NWMLS: 2012 Ends on a Sour Note for Buyers

December market stats were published by the NWMLS this morning. Here’s a snippet from their press release: Northwest MLS Tallies Busy December as First-time Buyers, Investors Return.

Brokers expect the housing market rebound to continue, while cautioning sellers to refrain from becoming too greedy and expressing hope for “controlled natural growth” to sustain the recovery. They also believe distressed properties, rising rents and re-engaged investors will have an impact on activity for the foreseeable future.

“Buyers are taking note of sellers who overprice their homes,” reported Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers. “These buyers are not wasting their time looking at that section of the market for fear of losing a “turnkey ready” home that they can buy and close on,” added Stenvers, the office managing broker at John L. Scott, Inc. in Bellingham.

You may recall that nearly a third of sellers will overprice on purpose.

All righty, on with our usual monthly stats.


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):

December 2012 Number MOM YOY Buyers Sellers
Active Listings 2,945 -20.8% -46.4%
Closed Sales 1,741 -4.8% +18.8%
SAAS (?) 1.24 +19.9% -23.0%
Pending Sales 1,617 -21.2% +1.6%
Months of Supply 1.82 +0.5% -47.2%
Median Price* $380,046 -1.3% +18.8%

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

A few stats of note: before November of last year, King County single-family inventory had never (since my data starts in 2000) dropped below 4,000, let alone below 3,000. Inventory is insanely anemic. Also of interest, pending sales dropped to their lowest year-over-year increase since the post-tax-credit sales hangover.

Here’s your closed sales yearly comparison chart:

King County SFH Closed Sales

Pretty typical for this time of year.

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

King County SFH Inventory

Another record low for inventory, dropping below 4,000 single-family homes for the first time on record.

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

Well, we definitely ended the year on a low note for buyers.

Here’s the median home price YOY change graph:

King County SFH YOY Price Change

Down just a bit from last month, but we’re still comparing to a time a year ago when bank-owned sales were through the roof. I expect this to drop dramatically over the next few months.

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

King County SFH Prices

December 2012: $380,046
September 2005: $381,250

Here are the headlines from the Times and P-I:
Seattle Times: Local inventory of homes for sale hits another record low
Seattle P-I: December saw slowing home sales, rising prices

Check back tomorrow 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.


  1. 251
    Erik says:

    RE: corndogs @ 42
    The reason I am on here is to learn as much about real estate that I can because a Design Engineering lead and I want to start flipping real estate. I have the know how and he has the money. As you know from blogging here, timing is crucial. From what I’ve collected using my INTUITION, we may have a good opportunity to buy low this summer.

    Do you think that will be good timing?

  2. 252
    Erik says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 231
    I agree with this. I have not really disagreed with anything you’ve said since I really don’t know these details anyway. I assume you are correct.

    I am more of a risk taker I think. I’m not rich now and I never will be rich if I don’t take some risks. To me, the chances of getting in trouble doing this up to 3 times a year is worth the reward. It sounds like there wouldn’t be criminal penalties if I got caught anyway. You said it would be civil, and I would guess I’d just need to give the money back plus maybe a small amount.

    Anyway, stay on here. It’s good to learn this stuff so that I know what i’m getting into. People were teeing off on you cause know different stuff and maybe think differently. Til next time.

  3. 253
    ChrisM says:

    RE: Erik @ 249 – Agreed & understood (except I’m self-employed). But I find it it is helpful to understand there’s no *there* for Meyers Briggs. As a budding engineer, you should appreciate that position. FWIW, I’m INTJ.

    Career advice: get your PE once you’re out!!

  4. 254
    Erik says:

    I think it is very interesting to hear what someones personality type is. Thanks for the info. I am ENFP.

    I will get my PE after I get through my masters program. I passed the EIT, but it took a lot of dedication and willpower…and 3 attempts cough cough. Congratulations on getting yours.

  5. 255
    ChrisM says:

    RE: Erik @ 254 – Oh, I’m no PE. I’m a scumbag “software engineer” who has no legal duties. In all seriousness, I think the state of computer software is absolutely pathetic.

  6. 256

    By Erik @ 52:

    I am more of a risk taker I think. I’m not rich now and I never will be rich if I don’t take some risks. To me, the chances of getting in trouble doing this up to 3 times a year is worth the reward. It sounds like there wouldn’t be criminal penalties if I got caught anyway. You said it would be civil, and I would guess I’d just need to give the money back plus maybe a small amount.

