February Stats Preview: Dead of Winter Edition

With February in the books, let’s have a look at our monthly stats preview. 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 inventory inched up from its January all-time low in King County, but fell further in Snohomish. Meanwhile, sales fell dramatically month-over-month in both counties, as is fairly typical for this time of year. Year-over-year sales were up double digits in King County, but down slightly in Snohomish. Foreclosure notices declined yet again from 2014 in both counties.

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 15 percent between January and February (in 2014 they rose 5 percent over the same period), and were up 11 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 3 percent month-over-month (vs. a 1 percent decrease in the same period last year) and were down 2 percent from February 2014.

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 were down over 20 percent from a year ago, and fell month-over-month as well. King was down 22 percent from last year, and Snohomish fell 29 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 29 percent from a year ago, but up slightly from January.

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

King County SFH Active Listings

Snohomish County SFH Active Listings

Inventory inched up just slightly from January to February in King County. Snohomish county posted another month-over-month decline. King is currently down 14 percent from last year and Snohomish is down 11 percent.

Note that most of the charts above 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.

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

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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.

30 comments:

  1. 1

    “Dead of Winter” Listings

    Is this like the Walking Dead, the Seattle real estate market with a dinky dead listing base to choose from?

  2. 2
    Marc says:

    King County sales up 11% YOY and inventory down 14%. Hmmmmm, I wonder what prices will do ?

    In all seriousness, this market is not fun for anybody. Buyers are miserable and many would-be sellers see how tough it is out there to buy so they end up continuing to sit on the sidelines waiting for it to improve so they can finally sell and buy a new place.

  3. 3

    RE: Marc @
    Yes Marc

    Zombie sized listings bases are horrifying for those wanting to sell to buy down, like retirees….what unit to buy down too?…..LOL

    They sit on their giant 6 bdrm McMansion in Seattle until their retirement runs dry on tax and maintenance bills. They could buy down to a dinky $600K fixer upper museum piece, bulldoze it down and build a decent house? Most would be out of money by this time.

  4. 4
    Mike says:

    By Marc @ :

    King County sales up 11% YOY and inventory down 14%. Hmmmmm, I wonder what prices will do ?

    In all seriousness, this market is not fun for anybody. Buyers are miserable and many would-be sellers see how tough it is out there to buy so they end up continuing to sit on the sidelines waiting for it to improve so they can finally sell and buy a new place.

    Erik said they’d be down 40% by this summer, so I’ll go with “not that”.

  5. 5
    boater says:

    By Marc @ :

    King County sales up 11% YOY and inventory down 14%. Hmmmmm, I wonder what prices will do ?

    In all seriousness, this market is not fun for anybody. Buyers are miserable and many would-be sellers see how tough it is out there to buy so they end up continuing to sit on the sidelines waiting for it to improve so they can finally sell and buy a new place.

    It’s hitting the remodel market as well. My wife and I are looking to do a remodel but everyone is booked up. We’re in a very strange mexican standoff where no one wants to commit to a sustained recovery or a crash. From an outsiders standpoint it looks like everyone in the construction/remodel business is still gunshy from the last collapse. The byproduct I am seeing is anything less than a large remodel is undesirable. My takeaway from this is that in reaction to the extremely low inventory there are a lot of large remodels going on.

  6. 6
    Blurtman says:

    If you bought new 10 or so years ago, you definitely got more bang for the buck than you will in today’s market. And so it is financial step up just to buy something like you already have, let alone move up. The new homes in my local Sammamish area have postage sized from lawns and fishbowl back yards and are selling for a ridiculous amount of money. Sure, they are nice inside, and that’s where you better be fixing to stay. So new buyers are compromising, and current owners see no reason to.

  7. 7

    RE: Blurtman @ – LOL. I was avoiding houses built in 2005 back in 2007, for many of the same things you attribute to houses built in 2015.

