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.

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