    You’re absolutely correct that getting rich involves taking risk. I am not a risk taker but my brother is. His wealth is on orders of magnitude much greater than mine as a result.

    I would recommend that you consult your own attorney before jumping in though, so that the risks can be fully explained and procedures developed to minimize risk (e.g. don’t offer $120k and then lower it to $70k). As to explaining the risk, I don’t have time to look it up know, but I strongly suspect the Distressed Property Law is a Consumer Protection Act trigger, and if so, that would involve not only paying back the damages, but also limited treble damages and paying the other side’s attorney fees. The latter alone could easily be six figures. So if you do go in, go in being fully informed by proper legal counsel.

  7. 257

    By Erik @ 54:

    I think it is very interesting to hear what someones personality type is. Thanks for the info. I am ENFP

    I’m the personality type that hates taking tests to determine what personality type I am, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the result. ;-)

    Some real estate agents are really into that type of BS. That said, I will admit it is important. My wife and I are totally different personality types and it helps in that a client who doesn’t like one of us is likely to gravitate to the other.

  8. 258
    ARDELL says:


    I have not seen real estate investors bitten by legal issues, as the Title and Escrow Process pretty much covers most everything unless you are buying AT auction/Trustee Sale.

    I HAVE seen many investors bitten by City Code changes or erroneous assumptions as to what they thought they could do with the property. The new and huge case in Kirkland is very interesting. Sometimes a Code Change goes into effect after you buy the property and even after you get your permits to make the intended changes.

    The investor who was building all the townhomes in the backyards in Seattle made a fortune, but I think they have or are trying to close up that loophole that allowed him to do that.

    The Kirkland case regarding Potala Village is fascinating as it drops the number of units down from 143 to 58! There was no # of unit restriction when he got his permits a couple of years ago, but then the process was stalled until they imposed this new density related restriction. He is suing.


    So the rule of real estate investing is NOT to eliminate risk…not possible. It is to expect risk…and manage that risk as well as you can.

    You can run all of your numbers perfectly and have an attorney review everything, but the HOA can slap you with a massive assessment, City or County codes can change, lots of things can happen even when you do everything right.

  9. 259
    ARDELL says:

    The old rule of “investing” is, never “invest” a dime you can’t afford to lose.

  10. 260
    Erik says:

    RE: ARDELL @ 258
    Real estate is complicated. I agree, that there is no such thing as no risk in real estate. One way I am trying to reduce risk is by learning here on Seattlebubble. Good article. Thank you.

  11. 261
    David Losh says:

    RE: Erik @ 252

    There are a thousand reasons not to buy Real Estate, it’s risky. You can make all the right moves, do all the homework, and some guy who thinks he’s smart will throw something in that is annoying.

    Most deals go well.

    The problem here in this thread is the throwing in of a bunch of nonsense about the law that doesn’t apply to what Ardell presented.

    You can get all caught up in these deatils, but ultimately residential Real Estate is an agreement between two parties, one to buy, the other to sell, according to terms that are mutually acceptable.

    So you can talk to an attorney until you are blue in the face, but it won’t change your risk. You are the one in the transaction, your attorney isn’t. Your attorney is only responding to what you present, and mostly the paper work.

    You need to do some deals. I, of course, disagree there will be good deals this summer unless you really look.

    If you want to flip, you will need a good crew of people who can help you, you need a good lender, excellent escrow, and a Title rep who can read a Title report. Retain a Real Estate attorney if you want, I do because I’m just trouble.

    Do some deals, find a bank owned property Real Estate agent, get connected, be humble, listen, learn, and don’t be afraid to lose some money.

    That’s the best I’ve got for you.

  12. 262
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Erik @ 260

    The “townhome in yard” scenario of Seattle goes back to my legal thinking being different than many attorneys I have met on the West Coast. I was taught (in my former business as a Trust and Estate Officer) to fully comprehend the SPIRIT of “the law” and not simply the language of the law so as to find the loopholes. To understand WHY there is a law and honor the spirit of that law, vs looking to see if the thing you want to do that is doable within the exact wording of the law, i.e. “loopholes”.

