Category Archives: Local

Buyers getting “some relief” as key indicators point to strong summer for housing market

Source: NWMLS
KIRKLAND, Washington (July 8, 2019) – Inventory, pending sales and prices all increased during June
compared to a year ago, according to the latest report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The same
report, which covers 23 counties in Washington state, shows year-over-year drops area-wide in both the
volume of new listings and closed sales.


“Clearly we now see that the market is moderating – that is we’re definitely moving from a ‘hyper-
market’ to one where a correction is underway compared to last year,” remarked Mike Grady, president
and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. “While it’s the best time to buy that we’ve seen in some time, and
buyers are getting some relief, it is still a seller’s market,” he added, noting some buyers are experiencing
multiple offer situations, or considering inspection waivers, or are even forced to consider markets outside
King County for affordability.


Three Northwest MLS directors from Pierce and Kitsap counties suggest their counties are attracting
some of the frustrated buyers from King County.


“The darling of the Puget Sound real estate market is Tacoma/Pierce County,” stated Dick Beeson,
principal managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest Realtors in Gig Harbor, pointing to low inventory and
appreciating values. “The secret is out about Pierce County,” agreed Mike Larson, the president at
ALLEN Realtors in Lakewood. “You can buy twice the house for about half the price. You just have to
be willing to deal with the traffic if you work north or south of here,” he proclaimed.


“The Kitsap market continues to be robust and is maintaining its velocity in sales,” added Frank C. Leach,
broker/owner at RE/MAX Platinum Services in Silverdale. He believes Kitsap County will continue to be
strong given its economic foundation together with its affordability factor and quick access to Seattle, but
noted it is constrained by available inventory (currently at 1.4 months of supply).


MLS figures show the median price for single family homes and condos that sold last month in King
County was $637,675. In Pierce County it was $372,500, about 58 percent of the King County price, and
in Kitsap County it was $387,000, about 60 percent of the sales price in King County.


System-wide prices increased more than 3.5 percent from a year ago, from $425,000 to $440,000,
although four counties registered declines, including Douglas, Ferry, Jefferson, and King. June’s median
price was unchanged from May.


At midyear, the overall median price was $424,517, which compares to $405,000 for the first six months
of 2018, an increase of 4.82 percent.


“As long as interest rates stay low and people seek value outside of King and Snohomish counties, house
prices should continue their upward momentum,” stated James Young, director of the Washington Center
for Real Estate Research (WCRER) at the University of Washington.

Learn Calligraphy from the Rainier Arts Commision

The Rainier Arts commission has something very special to offer the citizens of Rainier and surrounding areas! 

July 17th is the beginning of the first of our class: “Calligraphy for Beginners”. 
The class will start at 7pm and will go through to August 28th. The cost will be $25.00 per person.

The class will be held at the lower part of the School District office, the Rainier Community Cultural Center and Art Gallery. 

You can sign up through the lovely ladies at City Hall.

Massive Thurston County tax increase proposed for $300 million new courthouse scheme

Thurston County Commissioner and former Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards was the lone vote against the massive tax increase

Last week, at the Thurston County Commissioner meeting held at Rochester Middle School, the Thurston County Commissioners, by a vote of two to one approved a massive 39.5% property tax increase to be placed on the April, 2020 ballot for Thurston County (see Board Agenda here – Item 6a). In theory, this tax increase is for a new courthouse project that has been pushed for many years by Thurston County staff, Thurston County judges, and various other special interests. However, in the rush to build a new $300 million (or more) courthouse in the City of Olympia, a lot of questionable steps have been taken, special interests are lining up for their payoffs, and the taxpayers of Thurston County are put far last on the priority list. If you didn’t know this – don’t worry, you are not alone– neither does 64% of the rest of Thurston County according to a recent taxpayer funded survey (see summarized report here, supporting docs here and here).
Independant Commissioner John Hutching’s vote to support the major tax increase was a disappointment to most of his supporters

