April Stats Preview: Improving Inventory Edition

With the books on April now closed, let’s have a look at our monthly stats preview. Most of the charts below are based on broad county-wide data that is available through a simple search of King County and Snohomish County public records. If you have additional stats you’d like to see in the preview, drop a line in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

First up, here’s the snapshot of all the data as far back as my historical information goes, with the latest, high, and low values highlighted for each series:

King & Snhomish County Stats Preview

Listings are still climbing from a year ago in both counties, still much more in Snohomish than in King. It does look like inventory in King County may finally hit double-digit gains. Sales fell from last year’s levels in both counties again as well, although the drop was much smaller in King County. Foreclosure starts and completions both continued to drop from last year’s levels.

Next, let’s look at total home sales as measured by the number of “Warranty Deeds” filed with King County:

King County Warranty Deeds

Sales in King County rose 20 percent between March and April (in 2013 they rose 14 percent over the same period), but were down 1.1 percent year-over-year.

Here’s a look at Snohomish County Deeds, but keep in mind that Snohomish County files Warranty Deeds (regular sales) and Trustee Deeds (bank foreclosure repossessions) together under the category of “Deeds (except QCDS),” so this chart is not as good a measure of plain vanilla sales as the Warranty Deed only data we have in King County.

Snohomish County Deeds

Deeds in Snohomish rose 11 percent month-over-month but were down 10 percent from April 2013.

Next, here’s Notices of Trustee Sale, which are an indication of the number of homes currently in the foreclosure process:

King County Notices of Trustee Sale

Snohomish County Notices of Trustee Sale

Foreclosures in both counties are still down considerably from a year ago. Month-over-month foreclosures rose just slightly in King County, but fell in Snohomish. King was down 41 percent from last year, and Snohomish fell 53 percent.

Here’s another measure of foreclosures for King County, looking at Trustee Deeds, which is the type of document filed with the county when the bank actually repossesses a house through the trustee auction process. Note that there are other ways for the bank to repossess a house that result in different documents being filed, such as when a borrower “turns in the keys” and files a “Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure.”

King County Trustee Deeds

Trustee Deeds were down 43 percent from a year ago, but increased a bit from last month.

Lastly, here’s an update of the inventory charts, updated with the inventory data from the NWMLS.

King County SFH Active Listings

Snohomish County SFH Active Listings

A double-digit gain in just one month in King County bodes well for buyers hoping that this year may yet have some decent inventory. King is currently up 11 percent from last year, while Snohomish is up 48 percent.

Stay tuned later this month a for more detailed look at each of these metrics as the “official” data is released from various sources.

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

    I’m surprised your King County Active listing is so low. It’s currently significantly higher than that (almost 3,800).

    As to the NWMLS’s numbers to be released, I expect the median to be up significantly, the sales to be up MOM and likely YOY. When you combine that with the active listings being up there’s a bit of good news for everyone, unless you’re a buyer in an area where inventory didn’t increase.

    As to foreclosures, I commented earlier that one of the big trustee firms agreed with the state AG to about a 35-40 day moratorium on their foreclosures, mainly in March if I recall correctly. So that could impact the numbers some.

    Number from NWMLS sources, but not compiled by or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  2. 2

    Increased Inventory is Just a Minor Part of the Puzzle

    We really need Millenials back in the Middle Class again…..and that’s becoming a “pipe dream” on the road to ruin we’re curremtly on, IMO.

    “….Homes have become too expensive for many Americans, especially for young people. Prices increased 13 percent for the 12 months ending in February in 20 major cities, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index. Additionally, the supply of homes has remained tight. “There’s really nothing that’s compelling [people] to buy,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH.com, which publishes mortgage and consumer loan information.

    But the main problem is that Americans, especially young people who are burdened by rising debt loads such as student loans, won’t be able to obtain a mortgage unless they make more money. Personal income is on the rise—it grew 0.5 percent in April—but the growth isn’t as fast as needed to spur a pickup in the housing market.

    “The missing ingredient is growth in household income,” said McBride…”


    I’m sure the “flat earthers” will counter my scientific slant with an “it just ain’t so Mother Goose slant” with nothing but I’m positive and you’re a negative bad type ambiguous rationale….LOL

  3. 3
    Blurtman says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 2 – How much for a kidney?

