Brokers with Northwest Multiple Listing Service ended 2013 with the best year-over-year improvement in inventory (up 8.4 percent) and a similar gain in closed sales to buoy confidence heading into the new year. December's pending sales slipped slightly (down about 1.7 percent) compared to the same month a year ago.
"Positive job growth and the continuation of favorable low interest rates are setting the stage for another good year in real estate," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.
Friday's narrow approval of Boeing's contract proposal for Machinists union members bodes well for members of Northwest Multiple Listing Service and the real estate industry.
Reacting to the vote, MLS board member John Deely said, "The robust and diverse economy of the Pacific Northwest is solidified by Boeing's continued presence in the Seattle area." Deely, the principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said the vote helps secure the region's position as "the aerospace epicenter of the world with top-notch manufacturing jobs that support the industry."
Boeing workers and others hoping to buy a home have a bigger selection of homes to consider than house-hunters who were looking twelve months ago - especially in Snohomish County, where the number of active listings is up 43.6 percent.
Northwest MLS members added 4,333 new listings during December, improving on the same period a year ago by 476 listings for a gain of 12.3 percent.
At month end, there were 19,214 active listings in the MLS database, improving on the year-ago supply by 1,496 listings for a gain of 8.4 percent. In Snohomish County, which had the largest jump in supply (43.6 percent), the selection of condos nearly doubled from a year ago, increasing from 172 to 342 listings.
Pending sales activity during December was mixed around the 21 counties in the MLS service area, with 11 counties showing increases in mutually accepted offers and the other 10 having fewer pending sales than the same month a year ago.
An imbalance between supply and demand could be crimping sales in some areas.
"As we head into 2014, we will be starting the year with a shortage or low inventory in the price ranges where approximately 90 percent of sales activity is taking place," stated Scott.
Four counties in the Puget Sound region (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap) all had year-over-year drops in pending sales. In three of those counties - King, Snohomish and Pierce - there is less than four months of supply, which is below the threshold of 4-to-6 months that many analysts say indicates a balanced market. King County only has about two months of supply.
Brokers notched 5,710 closed sales last month, improving on the previous year by 443 transactions for a gain of 8.4 percent. During 2013, Northwest MLS members tallied 75,517 closed sales system-wide. That total outgains the previous year's volume of 64,624 closings for an increase of nearly 16.9 percent.
The median price on last month's sales of single family homes and condominiums was $275,000, up more than 7.8 percent from a year ago when the median price was $255,000. In King County, prices jumped 9.9 percent, rising from $342,000 to $375,900. Prices in Snohomish County climbed 13.7 percent.
Of last month's closed sales, about 86 percent were single family homes. Those homes had a median selling price of $285,000, about 7.6 percent higher than the year-ago figure of $265,000. In King County, the median sales price was $419,825, up nearly 10.5 percent from a year ago when the median selling price was $380,046.
Condo prices surged 18.6 percent from twelve months ago. Area-wide, condos commanded a selling price of $209,900, up from the year-ago figure of $177,000. In King County, where nearly two-thirds of last month's condo sales were located, the price soared 21.4 percent, rising from $206,000 to $250,000.
Commenting on the housing recovery, Deely said improvements in the luxury segment (defined as properties priced at $1 million or more) were noteworthy. A comparison of 2012 and 2013 shows brokers reported nearly 500 more high-end sales last year to outperform the previous year by nearly 40 percent.
"The luxury market will continue to see an increase in sales activity and home values in 2014," Deely proclaimed. "This market will be driven by pent up demand and by the owners of trophy properties who are confident that values have returned to acceptable levels," he added.
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 21,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington state.
Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary - December 2013
4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (SFH + Condo combined)
(Totals include King, Snohomish, Pierce & Kitsap counties)