NWMLS: Record Low Inventory, Prices Approach a Flatline

March market stats were released by the NWMLS late yesterday. Here’s their press release:

“Buyer Ready” Home Shoppers Have Edge as Brokers Report Rise in Multiple Offers.

The housing market in the Puget Sound region is pointing toward a sustainable recovery, according to several brokers who commented on the March activity report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“We are seeing a frenzied market in the Puget Sound region, especially in the more affordable and mid-price ranges, with an increase in sales activity in the high end,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “Because of the shortage of homes for sale, combined with the sales surge being driven by job growth and historically low interest rates, if you are not ‘buyer ready’ you may not get a house in today’s market,” he added.

Noting stabilizing prices are “forcing buyers to make offers that reflect a more balanced market,” Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers said house-hunters have taken note of rising rents, fewer choices and increasing fuel costs.”

I told you that this gas prices nonsense would rear its head again. In other news… It’s a FRENZY! You know it has to be true because Pyramid Expert J. Lennox Scott says so!

Before you get too worked up about the biggest February to March median price increase on record (previous high was a 6.4% gain in 2004), remember that prices have jumped up in a similar manner every spring throughout the downturn (albeit not as large):

King County SFH Median Sale Price

With that, let’s get on with the stats!

CAUTION

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):

March 2012 Number MOM YOY Buyers Sellers
Active Listings 4,978 -3.9% -34.4%
Closed Sales 1,642 +33.5% +7.7%
SAAS (?) 1.51 +3.3% -11.9%
Pending Sales 3,018 +24.2% +23.9%
Months of Supply 1.65 -22.6% -47.1%
Median Price* $330,000 +7.1% -4.3%

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

Just the usual seasonal bump in sales, nothing to write home about, especially since they’re still quite a bit below every year before 2007. Just like our monthly stats preview predicted, the big year-over-year gain from February mostly vanished in March, dropping from over 22% to under 8%.

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

King County SFH Inventory

And we are now at an all-time low for March. Previous record was in 2006 when there were just 5,100 homes on the market. However, keep in mind that the NWMLS did change the definition of “active listing” between then and now, so it’s not apples to apples.

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

Sales gains dropped off, but the steep drop in inventory just gets deeper.

Here’s the median home price YOY change graph:

King County SFH YOY Price Change

Another upward tick toward zero…

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

King County SFH Prices

March 2012: $330,000
July 2004: $329,950

Here are the headlines from the Seattle Times and the Seattle P-I:
Seattle Times: King County home prices highest since September
Seattle P-I: Seattle house prices up again

Check back Monday for the full reporting roundup.

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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.