We’ve got fewer articles than usual this month for our 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). With the holiday weekend, I waited an extra day to see if any new stories would be posted, but nothing new came in since Sunday.
To kick things off, here’s an excerpt from the NWMLS press release:
Opinions vary on possibility of a housing slowdown, but numbers show solid activity
Some brokers from Northwest Multiple Listing Service detected a slowdown in housing activity during August, “but nowhere near what is typical,” according to one industry veteran. Among MLS leaders who commented on the service’s latest report, expectations for the remainder of 2015 ranged from one who predicted “we’re on the cusp of a slowdown,” to others describing activity as “torrid” and saying “sales will continue at a fast pace.”
“I don’t think any real estate market/economy can sustain steadily increasing prices like we’ve seen without a leveling or a drop-off of sorts,” cautioned Gary O’Leyar, designated broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties and a past chairman of the Northwest MLS board.
Another industry leader also commented on a possible leveling of activity.
“Given the seasonality of real estate and low inventory levels, I think we’re on the cusp of a slowdown in the housing market,” stated OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. “The continued double digit increases in home sales simply cannot be sustained unless we see inventory growth,” he emphasized. That is unlikely, he suggested, “since we’re entering the time of year when fewer people list their homes.
“Conditions are optimal for the home buying surge in the Puget Sound Region to continue, due to job growth and historically low interest rates,” suggested J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott. “We can also expect the severe shortage of homes for sale close to job centers, and in the more affordable and mid-price ranges in all Puget Sound markets, to persist,” he added.
You can always count on Lennox for the perpetually rosy outlook, no matter what reality suggests.
Read on for my take on this month’s local news reports.
Sanjay Bhatt: Condo prices climbing even faster than houses
While the inventory of homes for sale has ticked up steadily since March, the region continues to suffer the worst shortage in more than a decade.
But prices haven’t risen enough to jump-start new-home construction.
From January to July, building permits were issued for a total 5,103 single-family homes in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, down 4 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
But permits were issued for 9,938 multifamily units, a 45 percent jump over a year ago, with the vast majority being apartments.
Builders are opting for apartments over condos, experts say, because they don’t face the liability of being sued under the state’s condominium act. Some condo builders still bear fresh memories of multimillion-dollar settlements with homeowner associations.
“You’re finding developers saying, ‘Why take the risk of building a condo?’ ” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate. “Whereas in today’s environment, you can build an apartment, get it half leased up, sell it to an institutional investor and walk away.”
There’s also the overall falling home ownership rate and general disinterest in home buying in the wake of the bursting bubble. The closer you get to the city, the less likely you’ll find affordable homes and the less likely you’ll find people who even want to buy.
Dan Cassuto: Home prices soaring in Seattle
The market is especially hot in neighborhoods like Ballard.
A 950-square foot home with three bedrooms and one bath had an open house on Saturday. The listing price? $425,000.
“It’s considerably more difficult to find a place than it was a year ago,” said Heather Hearsey, the agent listing the home. “I’ve heard of numerous people getting 13 to 15 offers on a house with people waiving inspection and waiving financing.”
Here’s the video from KING 5:
To quote the buyer in the video: “The market just totally sucks. Everything is overpriced and super tiny.”
I feel your pain, anonymous Ballard buyer. I feel your pain.
Puget Sound Business Journal
Steven Goldsmith: For Seattle-area home shoppers, August was not enough of a good thing
The housing market showed few signs of wilting in the August heat.
…the overall market continued to be held back by a scarcity of listings. For the fifth month this year, the MLS said, pending sales in its 23-county area outpaced the number of new listings added to the inventory. The 9,921 new listings was was the lowest level since February.
We didn’t get much more than a short blurb from the PSBJ this month, unfortunately.
Tacoma News Tribune / The Olympian
The South Sound real estate market cooled in August as sales of single-family residences in Pierce and Thurston counties failed to rise by a double-digit margin for the first time since February.
But let’s not get greedy, because sales still rose more than 7 percent in both counties from the same period a year ago, according to data released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Median prices, too, continued to rise in both counties last month, as did the number of pending sales, the data show.
“August continued a very busy spring/summer market,” said Ken Anderson, president and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty of Olympia, in an email.
Even though this month’s Tribune / Olympian story is short, I appreciate that Mr. Boone at least got an independent quote from a local agent. Better than just copying the canned agent quotes in the NWMLS press release.