NWMLS: Inventory Up Six Percent to End 2013

December market stats were published by the NWMLS this afternoon. Here’s a snippet from their press release: Year-end gains in inventory, sales, prices.

Brokers with Northwest Multiple Listing Service ended 2013 with the best year-over-year improvement in inventory (up 8.4 percent) and a similar gain in closed sales to buoy confidence heading into the new year. December’s pending sales slipped slightly (down about 1.7 percent) compared to the same month a year ago.

“Positive job growth and the continuation of favorable low interest rates are setting the stage for another good year in real estate,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.

Friday’s narrow approval of Boeing’s contract proposal for Machinists union members bodes well for members of Northwest Multiple Listing Service and the real estate industry.

Reacting to the vote, MLS board member John Deely said, “The robust and diverse economy of the Pacific Northwest is solidified by Boeing’s continued presence in the Seattle area.” Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said the vote helps secure the region’s position as “the aerospace epicenter of the world with top-notch manufacturing jobs that support the industry.”

Boeing workers and others hoping to buy a home have a bigger selection of homes to consider than house-hunters who were looking twelve months ago – especially in Snohomish County, where the number of active listings is up 43.6 percent.

Wow, way to stay classy, NWMLS. Shamelessly attempting to capitalize on the Boeing news was the best you could come up with this month? Yikes. I suppose it’s (slightly) less pitiful than the car salesmen that lurked just onshore last month in Everett waiting to capture freshly-docked Navy “leads.”

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 2013 Number MOM YOY Buyers Sellers
Active Listings 3,127 -18.1% +6.2%
Closed Sales 1,794 +1.1% +3.0%
SAAS (?) 1.22 +14.1% -1.5%
Pending Sales 1,529 -25.3% -5.4%
Months of Supply 2.05 +9.6% +12.3%
Median Price* $419,825 +1.4% +10.5%

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

The only indicators that isn’t pointing in buyers’ favor is now prices. Inventory, sales, months of supply, and the rest are now all trending toward a buyer’s market.

Here’s your closed sales yearly comparison chart:

King County SFH Closed Sales

Closed sales have increased between November and December in 12 of the last 21 years, including this year’s 1.1% increase. The average increase over that period is 8 percent.

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

King County SFH Inventory

No surprise here. Between 2000 and 2012, inventory fell an average of 18.2% between November and December, with a standard deviation of just under 3 percentage points. Last year inventory fell 18.1% between November and December, almost dead-on the average.

The year ended with inventory up 6.2%, so congratulations to the 24 of you who voted “up 5% to 10%” in our August poll.

Here’s the supply/demand YOY graph. “Demand” in this chart is represented by closed sales, which have had a consistent definition throughout the decade (unlike pending sales from NWMLS).

King County Supply vs Demand % Change YOY

The supply trend stayed in the black, while the demand trend inched back into black. I would be surprised if demand stays year-over-year positive in January given that pending sales have been negative for three months in a row.

Here’s the median home price YOY change graph:

King County SFH YOY Price Change

The median sale price inched back up a bit in December, moving the year-over-year gain back to double digits.

And lastly, here is the chart comparing King County SFH prices each month for every year back to 1994 (not adjusted for inflation).

King County SFH Prices

December 2013: $419,825
April 2006: $419,500
Here are the articles from the Seattle Times and P-I:

Seattle Times: King County home prices rise 10.5 percent for 2013
Seattle P-I: King County still has few homes for sale

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. 1
    Erik says:

    6 percent is so small, it should have no affect on prices. Why do prices seem to be decreasing? Delayed interest increase effect? I think I timed my sale perfectly, but we will see. Katy said he noticed prices edging down as well. I want to see February 2012 prices again.

  2. 2

    RE: Erik @ 1 – Inventory is only a part of the equation. There is also the number of people buying, and also the inventory which doesn’t show up in the monthly figures because it’s gone the same month it comes on. It’s supply and demand, not just supply.

    And while I don’t always agree with Ardell, I think she’s right about the interest rate factor. That affects prices, just as an increase in condo dues can affect the value of units in the condominium. People do look at what the monthly cost will be when they decide how much to pay.

    Finally, there is also a slight decrease because we’re not currently in a buyer frenzy situation. With the lower inventories though, that could easily happen again.

