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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Housing activity in Western Washington ranges from “red hot” to “slowly healing”

Brokers report some skittishness among both buyers and sellers, but the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service indicate the housing market is continuing to rebound. Both the number of pending sales and the number of new listings added to inventory during April reached their highest levels in 11 months.

Closed sales of single family homes and condominiums were slightly below the year-ago volume, while the median sales price rose slightly (up about 1.9 percent).

“The residential market is red hot,” where multiple offers are the “norm” for new listings, with about two-thirds of homes near job centers selling in the first 30 days. That’s about twice the normal rate.

4761 Brech Street $365,000
I listed and sold this home in less than 2 weeks

Many areas outside the Greater Seattle job centers also show signs of positive activity, but at a more moderate pace. “The real estate market continues to show positive signs both locally and nationally,” stated John Deely, one of the directors of Northwest MLS.

MLS members reported 9,590 pending sales of single family homes and condominiums during April, about even with the same period a year ago when brokers tallied 9,600 mutually accepted offers. Last month’s total marks the highest level since May 2013 when the MLS reported 10,045 pending sales across its 21-county area.

Improving inventory is helping to boost sales, but MLS officials say the number of distressed sales in some areas, and shortages of the “right kinds” of inventory persist, are causing some drag on activity. Some brokers also expressed concern about the sluggish pace of new construction.

Members added 11,043 new listings to inventory during April, about 700 more than a year ago for a 6.7 percent gain. At month end, there were 21,390 listings system-wide, up nearly 7.9 percent from twelve months ago when active listings totaled 19,826.

“A lot of potential sellers who would like to move up are reluctant to list due to uncertainty that there will be something on the market they would want or be able to purchase,” said Northwest MLS director Diedre Haines. Changes in the new construction segment are also affecting activity, she suggested.

Other brokers had similar comments about current inventory.

“We are still desperate for inventory in spite of statistics indicating we have more listings,” commented MLS director Kathy Estey. Inventory is being held back because potential sellers fear they will sell their home and not find one to move into, said Estey, the managing broker at John L. Scott in Bellevue.

South Puget Sound seeing impact of distressed properties

Distressed properties are still influencing activity and prices in the South Sound, reported Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. According to his analysis of Northwest MLS data, about 30 percent of April’s sales in both Pierce and Thurston counties were distressed properties, either bank owned or short sales. He noted this appears to be more than twice the ratio in King County.

Buyers are indecisive, Beeson noted, explaining, “They can’t decide if they like a bigger selection or not, especially if much of the inventory is not in the greatest physical condition, which describes many distressed properties.”

Despite the relatively high proportion of distressed properties in Pierce and Thurston counties, multiple offers are occurring on “right priced, right conditioned” listings, remarked Beeson.

Commenting on the minor price drop (down 0.15 percent) compared to a year ago, Beeson believes it is due to the high number of bank owned properties and short sales that were in the mix. He indicated his analysis revealed a median price of $240,000 for non-distressed single family homes, or about 30 percent higher than the distressed component. The gaps in King County, with a smaller proportion of distressed sales, were not as pronounced.

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