Thursday, November 09, 2006

NWMLS October Report

The Following article is October's Report on NWMLS home sales for Western Washington. Data is collected from the NWMLS and the report is written by the NWMLS.

Home Buyers, Sellers Look Beyond Elections

KIRKLAND , Wash. ( Nov. 7, 2006) – Not everyone spent the month of October campaigning. Nearly 12,000 homeowners around western and central Washington state put their homes on the market last month and 8,567 owners accepted offers on their properties, according to the latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

October's activity was similar to September when brokers reported rising inventory, higher prices and fewer pending sales compared to a year ago.

MLS members reported 11,910 new listings of single family homes and condominiums during October, about 500 more than twelve months ago.

With those additions, the inventory at month end stood at 36,282 listings. That total encompasses 19 counties and marks a 48 percent increase in active listings from a year ago. (Starting with October, NWMLS is reporting data for Clark and Pacific counties; previously, transactions in those areas appeared in the "Other/Out of area" segment of the monthly report.)

"When it comes to current market conditions, it's important to keep things in perspective," cautioned Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.

"Housing sales are down, but this has created a greater balance in the market between buyers and sellers," Scott remarked, adding, "Since we've come off of the frenzy market of the past year, buyers have more selection, there's less competition for homes, and interest rates are still low. Home prices continue to appreciate in most areas and we're on track to have the third most productive year in the history of real estate."

System-wide, the median price for a home that closed last month was $315,000. That is $28,000 more than a year ago, an increase of about 9.8 percent. For a single family home (excluding condominiums) the median selling price was about $332,000; for a condominium, the median price was $243,450.

In King County, which accounts for about four of every 10 sales in the MLS service area, the median price of a single family home (excluding condominiums) rose 12.8 percent, increasing from $390,000 a year ago to $440,000 for sales that closed last month. Condo prices jumped 20.8 percent, climbing from a median selling price of $215,000 twelve months ago to last month's figure of $259,700.

For most counties in the Northwest MLS market area, price gains from a year ago tended to be in the range of 9-to-11 percent.

Every county experienced a double-digit buildup in inventory and all but three counties reported dips in pending sales.

"The evidence looks pretty convincing that the market has corrected itself and we are experiencing a tilt to the buyers' side in the arena of negotiations," observed NWMLS director Dick Beeson. This "gentle incline," as he described it, presents some good opportunities for buyers, particularly in areas like Pierce County where the selection is about 50 percent larger than a year ago.

Overall, traffic has been steady at open houses and "perfect" properties still get multiple offers, according to Beeson, the broker/owner at Windermere Real Estate/Commencement Associates in Tacoma.

"Knowing 2005 was the zenith year in real estate sales, having an adjustment this year was to some degree expected," Beeson noted. Nonetheless, he expressed some surprise at the growing ratio of vacant homes that are currently on the market. He believes this could be the result of "natural" vacancies from job transfers and buyers who are moving up or downsizing, as well as some selling by investors.

Another NWMLS director, Ken Bacon, the broker at Windermere's Redmond office, expressed little worry about the slippage from last year's record-shattering sales volume. "The 9 or 10 percent decline in pending sales from the boom year of 2005 illustrates the demand for housing in the Seattle area remains strong," he commented.

Appreciation continues because of this demand, according to Bacon, but he emphasized "Pricing is critical as the market now allows buyers time and options prior to making a commitment."

"We are still seeing some multiple offers in price ranges between $300,000 and $800,000 depending on the neighborhood, house, and location," Bacon said. Contingent sales are also being written, he reported, but said in his experience the first buyer is often bumped by a second buyer within a couple of weeks.

Condominiums continue to fuel demand among entry level buyers and downsizing sellers, according to Bacon. The combination of tight inventory, close-in locations and sought-after amenities is sustaining demand and creating some bidding wars.

In King County, there is slightly more than a two month supply of condominiums (2.3 months) to meet demand at the current pace of sales; for single family homes there's a 3.2-month supply. (Nationwide, there was a 7.3 months supply of existing homes for sale nationwide at the end of September, according to the National Association of Realtors ® .)

Bacon described open house activity as "steady but not strong," pointing to inclement weather, weekend sports activities and growing popularity of computer tours as factors that affect open house visits.

Asked about "hot" neighborhoods for his office in downtown Redmond, he said properties that combine views, acreage and good locations typically draw multiple offers. Close-in communities such as Marymoor Heights (if priced under $800,000) and Bridle Trails (if priced under $1 million) and affordable communities such as Education Hill are experiencing high demand among buyers.

Bacon expects some seasonal leveling will continue during the fourth quarter and predicts election results will have no impact on housing activity. He believes the area's strong economy, good prospects for job growth and stable interest rates will continue to fuel the local market.

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