents said.
“We’re still seeing a lot of sluggish (sales) in the $500,000, $400,000 and even $300,000 range, but below that things are pretty good,” said Tom Hume, a real estate agent with David Gala and The Hume Group in Tacoma. “It’s excellent below $150,000 – it’s actually a seller’s market if you’re in that price category.”
There’s nothing shocking about that. When homes come down into a price range that people can actually afford, they start to sell. It’s not rocket science here, people. It’s the eventual outcome that we’ve been expecting for years now.
Rolf Boone, The Olympian: March home sales rise, but still down year over year
More homes sold in Thurston County in March than in the previous two months, although year-over-year sales still fell nearly 32 percent between March 2008 and March 2009, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data.
Last month, 214 single-family residences and condos were sold in the county. That’s much better than the 147 homes that sold in February and the 177 homes that sold in January, but still was lower than the 314 units that sold in March 2008, the data show.
It’s somewhat odd that Thurston County seems to be the one place where pending sales did not pick up back to about 2008 levels, since Thurston is where we’ve been seeing some unusual strength in the numbers during our monthly Around the Sound updates.
[Update:] Here’s a day-late bonus story from Rolf Boone of The Olympian: Some bright spots in local housing market
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 04.06.2009)
(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 04.07.2009)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 04.06.2009)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 04.07.2009)
(Kelly Kearsley, Tacoma News Tribune, 04.07.2009)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 04.07.2009)
(Rolf Boone, Olympian, 04.08.2009)