February 2011 MLS Sales Data

Posted by Matthew Lahti on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 at 9:55pm

February 2011 MLS Sales Data, Distressed Properties Driving the Market.

KIRKLAND, Wash. (March 3, 2011) – Housing activity during February continued to reflect the downside of distressed properties with fewer sales and lower prices than a year ago. Nevertheless, brokers believe there are reasons for optimism when taking a closer look at the numbers in the latest report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

(Note to editors: A distressed property is a dwelling that is in danger of foreclosure or that is in the process of being foreclosed due to a default under the terms of a mortgage.)

Some sellers of non-distressed properties are experiencing a stronger demand. “It’s not unusual for sellers in neighborhoods close to the city to get multiple offers,” Jacobi remarked. He cited the example of a home in Ballard with an asking price of more than $800,000 that drew seven offers last month, and sold for more than the asking price.

Brokers point to distressed properties as a major reason for depressed prices.Jacobi said his company’s tracking showed distressed properties accounted for 37 percent of single family home sales in King County in February as compared to 30 percent a year ago. Most of that growth was from sales of bank owned properties, he noted.
Distressed properties continue to drag down home prices, Jacobi remarked. “Since they can sell for 30-to-40 percent less than non-distressed homes, we expected a price drop. In Windermere’s analysis, if you take out the distressed sales for February, the median home price jumps from $334,000 to $390,000.”
Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, said while any foreclosures or distressed properties are unwelcome, the impact is minimal in some areas. In West Bellevue, for example, his check showed only seven bank-owned single family homes on the market. On Mercer Island, there was only a single home in that category.
Jacobi also cited a “bright spot” in the distressed properties market. He said one of their agents had a new 2-bedroom modern townhouse in Columbia City that closed last month for $130,000, less than half the original asking price. “While buying a distressed property requires a little patience, the payoff can be big,” he commented.
Northwest MLS members reported 3,080 closed sales during February, a decline of around 4.2 percent from a year ago. The closings included 2,676 single family homes and 404 condominiums.

Brokers say they are optimistic, pointing to various indicators:

Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo and a Northwest MLS director, said their web traffic could be a harbinger of things to come. “Almost across the board we are seeing more consumers checking out our listings on the web, with traffic counts in some cases being three or four times what they were 30 or 60 days ago,” he stated.

Grady noted in many Seattle neighborhoods, there are fewer than two homes currently available for sale for every home already under contract (pending). “That is a very healthy ratio, and is surprisingly close to what it was at the peak of the market,” he observed.

Industry insiders say last week’s announcement of The Boeing Company win on the Air Force tanker contract, this week’s news from the state Employment Security Department that February marked Washington’s strongest month of job growth in more than three years, and several positive earnings reports from local corporations are all encouraging indicators for the housing market.

With this recent good news, “there is reason for optimism as we approach the busiest time of the year for home sales,” Grady proclaimed.

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.

Overall, the median price for homes and condos that sold last month was $240,000, down about 7.7 percent from a year ago when the median selling price was $260,000. Five counties reported increases, with three of them – Grant, Kittitas and Jefferson – reporting double-digit gains.
In King County, the median selling price for last month’s completed transactions was $320,000, down about 6.8 percent from a year ago. For the four-county Puget Sound region, last month’s median price for single family homes and condos that sold during February was $262,250.

NWMLS members reported 5,986 pending sales of single family homes and condominiums in its market area, which covers 21 counties in Western and Central Washington. That total is down about 9.2 percent from a year ago, but it rose 11 percent from January. Last month’s volume of pending sales (mutually accepted offers) was the highest in six months, falling slightly below the August 2010 total of 6,037.

“I’m anticipating sales to be soft through April as compared to last year when a rush of buyers came into the market to take advantage of the tax credit, which expired April 30, 2010,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate Company and a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors.

Noting a new year usually means new inventory, Jacobi commented on the smaller selection. Both the total number of new listings added to inventory and the total number of active listings are down from year-ago figures.

The number of new listings shrunk nearly 27 percent from a year ago, while the total number of active listings at month end was off 9.4 percent compared to twelve months ago.

Jacobi attributes the drops to distressed properties and the influence they are having on sellers. Sellers are reluctant to compete with the prices of distressed properties, he explained, and are holding off on putting their homes on the market. As a result, buyer choices have shrunk. That could bode well for some.

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