NWMLS: Inventory Shrinks, Sales Climb, Bleeding Slows

February market stats have been compiled by the NWMLS. Their press release isn’t up yet, but you can read it here once they do publish it.

Since we don’t have any amusing prose to poke at, we’ll just dive right into the stats and save the response to their salesmanship for tomorrow’s Reporting Roundup.


NWMLS monthly reports include an undisclosed and varying number of
sales from previous months in their pending and closed sales statistics.

Here’s your King County SFH summary, with the arrows to show whether the year-over-year direction of each indicator is favorable or unfavorable news for buyers and sellers (green = favorable, red = unfavorable):

February 2012 Number MOM YOY Buyers Sellers
Active Listings 5,178 -3.7% -31.7%
Closed Sales 1,230 +12.3% +22.6%
SAAS (?) 1.46 +18.8% -23.8%
Pending Sales 2,429 +29.8% +23.8%
Months of Supply 2.13 -25.8% -44.8%
Median Price* $308,125 -2.2% -7.7%

Feel free to download the updated Seattle Bubble Spreadsheet (Excel 2003 format), but keep in mind the caution above.

Here’s your closed sales yearly comparison chart:

King County SFH Closed Sales

Still pretty low compared to most years, although that is quite a healthy bump up from last year, when sales dropped between January and February. The 23% year-over-year jump is pretty close to the 25% jump we saw in the public records.

Here’s the graph of inventory with each year overlaid on the same chart.

King County SFH Inventory

Continuing the trend we began last month, we’re still in uncharted territory with on-market inventory decreasing into the second month of the year. Between 2000 and 2011, the average change between January and February is a 3.6% increase.

Here’s the supply/demand YOY graph. In place of the now-unreliable measure of pending sales, the “demand” in this chart is represented by closed sales, which have had a consistent definition throughout the decade.

King County Supply vs Demand % Change YOY

Still looking at gains in sales coupled with declining inventory.

Here’s the median home price YOY change graph:

King County SFH YOY Price Change

I think it’s interesting to note that this has been on a fairly steady upward trend since October. The last time that happened was when the tax credit juiced sales and threw the whole market out of whack for a year and a half. This time around, I’m inclined to think that the slowdown in the bleeding of prices is more “natural.”

And lastly, here is the chart comparing King County SFH prices each month for every year back to 1994.

King County SFH Prices

February 2012: $308,125
December 2003: $304,700

I’ll update this post with the headlines from the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I when they post their stories.

[Update: Here they are.]
Seattle Times: Median home price in King County down to February 2004 level
Seattle P-I: House prices rose in Seattle in February

Check back tomorrow for the full reporting roundup.

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.


  1. 1
    Sam says:

    Isn’t this expected as many underwater sellers are now seeing an improving economy ( and maybe the housing market too) on horizon as compared to year before. So owners are likely to hold onto their properties if they can afford to do so, thus restricting supply, which in turn causes to price stabilization/increases? This helps lower their losses if they are underwater and improves chances of making any profit/break even if they aren’t.

  2. 2
    Scotsman says:

    Inventory is way down. Sales are way up. Price down just a bit. Looks like the market is putting in a bottom! At least until the next great event. . .

    Pffffft is right- Obama has saved us! Long live the king!

  3. 3
    David Losh says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 2

    I knew you had been kidnapped.

  4. 4
    Siddharta says:

    “King County’s median, $308,125, was down 7.75 percent from a year earlier but up 2.2 percent from the prior month.
    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/realestate/article/House-prices-rose-in-Seattle-in-February-3383314.php#ixzz1oI11Fori

    Why are you showing prices down 2.2% MOM? Which is correct?

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    RE: Siddharta @ 4 – Aubrey is mistaken. In January the median was $315,000. In February it was $308,125. That’s a 2.2% drop.

  6. 6
    Pegasus says:

    RE: The Tim @ 5 – And the real question is…..was that an accidental slip or intentional?

  7. 7
    Scotsman says:

    RE: David Losh @ 3

    I’m looking at a new career as a realtor. Any advice? ;-)

    Yes, I already know to focus on the areas north of I-90.

  8. 8
    WestSideBilly says:

    February 2012: $308,125
    December 2003: $304,700

    Why not use March 2004, which appears to be very close to $308k, as your rewind?

