KIRKLAND, Washington (Jan. 6, 2015) – Real estate brokers around Western Washington reported a strong finish to 2015. December’s sales outpaced the same month a year ago by double digits, according to new figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
“December was one of the best Decembers on record,” observed J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate upon reviewing the latest statistics from the listing service.
MLS members reported modest year-over-year price gains (about 5.5 percent) for homes and condominiums that sold last month compared to 12 months ago. The number of new listings added to inventory was nearly identical to activity of a year ago, but with pending sales outpacing new listings, the selection, as measured by total active inventory, dwindled by about 8 percent compared to a year ago.
Commenting on the combination of scarce inventory in some areas and expectations of rising interest rates, the head of one large real estate company advised, “Anyone thinking of buying a home should do it early in 2015!”
“Prices, interest rates, and rents will continue to rise,” stated Mike Gain, CEO and president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate in Seattle. “The cost of buying a home is not determined by price alone but by price and the mortgage rate,” he explained, adding, “The longer a buyer waits, the higher the mortgage payment as prices and interest rates continue to increase.”
Many buyers appeared to heed Gain’s advice during December. MLS members reported 5,794 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) for an increase of nearly 11 percent from the year-ago total of 5,224 pendings. In the four-county Puget Sound region, brokers notched 4,410 pending sales, the highest December volume since 2005.
High-end homes are selling well, according to brokers and MLS data.
“Above the one million dollar price point in King County, we have seen back to back years of very strong sales activity,” commented Scott. Northwest MLS figures show nearly 2,000 homes priced at one million dollars and up sold in King County during 2014. That’s up more than 25 percent compared to 2013.
For more modestly priced homes, first-time and move-up buyers are taking advantage of loosening lending standards.
“It’s much easier for purchasers to qualify for a loan now than it was just a few months ago,” reported Gain. “The much needed 3 percent down payment loans are finally back for qualified purchasers,” he noted, adding, “This will allow more first-time buyers to break into homeownership.”