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Thursday, November 4, 2010

WA State Pending Home Sales drop 22% Year to year

KIRKLAND, Wash. (Nov. 4, 2010) – Housing activity around Washington state remained lackluster during October, with brokers reporting year-over-year declines in pending sales. On a brighter note, prices on sales that closed last month showed signs of stabilizing, with eight counties showing price gains compared to 12 months ago.

“The change in the market will not be a’ light switch’ moment,” remarked NWMLS director Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo. He expects 2011 will be a little better than 2010, with 2012 likely to be a little better than 2011.

Northwest MLS members reported 5,653 pending sales (mutually accepted offers) during October, a drop of nearly 22 percent from the same month a year ago. Compared to September, brokers wrote 88 fewer transactions, a decline of 1.5 percent.

Broker-members are reporting upticks in activity in some geographic areas and in certain price segments.

While entry-level buyers dominated sales earlier in the year due to the tax credit, move-up buyers have a growing presence in the market, according to OB Jacobi, another NWMLS director. Commenting on October activity, Jacobi, the president of Windermere Real Estate Company, said during the first quarter, homes priced at $500,000 or more made up less than a quarter (23 percent) of all home sales in King County. Since mid-year, his analysis shows $500,000-plus homes have accounted for over a third of all sales (34 percent).

NWMLS members reported 4,072 closed sales during October, reflecting the slower pace of pending sales. Last month’s closed sales, which include single family homes and condominiums, had a median selling price of $255,932. That area-wide figure is down about 5.2 percent from twelve months ago.

In King County, the median price for last month’s sales of single family homes and condominiums (combined) was $350,000, about the same as the year-ago figure of $349,950. Seven other counties also reported price gains from a year ago. They include Clark, Ferry, Grant, Kittitas, Lewis, Mason, and Okanogan.

Inventory remained plentiful, despite the addition of fewer new listings during October than during the same month a year-ago.

Brokers added 8,212 new listings to the MLS system last month, including 7,039 single family homes and 1,173 condominiums. That total is down from a year ago, when members added 9,344 new listings.

With October’s new listings, there were 39,677 active listings in the NWMLS database at month end, an increase of nearly 4 percent from the year-ago selection that totaled 38,159 listings.
Wilson noted there is considerable variation across the NWMLS service area when measuring the months supply of homes (a barometer of how long it would take for the entire inventory of active listings to sell given recent sales activity and assuming no new listings were to appear on the market).

In Kitsap County, for example, Wilson said listings in the Indianola and Gamblewood areas are selling quite well with roughly a 4-month supply of inventory. “On the other hand,” he noted, “in the Hansville/Driftwood Key area in the northernmost part of the county, there is close to a 20-month supply.”

“Buyers and sellers need to live in the now and not try to second-guess the market or when it will actually bottom out,” Wilson suggested, adding the messages to sellers and buyers are unchanged.

Sellers need to be realistic, Wilson emphasized, noting on average 27 percent of listings sell within the first 30 days and 46 percent of listings either take more than six months or don’t sell at all. “This is why it is critical to price your home correctly right out of the gate when it is being seen by the most buyers,” he explained.

The advice to buyers has not changed either, according to Wilson. With interest rates low and inventory fairly abundant, prospective owners should be prepared to make an offer if they see an appealing house that has just been listed.

In a statement accompanying a report last week on existing home sales across the U.S., Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS®, said the housing market is in the early stages of recovery. “A housing recovery is taking place, but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium. But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions,” he said.

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member brokers, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 24,000 brokers and agents. The organization, based in Kirkland, currently serves 21 counties in Western and Central Washington.

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