  8. 8
    sleepless says:

    I see no changes in the housing market in near term. The sales will remain stagnant. We are entering a prolong plateau phase in the pricing. The prices will not go up, but they wont fall either. The demand is at historical lows, but so is the inventory. Unless the inventory goes up dramatically, which I do not see happening since the builders aren’t building enough new homes, we will not see any price declines – the demand will remain low. The FED can also kill the remaining demand by raising the interest rates, but I don’t see this happening in my lifetime (I am approaching my mid 30’s)…

  9. 9

    RE: sleepless @ – I think you might need to see some longer term charts than those above, but demand is hardly what I would describe as low.

  10. 10
    sleepless says:

    By boater @ :

    By Marc @ :

    My takeaway from this is that in reaction to the extremely low inventory there are a lot of large remodels going on.

    I guess it would be true. If the trade up sellers cannot find anything they can afford, instead of buying a “better” or “bigger” place, they can just opt out to remodel the existing one and not sell… This is why with all that multiunit construction going the rental market is still red hot.

  11. 11
    sleepless says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ :

    RE: sleepless @ – I think you might need to see some longer term charts than those above, but demand is hardly what I would describe as low.

    By low I meant from regular buyers, not the Wall Street institutions. The regular joe is not buying, likewise the stock market, the regular joe cannot afford those prices, it is mostly the high frequency trading algorithms and companies buybacks that drive the markets. The demand is high from the first time buyers, but barely anyone can afford to buy… i want to buy, buy i cannot afford it, so, technically, I “don’t count as unemployed if do not look for work”…

  12. 12
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ – It’s progress! :>)

  13. 13
    Marc says:

    By boater @ :

    It’s hitting the remodel market as well. My wife and I are looking to do a remodel but everyone is booked up. We’re in a very strange mexican standoff where no one wants to commit to a sustained recovery or a crash. From an outsiders standpoint it looks like everyone in the construction/remodel business is still gunshy from the last collapse. The byproduct I am seeing is anything less than a large remodel is undesirable.

    I’m seeing something similar in my neighborhood of Magnolia but on full blown tear downs being done by regular people with GCs, i.e., not on spec. They can’t get subs out there on a regular basis to get work done. Apparently, the subs bolt if a bigger job for a builder comes along and come back when its done. Three major projects near me are taking well over a year to complete that should have been done in a year or less.

    I’m interested in doing something like this but watching these houses has me gun shy.

  14. 14
    Deerhawke says:

    In my neighborhood of Greenlake, there are normally 15-25 sales on the MLS per month. Last month– all of 5.

    My response to the lack of inventory is to go out and contact potential sellers directly. If you don’t mind a bit of rejection, knocking on doors isn’t so bad. And it pays off. In the fall, I bought one double lot which will become two homes next year. Last week, I bought a house that will get remodeled with a second floor and a finished basement.

    The realtors can’t love this, but it keeps me as a developer/builder in business.

  15. 15
    redmondjp says:

    By sleepless @ :

    By Kary L. Krismer @ :

    RE: sleepless @ – I think you might need to see some longer term charts than those above, but demand is hardly what I would describe as low.

    By low I meant from regular buyers, not the Wall Street institutions. The regular joe is not buying, likewise the stock market, the regular joe cannot afford those prices, it is mostly the high frequency trading algorithms and companies buybacks that drive the markets. The demand is high from the first time buyers, but barely anyone can afford to buy… i want to buy, buy i cannot afford it, so, technically, I “don’t count as unemployed if do not look for work”…

    Plenty of H1B regular joes came through the neighbor’s open house this past weekend (probably at least 15 cars all afternoon long). That’s the new normal in my neighborhood. The realtor was there tonight discussing the offers (after 4 days on market). I couldn’t afford the house I am in now at today’s prices, but thank God I bought in 1998 right before housing prices went totally crazy.

    I’m sorry, but Wall St. investors have very little to do with our local SFH prices. Now apartment rents, yes, absolutely!

  16. 16
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: sleepless @
    Demand is not low.
    Root of the new house inventory issue is lots, not builders.
    Prices will be going up.

  17. 17
    Mike says:

    By sleepless @ :

    By Kary L. Krismer @ :

    RE: sleepless @ – I think you might need to see some longer term charts than those above, but demand is hardly what I would describe as low.

