What’s Up With The Market??

News from NW Multiple Listing Service

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 5, 2013

Brokers report brisk sales, but rising frustration for home buyers

Kirkland, WA, February 5, 2013 – Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring is showing up in the latest housing activity report from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Its statistics for January showed a 14.4 percent year-over-year increase in pending sales and a 23.6 percent jump in closed sales amid a 31.3 percent decline in inventory.

The MLS reported 4,289 closed sales during January, surpassing the year ago total by 820 transactions. Last month’s completed sales of single family homes and condominiums had a median selling price of $239,300. That’s up 11.3 percent from the year-ago figure of $214,990.

Supply has dwindled to less than two months in some counties close to job centers, spurring bidding wars. Some buyers are even resorting to writing “love letters” to win over sellers in these competitive situations. Brokers also report an increasing number of buyers have little or no interest in making offers on short sales.

“I personally have never seen the ratio between active buyers and available inventory in Seattle’s close-in neighborhoods so out of balance,” remarked Mike Skahen, owner/designated broker at Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle. Skahen, a real estate professional since 1976, said multiple offers and bids well over the list price are common. “Even homes that were hard to sell for various reasons are being snapped up so those sellers were wise to list,” he added.

Lena Maul, a new member of the Northwest MLS board of directors, and the designated broker/owner at Windermere/North in Lynnwood, agreed now is a good time for sellers to list. “Sellers who are considering a spring or summer listing may want to consider listing now as demand is outweighing supply,” she noted, adding, “This has given well priced sellers the advantage with the benefit of quick sales and multiple offers.”

With multiple offers on the rise, buyers are seeking an edge as they vie for a desirable home. Brokers are reporting an increase in the use of heartfelt letters from would-be owners who want to distinguish themselves and forge an emotional bond with the sellers.

Maul recalled a successful letter-writing effort last month by one of her office’s clients. Those buyers, who were using FHA financing, wrote a letter introducing themselves to the seller and explaining why they liked the home so much. After reviewing 13 offers, including one from an all-cash investor, the seller chose the letter-writer’s offer.

“Buyers should not forget the human element of appealing to a seller in this multiple offer market,” Maul emphasized, adding, “You just never know who is on the other side of a transaction and what might be important to them. In this case, selling their home to an owner occupant who appreciated special features of their home versus an investor sealed the deal, not cash.”

Brokers in the 21 counties served by Northwest MLS added 7,096 new listings to inventory during January. That total was just slightly more than the number of pending sales (7,016) that members reported last month and brought the total number of active listings at month end to 18,008.

Only two counties, Mason and Ferry, reported an increase in inventory last month compared to a year ago. The sharpest drops occurred in Snohomish County (down more than 51 percent) and King County (down nearly 48 percent). Both those counties have less than a two-month supply of homes for sale.

“Kitsap County is starting its spring market early this year,” reports Northwest MLS director Frank Wilson. It has 3.35 months of supply. Pending sales (mutually accepted offers) rose 23 percent in that market last month compared to a year ago, while closed sales surged nearly 40 percent. Prices in Kitsap jumped 32 percent, second only to Grays Harbor County where year-over-year prices jumped more than 54 percent.

“Often we don’t see momentum to really begin building until mid February to the first part of March. This year, I think due to the already low inventory and the continued low interest rates, the market feels like it started mid January” noted Wilson, the managing broker at John L. Scott’s Poulsbo’s branch.

Despite imbalance between supply and demand, Wilson said more and more buyers are opting not to purchase short sale homes because of the uncertainty involved. “It’s not uncommon for a lender to choose at the last minute to foreclose on a property instead of approving a short sale. When this happens it leaves the buyer high and dry with 2-to-4 months of time invested, only to have to start the process all over again,” he stated. That can leave them at a disadvantage considering the current pace of sales.

Sixty percent of homes close to job centers are selling within the first 30 days of being listed – twice the average rate, according to figures compiled by John L. Scott Real Estate. J. Lennox Scott, that company’s chairman and CEO, said extremely favorable market conditions have brought a surge of local home buyers into the market. Historically low interest rates and a shortage of inventory are creating an environment for multiple offer situations, he added.

Only two counties (Grays Harbor and Kittitas) reported a drop in pending sales last month compared to the same period a year ago, while 16 counties notched double-digit gains. The MLS attributes part of the improvement in sales to last month’s milder weather compared to January 2012 when a major snowstorm walloped the region. Nevertheless, even when compared to several previous years, pending sales were robust.

Northwest MLS members reported 5,548 pending sales during January in the four-county region (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap). That total surpassed the previous high for the month of January, which was logged in 2005 when members reported 5,426 pending sales.