  3. 3
    mike says:

    RE: Erik @ 1 – And this 6% increase is happening ‘somewhere else’ in the county. Inventory in my area is the lowest it’s been in over 7 years, below even last year. Seattle might have a generous 1.2 months of listings across the city as a whole, but a lot of areas have significantly less inventory to choose from.

  4. 4
    Mike S says:

    Where are all the doom and gloom guys saying that we havent seen anything yet as far as a bottom?

    Prices back up above 2008? Who would have thunk it?

  5. 5

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2

    I’d Add to Both Erik’s and Kary’s Blogs

    Basing the 2014 prediction on Seattle sales on a single potential “lucky sale” is not scientific….hades, a handful of people pay too much for classic cars because they just haveta have it…..go to the auctions and get a better idea what its generally worth, not a lucky high priced sale to a FAR less savvy buyer.

  6. 6

    RE: Mike S @ 4

    Gloom and Doom to Who?

    Buyers wouldn’t call lower 2014 price predictions “gloom and doom”, no, not at all. As far as prices now back up to 2008, does that include the undocumented [per Kary] foreclosure delays impacting the underwater mortgages on the books as high as 30% of all contracts?

    Or are the current tea leaves OK to make predictions on?

  7. 7
    Mike2 says:

    Given how low inventory has gotten I would say a 6% increase YOY is pretty much a rounding error, 6% of not much is still not much. Going to take a higher growth rate or a lot of successive years at that pace to build back to something more neutral. Would expect the price changes are mostly interest rate driven and potentially a shift in mix of quality/type of homes sold, but as long as inventory stays low those issues won’t cause the floor to fall out really.

    Also agree with the posts above that I think inventory is very spotty depending on where you are looking with the in-city prime areas pretty much devoid of any SFH listings that aren’t on a major street or otherwise subject to some ding/defect. Anything good still goes before it would get picked up in month-end counts.

  8. 8
    Erik says:

    RE: Mike2 @ 7
    To say there is a rise in inventory is stretching the truth. There is a rounding error. Inventory is approximately the same as last year. Tim predicted a rise in inventory, which did not happen. Technically this month at this exact time for that county, it has risen very slightly. Last month it was even less, but it wasn’t reported as a percentage because he would be saying inventory rose .0001% or whatever it was. That would have been an obvious exaggeration, but he could have made the same statement technically. I was hoping inventory would decrease below last year. I think it still may these next few months. I want to see it under 3k in king county.

  9. 9
    whatsmyname says:

    The thing about the 6% inventory increase is that it is a 6% increase from the lowest data point in the entire 14 year series. To get back to the lowest pre-crash datapoint (Dec 2005) at a 6% inventory growth trend would take almost 6 years. Of course there is no reason to think inventory growth would be confined to that amount over any significant period, but it does illustrate a lack of materiality for that number

    Even better is the 12.3% increase in the months of supply. We are so far into seller advantage on this metric (if you believe 6 months is “balanced”) that a compounded 13% rate of increase would require almost 9 years just to touch buyer’s market territory.

  10. 10
    Azucar says:

    RE: Erik @ 8
    I miss the “down thumb” button.

  11. 11

    RE: Azucar @ 10RE: whatsmyname @ 9 – whatsmyname, that is a good point. I would also point out that compared to the 6% YOY increase the 18% MOM decrease is far more important, as is the roughly 40% decrease since September.

    Azucar, the thumb down button was for weak minds who were not smart enough to say anything coherent (a/k/a morons). If you agree with something, then you can do a thumbs up to signify exactly that. But if you disagree with something, just saying you don’t agree, without saying why, is pointless and a complete waste of pixels on a screen.

  12. 12
    Erik says:

    RE: Azucar @ 10
    You are a member of wreckingbull’s goon squad I see. You goons are no longer going to be able to sit in your dark computer room thumbs downing my comments. You will be forced to actively participate as opposed to thumbs downing me.

  13. 13
    mike says:

    RE: Erik @ 8 – How does this nominal increase in inventory tie into your prediction of 10-15% price drops in 2014 and another 30% by the summer of 2015?

  14. 14
    Erik says:

    RE: mike @ 13
    I do not know where inventory is headed. I think it will stay low for a while. Inventory is just one factor driving of the driving factors in housing prices, but not the only factor. If you look at the historical graph for the dow jones industrial average, we are due up for a crash or a reset or whatever you want to call it.


