Northwest MLS Tallies Busy December!

Northwest MLS Tallies Busy December as First-time Buyers, Investors Return

Information and statistics compiled and reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service

KIRKLAND, Wash. (January 7, 2013) – Home buyers around western Washington made offers on 5,314 residences during December, outnumbering the 3,857 owners who listed their homes for sale. The imbalance helped push up prices and further thin already depleted inventory.

While the expected seasonal slowdown occurred last month, determined buyers were undaunted by sparse inventory and record-breaking rainy days, according to December statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“This is a unique housing market,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “There is nothing normal about the combination of factors fueling the current market,” he added.

MLS members reported 5,314 pending sales of single family homes and condominiums last month for a modest year-over-year increase of 1.5 percent. That volume of mutually accepted offers fell from November’s total of 6,522, but far exceeded the number of new listings, 3,857, that members added to the MLS system during December. It also marked an unprecedented fourth straight month when pending sales outnumbered new listings.

MLS members tallied 5,267 closed sales during December, outgaining the same month a year ago by 526 transactions for an increase of about 11.1 percent. The 2012 total of 64,624 closed sales was 14.8 percent higher than the volume reported for 2011.

Brokers expect the housing market rebound to continue, while cautioning sellers to refrain from becoming too greedy and expressing hope for “controlled natural growth” to sustain the recovery. They also believe distressed properties, rising rents and re-engaged investors will have an impact on activity for the foreseeable future.

“Buyers are taking note of sellers who overprice their homes,” reported Northwest MLS director Darin Stenvers. “These buyers are not wasting their time looking at that section of the market for fear of losing a “turnkey ready” home that they can buy and close on,” added Stenvers, the office managing broker at John L. Scott, Inc. in Bellingham.

Frank Wilson, another member of the Northwest MLS board of directors and the managing broker at John L. Scott’s Poulsbo’s branch, noted similar shifts in attitudes about distressed properties. He said many buyers are no longer considering short sales or bank owned property because of the uncertainty and complexity of those transactions, opting instead to focus on non-distressed listings that would likely close in a more reasonable and more predictable timeframe. “I think as time goes by the short sale and bank owned home will become more and more of an investor target,” he remarked.

Even with distressed properties (and the lower prices they usually fetch) being part of the mix of sales, median sales prices are edging up. Last month’s buyers paid more for their home than purchasers of a year ago, and the number of properties that sold for a million dollars or more jumped nearly 56 percent, rising from 68 in December 2011 to 106 last month.

The median price area-wide was $255,000, up 13.3 percent from twelve months ago when the price was $225,000. Prices rose by double digits in ten of the 21 counties in the Northwest MLS service area. Homes and condos that sold in King County commanded the highest prices at $342,000, reflecting a gain of more than 17.5 percent.

For single family homes (excluding condos), the median selling price rose $30,000 system-wide (about 12.8 percent) climbing from $235,000 a year ago to $265,000.

In King County, the median sales price of a single family home jumped nearly 18.8 percent, from $320,000 to $380,046. Within the county, the biggest increases on single family homes that sold were reported in Skyway/Bryn Mawr area (up 89.8 percent), Central Seattle (up 50.2 percent), Vashon (up 35.6 percent), Bellevue west of I-405 (up 28.6 percent) and Burien-Normandy Park (up 26.9 percent).

Prices and the number of multiple offers may be rising in part because of shrinking inventory. At the end of December, there were only 17,718 properties for sale, which compares to 26,639 active listings for the same time a year ago (down 33.5 percent). Months of supply declined to 3.3 months, down from about 5 months of supply for the same period a year ago.

In Snohomish County, year-over-year inventory was down more than 53 percent, while in King County the selection was about half the year ago levels: 3,801 listings versus 7,472.

Looking ahead, many brokers expect a strong market in 2013, with some expressing concern about “frenzied bubble growth.”

“Last year was the best year in real estate for both buyers and sellers since 2007, with better pricing for homes, lower interest rates than ever recorded in history, and best of all, the opinion the market has finally bottomed out,” said MLS director George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell. Those factors combined to “start a buyer frenzy” from February to mid-August, he noted, but added, “We never quite got that level of excitement back for the months of September to December.”

