Puget Sound Counties Interactive May Update

It’s time for our regularly-scheduled check on NWMLS statistics from around the sound. Once again, courtesy Tableau Software, the Around the Sound update is rocking exclusive interactive data visualizations.

After about 5:00 today, data will be updated in the old charts in Excel 2007 and Excel 2003 format. To get specific info about a certain point on any graph in the post below, float your mouse pointer over the data.

Before we get to the cool stuff, here’s the usual table of YOY stats for each of our seven covered counties as of May 2009.

(Note: The “Sales” data below represents pending sales, not closed sales. Keep in mind that certain NWMLS definitions were modified beginning July 2008 that affect the reported number of active listings and pending sales (and therefore the “months of supply”). The net result of this change is that active listings post 07/08 will appear lower, pending sales higher, and months of supply lower than prior to 07/08. See this post for more details.)

King – Price: -14.8% | Listings: -20.0% | Sales: +27.2% | MOS: 4.4
Snohomish – Price: -11.4% | Listings: -24.8% | Sales: +39.5% | MOS: 4.8
Pierce – Price: -13.5% | Listings: -28.5% | Sales: +28.8% | MOS: 4.9
Kitsap – Price: -9.6% | Listings: -29.7% | Sales: +38.3% | MOS: 5.3
Thurston – Price: -5.8% | Listings: -23.9% | Sales: +17.6% | MOS: 4.1
Island – Price: -14.1% | Listings: -9.1% | Sales: +17.2% | MOS: 10.4
Skagit – Price: -25.3% | Listings: -2.5% | Sales: +1.5% | MOS: 9.0
Whatcom – Price: -1.1% | Listings: -14.5% | Sales: +29.9% | MOS: 5.4

Hit the jump for the interactive charts.


The visualization below is comparable to our usual chart of closed sales in each county in May 2008 and May 2009:

Closed Sales

Closed sales in Island were actually up over 2008, while Kitsap and Snohomish were only down by a small amount. Everywhere else saw declines in excess of 10%, despite the still-surging pending sales.

Here’s our comparison of median prices in each county at their respective peaks and in May 2009:

Change from Peak

Skagit County surged into the lead in May with the median there off nearly a third from the peak. Most other counties came in around 20% off, with Thurston still showing the most strength at less than 10% off.

Months of Supply

Again, this chart has been rendered mostly meaningless with the change in “pending” definition by the NWMLS. I am working on integrating the SAAS measure into these charts for future updates for a better picture of actual market activity.

Nothing much changed from what we’ve seen earlier this spring. The market is gaining a little bit of strength, but nothing more than the seasonal uptick we would expect to see any given spring.

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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
    NMike says:

    Ok, I’m new at this. If MOS is below 6 in Seattle, does that mean it’s a sellers market?

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    RE: NMike @ 1 – It used to, but since they changed the definitions last year to reduce the number of active listings and increase the number of pending sales reported each month, I don’t think the old cutoff of 6.0 really applies anymore.

  3. 3
    WestSeattleDave says:

    The Tim…I’ve noticed over time that when the NWMLS numbers are reported by different media, they never seem to report the same numbers. There would be articles in both the Seattle Times and the PI (when they had a “real” paper) both quoting slightly different numbers from the same NWMLS data. They are not off by much, but they are off.

    As an example, today’s PI has an article by Aubrey Cohen that states: “In King County, the medians were $361,250 for a house and $259,000 for a condo, down 16.4 percent and 8 percent, respectively, from a year earlier and down 3.2 percent for houses and up 5.7 percent for condos from April.” Meanwhile, you report that the King county median is $375,000, down 15.7% YOY (per your snazzy interactive chart).

    Why the discrepancy? Is the King County median $361K or $375K?

  4. 4
    masaba says:

    RE: The Tim @ 2

    Where did the idea of seller’s market being 6 MOS come from? Is that something that the NWMLS made up, or did it come from somewhere else? The reason that I ask is that if you can arbitrarily change the definition of pending sales and thus the MOS, it is really meaningless. Seems kind of like a pointless measurement if there is no standardization.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    RE: WestSeattleDave @ 3 – Yeah that’s something that has always bothered me as well.

