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Real Estate Digest WA May 2017 
Brokers Suggest Improving Inventory May Mean "Season of Opportunity" For Weary House Hunters

KIRKLAND, Washington (June 6, 2017) - Would-be buyers who have been shut out of the real estate market should test the "real estate waters" during the summer months suggests one industry leader.

"Summer might provide some competitive relief for weary buyers," said Gary O'Leyar, owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties, pointing to some of the newly-released statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service as indicators.

Noting that the trend of multiple offers is still prevalent in the Seattle market, O'Leyar stressed that's not always the case in areas outside the immediate Seattle area. In fact, he added, the market may "cool off" a bit during summer months as weary buyers find vacations and recreational pursuits more alluring than being in competitive bidding situations.

Northwest MLS brokers added 13,497 new listings during May, improving on the previous month by 2,849 listings for a gain of nearly 27 percent. Compared to a year ago, the volume of new listings increased about 10 percent. Total active inventory is down from a year ago, but about 6.8 percent better than April.

The latest statistics show inventory system-wide is still squeezed (down 17.9 percent), pending sales rose slightly (up 2.7 percent), and sales prices are still rising (up 11.2 percent) compared to a year ago.

Last month's pending sales in Kitsap County rose 8.4 percent from a year ago, which compares to a 2.6 percent decline in King County. The median price on homes and condos that sold in Kitsap County last month was $307,250 (up 7.8 percent from a year ago). In King County, the median price rose 15.5 percent from a year ago, and, at $560,000, was 82 percent higher than the median price in Kitsap County.

Despite murmurs of the possibility of relief for disenchanted house hunters, May was a hotbed of activity. Brokers notched 9,188 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) in the four-county region, the highest ever reported for the region. Overall, members reported 12,607 pending sales, up 2.7 percent from a year ago.

Despite rising prices, brokers say competition is still intense in many of the 23 counties in the Northwest MLS area, and especially so near job centers. Consequently, some would-be buyers are waiving contingencies, a practice that draws varying opinions from MLS spokespersons:

Measured by months of supply, King County has the smallest, at about three weeks (0.76 months) of all the counties in the MLS report. At the end of May, there were 2,149 active listings of single family homes (vs. 2,696 a year ago) and 421 condos (vs. 636 a year ago) in King County.

Despite a year-over-year decline of nearly 23 percent in the number of active listings in King County, the volume of closed sales rose about 4.4 percent. Prices on sales within the county (including single family homes and condos) spiked 15.5 percent from a year ago, rising from $485,000 to $560,000. Thirteen counties reported double-digit increases, including King County, up nearly 15.5 percent.

System-wide, there is 1.37 months of supply (slipping from April's figure of 1.47). That's well below the 4-to-6 month figure often used to describe a balanced market. The overall median selling price was $378,044. That's up 11.2 percent from the year-ago figure of $339,950. The number of closed sales rose 5.6 percent from a year ago, increasing from 8,630 overall to 9,112.

The combination of strong demand and limited supply continues to fuel competition and multiple offers in many areas, according to MLS brokers.

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.