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Shrinking inventory putting “stranglehold” on sales around Western Washington

Source: NWMLS

May 4, 2017
Shrinking inventory putting “stranglehold” on sales around Western Washington
as brokers continue grappling with challenges of multiple offers

KIRKLAND, Washington (May 4, 2017) – “Frustrating” is how brokers are summarizing the mood of
buyers, brokers – and industry professionals – during the current housing market frenzy. New statistics
from Northwest Multiple Listing Service show declines in inventory and sales, while prices continue their
upward trajectory, but those numbers only tell part of the story.

“The real estate market is going absolutely gangbusters,” remarked OB Jacobi, president of Windermere
Real Estate. “The remarkably low number of homes for sale can be blamed for the drop in sales,” he
emphasized, adding, “The uptick in interest rates at the end of last year has clearly done nothing to slow
things down.”

Inventory fell nearly 25 percent from the volume of active listings being offered a year ago. At the end of
April, MLS brokers reported 10,679 homes and condos for sale across a 23-county area, which compares
to the year-ago selection of 14,235 listings.

Viewed another way, there is only about 1.5 months of supply (about six weeks), which compares to
twelve months ago when supply totaled about 1.85 months. (In general, four-to-six months is considered
a balanced market.) There has not been more than two months of supply since September 2016.
MLS members continue to struggle to keep pace with demand. Brokers added 10,648 new listings to their
database last month, down from 11,939 during April 2016, and they reported 10,514 pending sales. That
total was down 893 transactions for a drop of year-over-year drop of 7.8 percent.

The near-match in new listings and pending sales meant little change in the number of total active listings,
although inventory edged up slightly from March, growing from 9,774 listings to 10,679.
“Without a doubt this is the most frustrating market for both buyers and sellers that we’ve experienced in
24 years of business,” stated George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties. He said the
frustration of low inventory is prompting sellers who haven’t been able to find their next home to look
into undertaking major remodels instead of moving, thereby putting even more pressure on buyers who
are struggling to find a home. Although buyers are being aggressive, Moorhead believes offer prices are
starting to plateau. “Educated buyers cannot justify many of the home prices,” he reported.

Prices area-wide shot up 10.4 percent from a year ago, from $325,990 to $360,000. The four-county
Puget Sound region, which accounted for more than 77 percent of last month’s 7,276 closed sales,
reported a price hike of nearly 14.7 percent, led by Snohomish County at 16.7 percent. In Snohomish
County, the median price for single family homes and condos (combined) eclipsed the $400,000 mark,
climbing to $416,668.

Area Brokers Report “High Velocity” Market, But With Hope For Homebuyers

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (Feb. 6, 2017) – Western Washington’s “high velocity” market continued
during January with the number of pending sales (7,745) outgaining the number of new listings (6,507),
according to new figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“Properties are moving through the market at an unusually fast pace,” remarked John Deely, chairman of
the board at Northwest MLS and the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain. “Although we
have a high number of new listings, they are moving into a pending or sold status within the typical 30-
day reporting period. This phenomenon causes a low active listing count,” he added.

Brokers added 6,507 new listings to inventory last month (163 fewer than during the same period a year
ago), while year-over-year pending sales jumped by 492 transactions for a gain of about 6.8 percent. New
listing volume was the highest monthly total since October when members added 7,591 properties.

At month-end, there were 9,752 active listings in the MLS service area, which encompasses 23 counties.
That total was 2,605 fewer than the year-ago volume of 12,357, a decline of 21 percent. Only three
counties (Ferry, Jefferson and Kitsap) reported improvements in the number of active listings compared
to the same month last year.

Measured by months of inventory, the selection is at historic lows in many counties. At month end, there
was just under 1.7 months of supply system-wide, which compares to the year-ago figure of about 2.5
months of supply. Both King and Snohomish counties have less than one month of supply.

“If home buyers were hoping that January would start to bring more balance to the housing market,
they’re going to be sorely disappointed. The number of homes for sale remains at record lows, and the
growth in pending sales tells us that sellers are still firmly in the driver’s seat,” said OB Jacobi, president
of Windermere Real Estate.

