The year surprised everyone by posting much stronger sales than anticipated.

Share story

Real-estate agent Juanitta Lang had her home sellers all primed for a dismal December, telling them “there wouldn’t be anything because traditionally it’s dead from Thanksgiving through the middle of January.”

But the year — which surprised everyone by posting much stronger sales than anticipated, thanks to low interest rates — wasn’t done.

During Christmas week, Lang sold a personal-best three homes, all in Seattle and priced between $550,000 and $850,000.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

“Amazingly enough I also had sinus surgery that week,” said Lang, an agent with The Landmark Group’s office in Seattle’s Madison Valley.

She wasn’t the only one tying the season up with a big bow.

Throughout the Central Puget Sound region home sales were robust last month, with King, Pierce and Snohomish counties reporting anywhere from 10 percent to 24 percent more accepted offers on detached houses and condominiums compared with a year earlier.

These sales came at the same time the number of for-sale properties declined significantly, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which compiles sales data throughout Western Washington.

King County posted the biggest decline among the three counties in the number of available homes — 26 percent less compared with a year ago. Within Seattle proper the market was even tighter. Just 1,415 houses and condos were on the market, a 31 percent decline.

On the Eastside, Sue Brodie, managing broker for Prudential Michael Smith Realtors, summed up December as “uniquely brisk. Inventory is and continues to be scarce, but for people that were serious about buying it was a very serious month.” Indeed, completed sales were up 20 percent over the previous December, to 1,162.

A number of reasons are being offered for the year’s strong finish. One is the presidential election.

“It wasn’t a question of who won,” said Stephen Saunders, sales manager for The Landmark Group.

“We really feel in conversations with clients that there was more of a sense of stability now that the election is over. That was reflected in the stock market as well.”

Lang theorizes that some buyers were Christmas shopping for themselves or making December purchases for tax reasons.

And Brodie notes that a growing percentage of buyers are new Americans who observe other religious holidays.

“I think there’s such a diverse base here that every day is a day available for a homebuyer.”

Strong sales continued to push median prices up. (Median means half the homes sold for more, half for less.) Last month, $335,000 was the median price of a detached home in King County.

For a condominium it was $202,000. Both reflect a 10 percent increase over the same time a year ago.

In neighboring counties, median single-family home prices were $260,000 in Snohomish, $216,000 in Pierce and $209,950 in Kitsap.

Thirty-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 5.88 percent last month, according to HSH Associates, a financial publishing firm.

Elizabeth Rhodes: erhodes@seattletimes.com