  4. 4

    RE: Blurtman @ 3

    LOL Blurtman

    Its a good thing we have two…

  5. 5
    Tim Deerhawke says:

    Looking at King County, if I am reading things correctly, I see that all the normal indicators of homeowner distress (notice of trustee sale, trustee deeds, etc) are trending downward. The foreclosure boom may not be over, but is clearly tailing off. That marks the decline in an important source of supply — especially affordable supply).

    True, there is more inventory on the market with 3583 active listings. But supply and demand are not absolutes — they are relative to each other. In fact, demand seems to be outstripping supply. With 3414 warranty deeds recorded against those 3583 active listings, you are nearly at a 1.05 ratio of listings to sales– that seems very, very tight.

    It seems likely that the reason that sales are down 1.1% for the month is that prices are rising and there is not much for an active buyers to purchase before it is snapped up by someone else.

    I have been watching the Seattle market more closely than the King County market. In February there were only 716 active listings and in March only 797. This is a quarter what was on the market during the recession, but it is still only 60% of what was brought to market in 2005 and 2007. While it is anecdotal, April seems even tighter than the two previous months (or maybe the For Sale signs are just being taken down more quickly.)

    It would be helpful to have some real information of this same kind on the Seattle sub-market.

  6. 6
    mike says:

    RE: Tim Deerhawke @ 5 – Another paradox is the areas that have recovered to near peak prices are also some the ones with the biggest decrease in inventory. Common consensus was a price recovery would release pent up inventory as people who were no longer underwater could sell. That does not seem to be happening yet.

    There’s some evidence that at this point in the cycle people behind on their mortgage have piled up $100K+ in fees, so even though they owe less principal than market value they’re still in the hole overall. I’ve seen a few of these, but it’s difficult to say how many are in this position.

  7. 7

    RE: mike @ 6

    When Prices Went Down 50% in SE King County

    A 50% rise still doesn’t help underwater mortgages….ya need a 100% rise.

    Many local foreclosures are not tracked at all….we’ve analyzed that anomaly before. How big is this unknown inventory base? Let’s put it this way, I can find homes with boarded up windows and county warning signs: “Do not enter” due to mainenance/infrastructure anomalies. There’s at least two of these units in my HOA….that’s about 2% of the total. Doesn’t sound like much until you think like a scientist and not a fortune teller. How many homes have for sale signs and are listed of the total neighborhood stock? 4% tops maybe?

    Most home owners aren’t planning to sell soon, its always been that way.

  8. 8
    Tim Deerhawke says:

    During the financial crisis, most people didn’t realize that they were in trouble until some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Little action was taken until 2011. The banks were slow to react and anybody who did not simply ignore the notices piling up in their mailbox could prolong and postpone. Anybody who hired counsel could put off foreclosure/auction for at least 18 months.

    If people have made it this far, why not hold out a bit longer? Hang on and take the free rent. The banks (who really were clueless about their troubled mortgages and REO assets) have finally realized that the trend lines are headed in their direction. They are in no real hurry either.

    So all in all, that distressed inventory is going to come on the market in dribs and drabs, not the deluge of shadow inventory predicted by those who forecast a second bubble.

    Meanwhile non-distressed homeowners are looking at the same monthly real estate numbers in the papers and asking the same question. Why not hang on a little longer while values rise?

    The central neighborhoods have been seeing a lot of appreciation and about half of the sales see multiple offers with over-price outcomes. The outer neighborhoods are now catching up.

    If you haven’t read it check out Sanjay Bhatt’s article last week in the Seattle Times.”Home Prices Climbing Fastest in Region’s Most Affordable Spots.” It is worth a read.


  9. 9

    By Tim Deerhawke @ 5:

    With 3414 warranty deeds recorded against those 3583 active listings, you are nearly at a 1.05 ratio of listings to sales– that seems very, very tight.

    You’re comparing apples to oranges, apples, bananas and a few other things. The active listings are only SFR, while the warranty deed figure is all types of property (condo, commercial, vacant land, etc.). The sales of SFR will likely be closer to 2,000 than 3,500.

