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
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
“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
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.