Tag Archives: real estate market

Slowing Seattle home sales only disguise a bigger inventory crunch

This article was originally published on MarketWatch:

The Seattle real estate market saw an intriguing shift this past month. Home sales dropped when compared to the previous month. Total closed sales in the Northwest MLS for October were at their lowest level since April.

With the historic and extended inventory drought that the Seattle real estate market has been under for the past two years, these signs seem to point to a slowdown. Exhausted buyers who have been competing fiercely for a home in one of the nation’s hottest markets might see some relief on the horizon.

Curb your enthusiasm, Seattle home buyers. A deeper reading of the numbers, especially current pending sales, says something quite different.

While overall home sales have dropped in recent weeks, there are a few signs that point to the Seattle market’s competitiveness growing. An obvious factor is the natural seasonal nature of real estate. October is the harbinger of sales volume decreases. It happens every year, like clockwork, on a relative scale. Fall and winter home sales will decrease, no matter the market.

Seattle real estate prices are also showing little sign of slowing down. The median residential sale price in October was $485,300. That was up just slightly from September, and significantly from one year ago when the median was $446,800. That 8.6% clip of appreciation doesn’t lend itself well to the narrative of a slowing Seattle market.

The story is similar for the condominium market in Seattle. The median condo price in King County sits at $297,500, up from $247,500 just last year. 20.2% year-over year appreciation is clearly unsustainable for the long-term, but the market dynamics show no letup. Condo construction in Seattle is far behind demand and it won’t catch up any time soon.

Within the city itself, median condo prices have fluctuated between $295,000 and $422,000 this year, with one new large luxury condo building skewing the month-to-month statistics. Compared to 2014’s range which capped out at $318,000, though, it’s clear that new pricing levels are being set in Seattle and they’re on a significant rise.

Pending home sales in the Seattle region are an even bigger reason to distrust the story line of a slowing real estate market. In 19 of the 23 counties covered by the regional MLS system, pending sales surpassed the new listings added in the past month. Though it seems implausible based on our current lack of inventory, the rate at which buyers are devouring new listings is greater than the rate with which sellers can deliver new listings. Local inventory is still shrinking.

Annually, home sales were up 7% from one year ago. 2014 was a phenomenally hot sellers’ market. That’s a significant year-over-year gain in home sales during a period when the market has added zero inventory. The streak of available homes for sale sitting at around one month is now going on two years. For homes sales to increase during that time and keep inventory rates steady, it’s clear that buyer appetite is keeping up just fine.

Like most statistics, the rate of home sales can be manipulated to look many different ways. It may be a popular trend to view the current slowdown in Seattle of closed sales as a slowdown in the market. That would be a significant mistake. The faux slowdown is just disguising an even greater upcoming inventory crunch.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and 2016 president-elect of Seattle King County Realtors. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com

Seattle homes selling in 5 days and over asking price

This article was originally published on MarketWatch:

If buyers in the Seattle real estate market are hoping for a bit of cooling off in the fall, they’re in for a surprise. Home sales are even hotter than they were in the summer, and there’s no sign of slowing down.

Buyer competition and lack of available properties for sale are pushing prices upward and making bidding wars commonplace. Seattle’s inventory of real estate for sale was at just one month in September (a balanced market would have four or five months), and has held at that level for an entire year now. We haven’t seen a constricted inventory market like this since 2006, and nothing on record has been as prolonged.

With the same number of properties being sold every month as come on the market, home buyers in the area have become comfortable with the process of making offers above list prices, and making them the first weekend the home is available. That has pushed the average sale-to-list price ratio to 103.3 percent in Seattle, a number we haven’t reached in a decade. The average home seller is netting significantly more for their home than the advertised price.

The most common situation we see real estate agents employing in the current market is to list a property on a Wednesday or Thursday, and review all offers from buyers on Monday evening. It gives buyers ample opportunity to view the home, but focuses buyer competition at one point in time to maximize the seller’s returns. With the abundant number of buyers in the market, it’s the exception when a well-priced property stays on the market more than a week.

North Seattle home.

The small 1908 North Seattle home pictured here is a perfect example. The 2-bedroom, 1-bath house, was listed for $370,000 and sold just a week later for $446,500. While that bidding war was greater than normal, Seattle median home prices have risen 10.4 percent year-over-year. The median in September hit $551,000.

Much of the boom in Seattle real estate is fueled by technology workers relocating to work at Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. The Seattle market has become a less-expensive location for tech companies to fight the intellectual labor wars than their traditional homes in the San Francisco Bay area. Housing and salaries in Seattle are pricey compared to much of the nation, but are still significantly less expensive than New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

As rent prices continue to rise in Seattle, so does the attractiveness of buying. Many technology transplants view their new location as potentially temporary, so they’re willing to pay a premium for a long-term rental. Corporate rentals have pushed rental prices up significantly in locations like South Lake Union, where Amazon is headquartered. New condo buildings like Insignia will give some new home buying options to local residents, but the rate of condo building in Seattle is still not nearly enough to keep up with the growing population.

If September is any indication, we’re not ready for the usual fall slowdown in Seattle real estate The water is still very, very warm out there.

Sam DeBord is managing broker of Seattle Homes Group with Coldwell Banker Danforth and 2016 president-elect of Seattle King County Realtors. You can find his team at SeattleHome.com and SeattleCondo.com.