MLS director George Moorhead echoed Jacobi, pointing to five years ago when buyers could choose
from 5,378 listings of single family homes in King County versus last month’s selection of 1,569 listings.
“The real question is whether there will be relief in the near future, and the unfortunate answer is no,”
said Moorhead, the designated broker at Bentley Properties, citing the combination of new jobs, a
shortage of new homes, and a reluctance of sellers to list their home for fear of not being able to find their
next one.

Commenting on “typical seasonal and beginning of the year adjustments,” one company president said he
is encouraged by new listing activity. “There is no indication that the annualized trend of shrinking active
inventory will reverse itself anytime soon, but we’re seeing momentary bubbles of increased inventory for
buyers currently in the market” noted Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain.

“List it and they will come” is the new mantra as new listings come on the market, commented J. Lennox
Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott. Despite having more sales than new listings over the past few
months, Scott said there is hope for homebuyers. “As the days start getting longer the future will look
brighter for the backlog of buyers waiting to find a home.” Describing February as the bridge month
between winter and spring markets, Scott expects to start seeing an increase in the number of new listings.

“Buyers who are properly positioned to make quick decisions, and who have the proper negotiation
tactics and guidance are finding success in this high velocity market,” Deely reported.

Not surprisingly given the imbalance in supply and demand, prices continue to rise. Last month’s median
price for the 5,874 completed sales of single family homes and condominiums was $327,175, up 9
percent from the year ago figure of $300,000. There were 889 more closed sales in January than for the
same month a year ago for a 17.8 percent increase.

Single family home prices (excluding condos) increased 9 percent, rising from $309,950 to $338,000. The
median price for single family homes that sold in King County last month was $525,000, up more than
6.9 percent from the year-ago sales price of $490,970. Several outlying counties reported double-digit
gains.

“The softening of single family home prices in King County over the last few months, combined with the
relatively large price increase in Snohomish County (8.2 percent) suggests buyers are migrating north in
order to find more affordable housing,” said Jacobi.

Brokers in Pierce and Kitsap counties also reported price hikes larger than King County’s. The median
price of a single family home in Pierce County jumped nearly 11.6 percent from a year ago while the
year-over-year price in Kitsap was up 9.4 percent.

Condo prices rose 5.5 percent in January compared to a year ago, increasing from $255,750 to $289,900.
King County condo prices surged more than 9.8 percent, from $282,250 to $310,000.

“For buyers, it is a good news/bad news scenario in Kitsap County,” reported MLS director Frank
Wilson. “More houses came on the market last month than a year ago, but pending sales surpassed that
number to keep the market tight. Brokers navigated these challenges and buyers endured, “but the
tightness will likely be magnified during 2017,” said Wilson, the branch managing broker at John L. Scott
in Poulsbo.

Wilson said open house traffic has “started off with a bang” as more buyers have decided now is the time
to buy, believing that prices will only continue to rise .” He expects escalation clauses, multiple offer
situations and backup offers to “be the norm during the first quarter. The hierarchy of purchasers: cash,
conventional loan, VA loan, and FHA financing will continue to be the pecking order,” he stated.

“We’re seeing the frenzy change to a fanatical desire to own a home as buyers scramble to beat increasing
interest rates,” reported Moorhead. He expects the Feds to increase rates two more times between now
and April, “and that will only increase buyers’ aggressive tactics to secure a home,” he suggested.
Moorhead also noted sellers are able to “get away with putting homes on the market in conditions that
historically would be rejected by buyers.” Now, however, Moorhead said buyers are willing to turn a
blind eye to repairs and future maintenance.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service
MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real
estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.

Thurston County Home Prices Rise 6.8 Percent in Past Year

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (Nov. 4, 2016) – Home sales around Western Washington outgained new
listings again in October, fueling competition for scarce inventory and pushing prices higher. Some
seasonal slowdown is still expected – and the Nov. 8 elections may be in play as well, according to
brokers at Northwest Multiple Listing Service who commented on last month’s activity.

MLS members reported 9,950 pending sales during October, but they added only 7,591 new listings, the
lowest number since January. A year-over-year comparison of pending sales shows there were 633 more
mutually accepted offers last month than twelve months ago for a gain of 6.8 percent.

