In the weeks before stay-home orders, before businesses knew whether they were essential or not, when Zoom meetings were a relative novelty and schools planned to reopen by April — home prices in the Seattle area were zipping up, up, up.
For the second month in a row, home prices around Puget Sound grew faster in March than in any other major American city save Phoenix, according to the latest release of the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index.
Prices in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties rose 6.9% year-over-year in March, topping national averages for the fourth consecutive month. Elsewhere in the country, prices rose year-over-year by an average 4.4% in March, up from 4.2% in February. Price growth around Seattle also rose month-over-month, ramping up from February to March by 2.5%.
Only Phoenix, where prices shot up by 8.2% compared with last year, showed stronger growth.
The new numbers show the housing market was stable and growing in the last weeks before the pandemic morphed into a national emergency.
Prices rose in all of the 19 large cities reported for the index, and growth accelerated in 17 of them. (Typically, the Case Shiller index tracks 20 cities, but data for the Detroit metro area was unavailable this month.)
“On the surface, the solid and steadily accelerating growth in home prices in March paints the picture of a housing market and an economy that was on stable footing,” said Zillow economist Matthew Speakman, in a statement. “Of course, in reality, the world was anything but steady in March, as the coronavirus was first starting to inflict health concerns and cause economic carnage on U.S. residents, businesses and industries.”
But the report doesn’t show much about how the housing market responded to coronavirus business shutdowns, because it relies on home sales that closed in March. Most of those transactions began in February, before the pandemic gripped the country. April’s numbers could be a better gauge of how the virus affected home prices.
That said, home prices have escaped “more or less scot-free so far” from the pandemic’s economic fallout, Speakman said. Record-low mortgage rates and a housing inventory crunch have kept prices afloat.
Price growth around the Seattle area was strongest in less-expensive homes. Houses selling for less than roughly $439,000 saw prices rise by more than 10% year-over-year — the first time they cracked that benchmark since late 2018. Prices for homes over roughly $655,000 rose by nearly 6%, while homes priced between those two points clocked a 7% rise.