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Real Estate Digest WA September 2017 

MLS Brokers Detecting Seasonal Slowdown in Some Areas But Expect Price Hikes to Continue in Much of Washington
October 5, 2017 

KIRKLAND, Washington (October 5, 2017) - MLS figures for September show inventory reached 1.7 months of supply at the end of the month, matching the year-to-date high in February. That level is still well below the 4-to-6 months of supply that many industry analysts use as an indicator of a balanced market.

Member-brokers in the 23 counties served by Northwest MLS added 10,120 new listings to inventory during September, slightly more than the number reported for the same month a year ago (10,029). At the end of the month there were 15,888 listings of single family homes and condos in the MLS database, a drop of 12.4 percent from a year ago when buyers could choose from 18,136 listings.

"The pressure cooker for the housing market continues as the typical seasonal market comes into play for new listings coming on the market," stated Scott, the chairman and CEO of John L. Scott. He noted new listings during September and October typically shrink 30 percent - and even more during the winter months - when compared to spring and summer months.

Brokers say strong job growth statewide is fueling demand for housing. Washington has added around 83,000 new jobs from August 2016 through August 2017 (not seasonally adjusted), according to the state Employment Security Department.

Like some other months this year, pending sales last month surpassed the number of new listings, putting pressure on prices. Year-over-year median prices for homes and condos surged 12 percent.

Brokers reported 10,348 mutually accepted offers system-wide last month, about the same number as a year ago (10,370), but last month's total was the fewest pending sales since February (8,209). For the four- county Puget Sound region, members notched 7,441 pending sales. That's the third best September for this area in the past 18 years, topped only by last year's total of 7,729 and the total for August 2005 when 7,561 pending sales occurred.

Buyers may be emerging on news of slightly improving supply. 

MLS director George Moorhead also commented on seasonality. "The seasonal summer market was felt stronger this year than what we have experienced in the last three years. Market indicators are showing we are plateauing into a healthier balanced market."

Northwest MLS figures show area-wide median prices are up more than 12 percent from a year ago, rising from $340,000 to $381,000. September's figure is slightly lower than the peak reached in July when the median price across all counties was $385,000.

Excluding condos, the system-wide median price for September's single family sales was $390,000. A look at the 23 counties in the report shows a wide range of median prices, from the lowest of $124,000 in Ferry County to the highest, at $625,000, in King County.

September's median price for single family homes and condos in King County, at $565,000, reflects a jump of more than 14 percent from a year ago, but it is a $20,000 decline from August (down about 3.5 percent).

"In Snohomish Countywe saw increases in the luxury (higher end) segment during the summer months, which of course raised both the median and average sales prices," said Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-South Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in Lynnwood. "Now we're seeing a decrease in those types of sales with more affordable homes becoming more dominant."

In Snohomish County, for example, Northwest MLS tracks statistics for six sub-areas within that county. Last month's median price for countywide sales of single family homes and condos was $430,000, but it ranged from $352,000 in the northwest segment of the county to $606,250 in the southeast portion. Year-over-year price changes ranged from an increase of just over 6 percent to more than 19 percent.

Noting King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all reported year-over-year price hikes of more than 14 percent, Grady said "This leap to new heights is based on high demand and low supply." He noted neighboring counties are feeling the pinch, with several of them reporting double-digit drops in supply.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of more than 2,200 member offices includes more than 26,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.