Friday, January 28, 2022

A cool housing market in the Seattle area as winter approaches, but some buyers are still grappling with bidding wars.

Home prices in the Seattle area continue to stagnate as the local real estate market takes its typical winter hiatus.

Median home prices in the Puget Sound region were virtually unchanged in November from the previous month. This is typical of this time of year when there is less sales.

The average single-family home sold last month for $ 820,000 in King County, $ 695,000 in Snohomish County and $ 515,000 in Pierce County. Since October, there has been a shift of less than 1% in each district.

Some local real estate brokers welcome an autumn chill. “It was easier for my clients to find homes,” said Angela Kubin, managing broker at Jabez Real Estate in Tacoma.

However, prices are up double-digit percentages from a year ago and continue to put pressure on buyers.

The average of $ 820,000 in King County is up 12.25% from last November. Snohomish and Pierce counties saw an even bigger jump, 22.8% and 15.7%, respectively, according to new figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Price spikes are especially large outside of Seattle. In Seattle, the average home sold for $ 850,000 last month, up about 3.7% from a year earlier. On the Eastside, the average home sold for about $ 1.43 million, up 34.7%. The average home in North Tacoma sold for $ 600,000, up 18.2% from last year. Central Tacoma: $ 439,402, up 9.85%

Similar trends are seen in Kitsap, Thurston and Whatcom counties, where house prices varied between 0.25% and 2% between October and November. However, every county has seen significant growth since last fall, especially in Watcom County, where prices are up 24.3% since November 2020.

Across the region, fewer buyers signed new home contracts in November than in October. At the same time, fewer new homes were put up for sale, which limited the market for those trying to buy.

Deirdre Calhoun hoped to buy a house with her husband after the landlord at their home in Tacoma raised the rent and then planned to raise it again. The couple began their search in August using a veterans’ loan. Loans do not require a down payment. This makes home ownership more affordable for people without huge savings, but it can also make VA buyers less competitive in the seller’s bidding war.

To win, Calhoun and her husband decided they would need to cast a wide net, so they looked at houses from Kent south to Graham and Lacey.

“We thought that if we open up our landfill and are not too choosy, we’ll have a better chance of getting something than leaving with nothing,” said Klahoun, who works as a secretary at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

They personally inspected about 10 houses, sometimes hearing that they were sold, even when they were still touring. “It was a terrible first time home buyer situation,” Calhoun said. “When we looked at some properties, they were already removed from the market.”

They lost out on a higher price for one home before buying a three-bedroom apartment in Lacey for $ 7,500 on top of the list price of $ 309,500. According to Calhoun, they won against another military family claiming the house.

Even in the cooler winter market, Calhoun advises other new shoppers: “Know that there is definitely a bidding war going on,” she said, “even if it’s not worth the money they’re asking for.”

As home prices have risen since the start of the pandemic, King County buyers and investors looking for improved or rental properties have brought more money to the table in Pierce and Thurston counties, Cubin said.

“We can’t compete with cash if you’re an FHA or VA buyer,” she said, referring to government-backed loans.

Despite the typical winter slowdown, the market remains unbalanced. Given current consumer demand in King, Snohomish, Pierce and Thurston counties, it will take less than two weeks for all homes for sale to be sold, in a metric known as inventory months.

“There is so much demand here and so little inventory,” said Barbara Clarke, an agent for Windermere’s Lynnwood office. More homes will hit the market in January, February and March, Clark said.

Seattle ranks among the cities with the largest new home shortages, according to a recent Zillow analysis comparing single-family home construction with population growth.

To compete, Clarke said, some buyers are starting to look for homes that might require more work than they would like.

“They are very realistic. They walk in knowing it won’t be perfect, ”she said.

Joseph Lubong personally saw the competition. After he and his wife sold their last home this summer, they began looking for a new home with an adjoining apartment they could rent to offset the cost of their mortgage. First they were interrupted by $ 10-15,000 for a house in Edmonds, then $ 175,000 for a duplex in Issaqua, said Lubong, who owns a photo studio.

Issaquah duplex was “super cute, but I don’t think it makes any sense,” said Labong. “They paid in cash.”

The couple eventually found a home in Des Moines with a separate living space in the basement that they now rent out. They were “lucky,” Labong said, “and won a mid-century-style four-bedroom home with a preliminary bid at an asking price of $ 750,000.

The winter recession has also hit the condominium market in the region. It will take just under three weeks to sell through current inventory of condominiums in King County, where condominium prices fell about 3.2% in November compared to October.

In the months after the outbreak of the pandemic, home buyers often looked for the common trappings of their new lifestyle: a place to work, school, and exercise at home. White collars were less concerned with commuting and more interested in larger homes.

Clarke now says her clients are moving for typical pre-pandemic reasons: they want to be closer to their family or live in a specific school district.

“The reasons I make five calls to Zoom are not ‘I should have five bedrooms,’ she said.

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