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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Opinions vary on possibility of a housing slowdown, but numbers show solid activity

Some brokers from Northwest Multiple Listing Service detected a slowdown in housing activity during August, “but nowhere near what is typical,” according to one industry veteran. Among MLS leaders who commented on the service’s latest report, expectations for the remainder of 2015 ranged from one who predicted “we’re on the cusp of a slowdown,” to others describing activity as “torrid” and saying “sales will continue at a fast pace.”

Newly released statistics show solid gains for several indicators used to track activity, including pending sales, closed sales, and median prices. For the fifth month this year, pending sales system-wide outpaced the number of new listings added to the inventory. During August, members reported 10,603 mutually accepted transactions and 9,921 new listings. That new listing total for the 23 counties in the MLS service area was the lowest level since February.

The velocity of sales activity continues at a very fast pace with pending sales eclipsing new listing inventory. This sales activity is keeping the selection of available properties at historic lows. The low listing inventory continues to impact some sub-markets, including Seattle’s where multiple offers and escalation clauses are “the rule rather than the exception.”

Like new listings, total inventory also declined. At the end of August, Northwest MLS members reported 20,749 total active listings in its database. That reflects a slight drop from July’s total selection of 21,069, but a 23.3 percent decline from the year-ago inventory when there were 27,060 homes for sale.

Supply, as measured by months of inventory, showed slight improvement in August, inching up to 2.38 months overall. That’s up from July’s figure of 2.24 months. In King and Snohomish counties, supply remained well under two months. Many industry analysts use a range of four-to-six months as an indicator of a balanced market.

MLS figures show last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condominiums had a median selling price of $315,000 area-wide for a 9.6 percent increase from a year ago. Ten counties reported double-digit gains, including King County where the median price was $450,700. That translates to a 13.2 percent increase from the year-ago figure of $398,000.

The volume of completed sales, numbering 8,718, jumped more than 12 percent from the year-ago total of 7,775 closings. Single family homes accounted for more than 85 percent of the total transactions.

Single family homes in King County sold for a median price of $499,950, just below the figure of $500,000 the MLS reported in June, believed to be an all-time high for the monthly reports. Year-over-year prices for this segment jumped 14.4 percent.

For condos, both the volume of sales and selling prices showed sizable gains from a year ago. The overall number of condo sales rose from 1,026 to 1,248 for a 21.6 percent gain. Condo prices surged 17 percent, rising from $221,000 to $258,750.

The number of buyers in the market place today leaves little doubt that third quarter sales will continue at a fast pace. Conditions are optimal for the home buying surge in the Puget Sound Region to continue, due to job growth and historically low interest rates. We can also expect the severe shortage of homes for sale close to job centers, and in the more affordable and mid-price ranges in all Puget Sound markets, to persist.

There is suggestion the fall season will create new challenges for home buyers. We expect price appreciation to remain consistent as inventory continues to decrease, noting new listing inventory historically drops about 50 percent in the winter months.

Northwest MLS brokers continue to remind sellers about the consequences of overpricing and to caution would-be buyers about the pitfalls of overextending themselves.


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

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