Independent Commissioner Gary Edwards made an impassioned and well-reasoned speech against the proposal last week. Unfortunately, he was the lone dissenting vote against staff’s proposal. Most observers predicted that recently elected Democrat Commissioner Tye “the High Tax Guy” Menser would support the tax increase because he supports most tax increases. Menser has repeatedly admitted he is a protégé of former Commissioners Sandra Romero and Valenzuela who were also part of the max tax crew in Thurston County. However, it was Independant Commissioner John Hutchings vote to support the tax proposal which disappointed most people, particularly those who voted him into office. It now seems likely that this vote (along with a few notable others) have doomed his reelection chances in 2020. His political career is now in clear jeopardy. Few supporters of Hutchings voted for him so he could ramp up their property taxes for more unnecessary building fiascos in Thurston County.
Tye “The High Tax Guy” Menser was narrowly elected Thurston County Commissioner in 2018, and has been pushing for bloating government at every opportunity – regardless of the cost
Democrat Thurston County Commissioner Tye Menser
A massive tax increase and no guarantees

Several disturbing details surrounding this recent proposed tax increase have come to light. These should concern all who live, pay taxes, and vote in Thurston County. For example:
Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez at Commissioner meeting April 30, 2019 in Rochester, Washington

Normally, capital projects like buildings and new facilities are financed through a tax mechanism called “Revenue Backed Bonds.” Read more about these funding mechanisms in state law at RCW 39.46.150 & RCW 39.46.160. These are a predictable method of ensuring that the funding exists for the life of the bonded debt, and it dedicates the funds so that they can’t be diverted to other uses. However, under Washington State’s constitution, this type of debt requires a 60% voter approval. This is due to the fact that future generations are burdened by this decision to increase debt and this higher threshold was chosen to ensure that the projects being proposed are widely supported by the community. Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez admitted this would be the normal path to financing a massive building project like this, but staff had determined that 60% of the voters of Thurston County would never support this size of a tax increase. Therefore, staff wanted to push a financing method without this risky 60% voter approval hurdle. Instead, staff wanted to push “General Obligation Bonds” which only have a 50% voter approval threshold (See RCW 84 for state law on property taxes)

Secondly, supporters of this proposed new courthouse admitted, repeatedly during the April 23, 2019 public hearing, that the vote for the proposed tax increase should be held on any special election date EXCEPT during the November 5, 2019 general election date so that fewer voters would participate. Supporters of the tax were demanding this explicitly because they admitted the majority of voters in Thurston County probably wouldn’t support this tax increase. These comments were largely directed at this author’s earlier comments at the same hearing that if the Commissioners were going to put this tax increase on the ballot they should give the largest number of voters the chance to vote on it in November. Supporters of this tax increase are terrified that a large number of voters would vote to reject this proposal. I can’t blame tax supporters for wanting to hide from the voters because they probably would lose at the ballot box if the voters of Thurston County realize what this boondoggle really is. (From a policy standpoint, this is why I’ve always recommended eliminating the special election dates in Washington state law, and instead put all proposed tax increase votes on the November ballot. Making this policy change would reduce the special interest gaming of the current special election system).
This seems to be Thurston County’s staff approach to decision making

Which gets to the most disturbing aspect of this proposed tax increase. The tax increase itself legally has nothing to do with building anything at all. While it is being sold as a funding mechanism for some undefined courthouse project (nobody yet knows the true cost – $250 million? $300 million?), the actual legal language of the tax increase doesn’t require Thurston County to build anything with these funds. At first staff contested this fact, but when confronted by citizen Jon Petit with the actual language of the very proposal staff was pushing on the county commissioners, Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez was forced to admit Mr. Petit was correct. There is no obligation that Thurston County build anything. The only legal guarantee is if the voters are suckered into approving this scheme, they will be paying much higher property taxes.
Thurston County staff want to increase the burden on local taxpayers

