Snohomish County housing prices still rising

EVERETT — Snohomish County home sales and median sale prices showed another year-over-year increase in September, while the number of listed homes and condominiums shrank by nearly half.

Home sales around Western Washington continue to outpace activity of a year ago and inventory remains thin, according to new figures released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Brokers say that combination is resulting in disappointment for buyers who are slow to act in a recovering housing market.

In a news release, broker Frank Wilson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors and the managing broker of John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo, said buyers who make unrealistic offers and requests are “back on the street looking at their second-choice home.” Some sellers with well-priced, well-prepared homes receive multiple offers, he said.

Northwest MLS figures for September show the pace of sales slowed from the past six months but still outgained activity of a year ago. Snohomish County MLS members reported 880 closed sales for homes and condos, which compares to the year-ago total of 837, for an increase of 5.14 percent.

Snohomish County had the sharpest drop in active listings of the 21 counties covered by Northwest MLS, with 2,187 currently versus 4,308 active listings at end of September 2011.

The imbalance between supply and demand is “wreaking havoc” with some buyers and sellers, said Northwest MLS director George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell. Some sellers are lamenting “missed opportunities,” but he thinks positive momentum will continue with a combination of tight inventory, record-low interest rates and changing views on home ownership.

“We are seeing clients’ views change from a home being a short-term investment vehicle to being a place where we raise and teach our families,” Moorhead said in a news release.

Overall, median prices on closed sales for homes and condos in Snohomish County rose 14.56 percent, from $228,400 to $261,658. The Everett-Mukilteo-Mill Creek area registered the biggest increase in median prices, rising 23.72 percent from $251,000 to $266,000 over last September.

For single-family homes, median sale prices rose 15.55 percent, from $242,310 to $280,000. Condo prices continued to lag, though. Median sale prices dropped 10.65 percent, from $169,000 to $151,000.

The rapid pace of sales in some areas, coupled with dwindling inventory, means below-average months of supply in some counties, the MLS said. Area-wide, there are about 3.4 months of supply, with five to six months considered average. Snohomish, King and Pierce counties all report levels below three months.

All-cash buyers are returning to the market, MLS director Darin Stenvers said. “Cash offers are being made across the price spectrum, including the million-dollar-plus ranges.”

Despite brisk activity, Stenvers noted foreclosures and owners who are delinquent on mortgage payments remain a concern. The number of owners nationwide who are 90 days or more late in making payments is again on the rise, a situation that will continue to affect foreclosure rates, he said.

“The lack of foreclosed homes not coming on the market has successfully stabilized prices but also created a lack of homes for buyers to buy,” he said.

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com. More from The Herald Business Journal: www.theheraldbusinessjournal.com

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