Around the Sound: Hope is Hard to Find for Buyers

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We haven’t updated our monthly stats for the local regions outside of the King/Snohomish core since last year, so let’s have a look. Here’s your March update to our “Around the Sound” statistics for Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston, Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties.

How is the market doing outside of the central King County area? Not much different, really. Listings are super-scarce, demand is reasonably strong, and prices keep going up.

First up, a summary table:

March 2016 King Snohomish Pierce Kitsap Thurston Island Skagit Whatcom
Median Price $531,250 $385,000 $265,000 $279,475 $239,900 $305,000 $277,000 $303,000
Price YOY 20.7% 13.2% 8.2% 16.3% 4.8% 24.5% 12.1% 12.2%
Active Listings 2,157 1,124 1,715 539 706 342 414 738
Listings YOY -21.2% -25.7% -32.9% -33.0% -31.2% -27.8% -12.5% -8.3%
Closed Sales 1,910 938 1,185 334 358 109 155 235
Sales YOY -8.7% 6.5% 20.1% -1.2% 12.2% 0.0% 13.1% 4.4%
Months of Supply 1.1 1.2 1.4 1.6 2.0 3.1 2.7 3.1

It’s very interesting that Pierce County had the second-smallest price gains in March despite having a massive decrease in inventory and a big spike in closed sales as well. Usually with demand spiking and supply falling that hard I would expect to see a bigger price surge.

Median home prices were up in every single county from a year earlier. King County’s 21 percent increase was actually the second-largest, beat out by a whopping 24 percent increase in Island County. The smallest year-over-year price increase in March was in Thurston, which was up 5 percent.

Median Sale Price Single-Family Homes

Listings are down dramatically from a year ago in every county as well. The biggest dips were in Kitsap and Pierce Counties, which were both down by 33 percent from a year earlier. Only Whatcom county saw a single-digit drop, down “just” 8 percent.

Active Listings of Single-Family Homes

Closed sales were actually flat or up from a year ago in every single county except King County in March. The biggest gains were in Pierce County, which saw closed sales increase 20 percent from a year ago. Skagit and Thurston also had big gains at 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Closed Sales of Single-Family Homes

Months of supply is bleak for buyers everywhere. Every single county had fewer months of supply this March than it did a year ago, and they’re all deep in seller’s market territory.

Months of Supply Single Family Homes

Finally, here’s a chart comparing the median price in March to the 2007 peak price in each county. In March Snohomish County joined King County in the “above the 2007 peak” club. The other counties are still below their previous peak by anywhere from less than half a percent in Whatcom County to as much as 13 percent in Thurston and Island Counties.

Peak Median Sale Price Single-Family Homes

In summary: It’s a terrible time to be a home buyer, pretty much no matter where you’re looking in the Greater Seattle Area. King County is arguably the worst, but the picture doesn’t get much better in the surrounding counties.

If there is certain data you would like to see or ways you would like to see the data presented differently, drop a comment below and let me know.

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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.

49 comments:

  1. 1
    ESS says:

    Or viewed in a different way:

    Hope is easier to find for sellers

  2. 2
    ChristianW says:

    I’m planning on listing my 4/br 1.75/ba bellevue sfh in July, however just by word of mouth from a friend, I already have an appointment set for this coming Sunday for a chinese cash buyer to do a walk through.

    I feel strongly that this is a great time to sell. Once inventory comes back in a year or two, most of this upward pressure on prices will go away. Baby boomers retiring and downsizing and/or moving to more affordable areas should put a lot of homes onto the market going forward.

  3. 3
    DontRushIntoIt says:

    By ChristianW @ 2:

    I’m planning on listing my 4/br 1.75/ba bellevue sfh in July, however just by word of mouth from a friend, I already have an appointment set for this coming Sunday for a chinese cash buyer to do a walk through.

    Why rush a few months early and why not go up on the market to get the maximum exposure? In a world filled with multi-offer scenarios, why would you sell sooner and privately and likely leave money on the table?