    Look at the graph. Measure the time period between lows. We are due up for a crash. When the stock market and hence the economy comes crashing down, housing prices will plummet. I do not understand the economy, but I am able to look at graphs and kinda guess what will happen next based on what historically has happened. It looks to me that we are due up for another recession based on too much run up in prices for too long. I don’t think it will sustain since that is not what happens historically.

    I don’t have a crystal ball, but i try to buy low and sell high. When things get good, I get nervous. I don’t think we have the economic fundamentals in place to have a run like we did in the 80’s and 90’s. Therefore, I can see a crash at some point.

  15. 15
    mike says:

    RE: Erik @ 14 – Historically however neither recessions or stock market corrections have much of a downward effect on house prices. That’s one characteristic that made the housing bust so unique. Looking back at the 1979-1982 era, there were 2 severe recessions in a short period, and mortgage rates nearly tripled up to 18%, yet house prices didn’t decline much at all.

    My expectation is that even if prices start to decline again, inventory will tighten even further and there will be enormous political pressure not to have the GSE’s foreclosing on millions of homes the way the private market did in 2006-2009.

  16. 16
    Erik says:

    RE: mike @ 15
    Looks kinda cyclical to me mike. For instance… buy in 1976 and sell in 1979. Buy in 1984 and sell in 1989. Buy in 1996 and sell in 2006. Buy in 2012, sell in….. I think if you are just an average computer programmer or whatever it is you do, if you buy and sell at the right times, you will be much better off. Your time is well worth reading and interacting on this site.


    I made a pile of cash on reading Tim’s website and getting the timing right. I bought 11/2011 and sold 12/2013. Timing is more important than being skilled in remodeling in my opinion. The movement of this curve means the difference between success and failure. Here is my last remodel. $4500 down payment and $22000 in additional remodel costs. Bought for $92700 and sold for $233000 only 2 years later. I attribute my success to timing the market just right.


    So when you say it doesn’t go down much, I disagree. That small amount of vertical deflection in the curve equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime of getting the timing right.

  17. 17
    Azucar says:

    By Erik @ 12:

    RE: Azucar @ 10
    You are a member of wreckingbull’s goon squad I see. You goons are no longer going to be able to sit in your dark computer room thumbs downing my comments. You will be forced to actively participate as opposed to thumbs downing me.

    Because someone disagrees with your assertion that the Tim was wrong because something that he said would increase DID increase, but only by a small amount, that person is a part of a “good squad” who sits in a dark computer room thumbs downing your comments?

    I REALLY miss the thumbs down button now.

  18. 18

    Look at the last graph in this post the median data, and then read the comments in the earlier post before the data came out:


    Then ask yourself why were we having the discussion about whether at these prices it’s a good time to buy? Current prices don’t tell you when it’s a good time to buy. Back in 2008-2010 the lower prices were telling some people not to buy, and they didn’t buy. Was that the right message/decision? Seemingly not, but if you disagree, what did they gain? Perhaps better interest rates, but they could have possibly done the same through a refinance.

    I really think we focus too much on current price, and some focus WAY TOO MUCH on where they think prices are headed. As I’ve said before I really think people need to focus more on their own personal situation and what they can find to buy at the time. People who did that in 2010 are far better off now than if those who worried that the prices were down from the peak.

    If people were really good at predicting where prices were headed, our peak sales volumes would have been in 2010 and 2011. But despite all the evidence that people cannot predict the future, that still is the goal of many many people.

  19. 19
    mike says:

    RE: Erik @ 16 – Lol. I said with the exception of the last cycle, prices have historically not gone down much, so what do you do? Take an example from the last cycle to prove your point? Ok… good one.

  20. 20
    ARDELL says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 18

    Yes and no. Most people feel the need to act as responsibly as possible given the information available. In December I wanted to add some bedding to my staging stock. Historically January is the month for “White Sales”. If and when I had to have something in November and December to stage and sell a property, I bought it without regard to “best time”. Things on my list that could wait…waited for the “January White Sales”.

    To say that “best time” to buy just about anything is never a consideration is just not the case. Would I wait 5 years and not buy anything because “best time” never came around? No. But is there a “best time” within my list of priorities based on my better judgment and historical data? Yes.

