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.