Another policy impact of this tax proposal, if passed by the voters, is the fact that General Obligation Bonds take funds from the general budget of Thurston County. While this tax proposal is an increase of 39.5% over the existing rate of general obligation funds, it also means that if the staff of Thurston County start down the project path to build this building and they go over budget (a common occurrence in Thurston County), those increased tax dollars will be extracted and diverted from services like the sheriff’s office. It is a near certainty that taxpayers in Thurston County would be blackmailed into even higher tax increases in the near future to pay for the mistakes and the predictable budget fiasco of this undefined “new courthouse” project.
City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Shelby (D)

Finally, most disturbingly, based on the testimony of the Mayor of Olympia, Cheryl Shelby at the April 23rd public hearing, some type of “partnership” arrangement has been hatched for the undefined courthouse boondoggle (and the taxpayers already have paid $200,000 for this “partnership” according to minutes from the August 14, 2018 commissioner meeting minutes (linked here see item 5a. Note Item 5b was the $300,000 cost of this draft feasibility report linked here) This is terrifying to anyone who has bothered to pay attention to local government in Thurston County. The only Thurston County local government with a worse track record and has demonstrated even more incompetence in building projects and financial mismanagement than Thurston County itself is the City of Olympia. Their bloated, overbudget City Hall (true cost of $52 million) was just the most glaring example, but they also like to give away multi-million dollar buildings for free (to organizations where councilmember spouses work), spend $350,000 on one-stall restrooms, and generally waste taxpayer funds on homeless camps and other fiascos.
The City of Olympia’s investment in Homeless Drug Addict Camps has helped add local flavor to the downtown city experience near the proposed courthouse location

Conveniently, the theoretical location of this “new courthouse” in downtown Olympia will also help the City of Olympia attempt to escape the consequences of their impactful planning policies which have managed to chase businesses away from downtown as fast as business leases expire. Local political “leaders” believe this Thurston County courthouse project might help mask the urban decay and postpone any local political reckoning for the failures of the past and current Olympia City Council. Thurston County voters have every reason to be concerned. In the recent survey – Thurston County voters were almost five times more concerned about the proposed courthouse costs and taxes than they were about any other issue related to this proposed scheme.
Thurston County – A history of building fiascos
Thurston County legal counsel Elizabeth Petrich at the hearing April 30, 2019. Her legal advice has helped Thurston County lose many lawsuits including the record setting $12 million jury verdict against Thurston County in the Maytown case.

Thurston County has a long and colorful history of incompetence, failure, and waste when it comes to building government facilities of any kind. Some have attributed these repeated failures to the planning department, which is often plagued with scandal and questionable leadership. A general government staff infection seems to exist in Thurston County upper management. Some of these failures have also been due to poor political leadership which has afflicted the county on a frequent basis over the years. Another theory involves concerns over the undue influence of special interests who always profit from these decisions like the architecture company and other vendors who stand to profit greatly from the mistakes of Thurston County staff. These special interests also appear to have great influence over the decision making at the staff level and tend to control and direct staff to do their bidding. Conveniently, this bidding always results in hefty sums of taxpayer cash which always end up with these special interests. Regardless of the theory, the result has often been the same –

Let’s look at just a few of the more recent examples:
Former Thurston County Commisioners Romero, Wolfe and Valenzula deserve to be recognized for all they achieved.
Don Krupp, former Thurston County Manager (now county manager in Clackamas County, Oregon)

Thurston County’s jail fiasco made state-wide news for half a decade as the brand new $61 million jail that was rejected by the voters, built by Commissioners Romero, Valenzuela, and Wolfe anyway (under the direction of former Thurston County Manager Don Krupp), and then sat empty for five years because nobody bothered to plan a budget to operate the facility. We’ve written about this fiasco over the years (see here, here, and here). Like most failures of Thurston County “planning,” this one began as an effort to circumvent the voters. A failed effort to build a $102 million jail/justice center was soundly rejected by Thurston County voters in 2004 (see election results here – 61% opposed). An effort to impose a different excise tax was also rejected later. As is frequently the case, Thurston County planning staff was certain they knew best and they colluded with the old Commission, put the debt on future generations by taking out more general obligation bonds without a vote of the people and then built the jail anyway.
While it was empty 5 years, it is finally being used.