    Unless someone is trying to match closing dates from one property to another and needs to do that, timing is a factor. It could be market timing or simply seasonal timing. But to suggest that people should only be driven by the shiny object in front of them today, those who do that…and many do, are usually not acting as responsibly as possible.

    People ask should I list on December 15 or January 15…most every year. People ask should I wait until my full 2 year hold is over or sell now? These and many other questions involving timing are part of the real estate business. Yes, many answer “now is as good a time as any as I don’t have a crystal ball”, but I don’t think that is the best answer vs giving due and considerable consideration to the aspects of the decision process that involve timing.

  21. 21

    RE: ARDELL @ 20 – I was focusing more on buyers, not the sellers which you seem to be mainly addressing. And when I mention focusing on their “personal situation,” I’m not referring to a “shiny object” but instead employment, financial and family matters. But I could see it might be a dream house they always wanted coming on the market.

    But to use your first analogy, what many people seemed to have done is had torn sheets for the past 5 years, decided to wait for the best sale ever, and then bought when they they saw prices rising. Not a good strategy.

  22. 22
    ChrisM says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 18 – “I really think we focus too much on current price, and some focus WAY TOO MUCH on where they think prices are headed. As I’ve said before I really think people need to focus more on their own personal situation and what they can find to buy at the time.”

    Do you see any correlation with consumer confidence?

  23. 23
    Azucar says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 11

    I disagree. How is “up thumbing” someone without bringing anything new to the discussion any better than “down thumbing” them? Why is it OK to generally think a post is well thought out or “good” and be able to up thumb it, but be “moronic” to generally disagree with a thought and be able to “down thumb” it. There is a wide enough spectrum of people who post on internet sites that I shouldn’t have to explain to every moron why I think they are a moron.

    Isn’t it just as weak minded to be able to click on something to say “yeah, what he said” (by up thumbing) as it is click on something that says “Uh, I don’t agree (by down thumbing)?

    Personally, I don’t think the thumbs mean too much, so I don’t think it’s weak minded to do either… it’s just a way to say “I agree with that thought” or “I disagree with that thought”. But as you think that one is a weak minded thing to do, why isn’t the other?

  24. 24

    RE: Azucar @ 23RE: ChrisM @ 22 – Consumer confidence is likely an aggregate of a lot of peoples’ personal situation, but I was focusing on the individual. But it does bring up a good point. I didn’t mean to say that everyone who bought in the past year was just following the herd, I was only addressing those who were. Some of those buying did so because their personal situation was such that it was right. Maybe they got a promotion would be perhaps a common example.

    As to the difference between thumbs up and thumbs down, that should be obvious. If I said 2 + 2 = 4, and did a detailed analysis of my math, a thumbs up would indicate that you agree with my result and my analysis. Thumbs down would indicate that you think a different number is right, but there would be no indication of what the correct number or analysis should be. It was pointless, and done largely by people who have to count to four on their fingers, and probably get it wrong half the time.

  25. 25

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 24
    Then there was Sven, who, in a public setting was asked to count to 21, and managed to get himself arrested.

  26. 26
    Azucar says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 24:

    RE: Azucar @ 23RE: ChrisM @ 22

    As to the difference between thumbs up and thumbs down, that should be obvious. If I said 2 + 2 = 4, and did a detailed analysis of my math, a thumbs up would indicate that you agree with my result and my analysis. Thumbs down would indicate that you think a different number is right, but there would be no indication of what the correct number or analysis should be. It was pointless, and done largely by people who have to count to four on their fingers, and probably get it wrong half the time.

    But then there are other people who say that someone is wrong for predicting that something (that did increase a slight amount) would increase because it only increased a little. Isn’t it obvious what down-thumbing a comment like that would mean? That I don’t agree that the person was wrong because their prediction was, in fact, correct.

    Down thumbing an essay question response might bring less value than up thumbing it, but in a “true-false” situation it brings just as much value/input. It also doesn’t use up a valuable post in this environment where we only get 5 each!

  27. 27
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: Azucar @ 26
    Some people will thumbs down a simple, factually incorrect statement, but others will thumbs down a factually correct statement. Who can know (or in many cases notice) whether your thumbs down is reasonable or emotional if you don’t explain yourself?