  4. 4
    Jordan Chang says:

    Can you guys please stop selling to Chinese immigrants?

  5. 5
    Erik says:

    RE: ChristianW @ 2
    I’m waiting for your Bellevue people to retire to good ole affordable West Seattle. I plan to sell them a low maintenance condo on the water.

  6. 6
    GoHawks says:

    RE: Jordan Chang @ 4 – should people only be allowed to sell to people from certain races/cultures? Seems pretty racist.

  7. 7
    Erik says:

    RE: GoHawks @ 6
    I’m guessing mr. Chang is making a joke based on his last name.

  8. 8
    Bluegrass says:

    It’s always amazing to me looking back to 2009-2011 when the masses all thought real estate was finished for good and wanted nothing to do with real estate despite rock bottom prices and insane deals just sitting there on the MLS everywhere you looked. Sell when the euphoria is at a fever pitch and buy when fear, panic and capitulation is at it’s heights. The time will come again my friends. You must learn patience Daniel-San!

  9. 9
    Blurtman says:

    By Jordan Chang @ 4:

    Can you guys please stop selling to Chinese immigrants?

    Tarriffs now!

  10. 10
    ESS says:

    Having lived in the Puget Sound area for over 40 years, I have noticed time and time again that the greatest proponents of the “Lesser Seattle” movement are recent arrivals that have been residing here for about 10 -15 years. Welcome to all new arrivals, especially those who will keep the economy and real estate strong and vibrant (so I can sell and get out).

  11. 11
    Blurtman says:

    What a bargain!

    “Hot Home: There is an 80% chance this home will sell in the next 11 days – go tour it soon.”

    Price: $329,000
    1 Bed
    1 Bath
    678 Sq. F.

    HOA Dues: $291/month

    Another Ben Dover Realty Gem!

    https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/2830-NW-56th-St-98107/unit-101/home/12093524

  12. 12
    ESS says:

    By Blurtman @ 10:

    What a bargain!

    “Hot Home: There is an 80% chance this home will sell in the next 11 days – go tour it soon.”

    Price: $329,000
    1 Bed
    1 Bath
    678 Sq. F.

    HOA Dues: $291/month

    Another Ben Dover Realty Gem!

    https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/2830-NW-56th-St-98107/unit-101/home/12093524

    These prices do tend to take one’s breath away!

  13. 13
    ChristianW says:

    By DontRushIntoIt @ 3:

    By ChristianW @ 2:

    I’m planning on listing my 4/br 1.75/ba bellevue sfh in July, however just by word of mouth from a friend, I already have an appointment set for this coming Sunday for a chinese cash buyer to do a walk through.

    Why rush a few months early and why not go up on the market to get the maximum exposure? In a world filled with multi-offer scenarios, why would you sell sooner and privately and likely leave money on the table?

    Hey, I’m with you; I just wasn’t going to tell someone they can’t do a walk through. I quoted them a price a decent amount above what I was thinking I’d end up selling for.

  14. 14
    Macro Investor says:

    Take a look at the altos chart on Tim’s home page. After being flat for quite a while, the median price has gone vertical since the first of the year. Moon shot.

    This market is running on pure emotion. Like when a hurricane is coming and every store is cleared out in minutes. I don’t know if it’s a surge of people escaping China, or local buyers who have given up waiting for a decent deal and just opening up their wallets. Flop down on the ground like a beached whale and just beg sellers to take their money and end the misery.

    I have no plan on participating, so I just find it all amusing. No way I’d be a buyer unless I could fix up fast and flip.

  15. 15
    Bob says:

    Macro,

    I sense a lot of emotion as well. People in Seattle worry if they don’t buy now they will be priced out forever. People in China see a major devaluation coming there and want their money out. Investors fear money printing by the central banks will inflate the price of real estate even further, so they bid up assets to a 1% return on capital without any risk premium. All of this stems from a general fear of the unknown because governments and corrupted interests have destroyed free markets.