    By low I meant from regular buyers, not the Wall Street institutions. The regular joe is not buying, likewise the stock market, the regular joe cannot afford those prices, it is mostly the high frequency trading algorithms and companies buybacks that drive the markets. The demand is high from the first time buyers, but barely anyone can afford to buy… i want to buy, buy i cannot afford it, so, technically, I “don’t count as unemployed if do not look for work”…

    Wall St investors were buying up low end homes mostly in South King and Pierce county. Institutional buying dropped off to near zero as you move up the price scale towards the county median. Seattle and the high demand Eastside suburbs have been priced well above that level all along. In order for that low tier buying to have affected the high tier homes, there would have had to be some transfer of demand such as “I’m being outbid by investors on $200K Kent foreclosures, therefore I will pay 3 times that for a house near Greenlake”. Maybe something like that happened in a handful of cases, but to enough to radically alter the market? Probably not. More likely, investor buying pulled up the slack in the low end caused by the collapse of subprime lending.

  18. 18
    Deerhawke says:

    Mike is right. Institutional investors had virtually no role in buying in Seattle and little in King County, except far south King County. They were mainly active in Pierce and Shohomish.

    The regular joes who are buying now just don’t look like regular joes to you and me.

    My last house sold for over $1.1M to a young couple in tech jobs who were each making over $200K with recent PhDs in arcane technology fields. They also got over $100k in help from Mom and Dad. A friend sold a house to another young tech couple for $1.3M. Mom and Dad bought it for them as a gift all cash with a check. Evidently, Dad retired from a tech company in California and had invested very, very well. Another friend sold a brand new $1M house to a young Chinese grad student. Mom wrote a check.

    What I am seeing among buyers in Seattle is either tech money, Mom and Dad money or both. That is not something a regular joe has access to.

  19. 19
    Erik says:

    RE: Mike @
    Whatever Mike.

    These morons on here really think low supply(inventory) and high demand(sales) will result in stagnant prices??!!!! Pull your head out of your a$$ people! Prices will rise until supply meets demand. After prices go up these same people will scratch their head, take a sip of diet coke, and go back to writing code for cash.

    Could there be a bad month or two, but the rule will hold true.

  20. 20
    Erik says:

    RE: boater @
    Ask a contractor to do a small job when they have a few days off. When they help you, be there and make friends. Tell jokes, work with them, and have fun. If they like you, they will get you in. You need to build a relationship with a crew of guys. It isn’t always all about money.

  21. 21

    RE: sleepless @

    Yes Sleepless

    We were out of freeway access space to build more new homes a couple decades ago, i.e., 128th from the Silver Firs new home overbuild at Mill Creek in the 80s and 90s meant a 30 min parking lot to get a few miles in a complete traffic jam to I-5.

    Its far worse today, ask Tim about the I-5 North Everett parking lot during rush hours. My friends from Marysville see me on Saturday mornings or afternoons…I tried getting there on a Friday evening a couple times and spent an hour in the parking lot driving a few miles. Make sure you used the rest room before you try it.

  22. 22

    RE: Erik @

    How I Found Good Remodelers and Fast Service

    Call them from the yellow pages, leave a message and if they answer back immediately or take your call right away….hire them. The ones that don’t answer back or call back days later; lose the job. Contractors that are too busy leave your house half done with delays, the good ones finish before they go on to another job. Once you find a good one, get referrals from them on work they don’t do. My painter contractor linked me up with a great carpet contractor that gave me a fat factory discount and a better quality rug for cheap $/yard….the installation was extra [not free], but the price discount on the rug more than paid the difference and the higher quality carpet man could take my giant bed frame apart that few knew how.

  23. 23
    Saffy The Pook says:

    By softwarengineer @ :

    RE: Erik @

    How I Found Good Remodelers and Fast Service

    Call them from the yellow pages, leave a message and if they answer back immediately or take your call right away….hire them. The ones that don’t answer back or call back days later; lose the job. Contractors that are too busy leave your house half done with delays, the good ones finish before they go on to another job. Once you find a good one, get referrals from them on work they don’t do. My painter contractor linked me up with a great carpet contractor that gave me a fat factory discount and a better quality rug for cheap $/yard….the installation was extra [not free], but the price discount on the rug more than paid the difference and the higher quality carpet man could take my giant bed frame apart that few knew how.

