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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pent-up demand triggering record pace of home sales around Western Washington

Northwest Multiple Listing Service members notched a record high level of pending sales during April, surpassing the year-ago volume by nearly 1,800 transactions. Both closed sales and prices also surged last month as the spring market kicked into high gear.

Buyer confidence and buyer ability to purchase are fueling activity, suggested Ken Anderson, the managing broker and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympia Realty. “Long building pent-up demand is being unleashed,” he commented.

MLS members reported an 18.7 percent year-over-year increase in pending sales, with the volume of mutually accepted offers rising from 9,590 transactions to 11,384. For the four-county Puget Sound region members logged 8,671 pending sales to top the 8,000 mark for only the second time in the past 16 years.

Closed sales and prices also accelerated, according to Northwest MLS statistics. Across the 23 counties covered by the report there were 7,696 closed sales. That total represents a 24.3 percent increase from the year-ago volume of 6,190 closings. Within the four-county region, Pierce County experienced a jump of nearly 38 percent in closed sales compared to a year ago, followed by Snohomish County with a 35 percent increase, prompting one MLS director to comment, “That is super amazing.”
“We are still very clearly in the midst of a seller’s market and unless we see a significant increase in listings, it will remain that way for the foreseeable future,” remarked OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. Jacobi and other brokers reiterated the dire need for listings.

Members added 11,495 new listings to inventory during April, but brisk sales kept supply tight and well below the level of a year ago. At the end of April, the MLS reported 18,132 listings of single family homes and condominiums in its database, a drop of more than 15 percent from the year-ago total of 21,390.

Compared to March, inventory at the end of April improved by 6.6 percent, but pending sales jumped 13.7 percent from the previous month.

“We’re in desperate need of inventory so I hope to see an increase in listings as we move further into the late spring/early summer,” stated Jacobi.

“What’s available and that looks at least ‘pretty good’ is selling,” according to MLS director Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Commenting on the latest MLS statistics, he said, “What we have in the Greater Puget Sound real estate market is too many buyers chasing too few homes.”

Beeson cautioned buyers against “playing games” with sellers. “The new normal for buyers is that the quest for the perfect home may have to wait,” suggested Beeson. “You should buy now, get in the mix, buy a home and build equity for a future decision,” he advised. “Don’t wait to pay more for the same home next year.”

Anderson agreed. “With pending home sales in Thurston County at record levels I am often asked if we are repeating the problems the last run-up caused,” he stated, adding, “There are two important differences in this market. There is not the overbuilding we saw before, and the buyers are truly qualified for today’s mortgages. Both facts suggest we won’t have a problem with the oversupply that contributed to the recent downturn. This time the market improvement is built on solid footings.”