Of course, they didn’t call it a “jail,” but instead used the Orwellian term “Accountability and Restitution Center” or “ARC” for short. Once the jail was completed, it sat empty for five years, costing the county $250,000 or more in annual maintenance costs while the county struggled to find some money to run the facility. It wasn’t until the failed Democrat incumbents Valenzuela, Romero and Wolfe were replaced by Independent Commissioners Blake, Edwards, and Hutchings that the empty jail was finally put to use.
3400 building in Thurston County – Thurston County spent $8 million and 18 years to reduce the value of this empty building from $4 million to $2 million

Another classic example of Thurston County’s planning incompetence was the sad saga of the 3400 building (read more written at the time here). This embarrassment existed for many years as another monument to local government incompetence and failure in Thurston County. Originally a commercial fish cannery purchased by Thurston County in 1998 for $3.4 million with the expectation it could be turned into a jail. Those expectations were dashed by reality (nobody at the time bothered to verify whether it could be converted to this use), and Thurston County gradually squandered over $8 million on this empty building. After 18 years during which time the 3400 building sat mostly unused and empty, the brilliant staff of Thurston County found ways to destroy the value even further by giving away the parking lot for a homeless camp project called Camp Quixote, and then finally dumping the failed money pit for a fraction of the purchase cost 18 years earlier.
The last time the Thurston County Courthouse was located in downtown Olympia, it was in this building which was vacated by Thurston County in 1978. (Wikipedia Commons)
Thurston County always seems to need a new courthouse.
Thurston County Treasurer Jeff Gadman bragged at the public hearing on April 23, 2019 about how much the current courthouse facility has been allowed to degrade with staff’s lack of maintenance.

The current Thurston County Courthouse was built in 1978. A casual review of newspaper articles from that era along with a review of archives demonstrates that the promises made to taxpayers back then remain identical to the promises made today for the “new” courthouse in downtown Olympia. The Thurston County Commissioners and planning staff in the 1970s promised that the new courthouse would be energy efficient, have plenty of parking, be sustainable long term, and have the ability and room to expand to accommodate future needs. Staff promised to maintain the facility. Many of those promises went unfilled – particularly the parking plans and building maintenance. However, the need to escape the problems of downtown Olympia like traffic, parking, and other related issues were real to the citizens of the community at the time.

In my next article on this subject, I plan to discuss better alternatives than this proposed fiasco. The biased process used to get this pre-determined outcome also merits more attention. Additionally, the special interests pushing this boondoggle for their own selfish ends, regardless of the harm inflicted on the community should be closely examined and studied.

Based on a 1975 Environmental Impact Statement, which this author found in the state archives, the Thurston County Commissioners at that time were defensive about the public criticism of the high costs for “marble palaces” and they were moving forward with the project regardless. It is worth noting, every Thurston County Commissioner who voted for the proposed courthouse project at the time were removed from office by the voters at the next election. History has a tendency to repeat itself and both Commissioner Tye “the big tax guy” Menser, and Commissioner Hutchings should take note.

Unfortunately, if this massive tax increase is approved, nobody will remember today’s politicians who hurt us, but the taxpayers, including tens of thousands yet unborn will still be paying for it.

Northwest MLS Housing Report for April signals good news for home buyers

KIRKLAND, Washington (May 6, 2019) –

Housing activity during April signaled good news for buyers
in Western Washington as inventory continued to grow, the rate of price increases was slowing in many
areas (and even decreasing in a few counties), and mortgage rates remained low.


Northwest Multiple Listing Service statistics for last month show a 28.5 percent overall increase in active
listings compared to the same month a year ago, a 5.8 percent gain in pending sales, and a 2.4 percent rise
in median prices for sales of single family homes and condos that closed during April. The volume of
closings dipped slightly (down 1.9 percent).


“Listings were popping up like April flowers and the bloom has produced a vibrant and healthy market,”
exclaimed MLS director John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain. “With an
increased supply of listing inventory, low interest rates, and a positive economic climate, buyers are
confident that this is a good time to buy,” he reported, while noting a larger number of buyers are opting
out of competing with other buyers.


