NWMLS: Housing Market Tightens, Slows Into Fall

September market stats were published by the NWMLS yesterday. Here’s a snippet from their press release: Home Sales Stay Strong but Prices Approaching "Affordability Ceiling" for Some Buyers.

Pending sales of homes around Western Washington surged more than 13 percent in September compared to a year ago, and listing activity picked up slightly, fueling both broker optimism and words of advice for sellers.

Commenting on September’s activity, industry veteran Gary O’Leyar said he expects the Greater Puget Sound real estate market will maintain a “healthy glow” in 2015 so long as there is no radical increase in interest rates. “I foresee a general leveling off in overall market activity as prices approach the affordability ceiling for many buyers,” remarked O’Leyar, the designated broker/owner of Prudential Signature Properties in Seattle.

“Healthy glow.” Good one. I’m going to have to remember that one.

Okay, let’s get 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):

September 2014 Number MOM YOY Buyers Sellers
Active Listings 4,958 -0.2% -0.1%
Closed Sales 2,113 -11.4% -4.0%
SAAS (?) 1.32 -0.7% +11.6%
Pending Sales 2,617 -5.9% +4.3%
Months of Supply 2.35 +12.6% +4.0%
Median Price* $460,000 +5.3% +9.5%

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

Not much going on this month. Prices shifted back up (probably just due to another shift in the geographic mix). Meanwhile sales and listings both began to dip in a typical fall fashion.

Here’s your closed sales yearly comparison chart:

King County SFH Closed Sales

After taking a big hit last month closed sales dipped even more between August and September, but the drop was fairly typical for this time of year. Between 2000 and 2013, sales fell an average of 12.2% between August and September, versus 11.4% this year.

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

King County SFH Inventory

Inventory began its annual slide with a very slight dip from last month.

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

Not much change on this one, though both lines did shift slightly closer to zero.

Here’s the median home price YOY change graph:

King County SFH YOY Price Change

The year-over-year growth in median price bumped back up last month but fell just short of moving back into double-digit territory.

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

Last month had the highest median price ever for a September.

September 2014: $460,000
April 2007: $465,000

Here are the articles from the Seattle Times and P-I:

Seattle Times: King County home prices resume their climb
Seattle P-I: Seattle-area home prices up again

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

    To Quote Tim’s Article Reference Above

    “…Commenting on September’s activity, industry veteran Gary O’Leyar said he expects the Greater Puget Sound real estate market will maintain a “healthy glow” in 2015 so long as there is no radical increase in interest rates. “I foresee a general leveling off in overall market activity as prices approach the affordability ceiling for many buyers…”

    Is that healthy glow like being too close to a Nuclear Reactor when it melts down?

    Bread-winner flight due to high real estate pushing rents/taxes way too high and even add-in poor schools as a result too [root cause, recent local area overpopulation]….its not political either, the liberal and conservative people can’t afford it anymore and they’re telling the foreign corporates where to go. We’re on to ’em now. They’re fooling no one.

  2. 2

    I’m surprised the inventory is doing as well as it is. In the various saved searches I do it always seems like there are a ton of pendings relative to new active (or even new and price changed active), and it’s been that way for several months. But none of my searches covers all types of houses or all of King county.

  3. 3
    Deerhawke says:

    Kary I will agree with you about inventory. The graph shows it as quite low, but it seems like it should be even lower if you are searching mainly in the nicer neighborhoods of Seattle. The only things that I have seen recently that lagged on the market either had major problems (foundation problems, truly terrible design, etc.) or they were dramatically overpriced, or both. Even this late in the year, things are checking through fairly fast.

    On the other hand, the Altos Research chart for inventory (right side of the home page) shows inventory spiking. What is that about?

  4. 4
    whatsmyname says:

    “Last month had the highest median price ever for a September.”

    Also, the very slight inventory dip from last month was enough to make the least ever inventory for any September of the years that Tim charts.

  5. 5

    RE: whatsmyname @ 4

    I Know Real Estate Professionals Need Inventory to Work

    Albeit, the price of the units in scarce imventory may be higher [giving realtors more possible commission], much of the escrow fees going to the Title Company and even closing costs going to the bank on my last real estate purchase had nothing to do with the sales price of the unit. The paperwork costs are the same. I imagine home inspection and attorney fees go along the same line. Without unit flow high, many in the real estate field are hurting.

  6. 6
    Dave says:

    This data syncs with the current national trend although Seattle inventory is pushed lower by the relatively more robust local job market. Remember this market is ZIRP distorted and will remain so for the immediate future, supporting these price levels and luring more investors, (and Chinese “Finding Mr. Right” fans).


