Eager buyers plentiful but choices were meager

The real estate market by the numbers for December 2019.

  • Wednesday, January 15, 2020 1:30am
  • Business

By Cheri Brennan

For Northwest Multiple Listing Service

“The buyers are out there and are showing up at open houses and making multiple offers on new listings,” was how one industry leader summarized December’s housing activity involving members of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Frank Wilson, Kitsap regional manager and branch managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo, also said the severe shortage of inventory – “much lower than in years past” – will lead to continued buyer frustration and escalating home values. He noted one of his colleagues added a new listing the day after Christmas and it quickly drew 11 offers.

The competition and lack of inventory was reported by local real estate offices as well.

Newly-released figures from Northwest MLS show inventory at the end of December was down 31 percent from the same month a year ago, with only 8,469 active listings compared to the year-ago total of 12,275. The figures include single family homes and condominiums across the 23 counties in the MLS service area.

Last month marked the sixth straight month of declining inventory, noted James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research. MLS figures show inventory peaked in June when the database had 16,680 active listings, about twice as many as December.

Inventory for single family homes and condos (combined) was down by more than 30 percent in seven counties: King (-38.8 percent), Thurston (-54 percent), Pierce (-38.9 percent), Snohomish (-35.6 percent), Mason (-32 percent), Kitsap (-30.6 percent), and Skagit (-30.5 percent). System-wide there is only about 1.2 months of supply.

The inventory of single family homes (excluding condos) is especially tight in several counties, notably Thurston (-54 percent), and King (-41.4 percent).

Robb Wasser, branch manager at Windermere Real Estate/East and NWMLS director, noted the sharp drop in King County marked the first time since March 2018 that the supply of homes dropped below one month.

“Looking all the way back to 2012 when home values first began recovering, King County has only logged six months with supply levels lower than where we currently stand,” Wasser said.

December’s volume of active listings included 3,777 new listings added during the month, but during the same timeframe, 5,943 sellers accepted offers on their properties. That number of pending sales was up about 4.7 percent from 12 months ago.

Prices on last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condos rose 8.75 percent from a year ago. For the MLS market overall the price was $435,000 versus the year-ago figure of $400,000.

For the four-county Puget Sound region (encompassing King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties), the median sales price for December’s closed sales was $495,000, up 10 percent from the year-ago figure of $449,950.

In King County, which had the highest volume of sales and the highest prices, the median sales price for last month’s closed sales was $615,000. That was an increase of about 3 percent from a year ago. Prices in King County peaked in May at $645,000.

Deely, a member of the NWMLS board of directors, reported “unusually brisk activity” in the luxury market.

Some brokers expect the pressure on prices to ease during the first quarter.

J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said some relief should be on the way as the weather warms up and sellers choose to put their home on the market, but he also cautioned it’s possible the trend of fewer resale listings than usual will continue on the Eastside. He described the Eastside housing market as “particularly hot,” adding, “It shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon with recent job growth announcements and an extreme shortage of unsold inventory priced up to $1 million.”

Northwest Multiple Listing Service is a not-for-profit, member-owned organization that facilitates cooperation among its member real estate firms. With more than 2,300 member firm offices and 30,000 brokers across Washington state, NWMLS (www.nwmls.com) is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. While based in Kirkland, Washington, its service area spans 23 counties and it operates 20 local service centers.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

Sound Publishing operates the following titles in King County: Federal Way Mirror, Auburn Reporter, Kent-Covington Reporter, Renton Reporter, Enumclaw Courier-Herald, Kirkland Reporter, Bellevue Reporter, Snoqualmie Valley Record, Issaquah Reporter, Redmond Reporter, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, Mercer Island Reporter and the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber.
Issaquah Reporter to suspend print publication

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rapidly evolve across the globe, the… Continue reading

COVID-19 gathering restriction delays funerals

For one funeral home owner, the confusion came to a head after a recent service.

For sale sign hanging in front of house. File photo
Open houses close due to coronavirus concerns

Northwest Multiple Listing Service halts large group home tours amid pandemic.

Boeing plants in Puget Sound area to close; infected Everett worker dies

To the relief of anxious employees, the company said it will shut down factory operations for two weeks.

AG Ferguson warns of scams related to COVID-19

Washingtonians should be skeptical of claims about virus

Customers buying high volume of products at cannabis shops

Retail establishments get the green light to remain open during COVID-19 pandemic.

A Boeing 777X during a taxi test. (Boeing Co.)
Companywide, Boeing reports 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19

Boeing will equip more employees to work remotely, but for now factory workers will stay on the line.

A shot of downtown Kirkland. Samantha St. John of the city’s chamber of commerce said that Kirkland’s business community is likely being more detrimentally affected than others on the Eastside due to the city’s often being deemed the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic. Blake Peterson/staff photo
‘We’re just kind of in limbo’: Eastside businesses feeling significant economic effects amid coronavirus pandemic

Eastside chamber representatives discuss the states of their business communities.

Bellevue skyline. File photo
Amid coronavirus concerns, Eastside cities are taking preventative steps

Most Eastside cities are following recommendations from county officials.

A flight takes off at SeaTac International Airport. Photo courtesy Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle, airlines respond to COVID-19 with new health measures

Changes at Sea-Tac Airport include more hand sanitizer, training for biohazard cleaning.

With Mount Baker and Jetty Island in the distance, a container ship approaches the Port of Everett. (Port of Everett photo)
Senate Dems: $5 million to help businesses disrupted by coronavirus

Overseas port closures hurt WA companies that depend on international shipping.

Robo investment advice has drawbacks | Business advice column

A monthly business advice column by a Mercer Island financial adviser.