  9. 9
    The Tim says:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 8 – In March 2004 the median was $314,900, which is $6,775 away from February 2012’s median. The median in December 2003 was only $3,425 away from February 2012’s median. I picked the one that was closest.

  10. 10
    Blurtman says:

    Couple Lives In $1.3 Million, 4,900 Square Foot Home For Five Years Without Making A Single Mortgage Payment

    “The following story of Keith And Janet Ritter, who have lived in their Fort Washington, MD $1.29MM, 4,900 square foot McMansion for 5 years (which they purchase with no money down) without ever making a single mortgage payment, and who are not even close to being evicted,…”


  11. 11
    corncob says:

    RE: Sam @ 1 – I think it is much more likely that prices have fallen so far there are a lot of “stuck” sellers. I know a few personally myself, they bought starter homes in the bubble 2005-2007 period thinking they would move up by now but are underwater and thus screwed. The drag on inventory I think is directly related to the lack of potential upgrade buyers as real estate has traditionally relied on this supply/demand model to generate constant churn.

  12. 12
    David Losh says:

    RE: The Tim @ 9

    I’m going to raise this issue again. This market seems a lot like the 2004, 2005 market place.

    My point is that this time we know, for a fact, the the global economy is worse, the macro economics of this country are worse, and there is more public, and private debt. The run up in pricing created millions of housing units, and we now have the most foreclosures we have ever seen.

    Just because we compare prices to a 2007 peak doesn’t make the properties a bargain. The economy of this asset class has been seriously eroded.

    Why would you buy into this market when so many rental options are coming online, and you know that the rental market is going to crash?

  13. 13
    David Losh says:

    RE: corncob @ 11

    The market of potential sellers are the older people that might normally hold onto the family home. In the past the family home was going up in value so it was worth maintaining, and passing on, or living rent free.

    Now it would make more sense to sell, and bank the money, or convert it into other estate planning. More sellers, also in my opinion, will sell directly to other people, and by pass the Real Estate commissions altogether.

  14. 14
    Scotsman says:

    RE: David Losh @ 12

    You’re soooo negative David. Just keep saying this until it seems natural: “it’s a great time to buy- the market’s heating up, interest rates are low, and new inventory will be coming on line with the expected spring bump.” That new Lexus can be yours (and I hear the leasing terms are very favorable)!

    Here’s a new line for the team to try out: “have you considered adding a rental property to your portfolio?” ;-)

  15. 15
    WannaBuy2012 says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 10

    That’s an awesome story. Awesome in the sense of showing how screwed up the whole system is.

  16. 16
    patient says:

    By David Losh @ 3:

    RE: Scotsman @ 2

    I knew you had been kidnapped.

    I can’t decide if I think Scotsman is executing a reversed psychology experiment or if he is stuck in a juxtaposed universe where left is right.

  17. 17

    RE: corncob @ 11

    I Agree

    The Lion’s Share of This Low Inventory is Most Likely Underwater Loans Mitigating Sales Without Foreclosure

    And we all hope for a bottom and an improving economy for many reasons; but let’s be pragmatic, we’ve heard this improving economy wild allegation year after year after year…..after a while none of us believe it. Like the improving unemployment in a shrinking total workforce with a simultaneous chronic increasing population density.

    I’m gonna make a big bet at Vegas, my odds of a real improving economy in my bank account are better there.

  18. 18
    David Losh says:

    Ardell had a good post about the number of sales there have been. More sales leave less inventory. I know several people who have bought since December, or have sold. This is like a gift for people who want to change, make lateral trades, or down size. A lot of properties will come on the market this year, and people will buy them for rent stabalization if nothing else.

    What I think you should address is the number of construction projects that are being built. I think the potential for a future glut of housing is very real.

    I was also very interested to read that Amazon bought the Denny Triangle. Amazon can build, and then what happens to that South Lake Union mess of construction?

    There are big changes taking place here, based on the number of cranes. What will that do to the landscape of high rents? and what will lower rents do to property values?

  19. 19
  20. 20
    ChrisM says:

    RE: John Bailo @ 19 – Interesting that it didn’t get picked up at the auction – after all, that was a 1999 price!

  21. 21
    Dweezil says:

    I don’t know that I’ve seen The Tim use Seattle median price, just King County median prices. I always assumed it just was not available and King County is the best we’ve got.

