The median price of single-family homes sold in Seattle rose last month to $543,500, blowing away the last peak of $501,000 set in August 2007 — before the housing bubble burst and the country went into the Great Recession.
It’s too soon to say whether the Seattle market can sustain that level; in June the median price of homes sold was $499,000. Nationally, in July existing homes in the top 20 markets were 18 percent short of their summer 2006 peak, as measured by the S&P Case-Shiller index.
“The Seattle marketplace is a very special place in the nation because of our robust job sector,” said J. Lennox Scott, CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “We are just in one of those places in the nation where this recovery took place, and all the fundamentals are in place for it to continue.”
Interest rates and jobs are the key indicators to a strong housing market, Scott said — and interest rates are still low by historical standards, while in June the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent, a level not seen since September 2008.
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On the Eastside, the median price of single-family homes sold in July was $624,900, just 2.6 percent off its peak of $640,975 set in May 2007.
Eastside price gains have been less steady than Seattle’s this summer: July’s median price was down slightly from June’s median of $630,000.
For King County, the median price of single-family homes sold has been steadily increasing since February. Last month, the countywide median rose to $468,000, a 7.8 percent increase over the year, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) reported Wednesday.
That’s only 2.8 percent off the peak of $481,000 set in July 2007.
In Snohomish County, the median price of single-family homes sold in July was $335,000, a 10.2 percent increase over the year.
Full historical data was not immediately available, but the median price for single-family homes in the county so far this year is $324,970, about 12 percent below the last full-year peak of $371,000 in 2007.
The number of homes listed for sale in King County continued to increase in July, slightly reducing the frenzy of homebuying that has led to bidding wars all spring and summer.
But brokers say the listings tend to be in less sought-after areas and won’t make much of an impact on price.
“We just don’t have enough of the right inventory in the right neighborhoods to satisfy the demand,” Mike Gain, CEO and president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate, said in a statement.
“The lack of supply leads to multiple offers, and many properties selling for above their list prices.”
Inventory in King County was under two months in July, with the hottest markets — Ballard, Green Lake and North Seattle — having only a one-month supply.
A balanced market generally has enough supply for four to six months, meaning four to six homes are listed for sale for every one sold in a month.
In King County, there were 4,862 single-family homes listed in June, 6.1 percent more than a year earlier.
However, pending sales in July were 3.6 percent lower than last year, at 2,901. The number of homes sold stayed almost flat at 2,666.
After months of searching and multiple offers, Kevin Wilson, a first-time homebuyer who had hoped to land in Kirkland, was forced to expand his search south.
With a low credit score and limited loan options, he found a town house in Renton for $124,600, and closed last month.
“I wanted to stay on the Eastside … but it is what it is, I’ll have to wait five or 10 years,” he said. “The place that I got, there were three other offers, and I put in my bid on the first day — with an escalation clause.”
Wilson also looked at condos on the Eastside, but said they were snatched up fast and usually out of his price range.
The median price for condos in King County last month was $250,000, with the Eastside higher at $263,000, and Seattle even higher at $287,225.
As home prices around Puget Sound continue to increase, brokers are hopeful that new construction will increase inventory and ease the shortages.
“Developer and builder confidence in the Seattle market has been steady, with real-estate developers shifting away from building apartments and moving to condos,” John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said in a statement.
He added that new groundbreakings announced in July will add to the 500 units under construction in the area.
The generally tight inventory of houses has influenced prices across the county.
Southwest King County had the lowest median price at $270,000, up from $248,500 the same time last year.
The median price of homes sold in North King County was $400,000 up from $382,000 last year.
Meanwhile, in Kitsap County the median price rose 6.5 percent to $255,050. Pierce County’s median price increased 3.7 percent to $234,700.