Seattle-area home buyers looking for signs of hope in the scorching housing market are getting a mixed reading.
Prices are still on the rise — in some areas, up 30% or 40% from a year ago — and homes are selling quickly. At the same time, a surge of new listings is giving shoppers a bit more breathing room, and agents on the ground say they are seeing signs of a cool-down — however faint.
“Some of my clients have taken a little bit of a break” as post-lockdown travel returns, said Seattle Windermere agent Sharon O’Mahony. “People are sort of thinking they will take the summer off and start back up in fall.”
After a year of breakneck growth in home prices and aggressive bidding wars among buyers, agents say the usual summer slowdown is starting to arrive.
But it’s all relative. When listing homes for sale, “instead of having 10 offers, they have six offers,” said Snohomish County Coldwell Banker Bain agent Eric Gouge.
Buyers seem to be making slightly less aggressive offers as they angle for homes, but are still offering higher than list price and waiving protections, he said. Mortgage rates have stayed low, continuing to draw new buyers.
“The demand is still out there,” Gouge said. “It only takes two people to really push up a price on a home if they both want it.”
So far, new inventory hasn’t done much for affordability. Home prices are still setting records.
The median single-family home in King County sold for $860,000 in June, according to data released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. While that was a slight 1% dip from May, the median King County price marks a nearly 19% jump from last June and a 24% spike from the same time in 2019.
In Pierce County, the median price of $516,000 is up about 26% from last year. In Snohomish County, the median of $716,000 is up 32%. Both prices ticked up from a month earlier and set new records.
Across more than two dozen counties in Western Washington, fewer than a quarter of houses listed for sale in June were priced under $400,000, according to the NWMLS. About a third were listed at $800,000 or above.
Compared to last June, areas all over King County are seeing big double-digit price jumps. The median house on the Eastside sold for $1.36 million last month, up nearly 40% from 2020.
In North King County, including Shoreline and Lake Forest Park, the $925,000 median was 42% higher than last year.
When Ben and Kendra Thew began searching for a home in Edmonds earlier this year, they found themselves caught in the heat of the market.
Both therapists, the pair went in search of extra bedrooms for private home offices, a yard for their young daughter, and sidewalks for neighborhood walks. They put in between 10 and 20 offers, “always with the sense this is never going to happen, feeling completely dejected,” Ben said.
“The inventory might have gone up, but the demand was still plenty high,” Kendra said.
The couple caught a break when they found a four-bedroom home that had been sitting on the market for “eight whole days,” Kendra said. They secured the house for $875,000, just under its $900,000 list price.
In King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, more new homes were listed for sale in June than in any one month since May of 2019. And more homes were still available at the end of the month than in May, indicating buyers had more to choose from and perhaps a bit longer to shop.
Even so, that may not feel like much relief for home shoppers because far fewer houses were still for sale at the end of the month that at this time in 2019 or 2020, and demand isn’t letting up. Across the Puget Sound region, it would take two weeks or less to sell through all the single-family homes for sale at current demand.
Pandemic-era hesitancy about living in in-city condos seems to be fading. More than twice as many condo sales closed in Seattle last month than in June of 2020. (Those sales likely took place about a month earlier.)
The median price of a Seattle condo, $499,995, is up 9.5% from last year.
Among single-family homes, brokers said, the feverish market over the last year has led some sellers to overprice their houses, only to get few or no offers in recent weeks.
O’Mahony said she’s noticing occasional price drops on listings and buyers getting favorable deals on town houses.
Seasonality is normal in the market, with summer months usually showing some drop off. It’s too soon to say which trends will hold.
“It might just be a blip we’re feeling right now,” O’Mahony said.
The region is still far from a buyer’s market.
Nationally, “the market is going from blazing hot to just hot,” said Taylor Marr, lead economist at Redfin. “Seattle is in line with that national trend but still stands out as much hotter than the rest of the country.”
In the first half of this year, more than 4,500 homes in the Seattle area, including Bellevue and Tacoma, sold for $100,000 or more over the list price, according to Redfin. That was a huge jump from about 380 during the same time last year.
Although 2020 numbers are likely skewed by the pandemic, the vast difference underscores the competition that cash-strapped buyers have faced for months.
Doug Fox and his wife planned to retire and sell their fully remodeled three-bedroom Bellevue home in a few years, but this year “the market was going a lot better than we anticipated,” so they made the move to sell, he said.
Prospective buyers toured the house back-to-back, several offered $200,000 over the list price and others went even higher, he said. In the end, the house closed last month for about $1.65 million, $403,000 over its list price.
“We were flabbergasted,” Fox said.