“This year’s buyers and sellers are approaching the market with more caution and a focus on an
analytical, versus emotional approach that has ruled the last several years,” Deely said.


Northwest MLS members added 11,697 new listings to inventory during April for a year-over-year gain
of nearly 3.8 percent. During the same period, brokers reported 11,188 pending sales (509 fewer than the
number of new listings), resulting in net gains in the number of active listings in many counties, but
changes in inventory were wide ranging across the 23 counties the MLS serves.


Seven counties had double-digit growth in inventory from a year ago, led by King County (up 78.5
percent) and Snohomish County (up nearly 57 percent). The number of active listings declined in 10
counties, with Jefferson County reporting the biggest drop at 24.8 percent. System-wide inventory at the
end of April totaled 12,955 active listings, which represents a 7.8 gain from March.


“The spring market has arrived, bringing new listings and sales,” stated Dean Rebhuhn, owner of Village
Homes and Properties in Woodinville. Sellers who have prepared their homes for sale are experiencing
brisk activity, and buyers are finding more opportunities to purchase, thanks to low mortgage rates and
increased inventory, according to Rebhuhn.


“As we head into the prime buying and selling season, we’re seeing better news for buyers in King
County, with statistics showing there’s a bit more time to look and make a decision,” said Mike Grady,
president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain. Pointing to the 78 percent increase in total active listings in
King County and the 57 percent jump in inventory in Snohomish County, he described the year-over-year
gains as “impressive,” but noted there is still less than two months of inventory in many areas. “Buyers
now have three-to-four weeks instead of three-to-four days to make a decision, so it’s still quite a ways
from a balanced market,” he emphasized.

Housing market rebounds from February freeze

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (April 5, 2019) – Both pending sales and new listing activity around Western
Washington surged during March as buyers, sellers, and brokers emerged from February’s record
snowfall.

Brokers added 10,516 new listings of single family homes and condos to the Northwest Multiple Listing
Service inventory last month, the highest monthly volume since August 2018. Compared to the same
month a year ago, new listings across the 23 counties in the report were down slightly (79 fewer units).
MLS members also reported 10,261 pending sales during the same timeframe, the highest number of
mutually accepted offers since July, and nearly matching the year-ago total of 10,311.

“After the housing adjustment in 2018, this year’s spring market is back to frenzied in the more affordable
and mid-price ranges,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. Noting
March is the start of the prime-time selling season, he expects this year “will be no exception.” He also
commented on improved affordability from last fall’s price adjustments in the close-in job centers of
Seattle and the Eastside. “This improved affordability, along with lower interest rates and very strong job
growth, all point us in the right direction for red-hot acceleration again this year,” Scott stated.

Year-over-year prices area-wide were up 3.5 percent, rising from $401,761 to $415,950, with most
counties reporting gains. King County was an exception. Prices there were flat (down 0.4 percent),
slipping from the year-ago median of $625,000 to last month’s figure of $622,500, but rising from
February’s price of $604,000.

Compared to February, prices rose 2.2 percent system-wide. The four-county Puget Sound region had
larger month-to-month increases, led by Kitsap County, up 5.9 percent from February. Prices in
Snohomish County jumped nearly 5.5 percent, while King County’s median prices rose more than 3
percent when comparing February to March.

Commenting on the uptick in new listings and new sales, broker Dean Rebhuhn pointed to lower
mortgage interest rates and a growing selection of properties as drivers of activity. “Well-priced
properties are selling. Buyers who are getting fully underwritten loan commitments are winning the prize
– the home,” stated Rebhuhn, the owner of Village Homes and Properties in Woodinville.

At month end, there were 12,017 active listings of single family homes and condos in the Northwest MLS
database. That represents an increase of more than 36 percent from a year ago when there were only 8,825
active listings. Inventory more than doubled in King County compared to a year ago, rising from 2,060
active listings to 4,263 at the end of March. Nine counties reported less inventory than 12 months ago.

