Usually, the worst of the price increases happens in the spring; but this year, the frenzy just kept going through the summer.
The Seattle area is wrapping up its most punishing summer ever for homebuyers, with huge price bumps surpassing even the surge in home costs from the housing bubble a decade ago.
King County’s median single-family home price increased 18.2 percent in August from a year ago, making it the market’s hottest month of August since records began in 2000, according to monthly home-sale data released Wednesday. It follows a record-setting July for home-price increases.
Prices are rising at both ends of the spectrum. Southeast Seattle, the least expensive corner of the city, saw prices soar more than 20 percent from a year ago, while prices in once-affordable Shoreline are up 33 percent. Both areas saw median prices top $610,000.
At the same time, the number of million-dollar homes sold across Western Washington has grown 52 percent so far this year.
Countywide, the median home price grew by $100,000 from a year prior. The new median price for a single-family house across the county is $650,000 — although that’s down slightly from the record set a month ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The frenzy is unusual for this time of year — typically, price growth peaks in the spring, and then buyers get a bit of a break in the summer. This year, the spring rush happened as expected, but it just kept going into the summer, and no one really knows when it will stop.
“It’s been a very unpredictable market,” said Matt van Winkle, owner of RE/MAX Northwest.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a break in the next few months,” he said. Unless there’s a sudden rush of homes coming on the market, “we’re going to see it just as competitive going through the fall as we did in the summer.”
In Seattle, the median price hit $730,000, up nearly 17 percent from a year ago but still down from the record heights of a couple months ago.
Eastside prices jumped about 11 percent in a year to $853,000, though that, too, was down from the spring high point.
Other areas seeing prices rise more than 20 percent in the past 12 months include Enumclaw, Renton-Highlands, Skyway and Kirkland-Bridle Trails. Prices declined in Jovita-West Hill Auburn and in the condo-only market of downtown Seattle.
While demand for housing remains steady, the supply of houses available to purchase somehow keeps dropping lower and lower, leaving buyers to fight over scraps.
The county had just 2,800 homes for sale as of last week, the fewest at any point on record for this time of year. Inventory has been dropping nonstop for seven straight years, and is down nearly 18 percent from last year.
But even those numbers understate the reality: Van Winkle said about half the homes for sale in the region are listed for above $1.25 million (luxury homes tend to linger on the market longer).
“It’s going to be incredibly competitive for buyers for quite some time, under that $1.25 million price point,” he said.
There wasn’t much relief for buyers looking farther out.
Snohomish County hit an all-time high of $455,000 for the median house, up 13.8 percent from a year ago.
Prices in Pierce and Kitsap counties each grew just under 10 percent in a year, to $313,000 in Pierce and $329,000 in Kitsap.
“With King County prices escalating at such a fast rate, the ripple effect will continue to push prices throughout the area, first in neighboring counties, then throughout the region,” Mike Grady, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Bain, said in a statement.
Regionwide, prices here have grown faster than anywhere else in the country for the past 10 months.
Of course, the buyers’ pain is the sellers’ gain.
A Zillow study out Wednesday shows the average home seller in the city of Seattle last year made a $185,000 profit — nearly five times the national average. The 53 percent rate of return is among the highest in the country.
The typical seller last year bought their home in 2007, at the height of the last price surge. Someone who bought before or after the bubble, meanwhile, has a shot at doubling their money by selling today.