Puget Sound Counties Interactive June Update

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

Feel free to download 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 June 2009.

(Note: 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.)

June 2009 King Snohomish Pierce Kitsap Thurston Island Skagit Whatcom
Median Price 12.2% 11.6% 11.3% 8.4% 5.9% 4.7% 5.4% 1.1%
Listings 18.6% 22.2% 25.3% 28.6% 19.8% 1.3% 1.2% 10.6%
Closed Sales 4.0% 0.3% 3.5% 7.3% 1.3% 23.8% 21.6% 7.0%
Months of Supply 3.9 4.5 4.2 4.7 4.3 11.0 7.7 6.1


Around the Sound

Hit the jump for the rest of this month’s 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 Graph

King, Kitsap, Thurston, and Whatcom all saw slightly increasing year-over-year closed sales, while Island, Pierce, Skagit, and (just barely) Snohomish all had fewer sales than June 2008.

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

Change from Peak

Change from Peak Graph

Other than Thurston and Whatcom on the low end and Island on the high end, most counties came in right around 20% off the peak.

Months of Supply

Months of Supply Graph

Again, unfortunately this chart has been rendered mostly meaningless with the change in “pending” definition by the NWMLS. Next month the year-over-year comparison will be valid, but the MOS metric will still be of questionable use. We will integrate the SAAS measure into these charts beginning with July’s data.

Still seems like the market around the sound is in a bit of a holding pattern. Sales increasing slightly, but not a strong enough showing yet to signal any kind of true recovery. It will definitely be interesting to see how things hold up as we move into the fall in a few months.

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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
    98115Renter says:

    Wouldn’t a line graph of the actual median price be useful? Or would that point out too obviously that prices are rising in King?

  2. 2
    Everett_Tom says:

    RE: 98115Renter @ 1

    You might want to have a look at the following articles:

    July 8th, 2009 – Median Price Still Being Distorted by Geographic Shifts in Sales

    August 14th, 2007 – Median Price Not Telling the Whole Truth

  3. 3
    asdlfkj says:

    RE: 98115Renter @ 1

    I agree. You are absolutely right.. The YOY doesn’t matter at all, in determining when the optimal time to purchase a home is..
    If the YOY home value was -2% it would look bad, but would be a very strong indicator that the housing economy is picking back up.

    The YOY can be visually determined from looking at a graph of the ACTUAL, but not the other way around, so I see no additional value in showing only the YOY.

  4. 4
    98115Renter says:

    RE: Everett_Tom @ 2

    That’s still no reason not to show it.

    The YOY stats are based on the same data so they would be equally suspect, yet they remain.

  5. 5


    Adjusting the 23% drop in closed sales for condo units to the approximate “3 to 1 Seattle historical sales of SFHs to Condos” gives us about a 8% drop in condo sales taking away from the increase in SFHs’ closed sales.

    This means we’re looking at an approximate 4% drop in adjusted condo/SFH closed sales data combined; caused by Seattle-ites running like scared rats from condo sales in hoards.

    No wonder KING TV ignored the SFHs 4% increase, but KOMO made it their center-piece news story last night. KING’s center-piece news story was a shortage of diapers at the food banks.

    I watch KING news more now…LOL….albeit, their evening news staff is unique too in a diversity sense….not that that makes any difference….LOL

  6. 6
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I was up looking at properties in Island County recently, and it’s pretty sad up there.

    Softwareengineer, I’ve been expecting condo sales to drop for a long time–I expected them to lead SFR down, but that didn’t happen. They’re just lagging for some reason. Part of it might be some are not FHA approved, which would make financing very difficult.

  7. 7
    mark says:

    Just received my “Official Property Value Notice” from King County for tax year 2010.

    They have dropped the assesed value by a little over 19%.

    House value dropped by 15.2%
    Land value dropped by 23.6%

    No word yet on what that means for the amount of taxes that will be owed though.

  8. 8
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By mark @ 7:

    No word yet on what that means for the amount of taxes that will be owed though.

    They’ll probably go down slightly, because 19% is probably more than average, but that’s yet to be determined. Also, a change in school levy could significantly change things.