    I always link directly to the NWMLS press release with my monthly reports (see the May data here) where you can download the pdf directly from the NWMLS yourself and see the data (click the first link in the post, then the pdfs are linked from the upper-right on the NWMLS page). Also, I do my best to consistently report the same data each month.

    I have no idea where the $361,250 came from. The only place that number appears in the detailed May 2009 report for King County (a 56-page pdf not linked directly on the NWMLS public page) is as the cumulative year-to-date median for Area 390 (Central Seattle, Madison Park, Capitol Hill). $259,000 appears in a few places, but none of them are the median price for all condos in the county.

  6. 6
    Roger says:

    I would say here in Island county the MOS for anything over about 450K is approaching infinity. Lots and lots on the market up there and hardly any closed sales. Some exceptional properties sell above 450 – 500K, but the rest are just sitting. Exceptional means just that, nice waterfront or really nice estates on big acreage.

  7. 7
    The Tim says:

    RE: masaba @ 4 – It’s a general real estate market rule of thumb that seems to have been around for a while. I picked it up from reading about the real estate market over time. Here’s a Google search that pulls up a number of pages that put the dividing line at the same 6 months of supply mark.

    However, like I said, here in western Washington, months of supply has been artificially inflated by removing certain homes from the listings pool and adding them to the pendings pool, so it’s largely a useless measure anymore.

  8. 8
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: WestSeattleDave @ 3 – I sent Aubrey an email about the $361,250. I think it’s a typo, or maybe it’s Seattle, or 1st or 2nd quarter, but it doesn’t appear to be a monthly number for King County.

  9. 9
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: The Tim @ 7 – Again, if you do absorption rates using solds instead of pendings you don’t have those, and other issues. But in any case the six months is completely arbitrary. I’ve heard the cutoff be as short as 4 months. I think locally that would actually be a better cutoff because we’re used to relatively short time on market compared to other areas. Also, is any seller really going to feel good knowing the average time on market is six months?

  10. 10
    The Tim says:

    FYI to anyone interested, I have uploaded the updated spreadsheets.

  11. 11
    aldreth says:

    Yawn, same old fraudulent crap.

    This country is hopeless.

  12. 12
    shawn says:

    When sellers are showing dirty properties, and you must buy as is, and bid to be lucky enough to buy it, then it I say it is a sellers market. Now that they are dropping the prices and staging the homes, and letting you get the property inspected, I call it a buyers market. Let them fudge the numbers on MOS, that does not change what I just said.

    The only real question is: do you want to buy a property that will worth less tomorrow than today and may take decades to appreciate?

  13. 13
    ARDELL says:

    I LOVE these graphs!

    King County May median sold price, if you take out houseboats, mobile homes and townhomes is $386,500 for May 2009 (median asking $399,000 at time of sale) and $457,741 (median asking $469,000) for May 2008. 15.5% decrease.

    Median Price Per Square foot is $216.9 vs. $191.3 = 11.8% decrease YOY.

    Most townhomes are single family in Seattle, but are condos most everywhere else in King County. Doesn’t seem right to count them as single family in some places and not in others, so best to exclude them altoghether in the stats.

    May 2007 $480,000 – mppsf $227.

    Given the discussion about “discrepancies” in reporting, I just calculated that while typing this comment. (required disclosure: *Stats are not compiled, verified or posted by NWMLS*)

  14. 14
    ARDELL says:

    A seller’s market is when more people want to buy than want to sell.

    Much lower than a 6 month supply. 6 months is a balanced market, not a seller’s market. 3 months…or even less, I’d say for a “seller’s market”.

    But even if you had a 3 month supply right now it wouldn’t be a seller’s market, as there are too many sellers who “want” to sell but aren’t, or can’t because they are upside down (hence all the rental signs). So by the true definition of a seller’s market, unless all of the sellers who truly want to sell were actually for sale, you can’t have a seller’s market. The minute it turned to an actual seller’s market, more sellers would come on market, tipping it back the other way again. It would be a false read.

  15. 15
    jon says:

    Calculated risk did some regression in past markets and found prices were flat when MOS was 6 months. It would be interesting to see how that varies with the price of the house. I would expect the lower end would have stable prices at a lower MOS level than the higher end.

  16. 16
    Greg Perry says:

    I consider a seller’s market under 3 MOS. Between 3 and 6 MOS balanced. Over 6 MOS, a buyer’s market.

