Prices dipped in the summer in each of the last two years, but that hasn’t happened so far this summer across the county — though in Seattle and the Eastside, prices did ease slightly from June’s record highs.
For the first time ever, the median King County home price has grown more than $100,000 in just a year, a new grim milestone for buyers already dealing with the hottest housing market in the country.
Following up on a record-breaking spring, the county’s real-estate market had its hottest month of July since such monthly records began in 2000, with prices rising 18.6 percent from a year ago.
The new median price is $658,000, or $103,000 more than last July, according to monthly data released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Just a down payment on the median house costs about $20,000 more than a year ago. So first-time buyers who didn’t save up that much in the past year are further from buying a house today than they were a year ago.
George Moorhead of Bentley Properties in Bothell said his office is working with 60 first-time homebuyers right now — and it’s been a struggle to find something for any of them.
“First-time homebuyers are really feeling the pinch. Some of them have been looking for a home for almost two years,” Moorhead said. “They have to keep going further and further out just to find something that’s worthwhile. It’s just slim pickings out there.”
Trade-up buyers are dealing with a similar crunch. One-third of homes across the region sold for at least $1 million this past month, according to John L. Scott Real Estate.
“Anything between $900,000 and $1.3 million, you’ll still find yourself in a multiple-offer situation — six to 10 offers,” said Lori Holden Scott, a John L. Scott broker who deals with pricier homes.
While prices have been going up for so long that increases might seem inevitable, this month’s surge is actually a bit unusual.
Typically, King County homebuyers come out of hibernation for a spring rush — leading to huge price spikes and then a bit of a lull in the summer. Each of the past two years, prices actually peaked in June and then leveled off or dipped slightly in the summer and fall.
But it didn’t happen this year — countywide, prices grew slightly from June to July.
Looking closer, however, median prices in Seattle ($749,000) and the Eastside ($860,000) did dip slightly from June’s record highs. Both were still up about 15 percent from a year prior.
West Bellevue had the county’s biggest price jump — up 41 percent from a year ago, to a new median price of $2.3 million, the priciest region in the county. Areas that saw prices zoom up more than 20 percent in the past year include West Seattle, Sodo/Beacon Hill, Central Seattle/Capitol Hill, Shoreline, East Bellevue and Redmond.
Countywide, the annual price increase in July was the largest ever in terms of absolute numbers. But the 18.6 percent growth was a bit slower than in some previous months.
Overall, prices across the Puget Sound region continue to rise faster than anywhere in the country.
“I don’t think anything is slowing down,” said Laurie Way, a managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.
Both Moorhead and Way think the market has to cool a bit eventually; it’s just unclear how long that will take.
The very-long-running trend of declining inventory continues, as fewer people put homes up for sale while those properties that do hit the market get snatched up in about a week, on average.
And Moorhead said more repeat buyers are choosing to rent out their old homes, banking on getting steady rental income while knowing they could sell the home later — perhaps at an even higher price. He said his last four homebuyers all rented out their old homes.
The number of homes for sale across King County dropped 18 percent from a year ago and is at the lowest point on record for this time of year. Sales were down slightly, as well.
One bright spot for buyers: Condos across the county cost a median 5.7 percent more than a year ago, the second-slowest growth in the past two years.
Downtown Seattle, where condos are the only homebuying option, actually saw prices drop a tick from a year ago. Enumclaw was the only place where single-family-home prices decreased.
Elsewhere, Snohomish County surged to a record median price of $453,000, growing 11.9 percent from a year ago.
Both Pierce and Kitsap counties dipped a bit compared with last month’s record prices, but they still were up significantly from a year ago. Pierce’s median price is $312,000, up 9.6 percent from a year ago, while Kitsap reached $322,000, an extra 11 percent from this past year.