Home prices in Snohomish County tumble 14%

Prices for single-family homes in Snohomish County dropped significantly in January, news that distressed owners and sent more buyers out looking for bargains.

The median price of a house in January was $312,900, a 14.27 percent drop from a year ago, when it was $365,000, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Wednesday. For condominiums in the county, the prices went up 8.1 percent last month, from $224,999 a year ago to $243,225 last month.

“People are being more realistic about their prices, said Meribeth Hutchings, the broker owner of Windermere Real Estate/Lake Stevens Inc. “It’s great news for buyers and not so great news for sellers who aren’t distressed.”

Bob Maple, broker owner of the John L. Scott office in Everett, noted that the forces driving prices down are short sellers —people whose homes are worth less than what they owe — and banks that have foreclosed.

“Price is the key,” he said. “There are a lot of (bank- or builder-owned homes) and they are priced to sell. They just keep dropping the price to get them off their books.”

He gave the example of a condo project where his office had sold a unit for $340,000 a year and a half ago. Another recently sold there for $220,000, he said.

Both Hutchings and Maple noted that lower prices and other factors appear to be stirring some interest from potential buyers after some pretty dismal sales months.

“My agents are busier and more optimistic,” Hutchings said.

Home sales in the county dropped 38 percent in comparison with last year, from 579 a year ago to 359 in January.

Maple noted, however, that pending home sales, deals that begin during a month but aren’t completed, improved in January in comparison with previous months.

“Our pendings were way up … they were the highest they’ve been in six months,” he said. “There’s a new president and a new attitude and people are feeling better about things.”

Potential buyers should do their homework because there are good deals on both home prices and home financing, the brokers said.

Maple noticed that some banks are offering special interest rates to help builders with construction loans from the bank sell off their home inventory. And he said there is quite a bit of mortgage money available.

“The general public thinks there’s no money available, but there’s a lot of opportunity out there,” he said.

Hutchings noted that some banks have tightened their lending policies and that first-time buyers with poor credit scores could face problems. Before looking to buy, people should select a lender and see what rates and terms are available to them, Hutchings said.

“If they’re qualified, there’s not a better time to buy,” she added.

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