  17. 17
    patient says:

    I regard any measure that includes pending sales as useless given the extreme difference between pendings and actual closings. It’s a shame on such nice charts. A change to use closed sales or at least additional charts and numbers based on closed sales would make these much more interresting to me.

  18. 18
    NoMoreWork says:

    RE: The Tim @ 10 – Love the new charts, still like messing around with the old ones. Might think about adjusting the horizontal time scale on the graphs in excel tho, many only go until 12/1/08 and don’t tell the whole story. Just a thought! Thanks again Tim.

  19. 19
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: patient @ 16 – An alternative would be to exclude the short sales from the pendings. I’d still prefer using closed sales, however.

    BTW, I just re-ran the numbers, and we’re now over 1000 closed month to date, and only 28 are short sales. That compares to over 20% of the pendings and over 10% of the actives.

    Numbers from NWMLS sources, but not compiled or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  20. 20
    ARDELL says:


    Where are you getting the “only 28 are short sales”. If you are using the new search feature, it is not working properly yet, and unreliable.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 19 – I’d agree it’s unreliable for pendings and actives at this point, but I don’t see any reason why it would be unreliable for month to date solds.

  23. 23
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    How about this? It’s a seller’s market when most sellers are confident enough to buy a new house before selling their old one. It’s a buyer’s market when most are not.

  24. 24
    ARDELL says:


    I’ll assume that means you did use that feature to come up with that figure. Many agents who listed the property before the data field was available, did not go back and edit their original listing. Most new listings will be accurate, but the pendings and solds…not so much.

  25. 25
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 24 – Which is why I said the actives and pendings are suspect. But on the solds for this month (or since the rule went into effect earlier), the agent is prompted to input the information. Thus the sold information is much more likely to be accurate. That’s what I’ve been saying all along here. That’s also why in post 19 I said “over X%” for the active and pending information.

    Sure it’s possible that an agent wouldn’t enter the information correctly. I ran across a bankruptcy listing recently where the agent wasn’t aware the box needed to be selected.

  26. 26
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    BTW, just so people will have an idea what Ardell and I are discussing, there’s a new field in the NWMLS Locator input system that asks if the property is REO/Short Sale or other third party approval (court, etc.) required. When an agent changes status or price, the system prompts the agent to fill in that information if it hasn’t been provided previously. So at this point, active properties where the price has not been changed in a couple of months, and properties that have been pending for a couple of months–those are likely to not have had the information put into the system.

  27. 27
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I just did a search of sales month to date in King County (SFR). Where the owner was referenced as “bank” there were 69 listings sold, 11 as “undisclosed” (which is another common way of referencing bank owned properties) and using the bank owned field resulted in 85. That would tend to indicate that the numbers provided from the sales data are reasonably likely to be accurate.

    Numbers from NWLMS sources but not compiled or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  28. 28
    truthtold says:

    Is it the just plain wrong and still posturing realtor from rcg?
    Yikes! How can inevitable rcg gas and fumes be prevented from spoiling seattlebubble’s considerable content? Consistently parasitic and far too comfortable with misinformation…a casual relationship with truth and a professional fondness for suckers – dishonest realtors are of limited value.

  29. 29
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 27 – I take that back. I just found 19 bank owned that were not changed when the sales data was entered.

  30. 30
    NMike says:

    Wow, what a response. Thank you all for your help. FYI I got this 6 MOS standard from seattlecondoreview.com and seattlecondoblog.com, more specifically http://www.stroupecondoblog.com/category/market-trends/weekly-sales-ratios/ . I was puzzled because even if you assume this MOS standard is correct, prices are still dropping. How could that be positive for sellers? In any case, it seems to me that buying a home is a matter of evaluating the particular property, while calling a market is more an indicator of when to start looking or when to stop.

  31. 31
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: NMike @ 30 – Probably what your seeing is the differences in the different markets. In some neighborhoods there is less of a relative supply, and in some price ranges a lot more of a relatively supply. The high end stuff could be pushing the overall numbers down, while the value of a given house in a given neighborhood might not be changing at all, or even going up.

    Also, if you removed the bank owned and short sales from the mix, the median for King County would probably be about 10k higher. Again a different market that might not affect an individual seller or the value of their property.

  32. 32
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I just did a search, and for June partial to date the difference is just over $10,000.

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