Moorhead expects a “traditionally slow” January as buyers and sellers start to “build energy to make the next move.” He fears another “perfect storm” with double-digit appreciation will return, but prefers “controlled natural growth” as the best recipe for long term economic stabilization, “not frenzied bubble growth with no foundation for support.”

Wilson said he expects an exciting spring real estate market in Kitsap County, citing the imbalance between inventory and buyers and record low interest rates. “The numbers are lined up for a bit of a frenzy,” which he believes will lead to shortages of homes in some areas and some price ranges.

Low unemployment, less inventory, low interest rates and rising rents are among factors that will create a strong housing market in 2013, Stenvers suggested. The return of first-time buyers who find it is becoming cheaper to own than rent and the imminent multi-billion dollar settlement involving foreclosure mishandlings by 14 banks also bode well for a more balanced recovery, he noted.

“We will see a continuation of year 2012 market conditions throughout 2013,” declared Scott. “Historically low interest rates, healthy job growth, a shortage of homes for sale in many areas and price ranges, strong sales activity from both local home buyers and residential investors are creating multiple offers and price increases in areas with inventory shortages,” he noted.

Another positive indicator brokers noted is improving builder confidence. It recently rose to its highest level in more than six years, according to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)/Wells Fargo survey released last month. Although newly built homes account for only a small portion of the housing market, they are considered to be a leading revenue and job creator. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to NAHB research.

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 21 counties in Washington state.

Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary – Dec. 2012

+ Condos
# Pending
King 1,378 3,801 2,056 2,188 $425,210 $342,000
Snohomish 581 1,513 872 892 $279,231 $254,975
Pierce 701 2,734 986 808 $232,956 $200,563
Kitsap 170 1,183 267 226 $261,724 $219,975
Mason 60 590 52 59 $174,834 $145,000
Skagit 86 609 97 105 $257,427 $209,000
Grays Harbor 77 644 50 72 $139,675 $132,568
Lewis 56 549 58 50 $169,263 $162,500
Cowlitz 53 401 87 69 $159,092 $139,000
Grant 40 431 37 50 $161,897 $147,500
Thurston 187 988 248 223 $220,379 $203,000
San Juan 13 270 15 17 $565,059 $300,000
Island 61 573 83 76 $312,249 $257,500
Kittitas 33 346 35 37 $350,882 $220,000
Jefferson 29 340 33 37 $353,950 $252,000
Okanogan 23 335 16 15 $162,260 $145,000
Whatcom 160 1,059 164 197 $278,378 $255,000
Clark 22 176 47 36 $234,957 $179,550
Pacific 27 298 21 20 $133,061 $125,750
Ferry 1 75 2 4 $131,216 $147,950
Clallam 44 314 47 42 $200,033 $173,400
Others 55 489 41 44 $219,863 $155,000
MLS TOTAL 3,857 17,718 5,314 5,267 $322,252 $255,000

4-County Puget Sound Region Pending Sales (SFH + Condo combined)
(Totals include King, Snohomish, Pierce & Kitsap counties)

We would love to help you with your real estate needs whether you are looking to buy or sell a home. For more information on Anacortes real estate, please contact Jean Groesbeck at (360) 941-3734 or email

Home Values Are Rising!

For the first time in 5 years, home values are on the rise.  Home prices hit a bottom and are finally bouncing back!

Nationwide, home values rose 0.2% year-over-year to a median $149,300 during the second quarter, the first annual increase since 2007. Prices were up 2.1% from the first quarter.

Even though June marked the fourth consecutive month of home value increases, overall home prices are still down almost 24% since April 2007.

Other home price indexes have also recorded gains lately, including the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. It reported that home prices in 20 major markets rose 1.3% in April, the first monthly increase in seven months.

Fewer than one third of the 167 metro areas surveyed recorded annual increases in home values, but the size of the price gains in these areas more than offset the losses posted by the remaining two-thirds of the markets.

In Phoenix, the biggest gainer, home values soared 12.1% year-over-year to a median of $136,200. In the 30 largest metro areas, Chicago suffered the biggest loss, where median home values fell 5.8% to $158,600.

Foreclosures remain one of the biggest risks to the housing market recovery. The pace of foreclosures is expected to pick up. This will translate to more homes on the market.