    But none of this is real, because it’s not supported by increasing wages and purchasing power for Average Joe, Raja, or Chin around the world. Even if you thought Seattle was somewhat protected because jobs are better here, how long will that last when corporate profits are on the fall nationwide. Few companies or countries can do well when others are faltering.

    There’s a lot of debt out there that will never be repaid.

  16. 16
    Andrew says:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 13 – the much higher purchasing power is not temporary though, not only foreign investors but also domestic which could sustain for longer period. Even if price climb winds down the inflation adjustment will pick it up again. This looks more and more like the new norm for decades to come, I’ve been leaning towards the bullish side but still wouldn’t put my life savings on real estate.

  17. 17
    Blurtman says:

    The horror. The horror….

    $1,179,990
    4 beds
    3.5 baths
    3,905 sqft
    Lot: 6,534 sqft

    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/167-212th-Pl-NE-Sammamish-WA-98074/2099180295_zpid/

  18. 18
    Hank says:

    I know most of you are talking about real estate as an investment, usually outside your primary residence, but how would you advise someone just looking for a little condo to call home?

    Just 6 months ago you could get a nice 1-bedroom with character, in a very walkable/commutable location, and end up with a mortgage payment that was less than rent would be. (This one in particular is killing me: https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/1605-E-Olive-St-98122/unit-203/home/17320095) Unfortunately I just arrived in town last month, and am a bit overwhelmed (underwhelmed?) by the limited options and ever-soaring prices.

    What do you guys think, is buying a condo worth it right now? A few details for context: seeking 1-bedroom, $300k-ish upper budget, character of space is important (preferably early 20th century, hardwood, lots of daylight, etc), walkable location with short transit to downtown is essential, plan to stay minimum of 5 years.

    This property in particular has hit most of our checklist, but just seems a bit overpriced, especially without a parking spot. http://www.trulia.com/property/3210384249-1427-3rd-Ave-W-9-Seattle-WA-98119

    Any thoughts or input is welcome!

  19. 19
    Macro Investor says:

    Personally, I would never buy a condo. Maybe I’m just a control freak, but being at the mercy of a manager and my neighbors is too uncomfortable to accept. And what’s up with $300 a month to vacuum a hallway and sweep a sidewalk twice a month?

    I guess lots of folks are okay with that, but it’s never gonna be me.

  20. 20
    Hank says:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 19
    I can understand that. I’m the kind of guy who wants to be able to move walls around for a proper remodel, and would make full use of a basement shop. Unfortunately, SFH’s that are within a 30-minute mass-transit commute of pioneer square cost about double what I could get financed.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    GoHawks says:

    RE: Scotsman @ 21 – Scotsman, if we are following Vancouver B.C. does that mean our prices still have a ways to run?

  23. 23
    Green Horn says:

    RE: Bob @ 15

    I have no doubt that there will be a correction,… 20%, 30%, maybe even 40%…

    But I also have no doubt that the market will probably appreciate at least 40 -60% more before that correction happens. After that the upwards trajectory shall resume.

  24. 24

    By Macro Investor @ 19:

    Personally, I would never buy a condo. Maybe I’m just a control freak, but being at the mercy of a manager and my neighbors is too uncomfortable to accept. And what’s up with $300 a month to vacuum a hallway and sweep a sidewalk twice a month?.

    There’s a lot more to maintaining a building than just cleaning. The building envelope, systems and parking lot surfaces can be expensive to maintain. Even with the high dues I don’t think I’ve seen a condo that has maintained 100% of the reserves that their reserve study indicates they should have (although some of the better ones have been fairly strong).

    I’ve always thought there should be better transparency in condo finances. As it is now typically a buyer doesn’t get a good look at the condo finances and other affairs until about 10 days into the transaction, which is also after the inspection has been performed. With better information condos in stronger associations would generate higher prices than they do today and lower in weaker associations.