    Seattle had a provision so that elderly people could put a 2nd small structure on their lot to provide a smaller place for them to stay when they retired (and rent out their home) or to stay in their home and rent out the small 2nd structure. This to help with growing RE taxes and expenses and help them be able to afford to stay in their homes as they aged and expenses grew. That was the “spirit” of the law/code. A builder took advantage and started building tall, 3 story, structures in the yards of a lot of Seattle residences.

    Here is an article on this issue, one of many written. Fascinating topic.


    It’s a classic example of taking a good idea and dishonoring the spirit of its intent.

    That is why Kary often criticizes me for disagreeing when 2 or 3 attorneys have not agreed with me on various topics online. It is just a different way of looking at things. If the spirit of the law is built on a poor foundation, as regards consumers and real estate, then I don’t necessarily agree with the attorneys. One of these is regarding the “arms length agreement” as to “seller must leave property” on a short sale. One is regarding what real estate agents can and can not say and do. Another is whether a 2nd mortgage is covered the same as a 1st mortgage.

    I don’t consider a single case law decided badly to be relevant…or as relevant as some attorneys do. Just because one judge got it wrong is no reason for everyone else to get it wrong thereafter.

    Goes back to some children being smarter than some adults. Ask WHY about that law…and honor the why and not simply dot the I’s and cross the T’s while skirting the why of the law. It’s a different way of thinking and I have been told by many attorneys that it is an East Coast vs West Coast perspective to some degree.

    I have been on the West coast for almost 15 years, but I choose to honor intent of laws vs hammering down a loophole to skirt the underlying issue. That’s why I chose the song for me and Kary to be “There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” We just don’t look at things from the same angle.

  13. 263
    ARDELL says:

    RE: David Losh @ 61


    I agree to a large extent, but more for owner occupants than investors. There are MANY agents who “answer objections” by telling home buyers they can do something with a property after they own it, that they can NOT do. It’s pretty common.

    Oh, you can build out or up or knock out that wall…as example.

    As long as someone wants the property long term “where is – as is” it usually is pretty straight forward. But the minute someone wants to change something…they should not rely on an agent OR an attorney for solid info before they purchase. It could be as simple as someone buying a house with a wood shake roof thinking they can replace it with a blue metal roof or even a composite shingle. Some HOAs say no roof can be replaced with wood shake even though it is currently wood shake. Others say must be wood shake.

    This is where I agree with you 90% of the time about real estate. The answer is not “attorney review”. A LOT of European buyers think they can pour concrete all over the place, as they like solid walk ways and sometimes even super-sized poured patios. Agents often say “sure you can” when in fact there is a limit to non-permeable surfaces.

    CLASSIC example is when there is a creek or a stream on the property. Just had a Listing Agent say “sure you can!” when the answer was clearly NO you can not. His logic was the house was already closer to the creek than current zoning allows so yes…you can pour a patio and or expand the deck and disregard current zoning on that too. Not so. The structure is grandfathered. If your house burns down…you may not under current code be able to rebuild it at all. Different rules for Class B vs Class C streams. But when you see a lot “with water running through it”, the existing structures are not the guide as to how close you can put something permanent, even a deck post or fence post, near it.

    P.S. So glad you are back, David. Off to work on that townhome in U-District. It’s coming together. Hopefully only another couple of days and on market by Friday.

  14. 264

    By ARDELL @ 58:


    I have not seen real estate investors bitten by legal issues, as the Title and Escrow Process pretty much covers most everything unless you are buying AT auction/Trustee Sale.

    Escrow does not provide any legal services to either of the parties, other than filling out simple deeds and an excise tax affidavit. Title companies only deal with title issues, not the topics we’ve been discussing here.

  15. 265

    By ARDELL @ 59:

    The old rule of “investing” is, never “invest” a dime you can’t afford to lose.

    I would agree with that, which is one of the reasons I don’t like buying AT a foreclosure sale for the typical home purchaser.

  16. 266
  17. 267

    Larry, although it’s true that title companies don’t provide legal services, they have their own examiners and team of legal professionals that make sure that every detail in regard to the transaction is done on the “up and up”. They’re going to need to defend the title in the future should they make a mistake or do something shady, so they are very careful.

    Historically, companies that buy houses for cash, like the ones listed below try not to deceive home owners, yet they try to do business with integrity:


  18. 268
    Fred Franks says:

    Great information as of 2016, its now a sellers market. I would like to read more articles about dealing with home sellers.

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