Closed sales improved even more, rising from the year-ago total of 7,769 completed transactions to last
month’s volume of 8,554 (up 10.1 percent).

“While the stock market remains somewhat skittish regarding the upcoming presidential election, this
feeling clearly has not transferred to the housing market,” remarked OB Jacobi, president of Windermere
Real Estate. “Unfortunately for buyers who were hoping to have more homes to choose from this fall,
listings in October fell to levels we haven’t seen since the 1990s – and at this point, we probably won’t
see any sizable increase in inventory until the spring at the earliest,” he added.

Active listings dropped more than 13 percent compared to a year ago, with further shrinkage expected. At
month end there were 15,690 single family homes and condominiums offered for sale in the MLS system,
which encompasses 23 counties. That’s 2,378 fewer than the year-ago total of 18,068, and 2,446 fewer
than September. All but two counties (Clallam and Ferry) reported year-over-year decreases in inventory.
Overall, there was only 1.8 months of supply. King County had slightly more than one month (1.1), with
several areas within that county reporting less than a month’s supply. In Snohomish County, where
inventory plunged more than 20 percent from a year ago, there was with 1.3 months.

“The further we move into November, the more we’ll start feeling the typical seasonal drop when new
listings coming on the market decline by 50 percent on a monthly basis compared to spring and summer
months,” suggested J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. Buyers are still out
there, he emphasized. “We’re heading into winter with a repeat of last year’s conditions: low inventory, a
backlog of buyers, and historically low interest rates.” On the heels of the “best October on record” Scott
predicts “a strong winter market where the inventory remains tight throughout the season.”

Not surprisingly given the large MLS territory, which includes both rural and urban areas, activity is
stronger in some sub-markets than others. Prices also reflect a wide spectrum. Of the four counties
comprising the Puget Sound region (King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish), only Kitsap had an uptick in
new listings compared to a year ago, but that county’s robust pending sales (up 20.7 percent) helped
deplete its total inventory versus twelve months ago (down about 7 percent).

“The market in Kitsap is still very active,” according to Frank Wilson, the branch managing broker and
Kitsap district manager for John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo. He noted Kitsap typically lags the
Seattle market by 6-to-9 months.

In South Sound, prices rose at a more moderate rate, around 9.6 percent in Pierce County and just over
6.8 percent in Thurston County. “Homes priced under $400,000 are looked at hard by buyers on ‘day one’
and often draw multiple offers,” said Northwest MLS director Dick Beeson, the principal managing
broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Above that figure, things slow down markedly, he noted,
adding that’s true in other areas, but the starting numbers and wait times might vary.

NWMLS: Housing Market Still Active, With Overall Direction “Positive”

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (Sept. 7, 2016) – Home sales in Western Washington continued to outpace
year-ago activity, but member-brokers at Northwest Multiple Listing Service say persistent inventory
shortages are constraining activity.

Despite a sparse selection in many areas, an expected summer slowdown, and “appraisal conundrums,”
Northwest MLS members notched 11,898 pending sales during August, eclipsing the same month a year
ago by 1,295 transactions for a 12.2 percent gain. There were 8,628 pending sales in the four-county
Puget Sound region — the best August for mutually accepted offers since 2005 when members tallied
8,874 sales.

Brokers added 11,411 new listings to the Northwest MLS database during August, but they presented
offers for even more buyers (11,898) to keep inventory below two months of supply. At month-end, there
were 18,336 active listings in the MLS system, a decrease of 11.6 percent from a year ago, resulting in
only 1.9 months of supply. (Four to six months is generally considered to be a “neutral” or balanced
market for buyers and sellers.)

“The market remains just as intense as July,” observed J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO at John L. Scott,
Inc. “The best opportunity for homebuyers to find a home will be in the next 60 days,” he suggested,
explaining the number of new listings coming on the market is likely to drop by 50 percent each month
between November and February. “We expect a repeat of conditions from last winter when every available
home that came on the market in areas with a shortage of inventory received quick action.”