  25. 25
    Blurtman says:

    Do condos have a finite lifespan? A 1930’s building, for example, that has been converted into condos – is that a wise investment? And what can be determined about asbestos, lead pipes, etc.?

  26. 26
    Blurtman says:

    Wake up, citizens! No jail time for massive financial fraud that destroyed the lives of millions, and worse, a plum cabinet post for the crook who lead Goldman Sachs during the time they committed the massive fraud.

    Goldman Sachs pays $5 billion to settle allegations it sold shoddy mortgages prior to financial crisis
    NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs, one of the most powerful investment banks on Wall Street, agreed on Monday to pay $5.06 billion to settle allegations that it sold packages of shoddy mortgages to investors during the period leading up to the financial crisis.

    But, similar to other massive settlements reached with large banks over the last few years, no individual bank employee is being held responsible for the alleged bad behavior that led to the settlement.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2016/04/11/goldman-sachs-pays-5-billion-to-settle-allegations-it-sold-shoddy-mortgages-prior-to-financial-crisis/

  27. 27
    redmondjp says:

    Oy vey!

    You know the market is getting crazy when people are seriously considering condos again . . .

    Google ‘Riverwalk condos Redmond’ (no quotes needed) and start reading. You can get hit by a massive assessment when they have to reroof and reclad the entire building, and you may not even be able to live in the unit while the work is being done. I’ve seen it happen multiple times on the Eastside. Not to mention the loss of equity when the market turns sour. Especially to avoid: condos that were formerly apartments. Get online and do your due diligence research first!

    Your free lunch may be out there somewhere, but it’s not in a condo.

  28. 28
    Hank says:

    I think the free lunches may have been consumed before I got here, I’m just looking for somewhere to live. I definitely can’t afford a SFH in a location with a reasonable bus commute. Should people in my situation simply not consider owning?

  29. 29
    greg says:

    No price is too high, and money invested is money in the bank. Why not a 50% increase, why not 100%. No math is needed to support todays prices, so no math is needed for tomorrows. As long as the herd keeps frothy at the mouth and as long as the magic foreign investor stays for the long-haul and as long as the jobs keep rolling in, and the loans stay loose and the money is cheap we should be good to go.

    I see no reason at all we can’t put down 50 and take out 200 free and clear. If it is listed buy it. If you own it rent it. It is all good, and has decades to run. I can’t see a downside. After all just look at the money made by the fools who got in too early and had to wait a whole 3 or 4 years to double up!

  30. 30

    RE: ESS @ 1
    Old Family Money Runs Dry Very Soon Too

    Is Seattle running on steam with no new coal? Manufacturing is the coal, versus federal debt to fund service jobs assumed “endless”?

  31. 31
    Jasper says:

    RE: Hank @ 28 – Have you looked for a home in Shoreline? Shoreline has single family homes with large lots, at much lower prices than Seattle proper, within a 30-minute bus commute from Pioneer Square. There are also duplex units / townhomes available, at more modest prices. It can be faster to commute to Downtown Seattle from Shoreline, than from many parts of Seattle.

  32. 32
    Jasper says:

    By softwarengineer @ 30:

    RE: ESS @ 1
    Old Family Money Runs Dry Very Soon Too

    Is Seattle running on steam with no new coal? Manufacturing is the coal, versus federal debt to fund service jobs assumed “endless”?

    There are three ways to look at this:

    The pessimist: This is the new “green” economy. We doubled our electricity prices, to shut down Centralia’s coal mine and power plant. Then Warren Buffett will haul coal from Wyoming through downtown Seattle, so the Chinese can burn the coal and ship us smelly drywall.

    The optimist: It takes a lot less coal to make any given amount of electricity than it used to. And that electricity can do a lot more than it used to. As we figure out how to use our stuff better, we don’t need to make as much stuff.

    The realist: This post was written on a Chinese-branded laptop, powered by Pacific Northwest hydro-electric power.

