Prices spiking as home buyers hit inventory

KIRKLAND — Brokers added 9,332 new listings to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service database during March, but pending sales topped that number to further crimp inventory and trigger competitive bidding among buyers who are flocking to open houses.

Northwest MLS figures show year-over-year prices jumped 14.9 percent for the 21 counties in its service area. The median price for last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) was $258,500, rising from $225,000 for the same month a year ago. Twelve counties reported double-digit gains, led by Ferry (up 70.9 percent), San Juan (up 47.3 percent), and Island (up 36.1 percent).

In Kitsap County, Northwest MLS figures show the median price for last month’s closed sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) was $230,000, up from $217,000 figures from a year ago.

County realtors reported 246 closed sales in March, compared to 217 in 2012. Pending sales from the same period was up from 404 in 2012 to 435 last month. There were 507 active listings in March, compared to 418 last year at this time.

The average listing for single family homes and condominiums (combined) is $259,000, down from the $266,900 in 2012.

Statewide, prices for single family homes increased 14.3 percent, while the median sales price for condos, which accounted for about 12 percent of sales, surged 19.6 percent. Two-thirds of last month’s condo sales were in King County; prices there leaped 28.6 percent from $175,000 to $225,000.

Brokers reported 5,745 closed sales last month for a 13.9 percent increase from the previous year when they tallied 5,044 completed transactions.

“The market continues to be incredibly competitive with at least one in four buyers paying cash,” noted MLS Director O.B. Jacobi. “For those not paying cash, the average down payment is between 20 percent and 50 percent,” he added.

Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate Company in Seattle, also reported the vast majority

of home sales right now have multiple offers, and “it’s no longer restricted to the urban markets -- the outlying areas are now experiencing the same thing.”

Brokers say even distressed sellers are receiving multiple offers for their homes.

Inventory is depleted area-wide, with only 18,500 active listings in the MLS system at month end. That total is down by almost 6,400 listings year-over-year for a 25.7 percent drop.

“Fortunately, Kitsap is the eddy to Seattle’s fast-current market,” said Frank Wilson, Kitsap district manager for John L. Scott Real Estate and a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors.

Wilson said homes are still selling nicely with a medium amount of multi offer activity and a ‘normal market’ spring ramp-up, but caution about rapid price jumps and low appraisals.

“Price appreciation is a two-edged sword. Too much, too fast will land us where we were a few years ago. Slow and steady appreciation is what we are seeing now and hopefully in the future. This will allow the average income earner in Kitsap to still be able to qualify for a home,” Wilson stated.

He also noted “significant investments” being made in that county by businesses such as Harrison Hospital and Safeway. “Investments like these are not made unless the businesses are bullish on the future growth of Kitsap County.”

Pending sales are mirroring the shifts in market conditions. Volume area-wide was up only 3.9 percent from a year ago, rising from 9,126 mutually accepted offers to 9,482.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service

MLS in the Northwest, with a membership of more than 21,000 real estate brokers.

The organization currently serves 21 counties.





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