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Real Estate Digest WA April 2018 
Housing Market back to "Pressure Cooker Situation," But Brokers Remind Sellers "Pricing is Still Important"

April 5, 2018
 
KIRKLAND, Washington (April 5, 2018) - Job growth and a recent run-up in mortgage rates has created an "extremely intense market for each new listing," stated J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate in commenting on the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

MLS figures for March show a surge in both new listings and pending sales compared to February as the spring market heats up. Compared to a month ago, pending sales climbed more than 29 percent (from 7,980 in February to 10,311 in March),

 
Whether defined as $1 million or more or $2 million-plus, Northwest MLS figures confirm sales of luxury homes are surging. A comparison of first quarters show the year-over-year volume of sales of homes priced at $2 million or more is up 30 percent. Members reported 136 such sales during first quarter 2017; this year, the number is 177. For homes priced at $1 million or more, sales rose from 941 during first quarter last year to 1,204 this year, a gain of nearly 28 percent.

Prices overall are up about 13.2 percent from a year ago, and even more so in the four-county Puget Sound region. Among these four counties, Kitsap had the largest year-over-year increase at 19 percent, but King County homes are still the priciest. The median price for last month's sales of single family homes and condos combined in King County is $625,000, up 17.9 percent from a year ago. For single family homes, excluding condos, the median price for last month's sales was $689,950.
Year-over-year prices are up more than 18 percent in Pierce County and about 14.3 percent in Snohomish County.

Northwest MLS member brokers continue to scramble to replenish supply. They added 10,595 new listings during March, slightly more than a year ago when they added 10,321 properties to the selection. Last month's additions marked a big gain from February when 7,284 new listings were added.

As has been the pattern, pending sales nearly equaled the number of new listings. Brokers reported 10,311 pending sales last month, a slight drop from the year-ago figure of 10,415. Tight inventory may be to blame as the number of total active listings stood at 8,825 at month end, down nearly 9.7 percent from the year-ago total of 9,772. Fourteen of the 23 counties in the Northwest MLS market area reported drops in pending sales.

Housing inventory remains well below "normal" ranges based on a level of 4-to-6 months of supply used as an indicator of a balanced market. Area-wide, Northwest MLS figures show there is about 1.2 months of supply, with four counties reporting less than a month's supply. Snohomish has the sparsest selection at 0.67 months, followed by King (0.83 months), Kitsap (0.95 months), and Pierce (0.99 months).

"Despite the low inventory and sellers' market, proper pricing is still important," emphasized John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.

Rising interest rates and keen competition are motivating some buyers to make compromises, according to George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties.

"I was asked recently why some communities are seeing a higher sales volume then last year," Moorhead stated. "I explained this was simple logic with buyers in that instead of competing at their maximum price point in closer in communities and losing out on the perfect home, they compete in a lesser priced area where they can be more aggressive on the better homes in those areas. They may compromise on schools, public services, and commute times, but the opportunity of ownership increases significantly. The second key reason is that 30-year mortgage interest rates have increased .5% since the beginning of the year which erodes home affordability and pushes some buyers out of market places."

Instead of competing in today's market, some current owners are opting to remodel. "We are getting more and more requests for quality contractors for current homeowners looking to make updates to their home, instead of trying to move up to a better home or community," Moorhead said. "Just in the last 30 days we know of 12 homeowners starting home improvements in the $100,000 and up range, more out of sheer frustration that they cannot find or secure a move-up home to purchase. What this means on the larger scale is a continued lack of inventory coming on the market to feed the voracious appetite of the buyers in our marketplace."

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 28,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in the state.