Even though buyers are flocking to newly listed homes, sellers must be smart about pricing, emphasized George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties. “In my area, a home that comes on the market that is well priced for the area, style and condition is usually under contract within a few days,” Moorhead said, but he also noted homes that have been on the market for more than 20 days are subject to price reductions.

Moorhead, who is also a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors, said the current market defies basic economics for supply and demand. “Interesting factors include sellers who are still holding back for myriad reasons. Some do not have the confidence or equity to put their home in front of buyers, and that is creating even more pent-up demand.”

Skahen, a past chairman of the Northwest MLS board, said it seems like two houses are selling for every new listing coming on the market. “Buyers keep getting more desperate,” he reported, adding “It will be interesting to see if sellers start jumping in after the weather improves in March,” as is the usual pattern.

Skahen also noted buyers who purchased one or two years ago have seen at least a 10-to15 percent appreciation in their value. “Amazon hiring is having a huge impact, especially around Ballard, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill,” he commented.

Yet another positive indicator of the state’s housing market recovery came from the National Association of Home Builders and its NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI). Six markets in Washington appeared on the list, the largest number since that gauge was created in September 2011. The IMI is based on six consecutive months of improvement in housing permits, employment and house prices.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 21,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington state.

Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary – January 2013

Single Family Homes + Condos

LISTINGS

PENDING SALES

CLOSED SALES

MONTHS SUPPLY
New Listings
Total Active
# Pending Sales
# Closings
Avg. Price
Median Price
King

2,638

3,853

2,777

1,781

$396,949

$315,000

1.39

Snohomish

1,015

1,548

1,154

713

$259,612

$235,950

1.34

Pierce

1,260

2,841

1,258

700

$214,883

$190,000

2.26

Kitsap

354

1,201

359

183

$262,730

$235,000

3.35

Mason

102

584

68

35

$154,086

$138,700

8.59

Skagit

190

626

155

81

$205,934

$179,000

4.04

Grays Hrbor

124

679

60

44

$125,264

$120,300

11.32

Lewis

83

555

54

48

$173,065

$149,975

10.28

Cowlitz

118

437

94

54

$140,727

$133,450

4.65

Grant

73

415

58

47

$166,680

$139,990

7.16

Thurston

348

1,027

321

189

$224,210

$214,000

3.20

San Juan

19

249

24

10

$417,515

$339,950

10.38

Island

117

581

104

64

$268,010

$232,000

5.59

Kittitas

40

331

39

25

$260,414

$174,990

8.49

Jefferson

40

327

45

29

$249,265

$224,500

7.27

Okanogan

27

320

20

26

$183,235

$133,450

16.00

Whatcom

288

1,073

239

142

$267,120

$235,000

4.49

Clark

36

168

58

24

$218,739

$189,745

2.90

Pacific

56

314

26

13

$100,800

$100,000

12.08

Ferry

5

74

1

1

$60,000

$60,000

74.00

Clallam

58

314

38

32

$185,092

$170,000

8.26

Others

105

491

64

48

$229,983

$179,200

7.67

MLS TOTAL

7,096

18,008

7,016

4,289

$299,747

$239,300

2.57

4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (SFH + Condo combined) (Totals include King, Snohomish, Pierce & Kitsap counties)

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

2000

3706

4778

5903

5116

5490

5079

4928

5432

4569

4675

4126

3166

2001

4334

5056

5722

5399

5631

5568

5434

5544

4040

4387

4155

3430

2002

4293

4735

5569

5436

6131

5212

5525

6215

5394

5777

4966

4153

2003

4746

5290

6889

6837

7148

7202

7673

7135

6698

6552

4904

4454

2004

4521

6284

8073

7910

7888

8186

7583

7464

6984

6761

6228

5195

2005

5426

6833

8801

8420

8610

8896

8207

8784

7561

7157

6188

4837

2006

5275

6032

8174

7651

8411

8094

7121

7692

6216

6403

5292

4346

2007

4869

6239

7192

6974

7311

6876

6371

5580

4153

4447

3896

2975

2008

3291

4167

4520

4624

4526

4765

4580

4584

4445

3346

2841

2432

2009

3250

3407

4262

5372

5498

5963

5551

5764

5825

5702

3829

3440

2010

4381

5211

6821

7368

4058

4239

4306

4520

4350

4376

3938

3474

2011

4272

4767

6049

5732

5963

5868

5657

5944

5299

5384

4814

4197

2012

4921

6069

7386

7015 7295 6733 6489 6341 5871 6453 5188 4181
2013 5548

__________ Copyright © 2012 Northwest Multiple Listing Service ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This material may not be copied, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s