Overall, the housing market is expected to continue to slowly recover, with median home values projected to climb 1.1% over the next 12 months.

If you would like to receive Anacortes real estate market statistics or statistics on a specific area or price range, please email or call (360) 941-3734.

New Residential Efficiency Program

On February 22, from 2:30 to 5:00 pm, Skagit County’s Sustainability Office will host an open house to kickoff the Skagit County Community Energy Challenge (“SCEC”).  This  program was designed to encourage and facilitate residential energy efficiency.

This program will help homeowners achieve energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction,  and creation of wildlife habitat.

The program will provide a home energy assessment and report which will show homeowners opportunities on how to lower their home bills through insulation, air sealing, and other measures.  The assessment, normally valued at $500-$600, will only cost the homeowner $95, and is the only cost for this program.   The remainder of the cost is being funded by a grant to Skagit County from the U.S. Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The SCEC provides valuable information to homeowners on how to make their home more sustainable (including rebate and incentive programs), and the necessary steps to make these recommended improvements.

The open house will be held in the lobby of the Skagit County Commissioners Administrative Building located at 1800 Continental Place in Mount Vernon.  Those interested in attending the program can email or call (360) 419-7607.

For more information on Skagit County, or homes for sale throughout Skagit County, please contact or call (360) 941-3734.

More Good News for the Anacortes Real Estate Market!

Here is the latest information on the real estate market provided by the NWMLS:

Home sales for 2011 finished much stronger than they started.  According to the figures from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, pending sales in the fourth quarter of 2011 out gained the first quarter of 2011 by 21 percent.

Pending sales for December 2011 also increased by 20 percent from the year before.  Also, both November and December 2011’s pending volume exceeded the total number of new listings.  A disproportion like this has not occurred since November of 2006.

December 2011’s closed sales also surpassed the totals recorded from December 2010 by 7 percent.  Prices continue to come down, due in a large part, to the  many distressed typically low-priced  properties on the market.

In addition to low prices, there is also little inventory in the marketplace with a 17.2 percent decrease in the amount of active listings in the MLS database from December 2010 to December 2011.  The inventory in Seattle  is also down 30 percent from the previous year.

The combination of shrinking inventory with favorable financing is causing some areas to lean toward a seller’s market, as measured by the supply of homes.  Currently there is about a five month supply of homes, which is usually considered a balanced market for both buyers and sellers.

This bodes a happy 2012 for the real estate community!

Statistical Summary by Counties: Market Activity Summary – Dec. 2011


+ Condos
# Pending
# Closings Avg.
King 1,552 7,472 2,060 1,849 $359,912 $291,000
Snohomish 763 3,249 1,013 846 $252,144 $222,750
Pierce 846 4,280 923 791 $199,071 $175,199
Kitsap 202 1,403 201 201 $259,441 $228,000
Mason 47 590 47 39 $156,752 $133,800
Skagit 125 863 100 101 $216,803 $200,685
Grays Harbor 102 735 52 60 $133,550 $117,500
Lewis 78 613 48 46 $142,388 $117,750
Cowlitz 74 472 57 59 $138,786 $140,100
Grant 61 470 35 36 $160,490 $146,450
Thurston 211 1,324 230 228 $226,824 $212,000
San Juan 17 329 13 18 $442,235 $361,000
Island 92 739 67 79 $259,915 $215,000
Kittitas 44 398 39 36 $201,072 $177,995
Jefferson 35 435 23 34 $188,685 $152,500
Okanogan 31 349 15 11 $136,666 $117,000
Whatcom 131 1,267 152 170 $236,790 $219,000
Clark 22 191 29 28 $187,891 $170,500
Pacific 31 347 21 23 $176,752 $137,000
Ferry 2 58 1 1 $250,000 $250,000
Clallam 37 365 41 34 $210,326 $194,900
Others 101 690 70 51 $220,919 $169,900
MLS TOTAL 4,604 26,639 5,237 4,741 $276,009 $225,000

*This information is provided courtesy of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service

We would love to help you with your real estate needs whether you are looking to buy or sell a home. For more information on Anacortes real estate, please contact Jean Groesbeck or Linda Harris!

Contact Jean Groesbeck – or (360) 941-3734
Contact Linda Harris – or (360) 202-8888