“Buyers in the Seattle area are plentiful in all price ranges, but the entry-level housing demand continues
to be the highest,” reported John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain. As an
example, he said a recent open house for a condo listing in the South Lake Union area drew more than
100 visitors in a single day. Tech workers continue to dominate the primary buyer demographic, he said,
adding that a significant number of their parents are relocating here to purchase properties close to their
children.

Buyers in most of the 23 counties served by Northwest MLS can expect to pay more than they would
have twelve months ago, with most areas showing double-digit year-over-year price increases. System-
wide, the median price for last month’s 9,767 closed sales of single family homes and condominiums was
$350,000, up more than 11 percent from the year-ago figure of $315,000.

Seattle Area Among Forbes “2016’s Fastest Growing Areas”

Source: NAR

 

After being overthrown last year by Houston, Austin regains the number one spot as the fastest-growing city in the U.S., according to a new analysis by Forbes. Adding to its allure, Austin boasts booming technology, pharmaceutical and biotech industries as well as low-cost of living.

Read more: The 20 Hottest Housing Markets This Month

Forbes.com compiled its annual list of America’s Fastest-Growing Cities by ranking the 100 largest metro areas and their surrounding suburbs. For its rankings, they factor in population growth for 2015 and 2016, year-over-year job growth for 2015, the metro’s economic growth rate, unemployment, and median annual pay for college-educated workers in the area.

The following cities topped Forbes’ list as the fastest-growing populations and economies (included below with each city’s population growth for 2015 and projected growth rate for 2016):

1. Austin, Texas

2015 population growth rate: 3.15%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.56%

2. San Francisco, Calif.

2015 population growth rate: 1.24%
2016 projected growth rate: 0.77%

3. Dallas, Texas

2015 population growth rate: 2.16%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.58%

4. Seattle, Wash.

2015 population growth rate: 1.68%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.34%

5. Salt Lake City, Utah

2015 population growth rate: 1.05%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.40%

6. Ogden, Utah

2015 population growth rate: 1.64%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.37%

7. Orlando, Fla.

2015 population growth rate: 2.31%
2016 projected growth rate: 2.03%

8. San Jose, Calif.

2015 population growth rate: 1.27%
2016 projected growth rate: 0.93%

9. Raleigh, N.C.

2015 population growth rate: 2.28%
2016 projected growth rate: 1.44%

10. Cape Coral, Fla.

2015 population growth rate: 2.84%
2016 projected growth rate: 2.15%

Home Prices Continue To Rise, Led By Western States

Source: RISMedia

Among the nation’s top 300 markets, a total of 170 or 57 percent have now
achieved full price recovery, according to Homes.com®’s September 2015
Local Market Index, a price performance summary of repeat sales in the top 100 markets,
and the companion Midsize Markets Report for the next 200 largest markets.

By September, 53 out of thr top 100 markets showed a complete
price recovery – two more than reported in August – with an additional
117 out of 200 midsize markets continuing to see recovery above pre-
recession levels.

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif. led the nation in September
for the largest annual percentage change in pricing at 7.97 percent.
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo. came in second with a 7.73 percent
annual increase, and Portland Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. was
third at 7.29 percent.

Thurston County News Release

Thurston County Residents,

I want to alert you to two issues here.   First, later this year, Thurston County will roll out its new Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for the entire county.  You can read about it here:   http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/planning/hcp/hcp-home.htm   The HCP will increase the buffers around critical habitat and impose new restrictions on property with prairie soils, gopher habitat, oak trees, water infiltration areas, so called “wetlands”, shore lands, and more.

Second, Thurston County is in the process of taking control of the Deschutes River drainage, the aquifers that adjoin the Deschutes River, and the Capitol Lake estuary.  For those of you who live in the Deschutes River drainage, remember the questionnaire you got several weeks ago?  That is part of the plan, brought to you courtesy of the Sustainable Thurston Plan.

We are developing some long term strategies on these issues and as we learn more we will let you know.  As an individual, one of the most important things you can do is share this information with your friends. 

