Housing Heats Up

Posted: January 15th, 2013 by Brad

Winter has settled into Western Washington, yet our housing market is red hot. Home buyers around western Washington made offers on 5,314 residences during December, outnumbering the 3,857 owners who listed their homes for sale. The imbalance helped push up prices and further thin already depleted inventory.

While the expected seasonal slowdown occurred last month, determined buyers were undaunted by sparse inventory and record-breaking rainy days, according to December statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Brokers expect the housing market rebound to continue, while cautioning sellers to refrain from becoming too greedy and expressing hope for “controlled natural growth” to sustain the recovery. They also believe distressed properties, rising rents and re-engaged investors will have an impact on activity for the foreseeable future.

“Buyers are taking note of sellers who overprice their homes,” reported Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers.

Even with distressed properties (and the lower prices they usually fetch) being part of the mix of sales, median sales prices are edging up. Last month’s buyers paid more for their home than purchasers of a year ago, and the number of properties that sold for a million dollars or more jumped nearly 56 percent, rising from 68 in December 2011 to 106 last month. 

The median price area-wide was $255,000, up 13.3 percent from twelve months ago when the price was $225,000.  Prices rose by double digits in ten of the 21 counties in the Northwest MLS service area.  Homes and condos that sold in King County commanded the highest prices at $342,000, reflecting a gain of more than 17.5 percent. 

For single family homes (excluding condos), the median selling price rose $30,000 system-wide (about 12.8 percent) climbing from $235,000 a year ago to $265,000. 

In King County, the median sales price of a single family home jumped nearly 18.8 percent, from $320,000 to $380,046.  Within the county, the biggest increases on single family homes that sold were reported in Skyway/Bryn Mawr area (up 89.8 percent), Central Seattle (up 50.2 percent), Vashon (up 35.6 percent), Bellevue west of I-405 (up 28.6 percent) and Burien-Normandy Park (up 26.9 percent).

Prices and the number of multiple offers may be rising in part because of shrinking inventory. At the end of December, there were only 17,718 properties for sale, which compares to 26,639 active listings for the same time a year ago (down 33.5 percent). Months of supply declined to 3.3 months, down from about 5 months of supply for the same period a year ago.

In Snohomish County, year-over-year inventory was down more than 53 percent, while in King County the selection was about half the year ago levels: 3,801 listings versus 7,472. 

Looking ahead, many brokers expect a strong market in 2013, with some expressing concern about “frenzied bubble growth.”

Information for this report was sourced from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

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