After seemingly endless months of a frenzied real estate market in the Puget Sound region in which buyers faced anemic supply and highly competitive bidding wars, the latest Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) press release reports that we are “finally returning” to a more balanced market, as “buyers welcome more choices, moderating prices.”
According to the release, housing inventory continued its incline through the month of September, with “double-digit increases in inventory in several of the 23 counties it serves, led by a 78 percent year-over-year gain in King County.” Across the system, September ended with 2.56 months of supply for single-family homes and condominiums, which is still a seller’s market, but indicates a trending toward a more balanced market. Inventory is higher than it has been since February 2015, when inventory was 3.56 months. And in King County, “supply exceeded two months for the first time since January 2015.”
Though many parts of the region experienced inventory growth, there were a dozen counties with less active listings than last year, and condominium inventory remains incredibly tight. Area-wide, there was just 0.34 months of supply at month’s end, though that figure was up almost 70 percent compared to last year. The report indicates that “shortage is expected to ease as construction progresses on several recently-announced high-rise projects.”
Market experts say activity will remain strong, particularly with the area’s sustained economic growth, and that the current slowdown is reflected of more traditional, seasonal housing trends, as the market tends to slow slightly with the changing leaves. For instance, the report describes that housing is still well behind job growth: “for every six new jobs created in the Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue region, there was only one single-family permit issued, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®.” The release makes note of rising mortgage rates, outlining that October 2018 could be one of the best month’s for sellers until next year.
Overall, home prices are up about 5 percent compared to this time last year in the 23 counties surveyed by the NWMLS. Ten of the counties reported double-digit price gains and the median sales price of single-family homes and condominiums in the system was $400K, up from last year’s numbers (at $381K), yet down from the June 2018 peak of $425K. Looking at the four-county Puget Sound region, the median home price was slightly higher, at $455K, up nearly 6 percent compared to last year.