    Yesterday the Seattle Times mentioned the Seattle median price had increased 3% YOY.
    This site being named Seattle Bubble, I would have expected to at least see this data along with the King County data. Is it because of the townhouse inclusion or ability to find the numbers?

    Not being critical, just curious.

  22. 22
    The Tim says:

    RE: Dweezil @ 21 – I’ve just always chosen to focus on the more broad “Seattle area” by running county-wide stats. Any time you start to cut down the size of your data pool the numbers get more noisy and difficult to make any sense out of.

    Here’s what the price of single family homes and their YoY change looks like over the last six months if you just look at Seattle:

    • 09/2011: $394,000, -4.95%
    • 10/2011: $380,000, -8.87%
    • 11/2011: $325,000, -12.69%
    • 12/2011: $375,000, -3.85%
    • 01/2012: $350,500, -10.13%
    • 02/2012: $365,000, +2.82%

    All over the map. Good luck figuring out what’s really going on from that.

  23. 23
    Mike says:

    Watching inventory come on and off for a few months now it seems we’re still very much in the realm where a house that is priced right when it is listed will go within a week but it doesn’t have to seem overpriced by much and it will sit there and rack up a solid triple digit listing period till they drop the price.

    Question for Tim on if there is any way to get historical data on the average length of all active listings at any given point in time? My bad for not looking if that was in the old heat map posts. Seems it would be a useful data point to see when overpriced homes stop sitting in purgatory for long periods and the “shelf” inventory starts actually moving faster, potentially indicating buyers aren’t being as disciplined about holding out for the “perfect one”. The “Months of Inventory” figure is probably even more seller friendly than it looks to the extent inventory reflects a lot of stuff that most active buyers have already passed over.

  24. 24
    HappyRenter says:

    By David Losh @ 12:

    RE: The Tim @ 9
    Why would you buy into this market when so many rental options are coming online, and you know that the rental market is going to crash?

    What is the evidence for that?

  25. 25
    David Losh says:

    RE: HappyRenter @ 24

    The cranes that are building on Westlake, two of them are for apartment buildings. Look around any neighborhood, and you’ll see apartment buildings going up. They are breaking ground down town for an apartment building.

    Builders can get rental income to hold the dirt for future development. In the bad days of the 1970s builders built a lot of the apartment buildings you still see today. There was already a glut of apartments left over from the world’s fair, but they built anyway. Rental Income can off set a lot of costs.

    In the mean time condos are still selling, houses are selling, and investors are buying for rentals. With low interest rates it’s easier to get some one to pay your mortgage. All the short sales can sell for cash then be lease optioned, just ask Ray.

    The rental market is much faster to turn than home ownership. It takes sales data for home prices to drop, rents can fall over night.

    I see a renters market coming. If we don’t have the 4% appreciation to off set selling costs, people who buy will be stuck. A renter is mobile, a renter can save. I just don’t see people holding onto the family home like they have been traditionally. Even if they pay the thing off what will they do with it? Live there until they die, or rent it out? Either way you have a lot to make up for if you paid a bank interest on the purchase.

    It would be interesting to see more of the rent or buy discussions from this point forward, I mean now that the bubble has burst.

    I didn’t even touch on the macro economics of renting, because we have a separate thread for that.

  26. 26
    HappyRenter says:

    RE: David Losh @ 25
    Thanks for the explanations. It would be nice to have better quality rentals in Seattle. Shopping for a larger apartment in North Seattle is painful; either too old or too expensive (or both).

  27. 27
    David Losh says:

    RE: HappyRenter @ 26

    Many land lords subscribe to the Rental Housing Association, and they have a publication that is widely quoted. http://www.rha-ps.com//AM/Template.cfm?Section=HOME

    It is a throw back in time kind of office, and organization. It is more of an old boys network than Real Estate agents ever thought of being. Land lords are a breed apart.

    Anyway, once the rumor mill starts they all follow along. It started with Amazon moving in before there was housing available. Then the McGuire Building was demolished. It was a panic where big landlords started really pushing up prices for rents in city. Ballard, and Fremont got those people who moved from down town, and they started raising rents.

    Now people are buying housing units with payments that match rents. That will take some pressure off. Next will be the units that come on line this year.

    It’s already starting. People are finding better deals on rent by being a little further away from work.

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