    Yellow Pages, what are those?

    Hire on prompt callback? Is that what passes for diligence in your world?

    Seriously, there are plenty of contractors and handymen out there who are ready, willing, and able to bid smaller jobs. Just like everything though, if demand is high you’ll have to compete a bit. If they’ve got four bids outstanding and you’re the only one complaining about the price, your job is 30 miles away from them, and you don’t strike them as easy to work with or seem flinty about paying on time, you’re going to get the brushoff.

  24. 24

    RE: Saffy The Pook @

    I Was My Own Contractor and Hired Unlicensed Carpenter and Electrician

    On a big job, I was referring to smaller jobs to get your house ready to sell. Ohhhhh….that’s right, we’re remodeling now because the units are scarce, lower quality and over-priced.

    That’s risky too, when you do sell, if you spent too much on remodeling where there is no assessed value increase, you’re better off selling it as a fixer upper.

  25. 25
    Mike says:

    By softwarengineer @ :

    RE: Saffy The Pook @

    That’s risky too, when you do sell, if you spent too much on remodeling where there is no assessed value increase, you’re better off selling it as a fixer upper.

    Not in Seattle. I’ve been frequently amazed at how many houses in my neighborhood sell for $200K-$300K above assessed value after a remodel. If anything the lower assessment is a bonus to the buyer, even if it only stays low for a year or two. The $850K house down the street that sold to a Millennial was assessed at $532K and that had no apparent effect on his willingness to pay full asking price. Another listed at $599K sold for $612K vs $390K assessed. There are hundreds of examples of this all over North Seattle. What is unusual is for a remodeled home to NOT sell well in excess of the assessed value.

  26. 26

    RE: Mike @

    You May Be Right Mike

    Tells me a lot of the Seattle home buyers recently don’t think like Flippers or investors. Just because it looks nice doesn’t mean below the paint and plastic touchup its a rotted and cracked mess even the home inspection will miss now.

    Beware of painted chimneys and cement foundations covering up earthquake cracks with plastic goo….

  27. 27
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Mike @ – It depends a lot on what you do in the remodel. Adding square footage and bathrooms and/or a master suite are probably the biggest value enhancers. Of course it all has to be done properly and look well-integrated when finished. Bonus points for high-end finishes.

    I’ve been thinking of doing this to my house (adding a second story using engineered attic trusses) over the past few days, after looking at what larger houses cost. I’m going to start drawing up plans, engineering calculations, and material cost spreadsheets to get the ball rolling. Then see what my locality permit requirements/limitations are for addition vs. remodel. Actually getting the work done is a whole ‘nuther matter that is still down the road aways.

  28. 28
    Mike says:

    RE: redmondjp @ – These houses are old enough that they typically need heating, plumbing and electrical upgrades before tacking anything cosmetic. The cosmetics are nice to have, but just getting the house to the point of doing cosmetics puts it in the $600K range now.

    Oddly flippers are *better* about doing the infrastructure bits on average, since they usually gut the homes. It’s the single women who tend to put in new kitchens and baths without replacing the plumbing or electric ahead of time.

  29. 29
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Deerhawke @ – I don’t think those buying homes at 2-3 times the median are ‘regular joes’. I don’t know the canonical definition of a ‘regular joe’, but Joe is also benefiting from (dual incomes + low rates + low expectations), thus driving much of the market.

    Rich daddy and RSU’s are the exception, not the rule.

  30. 30
    boater says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ – Actually in Seattle I suspect Deerhawke’s buyers are the rule and the average joe is the exception at least as it pertains to home buying. And that can stay true for a long time. Look at San Francisco, Santa Monica and pretty much most of the coastal areas of California. If our weather keeps holding up and California’s drought keeps up I wouldn’t be surprised to see more and more buyers well out side of the average joes salary showing up here.

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