While we finally saw an increase in new listings in March, there was an even greater jump in sales. Lack of supply continued to push prices to new record highs. For the fifth straight month, our region has experienced the sharpest home price increases of any major market in the country. While that may be tough news for buyers, here’s the other reality: rents in the city of Seattle have increased 57 percent in the last six years. Brokers are hoping that more sellers will jump into the market this spring to help meet buyer demand.
After setting a price record in February, the Eastside set yet another record in March. The median price for a single-family home sold in March jumped 18 percent to $870,000. The strong appreciation is reflected in this statistic: For the first three months of 2017, the number of homes sold priced at $1 million or more was up 60 percent compared to the same period a year ago. What was once considered a luxury price tag is now the new normal.
Home prices in King County are growing about twice as fast as the national average. The median price of a single-family home sold in March soared 13 percent over last year to $599,950, an all-time high. Even though new inventory was added, it was snapped up as soon as it came on the market. About 75 percent of homes sold within the first 30 days.
With just two weeks of inventory available, demand in Seattle remains as strong as ever. Packed open houses, multiple offers, and escalation clauses continue to be the norm. The pressure on inventory pushed prices here to yet another all-time high. The median price of a single-family home in the city increased 9 percent over a year ago to $700,000.
Snohomish County set a new price record for the second straight month, with the median price of a single-family home up 10 percent from a year ago to $425,000. Supply is very limited, with just over two weeks of available inventory. Buyers looking for some relief from King County’s hefty housing prices are adding to the competition for a limited supply of homes.
Home prices are growing faster in our region than anywhere else in the country. After a brief slowdown last month, home prices in February jumped to new record highs. The reason? The lowest number of homes for sale on record. The surge in prices came well ahead of the normal seasonal spring uptick, adding even greater urgency among buyers competing for already severely limited inventory. It remains to be seen if the predicted hike in interest rates will help moderate the market. For now, sellers are calling the shots.
The Eastside, always the most expensive area in King County, set a new price record in February. The median price for homes sold in February soared 12 percent to $832,000. That’s nearly $100,000 more than the same time last year. With less than one month of available inventory, this seller’s market is expected to continue for quite some time.
A recent trend of slowing price growth reversed itself in February. The number of homes for sale in King County was at its lowest point since 2000, when records first started being tracked. That is down 25 percent from a year ago. The deep shortage of inventory resulted in a sharp increase in prices. The median price of a single-family home was up 9 percent over last year to $560,000.
The median price of a single-family home in the city increased 5 percent over a year ago to $675,000, another all-time high. Prices here have nearly doubled over the last five years. While areas of King County outside of Seattle are more affordable, prices there are growing even faster. The median price of homes in North, Southwest and Southeast King County all increased by double-digits in February.
After a softening of price increases over the past few months, Snohomish County saw record high prices in February. The median price of a single-family home jumped 15 percent as compared to a year ago to $412,500. With less than one month of supply in the county, brokers expect prices to remain strong.
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.