  9. 9
    posthoc says:

    RE: 98115Renter @ 1 – This might have been asked and answered long ago on these forums, but–the “standard” Case-Shiller index might be preferable to a median sale price, if you’re looking at a single metric to tell you whether a market is up or down. Medians are not nearly as invariant to composition and randomness as most people would like to believe.

    If you look at multiple metrics, there have been many proposed, and many that are valuable in context… sorry, no real guidance there.

  10. 10
    Joel says:

    By 98115Renter @ 1:

    Or would that point out too obviously that prices are rising in King?

    There’s a Change in Median Price graph at the beginning of the article (the very first graph shown) and in its default view it clearly shows KC median price rising. You might want to read the whole article before criticizing it.

  11. 11
    Scott Weitz says:

    A lots of folks running to catch a falling knife.

  12. 12
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: Scott Weitz @ 11 – A lot of folks were saying that about the stock market a few months back.

  13. 13
    Indy says:

    Makes you wonder about the spillover-effect from the California exodus. Where I lived, south of Tacoma, most of the price-rise during the last years of the bubble seemed to have been driven by a few Californians having sold their home for huge premiums and therefore having gigantic sums of cash to play with when they left the Golden State. I remember hearing on the radio that the new migration from Southern CA to Western WA was something on the order of 2,000 households a month. Friends all across the mountain-west seem to share this perception as to the bubbles in their own areas.

    I’m not sure whether it’s true or not, or meaningful or not, but at any rate, it seems to me that this would act as a kind of artificial subsidy, and would also explain a bit of the 1-year lag in bubbles we see between the Southwest and Northwest. I wonder if a correlation can be found between Cal-Prices*Net Migration and King-Prices.

  14. 14
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 12

    What is happening in the stock market today should be criminal. It probably is.

    If we simply take the unemployment numbers there is enough evidence that there are some fundamental problems with the economy. When we read about profits compared to the number of jobs lost it should be clear we are watching a turning of the Titanic away from an ice berg. Still people are dumping in money.

    Where’s the data, the logic, or the reasoning to dump in money if there will be losses mounting within the next few months?

  15. 15
    George says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 5 – I think the Software Engineer has hit at the Achillies Heel of the market. The 70% presale requirement required by FNMA in order to finance the condos have really made it hard tp get rid of this inventory. In many cases where the loan was made by a “portfolio” lender the purchaser has no idea that it is impossible to resell the unit without FNMA approval which only occurs after 70% of the units are sold. In some cases piurchasers looking to resell their units find they are not marketable because a lender will not provide a loan. The upshot is that these projects will become revolving doors of sales until this 70% sale requirement is met and that a purchaser who closes a sale is in a really risky position and should count on staying in the building a very long time untilt the 70% sale requirement is met.

  16. 16
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: George @ 14 – That problem has existed with condos for as long as I can remember. I’ve only sold one client into a new project (it was actually a conversion) and his purchase was either the last or second to last closing in the complex.

    The other problem with new projects is the dues are probably set too low and that can mean either higher dues or higher dues and a special assessment down the road.

    And if it’s new construction, the chance of a major defect in the construction is seemingly rather high. But I don’t like new construction for houses either, so that’s not a condo-only issue.

  17. 17
    Objectivity says:


    Completely agree. The lack of transparency in the banks earnings is boarder line criminal. Personally, I think we’ll retest those March lows within the next year.

    Kary@12- I would argue the real estate market is a lot easier to predict than the stock market. Its a lot harder to be irrational about real estate when you can’t get a loan.

  18. 18
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By Objectivity @ 16:

    Kary@12- I would argue the real estate market is a lot easier to predict than the stock market. Its a lot harder to be irrational about real estate when you can’t get a loan.

    Loans aren’t that hard to get for real estate, except maybe non-FHA condos or new condo projects.

    In comparison, most stock purchases are cash, and if not, the margin requirements are a lot stricter than 3.5% down for FHA.

  19. 19
    Flying Ape says:

    RE: David Losh @ 13
    The current market rally and rise in oil prices is driven by normalization of credit markets and Americas continued thirst for risk and leverage. Everyone thinks we averted a depression scenario with better than expected earnings so they think the bigger risk is not buying in at the very bottom. They however are forgetting that many companies did not publish Q2 guidelines last quarter because of uncertainty so how accurate were these analyst predictions? Importantly profits were coming from deep operating cuts (eg. layoffs) and one-off profit gains from selling off units so its going to be extremely difficult to repeat in Q3.

