Reporting Roundup: Unique Greedy Frenzy Edition

It’s time once again for the monthly reporting roundup, where you can read my wry commentary about the news instead of subjecting yourself to boring rehashes of the NWMLS press release (or in addition to, if that’s what floats your boat).

To kick things off, here’s an excerpt from the NWMLS press release:

Northwest MLS Tallies Busy December as First-time Buyers, Investors Return

While the expected seasonal slowdown occurred last month, determined buyers were undaunted by sparse inventory and record-breaking rainy days, according to December statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Feeding Frenzy of Cormorants and Brown Pelicans by Flickr user Mike Baird

“This is a unique housing market,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “There is nothing normal about the combination of factors fueling the current market,” he added.

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.

Looking ahead, many brokers expect a strong market in 2013, with some expressing concern about “frenzied bubble growth.”

Oh yeah. I bet they are real concerned about that prospect. I’m sure it keeps them up at night.

Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.

Eric Pryne, Seattle Times: Local supply of homes for sale hits another record low

The number of houses for sale in King County has hit yet another record low, according to statistics released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“There’s just nothing available out there,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies.

Inventory — or lack of it — has been driving the Seattle area real-estate market for several months. Brokers and analysts attribute it mostly to the large number of “underwater” homeowners who are disinclined to sell because they owe lenders more than their houses are worth.

The UW’s Crellin predicted inventory will increase in coming months, in part because rising home prices mean fewer homeowners are underwater.

2012 was indeed the year of crappy selection, start to finish.

Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I: December saw slowing home sales, rising prices

One reason for the decrease in pending sales is that sales had started to pick up last December, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.

Another may be the dearth of homes for sale, he said. “It could be that the potential buyers aren’t finding anything they like.”

And, unlike during the bubble years, he said: “This time they’re not willing to jump in and buy anything that’s on the market in their price range.”

Crellin is on a roll the last couple of years. He’s spot on here.

It seems that the Everett Herald has not posted a story about the December data yet. If I see one later today I will update this post to include it.

Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune: Home sales offer happy ending to 2012 in Pierce County

The Pierce County housing market ended 2012 on a positive note as median prices rose 14.48 percent, the largest percentage increase of the year, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Monday.

Median prices rose to $200,563 last month from $175,199 in December 2011, the combined single-family residence and condominium data show. Home sales in the same year-over-year period weren’t as strong, rising just 2.15 percent to 808 units from 791 units, the combined data show.

Hmm, here we go again, describing “the market” as “positive,” when really it’s only positive for sellers. I had hoped that we would leave this kind of language behind with the bursting of the bubble.

Rolf Boone, The Olympian: Fewer homes for sale, but prices remain low

The number of homes for sale in Thurston County fell under 1,000 units in December for the first time in six years, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Monday.

The number of homes for sale fell 25.38 percent to 988 units in December from 1,324 units in December 2011, the combined single-family residence and condominium data show.

A combination of factors have contributed to the lower inventory levels, and it could mean that less supply and buyer demand stimulate home prices, Washington Realtors Association President Mark Kitabayashi said Monday.

Inventory levels are lower because sellers are waiting for prices to rise, but also because of the holidays, and the uncertainty created by the election and the so-called “fiscal cliff,” he said.

“It all kinds of adds up,” he said.

So, inventory fell between December 2011 and December 2012 “because of the holidays”? I wonder which holidays we had in 2012 but not 2011…

(Eric Pryne, Seattle Times, 01.07.2013)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 01.07.2013)
(Rolf Boone, Tacoma News Tribune, 01.08.2013)
(Rolf Boone, The Olympian, 09.06.2013)

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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.