Sales of existing homes in the West climbed higher in August versus a year ago, bucking a national trend as buyers snatched up sharply discounted foreclosed properties in California, Arizona and Nevada, according to two reports Wednesday.

Share story



Sales of existing homes in the West climbed higher in August versus a year ago, bucking a national trend as buyers snatched up sharply discounted foreclosed properties in California, Arizona and Nevada, according to two reports Wednesday.

About 106,000 existing homes and condos were sold last month in the 13-state region. Without adjusting for seasonal factors, that number is up about 1 percent from the same month last year and flat versus July’s figures, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The median price in the West slumped by almost 24 percent from a year ago to $251,600, the association said.

Nationally, existing home sales declined 15 percent from August last year, on an unadjusted basis, and the median price tumbled 9.5 percent to $203,100.

Locally, King County median house prices dropped 11.2 percent in August from the year earlier to $423,950, according to previously reported data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Median condo prices dropped 6 percent to $268,000. These numbers reflect both new and existing properties. Breakouts for existing homes aren’t available locally.

In the Western region, states such as California and Arizona remain saddled with bank-owned homes, many of them bought during the housing boom with risky loans that have led to the current U.S. financial crisis and calls for a $700 billion bailout.

But heavy discounting has been gradually luring buyers in recent months and August continued that trend.

“People are taking advantage of those lower prices now,” said Luke Tilley, a senior economist with Global Insight in Philadelphia.

Phoenix’s sales rose more than 34 percent, while Los Angeles’ sales rose more than 30 percent. San Francisco’s sales rose about 6 percent.

The trend is far different in the Pacific Northwest.

In Seattle, sales declined more than 41 percent versus a year ago, while in Portland, sales plunged more than 34 percent.

It’s taking about 120 days to sell a home in Portland and about 145 days in Seattle, said Bob Christian, chief operating officer of Century 21 North Homes Realty in Seattle.

“Most times in a balanced market we experience [sales] times of around 90 days,” he said.

While Christian saw a jump in inquiries from buyers last month, sales remain soft compared with a year ago, he said.

Still, Christian said things are looking up this month.

“We don’t see the flurry of multiple offers we had seen during the heyday of real estate … but we do see more activity coming up,” he said.

Information from Seattle Times reporter Elizabeth Rhodes is included in this report.