  7. 7

    RE: Dave @ 6

    Investors are shunning places like Seattle, foreclosed inventory is way down down to to like 14% [slim deteriorated pickings left]. They’re buying solid deals they find in the Midwest though [I did too]. This switch away from investments in Seattle didn’t “exclude the Chinese” either….I’m sure they’re not bad investors buying low inventory overpriced junk in Seattle, just because they’re foreign.

  8. 8
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Dave @ 6 – Lacker is a bit late with these comments, the gist of which have earlier been described on this very blog.

  9. 9
    JustAsking... says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 7

    Tim… this is more for you (and maybe of benefit to the group)… is there a way for me to permantly block someone (like for example “softwarengineer”) so I never have to read his comments again?

    This is real question from a longtime reader, sometime contributor… It’s been years since I’ve seen a comment of his be of any value and I’d really like to not see them anymore… if there isn’t a mechanism for having a “hide poster” list, I may be willing to contribute actual money to add it… let me know what it would cost…

  10. 10
    The Tim says:

    RE: JustAsking… @ 9 – I have searched repeatedly in the past for a WordPress plugin that allows that type of functionality. As best I can tell, no such thing exists. I could probably write one myself if Seattle Bubble were my full-time job, but since I’ve got a day job and only have a limited amount of time to spend working on things like this, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to build one.

  11. 11
    Marc says:

    RE: The Tim @ 10 – Tim, meet brilliant start up idea. Brilliant start up idea, meet Tim.

  12. 12

    RE: The Tim @ 10 – The problem with any such approach is typically that someone else will quote the person you don’t want to see the posts of, so you end up seeing them anyway.

    Easiest just to avert the eyes.

  13. 13
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: The Tim @ 10
    If there is enough money on the table, there must surely be a way. For example, I personally could help people who don’t appreciate my work to avoid seeing it by simply not posting anything. This could be done on a fee basis, either for a fixed term, or perhaps by negative subscription. Price is negotiable. You could be my agent; 6% seems fair, although I would like to get half of that back as rebate.

    Also solves the problem Kary mentioned.

  14. 14
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 12 – Agreed. Seems like a lot of work when a simple flick of the mousewheel is all it takes.

  15. 15
    Nicholas Gassaway says:

    >Why not simply ignore SE? We shouldn’y ban him as that would be against first ammendmentrights – besided, how do you ban STUPIDITY. Persnonally he is a GENIUS who has been predicting Bubble 2,0 since 2008! Besides he drives a cool ORANGE Charher (the kind of car that teenage biys who can’y get laid drive (oh sexy SE. can you please place your stick shift into my juicy hot shaved cheerleadet box, invests in thevHOT KC RE markey (which will NEVER appreciate) and sent his daughter to the Harvarf of the West (GRCC, not to ne confused with Gary Ridgewsy the Green River KILLER)


    Nicholas Gassaway

  16. 16
    Jonness says:

    Mr. Gassaway:

    It’s come to my attention that you’ve eaten far too many beans tonight.

  17. 17
    Erik says:

    2012 and 2013 had very similar inventory trajectories after the summer. I think the 2014 inventory curve will end up the same as 2012 and 2013 after summer. When inventory drops at the end of the year, median price stays constant and explodes upward the next spring and summer. I think 2014 will see king county median housing prices increase by around 10% again in 2015.

    I know, the angry people on here will say that is just because I bought a place and I want to see prices increase. That is not true. I bought because I think this will happen until the end of this year and next year. There is nothing I can see that is gonna stop this pattern. Especially with the fed keeping interest rates down.

    If someone wants to offer me $500k for my condo, I’ll take it when I finish my remodel. Otherwise, I am gonna wait a couple years and see what I can get.

  18. 18
    Christian Wathne says:

    It certainly does look to have most things lining up to create a strong 2015. We’ve got…
    – US economy improving
    – Fed just confirmed that they are not planning on allowing rates to increase, and that a hike in the rates in the first half of 2015 looks unlikely (because of the fear that the dollar is gaining too much strength and because the european and asian economies are looking weak)
    – Low rates will continue to pump money into the stock market, increasing the wealth of the top 20% (aka the homebuyers)
    – Inventory still low

  19. 19
    Nicholas Gassaway says:

    Yes, in addition my name in translates in Soiux as ‘to fart in a gale of wind’


    Nicholas Gassaway

  20. 20
    Nicholas Gassaway says:

    Agreed; further the literal translation of my name is ‘to fart into a gale of wind!’


    Nicholas Gassaway

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