    A thumbs up may well be weak minded, but positive interactions are generally positive for a community. Socially, the introduction of conflict is negative for the community. Of what value is a negative if it doesn’t bring a positive (like better information) to the table?

    Therefore, why wouldn’t a well intentioned bringer of conflict truly desire to share that better information? They would; unless they can’t. Information-free disagreement like a thumbs down primarily serves to soothe the emotional discord of the poster. That is why the first assumption is that they are a moron, although it’s not always the case. Sometimes it is about social pressure to eject a member of the community, (bullying) – still not desirable. A good rule of thumb: If it isn’t worth a post, it isn’t worth bothering with.

  28. 28
    Azucar says:

    Well, back where it was possible to do both (thumbs up and thumbs down a comment), there were certain comments that got a number of “ups” and a number of “downs”. There were other comments that would just get one or the other. It said something about the comment – if it were strongly and nearly unanimously “thumbs upped”, it reflected that the general sentiment of the board was in agreement with it. If it had a lot of thumbs in BOTH directions, it reflected that it was a “hot button” kind of thought with people feeling strongly – being polarized in both directions. Now a strongly polarizing comment just gets the thumbs up’s, and we’ve lost the bit about knowing if it is something that the community feels strongly in both directions about.

    Personally, I think that if someone feels “bullied” by people who have “thumbs downed” them enough to make them stop posting or if it affects their posting, it is THAT (the “bullied” one) person who is weak minded.

    I wasted one of my five posts in this thread indicating that I don’t agree that someone who predicted something would go up is wrong if that something does go up but not by a large amount, so I’m at five now and I won’t be commenting further on this subject. Maybe that’s a good thing, as I don’t think I have anything more to say about it anyway.

  29. 29
    Corndogs says:

    RE: Azucar @ 17 – There are three choices up, down or flat. It’s the argument of a child to claim that a flat trend is technically up or down. ‘The Tim’ continually makes passive predictions so he can talk his way out of it later if he’s wrong. Inventory has remained historically low for all the reasons Corndog has explained on this site. ‘The Tim’ was clearly trying to imply months ago that inventories were heading back toward substantially higher levels, it didn’t happen. This is similar to last year when ‘The Tim’ said prices were headed South for the Winter and Oneball man tried to defend him when prices did not go South as Corndog predicted. Be your own hero Azucar.. Take off that jersey with some other dudes name on the back.

  30. 30
    Corndogs says:

    RE: Azucar @ 28 – I agree that the thumbs down is an additional piece of data that has value. Corndog had many posts with a large number of both up and down. It was fantastic to recieve so many thumbs down and still be correct in the end. It also helped to understand the composition of opinions of the audience which of course affected the choice of my future posting content. It also helped gage the size of the audience at a given point. 4 thumbs up doesn’t tell you as much as 4 up and 27 down. Like Tims charts additional info is only helpful to some people.

  31. 31
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: Sugar @ 28
    Don’t get me wrong. I like the thumbs down.

    As I said when this started- Without the thumbs down, how will I know if people are reading my stuff?

    I was addressing the narrow question of why it is typically morons that use it.

  32. 32
    ARDELL says:

    Worth noting, a lot of the standing inventory that is causing new listings to appear as increased inventory is in the very high end. Kirkland 98033 as example has only a 2 to 3 week supply of inventory in homes priced at $775,000 or less, but has a full year supply of inventory over $1.5 M.

    60% of the standing inventory, causing the slight increase in inventory, is in the $1M and up price range while only 17% of 2013 total sales were in that same price range. Still talking Kirkland 98033 here.

    If all of the small increase in inventory county-wide is in the upper price range out of proportion to the number of buyers in that higher price range, then I would have to agree with Erik that while technically correct, the breakdown is needed to determine which buyers are or are not impacted at all.

    I don’t think breaking into three tiers digs deep enough, though it worked well up to the last tier and then I had to break the last tier into three tiers again to see the huge increase in inventory over a certain price point. The early 1/3 of the 3rd tier had a 4 month supply vs 3 week supply in the 2nd tier and the last third of the last tier had a full year supply.

    I will break down the County as a whole and post that here when I’m done so I am not focusing only on a small segment of the market. Will be interesting to see if the same principle applies on a county-wide basis.

    (Required disclosure: Stats are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Serivice)

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