  20. 20
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    By David Losh @ 14:

    Where’s the data, the logic, or the reasoning to dump in money if there will be losses mounting within the next few months?

    Well first, they might not share your belief as to the future.

    Second, if they share your belief as to the future, then perhaps they’re planning on getting out beforehand. Stocks are generally liquid assets.

    Third, you seem to feel that if something isn’t worth what you think it is, that it’s over priced. All that means is that it’s not worth it to you.

    Fourth, the fact that the money is pouring in shows something I think a lot of people here don’t comprehend. There’s a lot of wealth out there. I’ve come across that before with people not realizing how large the down payments tend to be on expensive homes, and how many $1,000,000.00+ homes are bought for cash. Just because someone’s net worth is five figures or below doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of people with very large net worths. Even all the debt that is often pointed to here–that’s wealth for whoever is on the other side of the transaction. The mountain of debt is a mountain of wealth. Perhaps it’s smaller now due to both people paying down debt and it being less collectible, but it’s still wealth to someone. It’s like how inflation is good for some people and bad for others. There are two sides to consider.

  21. 21
    Softwarengineer says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 20


    But I’d add RE has always been a dominos game predominantly [ask a realitor], where it takes the 1st time home buyer to allow the next to buy up, etc, etc.

    The first time home buyer is a dinosaur today with high unemployment and the golden opportunity of more baby boomer inventory on the move has been dashed by low returns on 401Ks and their recent inability to retire on interest income alone….I believe America has returned to the Great Depression scenario, we work until we die. This kills the higher paying job opportunities for first time home buyers too, when no older can retire anymore.

    Cash carrying rich folks in general are storing the cash in their cash cans in general too; ask them. The banks are great examples of our new “Jack Benny” society of rich….we gave them 100s of billions the end of 2008, but very little has been lent out, most is backing up their old toxic loan losses so they can claim an artificial stock increase….hence the stock holders get profits, the banksters get bonuses and the tax payers and home buyers get shafted.

  22. 22
    cheapseats says:

    By Joel @ 10:

    By 98115Renter @ 1:

    Or would that point out too obviously that prices are rising in King?

    There’s a Change in Median Price graph at the beginning of the article (the very first graph shown) and in its default view it clearly shows KC median price rising. You might want to read the whole article before criticizing it.

    RE: Joel @ 10

    Median prices rising are not necessarily the same as prices rising in KC.

  23. 23
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 20

    I have said for years here that the global economy is awash in cash. There are mountains of cash. There is no question in my mind that there is more cash than people know what to do with.

    An asset is worth what it will return. In housing the interest income on a $350K or $500K loan makes for a good balance sheet. The rental income is a problem. I’m not a bank so to me housing is over priced. Lending money is something I don’t do, but I can own a property and rent it out. I think most people are in that position.

    The key words are: “most people.”

    Even if you are a bank you have to have some one pay the interest. You’re a bankruptcy attorney. How long can the unemployed continue to pay?

    Corporations are showing profits while they are laying workers off. Congress just increased the minimum wage which will cost more jobs. If it doesn’t cost jobs it will cost profits. I could go on for hours recounting basic economic principles that will only state that without production there are no more profits.

    We are on a blog site called the Seattle Bubble. It’s premise is that Real Estate prices in the Seattle area are artificially high. Simply by taking national and international economic concerns I agree that prices are too high for properties in the Seattle area. Once I factor in what I see as glaring political missteps by our local government I’m sure that people are paying way too much for housing today.

    The same question I ask is still true: If you lose your job can you rent your house for the mortgage payment? If you can you bought well, if you can’t you paid too much. That’s where we are today.

  24. 24
    Jonness says:

    My research indicates there is a much greater probability that Seattle house prices will fall than there is of prices staying flat or permanently rising. Anyone who disagrees needs to speak up so we can gauge your accuracy in the future.

