The local real estate market remains very hot with extremely low inventory and prices that are rising faster than anywhere else in the country. However, that rate of price growth appears to be cooling from last year, dropping to its slowest pace in three years. Predictions of more interest rate hikes may further limit price increases. Those considering to sell their home may want to take advantage now of this perfect storm of record-low inventory and record-high prices.
Those looking to buy a home on the Eastside continue to face rising prices and strong competition for limited inventory. With less than a month’s supply of homes, properties here are getting snapped up as soon as they come on the market, and often sell for well over asking price. The median price for homes sold in January climbed 14 percent compared to a year ago to $793,000.
Buyers scrambling to beat increasing interest rates have depleted an already record-low supply of homes. Fewer than 1,600 single-family homes were on the market in King County in January, beating December’s all-time low. The median price of a single family home was up 7 percent over last year to $525,000, but that is the cheapest home prices have been in 11 months. Time will tell whether that price moderation is an anomaly or the continuation of a trend.
After months of robust increases, Seattle home prices slowed down in January. The median price of a single-family home in the city inched up 3 percent over a year ago to $635,000. Some areas of the city even saw small price drops. That should spell good news for buyers, yet razor thin inventory continues to make it a solid seller’s market.
After months of double-digit price increases, Snohomish County may be starting to experience the same market softening as King County. The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County rose 8 percent as compared to a year ago to $410,000. Tight inventory continues to be a problem. There are 40 percent fewer homes on the market here than the same time last year.
Washington State finished the year on a high with jobs continuing to be added across the market. Additionally, we are seeing decent growth in the area’s smaller markets, which have not benefitted from the same robust growth as the larger metropolitan markets.
Unemployment rates throughout the region continue to drop and the levels in the central Puget Sound region suggest that we are at full employment. In the coming year, I anticipate that we will see substantial income growth as companies look to recruit new talent and keep existing employees happy.
Home Sales Activity
There were 19,745 home sales during the fourth quarter of 2016—up by a very impressive 13.4% from the same period in 2015, but 18.7% below the total number of sales seen in the third quarter of the year. (This is a function of seasonality and no cause for concern.)
Sales in Clallam County grew at the fastest rate over the past 12 months, with home sales up by 47%. There were also impressive sales increases in Grays Harbor and Thurston Counties. Jefferson County had a fairly modest decrease in sales.
The number of available listings continues to remain well below historic averages. The total number of homes for sale in the fourth quarter was down by 13.7% compared to the same period a year ago.
The key takeaway from this data is that 2017 will continue to be a seller’s market. We should see some improvement in listing activity, but it is highly likely that demand will exceed supply for another year.
Demand continued to exceed supply in the final three months of 2016 and this caused home prices to continue to rise. In the fourth quarter, average prices rose by 7.1% but were 0.4% higher than the third quarter of the year. The region’s average sales price is now $414,110.
In most parts of the region, home prices are well above historic highs and continue to trend upward.
When compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, price growth was most pronounced in Kittitas County. In total, there were eight counties where annual price growth exceeded 10%. We saw a drop in sales prices in the notoriously volatile San Juan County.
The aggressive home price growth that we’ve experienced in recent years should start to taper in 2017, but prices will continue to increase at rates that are higher than historic averages.
Days on Market
The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by 15 days when compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.
King County was the only area where it took less than a month to sell a home, but all markets saw decent improvement in the time it took to sell a home when compared to a year ago.
In the final quarter of the year, it took an average of 64 days to sell a home. This is down from the 78 days it took in the third quarter of 2015, but up from the 52 days it took in the third quarter of 2016. (This is due to seasonality and not a cause for concern.)
We may experience a modest increase in the time it takes to sell a home in 2017, but only if there is a rapid increase in listings, which is certainly not a given.
This speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, sales velocities, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2016, I actually moved the needle a little more in favor of buyers, but this is purely a function of the increase in interest rates that was seen after the election. Higher borrowing costs mean that buyers can afford less, which could ultimately put some modest downward pressure on home prices in 2017. That said, the region will still strongly favor sellers in the coming year.
A record low number of houses for sale in December indicates that 2017 will continue to be a very competitive market for buyers. The good news: those who decide to take the plunge and list their home can count on getting a premium price for their property. Brokers reported that about three-fourths of the homes sold in December involved bidding wars.
Strong demand driven by a booming tech economy and great schools continue to strain the already low inventory on the Eastside. It’s not unusual for a well-priced new listing to receive dozens of offers and to sell for well over asking price. With supply failing to meet demand, the median price for homes sold in December soared 19 percent to a new record high of $803,500.
King County had only about 1,600 single-family homes on the market in December, an all-time low. With the healthy regional economy, demand remains very strong. Prices, however, appear to be moderating somewhat. The median price for a single-family home sold in December was $550,000, up 8 percent over a year ago, but unchanged from October and November. A traditional uptick in inventory this spring may help keep price increases more modest this year compared to the double-digit increases seen in 2015.
According to the Case-Shiller home price index, home prices are rising faster in the Seattle metro area than in any other major region in the country. One issue is space. The city’s existing density means that virtually no new single-family homes are being built in Seattle. As new residents flood in, more people are competing for the already tight inventory. As a result, home prices are up. The median cost of a single-family home rose 6 percent from a year ago to $635,000.
While home prices in Snohomish County are well below those of King County, the gap is closing as prices here are increasing at a faster pace than neighboring counties. The median price of a single-family home in Snohomish County rose 12 percent as compared to a year ago to $400,000. Like King County, inventory is very slim, indicating a market heavily favoring sellers.
Buyers spooked by a spike in mortgage interest rates gave rise to the busiest November for homes sales in over a decade. Prices rose accordingly. Case-Shiller ranked the area as the housing market with the fastest rising prices in the country. Sellers can expect to get a premium for their homes as we move into 2017, but they need to consider how an expected further increase in interest rates may impact the market.
There hasn’t been a stronger seller’s market on the Eastside in recent memory. Record-setting home sales, combined with record-low inventory, has resulted in a significant imbalance of supply and demand. It’s no surprise that home prices surged upward. The median price of a single-family home sold on the Eastside was $759,400, an increase of 13 percent over last November.
Home sales in King County soared nearly 30 percent over a year ago. With frenzied demand gobbling up inventory, most homes received multiple offers. Median home prices here were up 10 percent over the same time last year to $550,000. Brokers expect the market will continue to be extremely active through the winter.
A severe inventory shortage continues to make multiple offers the norm in Seattle. Even the uptick in mortgage interest rates has done little to moderate demand. The median home price here increased to $615,000 in November. If it’s any consolation for buyers facing sticker shock, that was just a 3 percent increase over the same time last year.
Snohomish County experienced the same boost in buying and bust in inventory as the rest of the region. Prices climbed at an even faster rate than in King County. Compared to a year ago, the median price of a single-family home was up over 14 percent to $400,000.