Our Healing Housing Market

Posted: February 8th, 2012 by Brad

Pending sales may not appear to be much higher than 2011 (up 13.7 percent in January), but the numbers are very positive, especially considering such factors as harsh weather and the tax credits that boosted sales at this time a year ago.

The latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service show pending sales in January outgained the same month a year ago by 739 transactions.  Brokers reported 6,132 mutually accepted offers in January to start the year with a 13.7 increase over the January 2011 figure of 5,393 pending sales.

“Given that we lost a week with some of the worst weather in 16 years, the numbers are astoundingly good,” remarked Anderson, a director for Northwest MLS. “This is the first January in four that we can make a reasonable year-over-year comparison,” he added, noting numbers are no longer skewed by the artificial stimulus of various tax credits and incentives that date to 2009. “The improvement in the numbers show that the market is healing itself and standing on its own.” Anderson commented.

Declining inventory, extremely low interest rates, and positive job growth are contributing to rising optimism among industry professionals, but Northwest MLS directors say distressed properties continue to be a drag on the market’s recovery.

Inventory is down almost 20 percent from a year ago. Brokers added 6,666 new listings to inventory during January, with single family homes making up about 85 percent of those additions. At month end, MLS members reported 26,226 total active listings; a year ago, there were 32,647 active listings.
“The ongoing reduction of available inventory is still impacting the market,” said OB Jacobi, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. “We have plenty of qualified buyers who are ready to buy if they could just find a home,” he noted.

For now, however, prices are showing mixed signs –stabilizing in some areas while declining or increasing in other areas. The luxury market also seems to be recovering. In King County, 735 homes sold for more than $1 million; 471 of them were on the Eastside. The most expensive sales price: $14.75 million in Hunts Point.

Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers believes “the perfect storm is brewing.”  He said the pent-up need for homes in good condition is creating shorter market times and sales close to the original asking price.

“The market is almost done with the needed correction,” Stenvers stated, adding, “Distressed homes and REOs are not going away fast but have slowed and should soon level off.” He also foresees a loosening of overly restrictive lending guidelines.

Sources: Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Seattle Times

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