Western Washington housing market still strong, but some see signs of rebalancing
NWMLS Reports (Oct. 5, 2016) – It’s still a seller’s market, but some leaders from Northwest Multiple Listing Service think the imbalance may be easing in some areas, pointing to a slower pace of sales and moderating prices. Others aren’t convinced, citing mixed indicators.
Northwest MLS statistics summarizing September activity show year-over-year gains in the volumes of new listings (up 14.5%), pending sales (up 9.3%), closed sales (up 9.5%), and prices (up nearly 9%). Inventory for single family homes and condominiums across the 23 counties in the report dropped about 8 percent from a year ago.
Commenting on September’s activity, Northwest MLS director George Moorhead reported “rumblings on both sides of the fence” by buyers and sellers. “Buyers are getting antsy to make a move before interest rates rise and they’re looking harder at homes that have been on the market longer than 30 days.”
Sellers are considering remodeling instead of buying as they cannot find a suitable new home, according to Moorhead, the designated broker at Bentley Properties. He noted builders also face challenges in their searches for new development sites near metro areas.
MLS members continue to scramble to replenish inventory. Compared to a year ago, they added 1,275 more new listings during September, ending the month with 10,047 total new listings. Like most months this year, however, September’s pending sales of single family homes and condos exceeded the number of new listings. Brokers reported 10,463 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) last month for a 9.3 percent improvement over a year ago.
September’s new listings marked the lowest monthly total since February – but it may be an expected seasonal slowdown.
“We have one month until November when new listings coming on the market drop by 50 percent on a monthly basis compared to spring and summer months,” explained J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. With the decrease typically lasting until the end of February, Scott said for selection, “the best opportunity for homebuyers to find a home will be in the next 30 days.”
The current selection includes 18,136 active listings, down about 8 percent from the year-ago inventory. Only two counties — King and Clallam – reported year-over-year gains in inventory during September.
Area-wide supply, as measured by months of inventory, improved slightly from August, rising from about 1.9 months to 2 months. Supply remained below two months in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.
Demand for homes around Puget Sound remains strong, with the market showing “no marked change throughout the summer months,” remarked MLS director Dick Beeson, the principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Well-priced, well-conditioned homes continue to command attention and draw offers in record time, he noted.
September was “an interesting month for a few different reasons,” noted OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. Among factors he cited were the modest increase in the number of new listings in the tri-county region (King, Pierce, and Snohomish) and the slowing pace of sales and prices. “The good news is that all of this points towards a market that is slowly beginning to rebalance itself.”
“The increase in listings is pretty unusual given that the number of listings usually declines between August and September,” Jacobi commented, adding, “Considering how desperate we are for inventory, I hope this trend continues as we head further into the fall months.”
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Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.
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© Copyright 2016, Windermere Real Estate/Mercer Island. Statistics provided by the Northwest Multiple Listing service and deemed accurate but not guaranteed.