KIRKLAND, Washington (January 7, 2019) – December brought few surprises for real estate brokers in
Western Washington with holidays, fluctuating interest rates, and volatility in consumer confidence
contributing to slower activity. Several leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service described 2018
as a transition year for residential real estate.
New data from the MLS show inventory in its 23-county market area dipped below two months of supply
for the first time since July. A year-over-year comparison of the number of new listings, pending sales,
and closed sales show drops overall, while prices rose from the same month a year ago.
Member-brokers added 3,631 new listings of single family homes and condominiums during December
(10.4 percent fewer than a year ago), boosting total active listings to 12,275, up from the year-ago volume
of 8,553. Pending sales were down about 8.4 percent from twelve months ago (5,677 versus 6,198), and
the volume of closed sales dropped nearly 16.6 percent (6,374 versus 7,642).
For 2018, members of Northwest MLS reported completing 92,555 transactions, which compares with
99,345 closed sales during 2017 for a drop of about 6.8 percent. The median price on last year’s closed
sales of single family homes and condominiums combined was $402,000, up $32,000 (8.64 percent) from
Commenting on inventory, declines in closed sales and the drop in month’s supply, MLS director Dick
Beeson said, “There’s lots of speculation as to the reasons why. One thing for sure: this situation can
make for a deliciously deceptive market for either buyers or sellers.” The veteran Realtor said buyers who
are paying attention will find very good values and receptive sellers.
“Timing the interest rate market is beyond the capability of most everyone. Therefore, buyers should act
now, act deliberately, act decisively, and act in conjunction with an experienced real estate professional,”
advised Beeson, the principal managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest in Gig Harbor.
Brokers said many of last month’s buyers took advantage of the shifting market.
“Buyers in December were reaping the benefits of market-weary sellers who were willing to give up part
of their bloated home equity to make a deal and move on,” reported John Deely, principal managing
broker at Coldwell Banker Bain.
James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of
Washington, noted last month was a very different December from a year ago. “While active listings are
up significantly (43.5 percent) from a year ago, interest rates have also gone up by over 80 basis points,
meaning the typical mortgage repayment has increased by about 10 percent for those looking to buy. That
limits spending power and stops buyers from bidding up for the house they want rather than the house
they can afford.”