Case-Shiller Tiers: To. The. Moon.

Let’s check out the three price tiers for the Seattle area, as measured by Case-Shiller. Remember, Case-Shiller’s “Seattle” data is based on single-family home repeat sales in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

Note that the tiers are determined by sale volume. In other words, 1/3 of all sales fall into each tier. For more details on the tier methodologies, hit the full methodology pdf. Here are the current tier breakpoints:

  • Low Tier: < $373,070 (up 0.2%)
  • Mid Tier: $373,070 – $604,377
  • Hi Tier: > $604,377 (up 0.3%)

First up is the straight graph of the index from January 2000 through January 2018.

Case-Shiller Tiered Index - Seattle

Here’s a zoom-in, showing just the last year:

Case-Shiller Tiered Index - Seattle

All three tiers are hitting new highs and setting up for another year of crazy gains. I keep hoping at some point we’ll see some sign of a slowdown, but so far… nothing.

Between December and January, the low tier increased 1.1 percent, the middle tier rose 0.5 percent, and the high tier was up 0.7 percent.

Here’s a chart of the year-over-year change in the index from January 2003 through January 2018.

Case-Shiller HPI - YOY Change in Seattle Tiers

Year-over-year price growth in January is well into double digits for all three tiers. The last time any tier was below 10 percent year-over-year growth was December 2016. Here’s where the tiers sit YOY as of January – Low: +14.1 percent, Med: +12.1 percent, Hi: +13.0 percent.

Lastly, here’s a decline-from-peak graph like the one posted earlier this week for the various Case-Shiller markets, but looking only at the Seattle tiers. All three tiers are well above their previous peak levels.

Case-Shiller: Decline from Peak - Seattle Tiers

Current standing is 13.3 percent above the 2007 peak for the low tier, 19.0 percent above the 2007 peak for the middle tier, and 25.1 percent above the 2007 peak for the high tier.

(Home Price Indices, Standard & Poor’s, 2018-03-27)

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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
    BitcoinBubble says:

    I will jinx this market……what if it is “different this time?” What if this is a tech boom like we have not seen before (coupled with low rate and inventory) and many of us have underestimated the buyer purchasing power of stock options and stock gains.

    Maybe tech stocks hit the wall and it slows it down, but each year we wait for a cooling only to see different results.

  2. 2
    Doug says:

    RE: BitcoinBubble @ 1 – It’s never different this time, don’t ever fall victim to believing that. The world is not nearly as outrageously priced as it has been during past booms.

    Today’s boom is basic economics. There’s not enough supply for current demand. You can speculate as to what’s driving demand and how that might unravel, but until it does in a meaningful way this will continue.

    And as always, just listen to the yield curve. It will tell you everything you need to know. While it has flattened dramatically over the past year, it is still not inverted and indicates further growth still. Even when it does invert, real estate might be relatively spared as it has been in past downturns.

  3. 3

    RE: Doug @ 2 – One thing that seems to be different this time, so far, is the builders have not gotten far out in front of the demand. I suspect at some point they will but at the current time I have yet to see a lot of new construction that is just sitting built waiting for a buyer. Maybe there is some in places, but I haven’t seen it.

  4. 4
    Dave says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 3
    Currently working with companies on the materials part of the construction chain and they reinforce the possibility of choppy economic weather.

    This entire tragic state of affairs is not ending anytime soon.

  5. 5
    ess says:\

    Seventeen months in a row – it is getting boring – won’t Seattle let anyone else come in first place?

    At least most of the other metropolitan areas had YOY gains, and they get price increase participation trophies.

  6. 6
    BitcoinBubble says:

    RE: ess @ 5 – The question is, will Seattle beat SF’s all-time record for months in a row leading the nation?

  7. 7
    ess says:

    By BitcoinBubble @ 6:

    RE: ess @ 5 – The question is, will Seattle beat SF’s all-time record for months in a row leading the nation?

    If Seattle does – then we can truly say the Seattle is the new SF

    Good news for all Seattle real estate optimists – SF is back near the top YOY, and their (un)real estate is much higher than the average price of Seattle real estate. Thus there may be room for Seattle and area to continue to grow – it still has a way to catch up with SF and the Bay area. If it still can happen there – it can happen here

  8. 8
    VolosenN says:

    I read these blogs (and comments) often for the past few years. And something I haven’t heard comments, is how CHEAP Seattle is compared to California for example. I meet a lot of new people moving into this area, and the majority are from California, and ALL mention how living here is so much more cost friendly. I’m not saying this is a fact, but it’s clearly a perception. Something to think about I guess.

  9. 9
    pfft says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 3:

    RE: Doug @ 2 – One thing that seems to be different this time, so far, is the builders have not gotten far out in front of the demand. I suspect at some point they will but at the current time I have yet to see a lot of new construction that is just sitting built waiting for a buyer. Maybe there is some in places, but I haven’t seen it.

    They got burned burned in the last housing crash and are more cautious now. it just means it will take longer to pan out and hopefully be less silly this time.