  25. 25
    Cheap South says:

    RE: Indy @ 13

    Walla Walla County has seen the same effect (past 10 years). Walla Walla sweet onions? Apples? Nope; it’s winery after winery now. Downtown Walla Walla (all 4 blocks of it) is pretty dead (until not too long ago, we could count on seeing some businesses dating back from my wife’s childhood still open; not anymore). The local Starbucks is packed with southcal ladies dressed completely out of place in a farming community (the Cal tags on the Priuses parked outside give them away). Some farmers are being taken to court by California transplants because of the noise the farming equipment makes in the middle of the night (when hay needs to be harvested, among other events); of course, the farmer is cleared by the understanding judge (farm owner). But the legal fees are gone.

    Incredibly enough, with no jobs to have in the area; homes are still at $250K plus; but the “For Sale” signs line up the streets 3-4 per block. I have to assume it’s Californians trying to go back home.

  26. 26

    I won’t disagree with you, Jonness. I think we’re getting closer to the point where prices will stay flat for a while, but we’re not there yet. The odds of prices permanently rising are pretty much zero.

  27. 27
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    I wouldn’t underestimate the ability of the banks to find a safer way for them to once again increase the amounts loaned for X amount of income. That’s what they do. The trick is to maintain/grow the economy they not only have to make that safer for them, but they also have to balance how much they’ll loan for cars and just crap (credit cards).

    Clearly people have a high desire to pay large percentages of their income to housing, cars and crap. For some groups I think that percentage is about 120% of their income. Thus, the only limitation is the banks. The banks make money filling those desires, and want to make as much money as possible. In the housing area they’ve discovered the 80/20 assigned off to third parties isn’t the way to go. That doesn’t mean they won’t try something else. They will try something else–that’s practically certain.

  28. 28
    David Losh says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 27

    This is a really good comment. This and the one about how I’m thinking things are over priced have me thinking differently. Well, these coupled with the fact I now know of more than a couple of investment groups who are thinking the future is rosier.

  29. 29
    MacroInvestor says:

    Prices appear to be stabilizing and even rising in niche markets. However, this seems like an extremely perilous time to be a buyer.

    First of all, there are a ton of REO properties out there. The banks will put them on the market at some point and that will depress the market and increase inventories further. In some areas that could potentially be a flood and could cause another banking crisis. Second, the economic uptick is caused by massive government stimulus, not real demand. Then the stimulus ends, what happens? Do we slide backward, or does it catch fire? Nobody knows. Third, the economy virtually stopped in Q4 of 2008. Businesses are restocking inventory now. That causes the appearance of manufacturing growth. But when the stock rooms are full again, will end user demand take it? Again, nobody knows.

    Fourth, the marginal home buyer is gone. Yes, rich people still have $ millions and don’t need loans. But the real estate market was bid up by the marginal buyer. The marginal buyer has no down payment and little to no equity. Many are trapped by short sales. This will take years to reverse.

    So yes, median prices may be stable or slightly rising. However, if any one of these possibilities come true, today’s buyer could very well be stepping in a bear trap.

  30. 30
    MacroInvestor says:

    RE: David Losh @ 28

    Investment groups are a different animal. They don’t care about risk because they are investing someone else’s money. They have to appear busy. They have to come up with an appealing story to attract capital. They have to sound like they are smarter than the competition. It’s all a ruse to collect a pay check for essentially gambling. Same thing for every mutual fund.

    The investment groups have been calling bottoms as often as the main stream press and the real estate sales industry.

  31. 31
    Kary L. Krismer says:

    RE: David Losh @ 28 – Keep in mind I’m not talking about next month or even next year necessarily. But they will try. And somethings they try will fail for them, but might cause prices to rise–temporarily.

  32. 32
    98115_Renter says:

    RE: Joel @ 10

    YOY change in median price is NOT the same as actual median sold price. The actual median price graph was previously shown in the Puget Sound Counties updates, it’s just not anymore. Median price shows trends whereas YOY change shows only the difference from one year ago. The data is available in the downloadable excel spreadsheet but is no longer being published as before, even though the metric has not had any change in methodology (unlike pending sales).

    Again, not the same thing. Don’t accuse me of not reading the article.

    If this blog is going to be stats based, why not show all the stats?

  33. 33
    98115_Renter says:

    RE: @

    OK so the published graph is not YOY like I thought, but it is the % change from whatever period beginning that you choose. Still, not the same as showing the actual median price.

  34. 34
    98115_Renter says:

    RE: 98115_Renter @ 32
    My bad it’s not YOY but % change. Still, not the same thing as showing the median price which was a previously available published graph.

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