Even with improving inventory, there is less than two months of supply overall and in seven counties,
including Pierce (1.2 months), Snohomish (1.3 months), Kitsap (1.4 months) and King (nearly 1.9
months).

Homebuyers Resuming Search Amid Improving Inventory, Attractive Terms

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (February 7, 2019) – Homebuyers around Washington state are making their
way back to the market, hoping to take advantage of improving inventory, attractive interest rates, and
more approachable sellers, according to officials with Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Northwest MLS statistics for January show year-over-year improvement in the volume of new listings
and total inventory, along with moderating selling prices. Although fewer pending sales (mutually
accepted offers) were reported than a year ago (down about 3.3 percent), January was the smallest year-
over-year decline since May 2018 when the drop was about 2.7 percent.

Commenting on the MLS statistics summarizing last month’s activity, broker Gary O’Leyar said
January’s post-holiday real estate activity doesn’t normally pick up until later in the month, but this year
the uptick began early. “January started as a bit of a surprise. Open house activity was very robust, and we
saw multiple offers in numerous instances again,” reported O’Leyar, the owner of Berkshire Hathaway
HomeServices Signature Properties in Seattle.

Brokers tallied 7,564 pending sales during January, a decline from a year-ago when they recorded 7,820
transactions.

Seven counties had increases in pending sales of single family homes and condos compared with 12
months ago, including King (up nearly 7.5 percent) and Snohomish (up 3.8 percent).

James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of
Washington, commented on pending sales. The mixed results, including “healthy growth” in King and
Snohomish counties, “corresponds well to upward movement in mortgage applications late in December,
a leading indicator for the month to follow,” he noted, adding, “One should expect to see increased sales
activity in the coming months throughout the region if mortgage applications continue to stabilize or
increase.”

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said buyers “came out of the
woodwork” after the holidays, eager to take advantage of better housing conditions. “Areas close to the
job centers are seeing improved affordability from spring 2018,” he said, attributing it to lower interest
rates, strong job growth, and adjusted pricing.

Scott said buyers are also attracted by expanded inventory resulting from the addition of new listings and
a higher number of unsold inventory, although he noted “inventory levels are still considered a shortage.”
Prospective buyers who sat out the second half of 2018 or were pushed to the sidelines during last year’s
heated market are finding better buying conditions, agreed Robb Wasser, branch manager at Windermere
Real Estate/East. “Interest rates are near a nine month low and buyers have a stronger platform for
negotiating, which have helped drive a 9 percent increase in pending sales of single family homes in King
County,” Wasser stated.

Balance “Finally returning” to Housing Market as Buyers Welcome More Choices, Moderating Prices

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (October 4, 2018) – Housing inventory continued to improve during September
while the pace of sales slowed in many counties served by Northwest Multiple Listing Service. “Balance is
finally returning to the market, and with it, slowing home price growth,” stated OB Jacobi, president of
Windermere Real Estate.

A new report from Northwest MLS shows double-digit increases in inventory in several of the 23 counties it
serves, led by a 78 percent year-over-year gain in King County. Despite improving selection in the central
Puget Sound region, a dozen counties reported drops in the number of active listings compared to last year.

System-wide, the month ended with 2.56 months of supply of single family homes and condos, well below
the 4-to-6 months analysts use as an indicator of a balanced market between sellers and buyers. The current
level is the highest since February 2015 when member-brokers reported 3.56 months of inventory. In King
County, supply exceeded two months for the first time since January 2015.

Condo inventory remains sparse, with only 0.34 months of supply area wide, despite improving inventory (up
nearly 70 percent from a year ago). The shortage is expected to ease as construction progresses on several
recently-announced high-rise projects.

Brokers added 10,458 new listings of single family homes and condos to the MLS database during
September, slightly more than the year-ago figure of 10,120. At month end, buyers could choose from 19,526
listings, a 22.9 percent improvement from twelve months ago when selection totaled 15,888 listings.

