Western Washington home sales during December nearly equals year-ago levels
KIRKLAND, WA, January 5, 2011. December’s volume of pending sales around Western Washington nearly matched the total for the same month a year ago, which was the best December since 2006.
Sellers accepted offers from 4,359 buyers last month, only 40 fewer than a year ago when members of Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported 4,399 pending sales of single family homes and condominiums. In 2008, members notched 3,255 pending sales, down from 2007′s total of 3,950 pendings and the 2006 figure of 5,744 mutually accepted offers.
Eight counties had year-over-year increases in pending sales for December, with two others equaling the year-ago totals.
“If you were in any mall in Washington state in December, you got the feeling that the economy is headed in the right direction,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate Company and a member of the board of directors of Northwest Multiple Listing Service. “That increase in consumer confidence is the boost the real estate market needs,” he suggested.
Closed sales, another barometer of activity, improved on November’s volume, but dipped about 6 percent when compared to figures from twelve months ago. MLS members reported 4,430 closings across its 21-county service area during December. A year ago, brokers logged 4,711 completed transactions.
For 2010, Northwest MLS members tallied 52,408 closed sales of single family homes and condos (combined), up slightly from the previous year when there were 52,105 completed transactions.
“Despite the expiration of the tax credit, King County saw about 3 percent more home sales in 2010 than in 2009,” Jacobi noted.
The area-wide median price for last month’s closed sales of homes and condos was $255,000, up slightly from November’s figure of $250,000, but down about 3.8 percent from a year ago when the median selling price was $265,000. In King County, where 40 percent of last month’s closings occurred, the median sales price was $342,400, about 2.2 percent lower than a year ago when it was $350,000.
Listing activity tapered off last month compared to 12 months ago. Northwest MLS members added 5,460 new listings of single family homes and condominiums during December. That’s down 7 percent from a year ago when 5,873 sellers listed their homes with a member-broker.
Last month’s additions boosted system-wide inventory to 32,171 at month end. That number nearly equals the selection of a year ago when the NWMLS database encompassed 32,152 active listings, although thirteen counties have fewer properties for sale than at this time a year ago.
Measured by months supply (the time, in months, that it would take to sell existing inventory at the current rate of sales), there is a supply of less than 7.4 months across the NWMLS market area. (A market with a supply of approximately six months is considered balanced, favoring neither buyers nor sellers.)
Nationwide, the National Association of REALTORS® reported a 9.5-month supply. Both King and Snohomish counties have less than a 6-month supply.
“Buyers are taking their time and looking for the ‘perfect’ house,” Jacobi observed. “One of our agents worked with a couple for over a year before a higher-end home they’d been eying for months had a price drop and they jumped on it,” he noted, adding, “Whether it’s a starter home or a luxury property, to sell in today’s market a great home also needs to have a great price.”
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, described continuing gains in home sales as encouraging and believes all the indicator trends are pointing to a gradual housing recovery. “In addition to exceptional affordability conditions, steady improvements in the economy are helping bring buyers into the market,” he commented. However, he cautioned, further gains are needed to reach normal levels of sales activity, and home price prospects will vary depending largely upon local job market conditions.
NAR president Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., expects good buying opportunities to continue. The third generation real estate professional noted serious buyers have a lot of opportunities during the winter months since “traditionally there are far fewer buyers competing for properties at this time of year.” He believes buyers will enjoy favorable affordability conditions into the new year, even though he expects mortgage rates will gradually rise as 2011 progresses.
Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member brokers, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 24,000 brokers and agents. The organization, based in Kirkland, currently serves 21 counties in Western and Central Washington.