Home Sales, Prices Still Rising in Western Washington

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

News from Northwest Multiple Listing Service


Home Sales, Prices Still Rising in Western Washington

KIRKLAND, Wash. (July 6, 2005) – If there’s a housing bubble about to pop, buyers around Western Washington don’t seem to be alarmed. The latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service show another month of brisk activity, with pending sales jumping 14.6 percent from a year ago and prices climbing more than 12.8 percent.

MLS brokers reported 11,420 pending sales during June, outgaining the same period a year ago by 1,451 transactions for an increase of 14.6 percent. Ten of the 15 counties served by NWMLS reported double-digit growth. For the fifth straight month, King County notched a single-digit increase from a year ago.

In King County, which accounts for about four of every 10 pending sales in the MLS system, sales rose a modest 1.5 percent. Brokers believe inventory shortages and steadily rising prices are hampering sales. King County’s inventory is at about 69 percent of year-ago levels. Of 4,232 current listings of single family dwellings, only 69 homes (1.6 percent) are priced under $200,000; only 15.6 percent of the offerings countywide are listed for less than $300,000. Conversely, there are 827 listings in King County (19.5 percent of the total) priced at $1 million or more.

Counties reporting the most impressive gains in pending sales (offers made and accepted, but not yet closed) include Grant (up 53 percent), Lewis (up 32.9 percent) and Grays Harbor (up 32.5 percent).

The four-county Puget Sound region reported mixed results. Like King County, Kitsap County had single-digit gains in pending sales (up 8.3 percent), while both Pierce and Snohomish counties reported much stronger activity. Pending sales in Pierce climbed about 20 percent from a year ago. Snohomish County notched a 16.4 percent increase.

The volume of new listings improved on year-ago totals. MLS members added 13,228 new listings to inventory during June. The additions included 11,430 single family homes and 1,798 condominiums. With those new listings, the inventory at month end totaled 21,871 offerings, down about 17.5 percent from the year-ago selection of 26,494 residential properties.

Condominium inventory is down sharply, about 29.3 percent. There are about half the number of listings in Snohomish County compared to a year ago (1,319 versus 2,477). In King County, the supply is at about 53 percent of year-ago levels, but both Pierce and Kitsap counties report increases in condo listings.

MLS members reported another active month for closings. Brokers logged 10,027 completed transactions during June, improving on the year-ago volume of 9,777 closings. Prices for June’s sales were about 12.8 percent higher than a year ago

The area-wide median price for last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) was $273,078. That’s up 12.8 percent from a year ago. For single family homes only (excluding condominiums) the median selling price rose 14 percent from a year ago, to $285,000.

Homes in San Juan County continue to command the highest prices. Single family homes that closed there last month fetched a median price of $447,000. King County followed, with its single family homes selling for a median price of $375,000.

Along with growing inventories, industry analysts use increasing days on market as a telltale sign of a softening market. Neither condition is evident in the Northwest MLS market area. On average, residential properties that sold during June were on the market for 47 days; a year ago the market time averaged 58 days. Homes sold at the fastest clip – averaging 37 days – in King County.

Brokers credit attractive interest rates and a brightening employment picture as factors that are sustaining strong home sales. The state is adding jobs at a healthy rate, with good prospects for continued growth – a situation that bodes well for the housing industry. A new report from the state’s Employment Security Department estimates there are currently more than 70,000 unfilled positions statewide.

Financing remains attractive and, in general, is readily available for first-time and move-up buyers. For the week ending June 30, rates on 30 year, fixed rate mortgages dipped to 5.53 percent, a slight drop from the previous week’s rate of 5.57 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey. The latest rate is the lowest since early April 2004.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, based in Kirkland, encompasses nearly 1,300 brokerages with around 18,000 sales associates. Together, they serve 15 counties, mostly in Western Washington, plus Grant County in the central part of the state.

For Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary for June 2005
Please visit: www.nwrealestate.com, then select "Market Statistics" from menu box.