Commenting on the wider selection, Mike Grady said buyers “are at long last now seeing properties that stay
on the market longer.” Listings that are priced appropriately, “and not based on the feverish market we saw
just a few months ago are still selling quickly, and home prices are still showing 8 percent appreciation year-
over-year – more than double the rate of inflation,” added Grady, the president and COO of Coldwell Banker
Bain.

With improving inventory, some brokers suggest the market may be showing signs of pausing, if not
softening. A market shift may be under way, but they believe activity will stay strong.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, encouraged would-be buyers to “put extra
focus on October,” which he described as the last great month for new listings until March 2019. “Over the
winter, new monthly resale listings will lower by approximately 50 percent compared to summer months.” He
also noted interest rates, currently in the upper 4 percent, are projected to rise in the coming months.

“This is a more traditional yearly market cycle taking the place of the unusually overheated real estate market
of the past several years,” said John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain.

Improving Supply Helps Slow Escalating Home Prices in Western Washington

SOURCE: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (September 7, 2018) – House-hunters in Western Washington can choose from
the largest supply of homes in three years, and they are facing fewer bidding wars, according to officials
from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

New statistics from the MLS show prices appear to be moderating (up about 6.7 percent overall), but
brokers say they are not bracing for a bubble, or even anticipating a quick shift to a buyers’ market.

“There have been incremental increases in listing inventory the past few months,” noted Gary O’Leyar, the
designated broker/owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties, but, he added, “By no
means have inventory levels reached a point that is deemed to be a balanced market.”

Area-wide, the number of active listings of single family homes and condos (combined) rose 16.2 percent,
but 16 counties reported year-over-year drops in inventory; of those, nine had double-digit decreases from
twelve months ago. At month end there were 18,580 active listings, the highest level since September 2015
when buyers could choose from 19,724 listings. Compared to July, inventory was up nearly 11 percent.

The latest numbers from Northwest MLS show wide-ranging changes in the volume of active listings when
comparing the 23 counties in the report. In Clark County, inventory doubled from a year ago to lead the list
based on percentage gains. King County was runner-up with a 74.3 percent increase, rising from 3,329
active listings a year ago to 5,803 at the end of August.

System-wide there is about two months of supply, but less than that in the four-county Puget Sound region
– well below the “balanced market” range of four-to-six months.

Supply was replenished in part by the addition of 11,994 new listings during the month, up slightly from the
year-ago total of 11,781.

A slower pace of sales also contributed to the boost in supply. Brokers reported 10,109 mutually accepted
offers last month, a drop of 14.8 percent from a year ago when they tallied 11,867 pending sales.

“The Puget Sound residential housing market remains positive, though the market has transitioned from a
frenzied state to one of strong sales activity,” remarked J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott
Real Estate. “We are seeing stability in the affordable and mid-price ranges in all market areas,” he said,
citing “one of the best job growth markets in the nation” and favorable interest rates as contributing factors.

George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties, commented on buyers “still sitting on the
sidelines despite clear indicators.” He believes, “This is the best time in three years to be aggressive in the
marketplace” given rising inventory, a significant increase in the number of cancelled and expired listings,
and more incentives being offered by builders. “We are now seeing price reductions in new home
communities as builders try to move inventory of completed homes,” he noted.

Brokers report some good news for home buyers, but still expect Puget Sound’s “frantic market” to continue

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (May 7, 2018) – Home buyers may be cheered by an uptick in inventory, but the
improving supply is unlikely to reverse rising prices, suggest industry leaders from Northwest Multiple
Listing Service.

Commenting on just-released figures for April, which showed the highest level of active listings since
August, OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate said, “For the first time in a long time we had
good news for buyers.” Noting supply is still lower than year-ago levels (down 5.6 percent), it jumped 14
percent from March, which Jacobi said “is a pretty significant increase even for this time of year.”

Northwest MLS brokers added 11,271 new listings to inventory during April, a gain of 6.3 percent when
compared to March, and up nearly 5.9 percent versus a year ago. April’s pending sales (mutually accepted
offers) totaled 10,574, improving on the same month a year ago and the previous month.