  10. 10
    Doug says:

    RE: VolosenN @ 8 – There’s been comments around the topic. Most people who have never lived outside of Seattle have no clue how dirt cheap it is relative to other major metropolitan areas which is 1 reason, among many, I continue to be bullish.

  11. 11
    Doug says:

    RE: pfft @ 9 – And yet another reason to be bullish.

    The scars of the great recession are still visible and painful and for that reason we’re not at the top yet. We’ll be at the top when fully everyone is convinced housing can never go down which very well might take a full generation of people who have never experienced a down market. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

  12. 12
    N says:

    @ Doug 10 – Or we have lived in major metros that were far more affordable. Dirt cheap is a strong word for a city that has seen the huge jumps we have had here.

    Not many cities are more expensive than Seattle, and hardly any the size of Seattle (15th biggest in the country for the metro) are in the same range (San Diego might be the only one).

    But in comparison to much of CA, yes there is a good point there. Maybe that’s why Dallas leads all cities in price appreciation since 2012, all the Californians moving to a more affordable place.

    But this also goes back to the fact that it’s not just Seattle that is seeing large appreciation. People in Denver are probably having the same conversation. Denver is up 46% since the last peak, compared to our 22%. Or Dallas, up 43% since last peak. Portland up 20%, SF up 33%. Perhaps these numbers prove your point that Seattle is cheap!!! :)

  13. 13
  14. 14

    RE: VolosenN @ 8
    I’m a Blogger Too

    But believe me, MSM brainwashes some of the bloggers to Fake News too….no one is immune.

  15. 15
  16. 16

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 3

    I was just looking at vacant land for another reason and thought this worth a mention. There is almost a 2 year supply of vacant land for sale in King County. Some overpriced. Some questionably usable. But still. Relative to the “tight” inventory discussed often, a two year supply of “vacant land” (including teardowns listed both as vacant land and house for sale) seems like a completely different market statistic compared to “turnkey” properties.

    (Required Disclosure, stats in this post are not compiled, verified or published by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.)

  17. 17

    RE: ARDELL DellaLoggia @ 16 – “Questionable usable” probably describes a good portion of them.

    I try to avoid dealing in land, but there’s one I’m watching where I’d really like to know how the buyer makes out. Seemingly they overpaid after accounting for the costs to get utilities in and the rather run down house across the street (but the rest of the neighborhood was fine). It will be interesting to see what they end up with.

  18. 18
    Jake says:

    @2 Doug, the demand issue seems somewhat self perpetuating. Obviously population growth plays a role, but also there are a ton of homeowners who would prefer to move and sell their house but aren’t doing so because they would have to look to buy after as well.

  19. 19
    The Tim says:

    FYI: I moved a bunch of comments about the “first-in-time” rental law being thrown out to the post I put up this morning on the topic: News Brief: Seattle’s “first in time” rental law overturned by superior court judge

  20. 20
    sfrz says:

    RE: pfft @ 13 – Yeah, it keep going up up up…. until it doesn’t. “These charts show the handiwork of asset-price inflation, a monetary phenomenon where the dollar loses its purchasing power with regards to assets, such as homes. The Fed has set out to accomplish this starting in late 2008. Over the same period there has been little wage inflation. As a result, income from labor has been devalued with regards to assets, and this process continues as long as home prices rise faster than wages. The result of this type of asset price inflation that exceeds wage inflation can bee seen in the current “affordability crisis” or “housing crisis,” as it’s called in many cities.”

  21. 21
    greg you says:

    Seattle is in such bad shape.
    Traffic is a mess. Homeless. Drugs.
    Disappearing nw culture.

  22. 22
    sfrz says:

    RE: greg you @ 21 – agree. Tents against homes’ fencing, urine filled milk jugs placed beside RVs on residential streets, encampments in greenbelts behind homes, homeless cutting through privacy hedges to get to the street. I’ve walked around blood splatters and vomit, past downtown parks that have an overpowering smell of urine. Something’s got to give. New architecture designed to push out the service workers and blue collar workers.

  23. 23
    Eric says:

    RE: ess @ 7 – Unless WA passes their equivalent of Prop 13, it’ll never reach such heights. With the rate of property tax increases, sales by older homeowners due to being taxed out will continue to climb. In SF supply can be kept exceptionally low indefinitely due to hard limits on property tax increases that don’t exist in WA.

    I give it maybe 10 years before we have a tax revolt just like they had in CA where similar bills are pushed. Even now the results of the McCleary decision are already starting to cause unrest with such huge increases in taxes. If we get a couple more of these in the next five years or so, all hell will break loose.

  24. 24
    Eric says:

    RE: Doug @ 10 – Seattle may be numerically cheap on the surface, but it’s fundamentally far more expensive. Property taxes are very high and the quality of the housing stock is quite low. People here are very comfortable with poor quality housing for some reason (my guess is that the area has gone through so many boom-bust cycles that people don’t even try to build decent houses, since they see living here as a temporary situation), so things that wouldn’t fly in most of the country are considered perfectly normal here. Even with recent changes to construction standards, most housing here is still built poorer than houses were even 70 years ago in places like CA during the post-war housing booms. This is particularly true in the mid range housing that a family in the top-10% of incomes might be able to afford.

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