Homebuyers urged to take advantage of record lows

  • Tue Aug 17th, 2010 7:55pm

By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor

The combination of the lowest interest rates on record and declining prices have brokers wondering why more people aren’t taking advantage of what they deem affordable home prices.

“It’s a housing trifecta,” said Meribeth Hutchings, a director for Northwest Multiple Listing Service and owner of Windermere Real Estate/Lake Stevens Inc.

In 28 years in real estate, Hutchings said she has never seen home prices this affordable. She credits the decline to a blend of the lowest interest rates on record and plenty of inventory.

In Snohomish County, the number of closed sales of single-family homes and condos combined dropped from last year. In July, there were 727 closed sales compared to 858 in July 2009. Average home prices declined from $292,000 to $270,000, a 7.5 percent dip.

NWMLS brokers reported that both pending sales and median prices on closed sales showed slight improvement from the previous month. Additionally, they reported year-over-year increases in inventory, a double-digit decline in closed sales and a small drop in prices. The July figures were released earlier this month.

Brokers reported 5,571 pending sales across the 21 counties in the NWMLS service area, a bump from 5,547 reported in June. That’s still a 23 percent drop, however, from July 2009, when brokers reported 7,279 pending sales. Last month, 10,850 single-family homes and condos combined were added to the housing market inventory.

Last month, Snohomish County had 1,545 new listings of single family homes and condos, compared to 1,711 in July 2009. Pending sales dropped 25 percent with 870 pending sales compared to 1,164 in July 2009.

Bobbie Petrone Chipman, a member of the NWMLS board of directors, recommended sellers “must focus on the condition, amenities and pricing of their properties in order to obtain a sale in this very strong buyer’s market.”

MLS director Matt Deasy, managing broker of Windermere Real Estate/East, suggested some would-be buyers may not fully understand the advantages of today’s low interest rates.

Deasy said a buyer saves $374 a month on a $300,000 loan compared to three years ago. The principal and interest on a $300,000 mortgage at today’s rate of 4.375 percent would be $1,498, compared to $1,872 three years ago.

“Buyers are motivated when they see these comparisons,” he said.