With low interest rates still available and buyers experiencing more success in qualify for home loans, the Western Washington housing market stayed steadily active through the month of December. Year-over-year sales in December increased by double digits, while home prices experienced modest gains. Homes priced $1,000,000+ are also selling well– in fact, the year-over-year comparison of total closed sales for this price range during 2014 were up more than 25%. With all this brisk activity, our local housing market is still gripped by extremely low inventory. It’s reported that multiple Seattle neighborhoods have less than a month’s supply of inventory. And buyers are savvy about home pricing, so properties that come to market overpriced may languish without offers in spite of so few homes being available for purchase. The local housing market is moving into 2015 with strong signals that advances made in the housing market recovery shall continue. We have buyers ready to buy – we just need more homes to sell them!
Below are excerpts of the January press release. To read the whole press release, please click here.
Real estate brokers around Western Washington reported a strong finish to 2014. December’s sales outpaced the same month a year ago by double digits, according to new figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
MLS members reported modest year-over-year price gains (about 5.5 percent) for homes and condominiums that sold last month compared to 12 months ago. The number of new listings added to inventory was nearly identical to activity of a year ago, but with pending sales outpacing new listings, the selection, as measured by total active inventory, dwindled by about 8 percent compared to a year ago.
Commenting on the combination of scarce inventory in some areas and expectations of rising interest rates, the head of one large real estate company advised, “Anyone thinking of buying a home should do it early in 2015!”
Many buyers appeared to heed [ the projected trend of rising prices, interest rates and rents] during December. MLS members reported 5,794 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) for an increase of nearly 11 percent from the year-ago total of 5,224 pendings. In the four-county Puget Sound region, brokers notched 4,410 pending sales, the highest December volume since 2005.
High-end homes are selling well, according to brokers and MLS data. Northwest MLS figures show nearly 2,000 homes priced at one million dollars and up sold in King County during 2014. That’s up more than 25 percent compared to 2013.
For more modestly priced homes, first-time and move-up buyers are taking advantage of loosening lending standards. [3 percent down payment loans are back for qualified buyers. This should increase the amount of first-time home buyers in our housing market.]… the new low down payment loan programs and mortgage rates are a boost to activity. [Open house traffic and market activity stayed steady all the way through to January 1st.]
MLS figures show there were 4,367 new listings added to inventory during December, about the same as a year ago when members added 4,333 homes to the selection. At month end, there were 17,659 homes and condos for sale. That’s down nearly 8.1 percent from the year-ago inventory of 19,214 active listings. Brokers are reporting tight inventory in several neighborhoods, particularly around job centers.
“Buyers barely slowed down long enough to take a break for Christmas,” said Windermere Real Estate president OB Jacobi. “All this sales activity has eaten even further into already low inventory levels.”
MLS figures show about 2.8 months of inventory system-wide. Of the 21 counties in the monthly statistical report, King County has the tightest inventory, with only 1.4 months of supply. Snohomish County was slightly better, with about 2.2 months of supply. Six months is typically considered a healthy balance between supply and demand.
Jacobi noted many Seattle neighborhoods have less than a month’s supply, increasing the competition among buyers.
Prices climbed nearly 5.5 percent from a year ago, rising from an area-wide median selling price of $275,000 to last month’s figure of $290,000. That matches the price reported for October’s sales, a figure that was only surpassed in July when the median sales price overall was $300,000.… [but] sellers [should be cautioned] about unrealistic pricing. [Buyers are educated about home pricing and will not make offers when a property is overpriced.]
Brokers also stressed the importance of a home’s appearance. [For obtaining the best price for a home, sellers should focus their emphasis making their homes as neat, clean and clutter free as possible both inside and out. ]
Looking ahead, brokers believe many factors signal a continuing housing market recovery. …Fannie Mae’s recent National Housing Survey… shows 44 percent of consumers say now is a good time to sell a house, an all-time survey high. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents (65 percent) say now is a good time to buy.
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 23 counties in Washington state.