Snohomish County housing market ‘strongest in years’

EVERETT — The median sales price of single-family homes and condominiums in Snohomish County shot up nearly 20 percent in August, rising from $246,000 in August 2012 to $295,000 this year.

The condo price rose by 31.5 percent year over year, from a median of $144,500 to $195,000, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service in Kirkland.

The median price among single-family homes rose 14.9 percent to $310,000. It’s the first time since 2009 that the median price in that category has cracked the $300,000 barrier since the housing bubble burst in 2007, when the median price was close to $400,000.

Pending sales for homes and condos rose a modest 5.9 percent from August 2012, from 1,324 to 1,402 units, the NWMLS reported. Closed sales rose 8.1 percent for the period, from 1,057 to 1,143 units.

“What these numbers tell us loud and clear is that buyer demand in the Puget Sound region is still incredibly strong,” O.B. Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, said in a statement from NWMLS.

He noted that the housing market tends to experience some slowing during August, but rising inventory levels and sustained buyer demand fueled “higher-than-expected home sales and another month of strong appreciation.”

In the four-county Puget Sound region (King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties), the total of 6,916 pending sales was the highest volume for August since 2006, when members notched 7,692 sales.

Prices also reflected an upward trajectory. Since January, prices have jumped 18.3 percent.

An analysis by Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, shows the King County median price for August at 92.4 percent of a peak price of $425,000 set in July 2007. He credits a surge in sales activity and a shortage of homes for sale as primary drivers of spiking prices during the past two years.

“We have seen 22 straight months of strong-surge sales activity,” Scott said in the NWMLS news release. “Job growth, pent-up demand by local home buyers, residential investors, incoming transferees, a strong local economy and historically low interest rates have led the way during this recovery phase of the residential housing market.”

Available housing inventory in Snohomish County showed a 10.5 percent uptick in new listings, according to NWMLS data. Realtors reported 1,424 new listings, up from 1,185 new listings in August 2012. Total listing activity in the county jumped from 2,322 units to 2,565 units.

However, the available inventory of houses and condos remains far below normal when measured by months of supply. A balanced housing market has a four- to six-month supply, NWMLS says, but Snohomish County’s current housing supply would be exhausted in 1.8 months at the current sales pace without any new listings.

Darin Stenvers, a director with Northwest MLS, called the current market “the strongest in four or five years,” with signs of stability that should continue into 2014.

“If a buyer finds the home of their dreams, they should make their first offer their best offer or risk losing that home,” he said.

Stenvers, the managing broker at John L. Scott in Bellingham, also offered advice to sellers who have unrealistic expectations.

“Sellers should still be concerned about overpricing their homes,” he said. “Some markets may handle the overpricing, others will not. While sales are brisk, many sellers are not getting the full listing price.”

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com.

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