December Stats Preview: Winter Lull Edition

Now that the last month of 2009 is behind us, let’s have a look at December’s stats preview. Most of the charts below are based on broad county-wide data that is available through a simple search of King County Records. If you have additional stats you’d like to see in the “preview,” drop a line in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Here’s your preview of December’s foreclosure and home sale stats:

First up, total home sales as measured by the number of “Warranty Deeds” filed with the county:

King County Warranty Deeds

Last year warranty deeds increased 23% from November to December, while closed sales (SFH + condo) increased just 2%. This year, warranty deeds decreased 5% from November to December, so it seems safe to assume that total closed sales will probably decrease as well, and possibly by more than 5%. I’d guess that King Co. closed SFH sales will come in somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400, down 17% MOM, but up 40% YOY.

Next, here’s Notices of Trustee sale, which are an indication of the number of homes currently in the foreclosure process:

King County Notices of Trustee Sale

Looks like a bit of a plateau since the new law went into effect. If foreclosures hold around this high 700’s level for another month we’ll actually see a year-over-year decrease next month.

Here’s another measure of foreclosures, looking at Trustee Deeds, which is the type of document filed with the county when the bank actually repossesses a house through the trustee auction process. Note that there are other ways for the bank to repossess a house that result in different documents being filed, such as when a borrower “turns in the keys” and files a “Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure.”

King County Trustee Deeds

Up 88% from last year, and up 17% from last month.

Lastly, here’s an approximate guess at where the month-end inventory was, based on our sidebar inventory tracker (powered by Estately):

King County SFH Active Listings

No surprise to see another month-to-month decline here, as December is always the lowest month. Look for listings to begin ramping up again in the coming months.

Stay tuned later this month a for more detailed look at each of these metrics as the “official” data is released from various sources.

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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
    What the Heck says:

    Questions: Is it correct to say the warranty deeds include any FSBO transactions and that the MLS stats only include transactions listed thru a realtor? Can FSBOs be listed on the MLS via certain websites? Are there many FSBO deals that actually close? Just curious to see if FSBO’s are more than a blip in this market. Seems to be alot of these signs around. Thanks

  2. 2
    David Losh says:

    The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in November, dropped 16 percent to 96.0, after rising for nine straight months.

    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast pending home sales, which lead existing home sales by one to two months, falling 2 percent in November after rising to 114.3 in October.

    Despite the monthly drop, the pending Homes Sales Index was 15.5 percent higher compared to November 2008, the Realtors group said.

    Home sales have been boosted by a $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, which has been expanded and extended to mid-2010. The popular tax credit had been scheduled to expire at the end of November.

    “The fact that pending home sales are comfortably above year-ago levels shows the market has gained sufficient momentum on its own,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

    “We expect another surge in the spring as more home buyers take advantage of affordable housing conditions before the tax credit expires.”

  3. 3

    RE: What the Heck @ 1 – The Tim’s stats would include FSBOs, but in this market they are just a blip. In a hot market FSBOs can sell, but in a tough market they tend to become discouraged quickly. No they cannot appear on the NWMLS website. Limited service broker sales do appear there.

    As to the sales for December, they are probably affected somewhat by the threatened expiration of the tax credit. There was a period where buyers didn’t know whether there would be a credit, or if a new credit might have even been larger.

  4. 4

    RE: David Losh @ 2 – Again, that was affected by the threatened expiration of the tax credit. As I said over at the Times, with that event I don’t see how anyone could have only projected a 2% drop from October to November–especially over a month after the event, and after many MLSs had probably already reported.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    By What the Heck @ 1:

    Is it correct to say the warranty deeds include any FSBO transactions and that the MLS stats only include transactions listed thru a realtor? Can FSBOs be listed on the MLS via certain websites?

    Yes, warranty deeds will include FSBOs. However, MLS stats include anything that was listed on the NWMLS, and there are multiple ways to get on the MLS without hiring a traditional REALTORTMOMGWTFBBQ. e.g. – Redfin,, 500 Realty, etc.

    Are there many FSBO deals that actually close?

    Unfortunately I don’t know of a good way to determine that with any of the available stats.

    The other caveat to keep in mind about the Warranty Deeds is that they also include commercial sales, sales between family members, and a bunch of other sales that don’t really have much to do with the larger market. In general they seem to be a pretty good proxy for plain-vanilla SFH sales, but there are definitely some exceptions. For example, I don’t know why, but every February there is a big surge in Warranty Deeds far above any MLS-reported sales bump.

  6. 6

    Also, I’d add that some NWMLS sales are by Quit Claim Deed, Executor’s Deed, or even Trustee’s Deed. That makes it even harder to determine the number of FSBO sales.

  7. 7
    What the Heck says:

    Kary/Tim – Thanks for the clarification

  8. 8
  9. 9
    AMS says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 6 – Are some FSBO Quit Claim Deed, Executor’s Deed, or even Trustee’s Deed?

    If so, what about differences in mix between NWMLS & FSBO?

  10. 10
    treaty says:

    “Data adds to worries industry is mostly propped up by government stimulus”

    Apparently the “manufacturing sector” is going to keep the housing market from pulling us “back” into recession…

  11. 11
    mydquin says:

    By waitingforseattletocool @ 8:

    December stats are out.

    This link works….

    It is nice to see prices up more than 2% MOM regardless of the tax credit. At this point, buyers waiting for prices to fall more are just rolling the dice. Prices in Seattle proper might fall another 5%, but they might go the opposite direction. Now is the time to start conservatively shopping.

  12. 12
    Huck says:

    Is there any way to identify how many active listings are of foreclosures that are being sold by the bank? At more than 400 new foreclosures every month and roughly 7,000 active listings, it would be interesting to see if the ratio of foreclosures in the active listings are growing each month and hold a significant share, or if their cheaper prices keep them moving and leave them with a low ratio in the active listings.

    Much of my curiosity is due to the fact that a low ratio of foreclosures in the active listings would suggest that they have a relatively significant impact on the average home price, bringing it down as more foreclosures show up. If they don’t sell quickly, then perhaps they aren’t all that appealing or the prices aren’t low enough for foreclosures to be a significant factor in average home prices.

  13. 13
    MLS4owners says:

    RE: The Tim @ 5

    Re: [there are multiple ways to get on the MLS without hiring a traditional REALTORTMOMGWTFBBQ. e.g. – Redfin,, 500 Realty, etc.

    Are there many FSBO deals that actually close?]

    The sales results of the sellers are displayed here.

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