The median price of single-family homes sold in King County last month was $419,825, a 10.5 percent gain over the prior year, but the typical home’s value likely didn’t appreciate quite that much.
Buyers closed on nearly 1,800 houses, 3 percent more than the prior December, according to figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The condominium market was busy, too: 511 condos sold, 14 percent more than a year ago, for a median $250,000, a 21 percent annual gain.
Sales of luxury homes — priced at $1 million and higher — played a significant role in the double-digit annual increase in the median price, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.
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Real-estate brokers last year sold 1,748 luxury homes and condos in the listing service’s territory, nearly 40 percent more than in 2012. The vast majority were in King County, according to the MLS.
“No one should be misled into thinking the typical home in King and Snohomish County has gone up 10 percent or more over the past year,” Crellin said. The typical home’s appreciation in 2013 was closer to 7 or 8 percent, he said.
As usual, the Eastside had the highest median price, at $550,000 in December, while Southwest King County posted the lowest, at $255,390. Seattle had the largest increase in number of deals closed, 14 percent more, with a median price of $450,000.
The median price for single-family homes sold in Snohomish County was $306,000, up 11 percent over the prior December.
Pierce County saw the lowest annual appreciation in the three-county Seattle metro area — just 3.9 percent to a median $213,000 — but had a 12 percent jump in homes sold over the year.
Last March, inventory, as measured by active listings compared with pending sales, reached its lowest point in at least a decade in all three counties, according to MLS data.
The combination of tight inventory, expectation of rising interest rates and surging buyer demand led to bidding wars that peaked last summer.
According to Seattle-based, online real-estate brokerage Redfin, more than 40 percent of homes sold from May to July went for above the asking price. In December, just under a quarter did.
King County had about a two-month supply of homes in December, based on active listings and pending sales. A balanced market — one that neither favors buyers nor sellers — has a five- to seven-month supply, Crellin said.
This year, home shoppers face similar pressures.
“As we head into 2014, we will be starting the year with a shortage or low inventory in the price ranges where approximately 90 percent of sales activity is taking place,” J. Lennox Scott, CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said in a statement.
The one exception may be Snohomish County, although it’s too early to tell.
Last month, according to the MLS, the number of homes and condominiums listed for sale there leapt 44 percent, while closed sales were down 2 percent, far more than expected.
That contrasted sharply with King County, where listings rose by just 7 percent and sales were up.
Boeing’s announcement in mid-November that it might build its 777X plane somewhere other than Everett likely spurred some potential sellers to try to get ahead of a final decision by the company, Crellin said.
Uncertainty over Boeing may also have caused some prospective buyers to wait for a resolution of its dealings with the Machinists.
Last Friday, the Machinists narrowly approved a contract with Boeing that runs through 2024, securing the 777X jet for Washington state.
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @sbhatt