At month end, the active listings selection included 10,079 single family homes and condos, eclipsing the
total of 8,825 listings at the end of March. The condo segment grew 10.9 percent from March.

Of the 23 counties in the Northwest MLS service area, only six of them reported year-over-year gains in
inventory compared to a year ago. King County was the only one in the Puget Sound region to notch a gain,
up 13.6 percent from a year ago.

Commenting on the uptick, Mike Grady, president and COO, Coldwell Banker Bain, remarked “We are
still WAY below a balanced market of five months of inventory, and this is even with interest rates ticking
slightly upward.”

Area-wide there is 1.3 months of supply, with 4-to-6 months used as a gauge of a balanced market. Three
counties – King, Kitsap, and Snohomish — reported less than a month of supply. The condo component
remains very tight with slightly more than three weeks (0.87 months) of supply.

Prices are still climbing at double-digit rates in most counties. Year-over-year prices for single family
homes and condos combined jumped about 15.3 percent overall, from $360,000 to $415,000. Within the
four-county Puget Sound region, King County notched the biggest gain at nearly 18.2 percent. Prices there
rose $100,000 from a year ago, from $550,000 to $650,000.

“There’s little reason to think we’ll be seeing a change in this frantic market anytime soon,” commented
Grady, citing double-digit appreciation in many of the most populous counties, expansion plans by Alaska
Airlines and Amazon, and other positive economic news as reasons for that expectation.

Home buyers, sellers feel “looming pressure” but Western Washington market stays strong

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (March 6, 2018) – Interest rates are creeping up, inventory is still squeezed, and
some feared revised tax laws would have a chilling effect on home sales, but Northwest Multiple Listing
Service leaders say the local market remains competitive.

“It seemed like there would have been a chilling effect on the real estate market at the start of 2018 with the
newly revised tax laws limiting mortgage interest deductions,” suggested Gary O’Leyar, designated broker
and owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties. “Not only did the revisions not have
a chilling effect, if anything, the local market has been even hotter and more competitive than last year at
this time,” he added in commenting on new MLS numbers summarizing February activity.

Northwest MLS figures for last month show a slight year-over-year decrease (about 2.8 percent) in overall
pending sales, a likely consequence of inventory being down nearly 12.9 percent. Other key indicators of
the market – new listings, closed sales, and selling prices – all showed gains in February compared to 12
months ago.

The just-released report from Northwest MLS shows 7,980 pending sales last month, down from the
year-ago volume of 8,209 mutually accepted offers for single family homes and condos. Thirteen of the 23
counties in the report had more pending sales than at this time last year.

Closed sales outgained last year’s volume, 5,548 to 5,358, for an increase of nearly 3.6 percent. Median
prices on those sales surged almost 14.8 percent area-wide, rising from the year ago figure of $335,515 to
last month’s price of $385,000.

Among the four Puget Sound area counties, Snohomish had the largest year-over-year price increase at 18.8
percent. Its countywide median price for February’s sales spiked to $460,000 from $387,250, but that is
$130,000 below the $590,000 median price for transactions that closed in King County last month.
For single family homes (excluding condos), prices rose 13.7 percent overall, from $343,000 to $390,000.
Within King County, the median price was $649,950, with three areas (Mercer Island, Bellevue west of
I-405, and Kirkland-Bridle Trails) reporting median prices of more than $1 million for single family homes.
“As was the case the last two years, home values spiked in February, thanks to a cyclical low point in
supply,” commented Robert Wasser, owner/broker at Prospera Real Estate. Prices are now back around the
peak levels of last summer, and cyclically speaking, are headed for additional increases until summer
arrives,” commented Wasser, a board member at Northwest MLS.

Brokers added 7,284 new listings of single family homes and condos during February, an improvement of
nearly 6.4 percent from a year ago when they added 6,848 new listings. Like many months during 2017, last
month’s pending sales (7,980) outgained new listings (7,284), keeping inventory depleted in many areas.