The Puget Sound residential market started white-hot in 2020, new data show, posting stronger home price gains than nearly any other major city in the country and topping the national average for the second month in a row.

But that was before the coronavirus pandemic shook the country.

Seattle saw year-over-year home price growth of 5.1% in January, according to a new release Tuesday from the S & P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which lags by two months. Among the 20 cities Case-Shiller tracks, Seattle saw higher gains than any other except Tampa, Florida, which also saw gains of 5.1%, and Phoenix, where prices rose 6.9% year-over-year.

January marked the second month in a row Seattle price growth topped the national average. Nationwide, home prices rose 3.9% in January, compared to the same time last year.

The January data, though, bears little relation to more recent housing market trends, according to Zillow chief economist Matthew Speakman.

“It may have been only two months ago, but in many ways it might as well be ancient history,” he said in a statement. “The world is a very different place than it was in January, but today’s Case-Shiller release is sure to offer some fond memories of the not-so-distant past.”

Local home sales remained at frenzy levels well into the early weeks of the pandemic. But much has changed since then.


Thousands of Washingtonians have been laid off under the coronavirus shutdown. Others have seen their savings wither as the stock market collapses. As even meeting mortgage payments becomes more difficult, appetites for home buying are likely to shrink.

Social distancing measures taken to slow the spread of the virus may also hit the housing market hard. Immediately after Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order took effect last week, restricting much real estate activity, the number of new home listings dropped precipitously across Western Washington.

In King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the number of new homes on the market fell by 58% in the two days after the governor’s mandate took effect Wednesday, compared to an average of new listings on the same days in the last three years, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

On Saturday, the governor loosened his strictures on in-person home showings, inspections and appraisals, clearing the way for home sales to continue in as normal a fashion as proper social distance allows.

A more granular picture of how the virus has affected the Puget Sound housing market will have to wait until April 6, when the NWMLS releases home-sales data for March.