  33. 33
    Micah says:

    RE: Hank @ 28

    @Hank. There are plenty of neighborhoods with SFH in the 300-400K range that are within a reasonable bus commute of DT. Check out the Arbor Heights neighborhood.

  34. 34
    Anonymous Coward says:

    By Hank @ 20:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 19
    …. Unfortunately, SFH’s that are within a 30-minute mass-transit commute of pioneer square cost about double what I could get financed.

    Buying a condo because you can’t afford a SFH is, generally, a bad idea. But not as bad as figuring out what you can afford on the basis of what how much money someone is willing to loan you. First, figure out what you can actually afford based on your income and priorities. The banks will assume you’d be happy eating ketchup on noodles and reading library books for fun if it meant having your own place.

    Buy a condo only if you really want a condo long term. If you’re thinking, “it’s only me, and will only ever be me. Why the h*ll would I want to buy a house and have to spend my time gardening and mowing the lawn, etc. I don’t even have a dog to pee in the lawn…”, then a condo can make sense. If you’re thinking “I finally have a real job and the next box to check is to buy my own place place, but I can’t afford a house…” that’s a recipe for disaster. I know someone who bought a 1bdrm condo at the peak when he was single… #3 is due soon.

  35. 35

    Did you happen to keep any addresses or links to what you saw online 6 months ago?

    You said “Just 6 months ago you could get a nice 1-bedroom with character…”

    Sounds like you were looking online while deciding whether or not to move here, since you saw these 6 months ago and are only here 1 month.

    If you give us those links, we can tell you if waiting for something similar to what you liked while not here is a good idea. I ask because “with character” is not common in Seattle for a 1 bedroom condo. So I am curious as to what seemed to be readily available 6 months ago.

    Condos “with character” by my definition of “with character” are very uncommon in Seattle vs some other major Cities around the Country.

  36. 36
    Hank says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. This condo that I linked at 1605 E Olive St is the one I was referring to being sold six months ago. For “just” 240k. Located convenient to transit and very walkable to food/drink/grocery.
    https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/1605-E-Olive-St-98122/unit-203/home/17320095

    I’ll agree with your assessment that Seattle is lacking in available units with this early 20th-century character. I’ve only seen a few other units listed recently with similar character, and they’ve been listed over 300k.

    I moved here actually to escape Minnesotan winters, and work at a top architecture firm. I’ve known for about a year I was moving, but needed to wrap up business in the Midwest first. I knew prices were higher than home when I did my initial research, but I hadn’t realized the outrageous trajectory.

  37. 37

    By Blurtman @ 25:

    Do condos have a finite lifespan? A 1930’s building, for example, that has been converted into condos – is that a wise investment? And what can be determined about asbestos, lead pipes, etc.?

    That’s actually a good question, but I’d be less concerned about a 1930s building than a 1970s piece of crap.

    I not sure there is a legal process to dissolve a condo. Maybe you could do so by amending the declaration with a sufficient number of votes?

  38. 38

    RE: Hank @ 18

    The link is to a sold one but there is one for sale. That is why I was confused that you seemed to be saying they are no longer available but were 6 months ago.

    https://www.redfin.com/WA/Seattle/1605-E-Olive-St-98122/unit-308/home/103953343

    The reason these are so cheap relative to other condos is because it is not a condo. It is a co-op. Think Frasier. :) They are often difficult to finance because you are not buying a unit or a piece of real estate. You are buying shares in the building. All owners own shares in the entire building and none own an individual unit. That is why most lenders do not want to finance “shares”.

    Best way to buy them is with cash. They can be difficult to sell depending on whether there is a lender willing to finance them at the time that you want to sell it. That changes from time to time. Presently there is one or possibly two lenders who will finance a co-op and you are required to commit to using those lenders in your offer as you must be pre-approved by one of those two lenders.

    There are also likely some issues if you ever want to leave and want to rent it out. Check out any rental restrictions.