  10. 10
    mike says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 7 – Except you’re in a totally different market from those that have recovered. Let’s take North Ballard (98117)- 14,000 housing units, 39 active listings, so only 0.28% of the homes are for sale. Prices dropped about 25% from the peak, so they only needed to recover 33% – which is about where we’re at now.

    Empty or boarded up houses are more likely to be investor properties slated for tear down or recently in probate. Many of these don’t even have a mortgage on them – and I check when I spot one. The only wild card is the number of occupied homes with seriously past due mortgages.

  11. 11

    RE: mike @ 10 – Let’s not forget that prices didn’t really drop the same amount as the median. There were a lot more short sales and bank owned before (both in number and as a percentage of total sales), and that drug down the median. The non-distressed median has not been below $390,000 since sometime before 2012. The normal median (all SFR) got about $80,000 lower than that in 2012, and it’s that number people usually make their comparisons to.

    Numbers from NWMLS and other sources, but not compiled by or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  12. 12

    New sales have been out-pacing new listings for 2 1/2 years now. I’ve prepared graphs for both King and Snohomish County you can see on my blog.

    We would need a increase of at least 1,000 listings to get into a healthy balance of inventory.

    Here is a link to the King County Graph.

  13. 13

    While the year of year trend shows a decline in foreclosures, I find it interesting that the trustee sales have held relatively steady since January. I think this might have to do with Countrywide. I’ve been seeing a lot of people with Countrywide originated loans who have been in default for years, without a foreclosure occurring. Bank of America recently sold the servicing rights for thousands of these to outside companies who are now pushing these toward foreclosure.

  14. 14
    mike says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 11 – Nor did the median drop the same amount as some prices. The median was heavily influenced by mix during various stages of the downturn so I don’t consider it reliable indicator of overall price change.

    During the downturn in one of the higher end neighborhoods I considered, there were houses listing in the mid $500’s – typically estate sales. It wasn’t that prices had fallen so much as builders temporarily stopped buying these properties and tearing them down. Prices overall hadn’t changed much, but different – lower priced – houses were now appearing in the MLS listings and hence the MLS reported median decreased, distressed or not. (This particular area had almost no foreclosures)

  15. 15
    Tim Deerhawke says:

    REJulie Lyda RE/MAX Northwest Realtors @ 12:

    New sales have been out-pacing new listings for 2 1/2 years now.

    Thanks for graphing this data.

    Kary’s point about my use of different kinds of data is duly noted. But the point remains the same. Tim is saying that inventory is improving. That is true so far as it goes. But it is rather beside the point if demand is rising faster– and has been fairly consistently for 30 months. This is the real explanation for a market that is so lean and mean.

  16. 16

    RE: Tim Deerhawke @ 15

    April’s stats just came out:

    King County
    New Listings: 3,125
    New Pendings: 2,981

    Net gain in inventory 144

    Our first month since a year ago that we’ve had a net gain… but 144 isn’t going to help much.

    Standard required disclaimer: Statistics not compiled nor published by NWMLS

  17. 17

    RE: Julie Lyda RE/MAX Northwest Realtors @ 16 – Inventory has gained more than all of April just in the first few days of May. Evidently some people were waiting for May???

    On the sales volume, I wonder if the NWMLS has been cracking down on late reported sales? This is the second month in a row where the late reported sales were a relatively small number, probably under 75 sales. Interesting though that even in a fairly small number they still drag down the median.

    Vague references to numbers from NWMLS sources, but not compiled by or guaranteed by the NWMLS.

  18. 18

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 17 –

    Kary, Because it irks me to no end when sales are not reported timely, I have repeatedly checked old pending statuses and reported them to the MLS when they were actually closed. The NWMLS has received many, many emails from me over the last 2 years. I actually reported about 20 listings last month that had closed in 2012. It’s time consuming, but someone’s gotta do it. I’m so glad they added the flag feature, it’s made it a bit easier now.

Leave a Reply

Use your email address to sign up with Gravatar for a custom avatar.
Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please read the rules before posting a comment.