County home prices could surpass $400,000 for first time

County home prices could surpass $400,000 for first time

EVERETT — The house on Rucker Avenue in Everett caught Barb Lamoureux by surprise.

It was a century-old, American foursquare home, beautifully restored, said Lamoureux, who owns Lamoureux Real Estate in Everett.

The owners hated to part with it, but their business moved south and it didn’t make sense to fight traffic anymore.

So they put it on the market this spring priced at $610,000. Lamoureux thought it was a little high.

“We staged it beautifully, put it on the market on a Thursday and on Saturday morning I had a call from Georgia and they wanted to buy it right now,” Lamoureux said.

The sellers received four offers and eventually accepted a bid from a Microsoft employee of $635,000.

Real estate prices in Snohomish County have risen dramatically over the past year. The market has not only rebounded to surpass pre-recession levels, but the county could soon see the median price of a single-family home climb over $400,000 for the first time ever.

“To get close to $400,000 and probably going to break $400,000 is higher than I expected it to be,” said Scott Comey, who owns Re/Max Elite, with four offices in Snohomish County and one office in Woodinville.

Housing prices reached $395,000 last month for a single-family house, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The highest that the median price for a single-family house reached before the recession was $382,500 in March 2007.

New numbers are expected out this week. If the trajectory remains the same, the county could break the $400,000 barrier. Although Lamoureux said that July is often a soft month with families going on vacations.

Still, it’s quite the turnaround from five years ago — at the depths of the recession — when the median price for a single-family house was $243,000, Comey said.

“For those of us who survived during the downturn, I’m thankful it’s as strong as it is today,” said Comey, who is on the NWMLS board. “We were living on not-a-whole-lot-of-income during those down years.”

The numbers reflect only single-family houses, not condominiums. Combined, the median prices for houses and condos was $372,150, according to last month’s numbers.

(Lamoureux and Comey note that condos are selling briskly again. Lamoureux said that buyers in Everett are looking at condos where they generally in the past only wanted to buy single-family houses.)

To be sure, the housing market in Snohomish County is heavily affected by location. Houses around Mill Creek, Mukilteo and the North Creek area near Bothell run much higher than homes in the northern part of the county.

The median price for homes in some parts of south county reached up to $550,000. The median prices on closed sales in the area around Arlington and Marysville was $306,500.

Everett with its high rental rate — Census numbers peg the city at 55 percent rentals, one of the highest in the state — is still seeing housing prices much lower than the median. Real estate agents caution sellers to realize their home’s value.

“What’s really difficult is overcoming this sense that they can put their house on the market and they’re going to get multiple offers and $50,000 over the asking price,” Comey said.

While that’s happening, it’s occurring mostly farther south.

“I don’t want sellers to have false expectations,” he said. “They just need to know what they’re hearing and seeing in King County may not be the same for them. Their pricing strategy is important for them.”

One of the reasons for the uptick in prices is the lack of inventory on the market.

According to the numbers released last month, the county had only 1,746 active listings, down from 2,310 the year before, or a 24 percent decrease year over year.

Real estate agents say it’s creating a problem where homeowners are reluctant to sell, because they worry about being able to find a new home.

Another reason for the booming housing market is the strength of the local economy. Boeing continues to thrive with contracts for orders well into the future.

“We might have a slight correction at some point,” Comey said. “I don’t think it’s anytime in the near future.”

He notes that foreclosures are down so much that Fannie Mae has canceled most of its contracts with listing agents in the county.

And he doesn’t think that the current housing upswing is a bubble like during the recession. Neither does Lamoureux.

She’s been in the real estate market for 28 years and has seen some dips, but nothing like the recession.

“A lot of that was just plain old the bank’s fault,” Lamoureux said. “They were letting people buy houses that just shouldn’t have bought houses.”

She said people are moving into Everett and the rest of Snohomish County because it’s affordable. While the prices are escalating, jobs support it.

“These kids work for Microsoft, Amazon and Zillow,” Lamoureux said. “They make a lot of money.”

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