March is usually the month many sellers put their homes on the market. But last month was not typical. The supply of homes for sale shrank...

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March is usually the month many sellers put their homes on the market.

But last month was not typical. The supply of homes for sale shrank by a third. Sellers have become unwilling to wade into the frenetic real-estate market and are opting to instead stay put and remodel their homes, Eastside real-estate agents say.

“I have no problem finding buyers, but sellers is another story,” said Neal Christensen, sales manager with Hallmark Realty in Kirkland. “People are saying, ‘I can get a great price on my house, but where am I going to move?’ ”

Total Eastside listings dropped more than a third to 2,537, and new listings fell 14.3 percent to 1,602 last month, according to the latest figures from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The group tracks home sales in 15 Washington counties.

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Low inventory is driving prices higher. Multiple offers and escalator clauses are common, and many buyers waive inspections and make instant decisions about whether to buy. (Escalator clauses allow an agent to increase buyers’ offers up to a specified limit.)

Buyers are on a frantic search for a home because interest rates have started creeping up and housing supply has tightened. Last month, interest rates on 30-year fixed mortgages crept above 6 percent, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. reported.

Despite tight inventory and more buyers searching for homes, closed sales of condominiums and single-family homes rose 24.7 percent in March compared with the same period last year. Median prices continued their crawl north to $400,000, a 14.3 percent jump.

Windermere’s Bothell office hit a 10-year record last month of 151 transactions, with more than a third coming from new-home sales.

“New construction saved our bacon,” said Vern Holden, broker of Windermere’s Bothell and Everett offices. “Without it, we wouldn’t have hit our record because there’s just no resale inventory out there.”

Most of Holden’s listings sell within a week, and many receive multiple offers, particularly if they’re priced below $500,000.

Across the Eastside, homes sold in an average of 53 days last month, 13 days faster than March 2004.

April and May home sales are expected to be just as robust. Pending sales — offers that have been made but have not yet closed — rose 13.5 percent east of Lake Washington last month. It usually takes a month or two for a sale to close.

Openings

• Nissan is returning to Bellevue after a nearly four-year hiatus. The new dealership opens May 9 at 11815 N.E. Eighth St., near Whole Foods Market. Melody’s Bellevue Nissan closed in November 2001 after its owner, Dave Swanson, couldn’t renew his bank financing.

• Snoqualmie Valley Pet Parlor opened last week at 8103 Falls Ave. S.E. in downtown Snoqualmie. The shop was formerly known as the North Bend Pet Salon.

• Basket Creations, a shop selling custom and ready-made gift baskets, opens Saturday in Country Village at 23718 Seventh Ave. S.E., Bothell. Country Village is a collection of old buildings that were turned into a shopping center.

Eastside Business Notes appears every Wednesday in the Eastside edition of the Seattle Times. Kristina Shevory: 206-464-2039 or kshevory@seattletimes.com