    Also, since you are not buying a unit but rather shares in the entire building, the RE taxes are usually not individual. As I recall from my days in HOA management, on a co-op building all owners are jointly and severally liable for the taxes of the entire building. You wouldn’t get an RE tax bill as you do for a condo. I remember the RE tax issue to be fairly complex, possibly an issue as to whether you can deduct the RE taxes the way a condo owner or property owner can. The corporation that being the building is the taxpayer and not the shareholders who fund the tax payment.

    Lots of differences and why they are not very common, most are “in the heart of Downtown” and they sell for less than a condo.

  39. 39
    Macro Investor says:

    Hank, I can see why you like the building on olive. I also find that style attractive, especially since much of seattle looks like a sea of bland, shabby wooden boxes. At least to me it does.

    A few folks have suggested neighborhoods that might work for your budget and commute. I live in tukwila, which is also about a 30 minute downtown commute. Much of it is unattractive and even slightly dangerous, so research your neighborhoods carefully.

    BTW, I wouldn’t have described my home this way 10-20 years ago. It’s definitely going down hill. Which is why I am planning on leaving seattle for good.

  40. 40
    SFraz says:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 39 – Check out the Safe Seattle Facebook page. Yikes. It looks like Ballard, Magnolia, Wallingford have many one-bedrooms available. https://www.facebook.com/safeseattle.org/

  41. 41
    greg says:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 39

    care to divulge where you are planning to move ?

  42. 42
    Blurtman says:

    RE: SFraz @ 40 – The Welcome to Murraysville FB page is enlightening. Reminds me of the one-term SF mayor Art Agnos, also a SJW.

  43. 43
    Blake says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37
    “That’s actually a good question, but I’d be less concerned about a 1930s building than a 1970s piece of crap.”

    I’d second what Kary wrote there…
    IMHO old construction is so much better than a lot of what was put up in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Last year we bought a small studio in the CD – not a condo but a townhouse – that was built in 1926 and updated 10 years ago. Solid. We looked at condos but wisely stayed away… the prices and HOA dues are outrageous. And depending upon when and how those condos were built, you could get yourselves into a real money pit!

  44. 44
    SFraz says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 42 – YIKES. I guess it is down to your choice. Urban living or longer commute for some trees and grass. I will take the latter.

    A friend (game developer) lives in Fremont, and there are people that sit on her stoop, smoking, doing other things. She has to ask them to leave as she leaves her home to go to work. Another in Queen Anne. (attorney). She said that if she forgets to lock her car, she will have visitors. She keeps nothing in her car or glovebox.

  45. 45
    Erik says:

    RE: Macro Investor @ 39
    You live in Seattle’s ghetto, this explains some things… Your comments didn’t add up and I knew something was up.

  46. 46
    Andrew says:

    Tim – Do you have data for acreage properties (1-10 acres) in Skagit County?

  47. 47
    Erick says:

    I believe you meant 2016 on the first table in the article.

    Thanks for the useful info – much appreciated!

  48. 48
    The Tim says:

    RE: Erick @ 47 – You’re right. Thanks for spotting that. Fixed!

  49. 49
    Blurtman says:

    “Did Bernie give 6 figure speeches and give that money to charity like Hillary did? All of her speech money for the Goldman year was given to charity. Isn’t that what Bernie wants? She took money from the rich and gave it to the very poorest people in the world. ”
    ———–
    What a twit! Charity = The Clinton Foundation.

    “Mrs. Clinton’s financial disclosure forms show that she reported personal income of more than $11 million for 51 speeches in 13 months. Yet she has not defined how she and Mr. Clinton decide which fees are personal income and which go directly to charity. Normally, the IRS doesn’t let taxpayers pick and choose. But this is no normal family, nor is it a normal charity.

    The Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation admitted collecting $26.4 million in previously unreported speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign and U.S. corporations. For tax purposes, who is the recipient, and how late can the Clintons decide?

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2016/02/09/hillarys-wall-street-speech-fees-hers-or-clinton-foundations/#1e4a20e36232

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