__________________________________________________________________________________

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2015
SUBJECT: Thurston Region to Develop a Climate Adaptation Plan
CONTACT: Lon Wyrick
Executive Director, TRPC
OLYMPIA, Wash. — How will the Thurston Region prepare for possible changes to the magnitude or frequency of climate-related events such as drought, flooding, sea-level rise, or wildfire?
Over the next few years, local and Tribal government organizations, non-profits, and educational institutions will work together to develop a Climate Adaptation Plan for the Thurston Region. We will explore questions such as:
What roads will be most vulnerable to flooding under changing climate conditions, and what steps can we take now to lower the risks?
Are there areas of the county where there might not be enough water to maintain stream flows to support fish and other aquatic species, farming, and household and business water uses under changing climate conditions?
What are the economic implications – to the natural and the built environment – of a changing climate?
In short, how can we adapt to climate-induced changes, yet continue to thrive ecologically, socially, and economically?
The National Estuary Program (NEP) Watershed Protection and Restoration Program – which focuses on improving watershed management and land use decisions in the Puget Sound Region – will fund the $250,000 planning effort.
The Thurston Regional Planning Council – a 21-member intergovernmental board comprised of local government jurisdictions within Thurston County – will facilitate plan development. The Regional Council will convene a wide range of partners, including Thurston County, local cities, Tribes, Nisqually River Council, LOTT Clean Water Alliance, Port of Olympia, The Evergreen State College, Olympia School District, Earth Economics, Thurston Conservation District, Thurston Economic Development Council, Thurston Climate Action Team, Puget Sound Energy and emergency service providers. Work will begin in September 2015, with plenty of opportunities for the public and other partners to participate.
The Regional Council determined this project’s importance as a follow-up action of the Sustainable Thurston project. For more information, visit www.trpc.org/ClimateAdaptationPlan.

___________________________________
Sarah Selstrom, Administrative Assistant
Thurston Regional Planning Council
2424 Heritage Court SW, Suite A
Olympia, WA 98502
Phone: (360) 956-7575
Fax: (360) 956-7815
Website: www.trpc.org

 

Pent-up Demand Triggering Record Pace of Home Sales Around Western Washington

Source: NWMLS

KIRKLAND, Washington (May 5, 2015) – Northwest Multiple Listing Service members notched a record high level of pending sales during April, surpassing the year-ago volume by nearly 1,800 transactions. Both closed sales and prices also surged last month as the spring market kicked into high gear.

Buyer confidence and buyer ability to purchase are fueling activity, suggested Ken Anderson, the managing broker and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympia Realty. “Long building pent-up demand is being unleashed,” he commented.

MLS members reported an 18.7 percent year-over-year increase in pending sales, with the volume of mutually accepted offers rising from 9,590 transactions to 11,384. For the four-county Puget Sound region members logged 8,671 pending sales to top the 8,000 mark for only the second time in the past 16 years.

Closed sales and prices also accelerated, according to Northwest MLS statistics. Across the 23 counties covered by the report there were 7,696 closed sales. That total represents a 24.3 percent increase from the year-ago volume of 6,190 closings. Within the four-county region, Pierce County experienced a jump of nearly 38 percent in closed sales compared to a year ago, followed by Snohomish County with a 35 percent increase, prompting one MLS director to comment, “That is super amazing.”

“We are still very clearly in the midst of a seller’s market and unless we see a significant increase in listings, it will remain that way for the foreseeable future,” remarked OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. Jacobi and other brokers reiterated the dire need for listings.
Members added 11,495 new listings to inventory during April, but brisk sales kept supply tight and well below the level of a year ago. At the end of April, the MLS reported 18,132 listings of single family homes and condominiums in its database, a drop of more than 15 percent from the year-ago total of 21,390.

Compared to March, inventory at the end of April improved by 6.6 percent, but pending sales jumped 13.7 percent from the previous month.

“We’re in desperate need of inventory so I hope to see an increase in listings as we move further into the late spring/early summer,” stated Jacobi.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, noted the record sales activity is lowering the months of supply of inventory and continuing the upward movement of pricing.
Northwest MLS figures show less than 2.4 months of supply at the end of April, down from the March figure of 2.5 months and down from a year ago when there was about 3.5 months of supply. Inventory is especially tight in King County, with 1.3 months of supply, and Snohomish County, with about 1.5 months. Many industry analysts use a range of four-to-six months as an indicator of a balanced market.