Housing market favors buyers

There are some good deals on homes in Snohomish County, but tighter credit and the upcoming elimination of a program that allowed builders to help buyers with their downpayments are making things tougher, agents said.

Statistics released Tuesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service showed that prices for single-family homes continued to fall in the Puget Sound region during August. In Snohomish County, the median price for houses was $339,950 last month, a 9.35 percent drop from a year ago.

The median price for condos actually went up significantly to a median price of $271,750, a 12 percent rise from last year at this time.

The price drop for homes, coupled with still rising inventory and slow sales, have put buyers in a strong position.

“I cannot stress enough what an amazing opportunity exists right now for move-up buyers,” said J. Lennox Scott, CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “The price gap between affordable price ranges and higher price ranges has narrowed, which means these buyers can afford to ‘price jump’ into a new home.”

The number of available homes in the county in August was 7,360, a 7.6 percent rise from a year ago. Pending sales last month fell 19.3 percent and closed sales were at 763, a 40.4 percent drop from a year ago.

Dick Beeson a Tacoma broker who is a director of the listing service, said low interest rates and a good selection should make it a good time to buy but that it’s hard to get a loan.

“Buyers are stymied by the lending world’s inability to get their collective heads around making loans instead of running scared to the nearest disapproval letter,” he said.

He said a ban on seller-funded downpayment assistance that takes effect Oct. 1 will hurt recovery of the housing market.

A positive factor should be the government takeover of lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Erik Hand, of Response Mortgage Services. He said in a statement that he expected the takeover to help the credit situation and reduce the number of foreclosures.

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