As is the custom each month when the MLS statistics are released, the Seattle Times yesterday published a short "foot in the door" article briefly discussing the numbers, followed today by a full-length feature that takes a certain "angle" on the "story." What's interesting to me is that the author of yesterday's blurb was not a name I recognized (Bibeka Shrestha?), and what she wrote was shockingly non-booster-ish. Even the headline was frank and to the point: King County home prices barely budge in July; sales down.
Home prices are still rising in King County, but not by much. The median sales price of a single-family home in King County in July was $435,000, up only $50 from June.Of course, when the "themed" article came out today, Ms. Rhodes got in on the action, and made sure to balance out Bibeka's reality check with a heaping dose of unbridled optimism and calming reassurance.
The number of homes for sale in the area generally rose in July, as the number of sales declined. Pending home sales fell 11 percent in King County, 15 percent in Snohomish County and 16 percent in Pierce County. The number of homes on the market rose 53 percent from last July in Kitsap, while Pierce saw a 52 percent increase in the same category.
"Home are taking a bit longer to sell," said Michael Tenore, area director for ZIPRealty.
Home sellers spoiled by three years of record or near-record sales may have to lower their expectations.Wow. I guess this month's theme is: "Everything is fine—seriously. Seattle home prices are invincible." I'll be surprised if I see Bibeka Shrestha's name under another real estate story in the Seattle Times.
If the Puget Sound area's July home-sales numbers, released yesterday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS), are any indication, homes might sit on the market longer.
But the slowdown was just a move toward normal levels, not a sign that any bubble might soon burst, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.
"Some consumers have become accustomed to homes selling in 60 hours rather than 60 days," Crellin said. "We have to remember that the year-ago market was operating at record levels."
July traditionally is a slower sales month, and last month's heat wave likely hurt sales, the MLS said. Vacations — of buyers, sellers and agents — and uncertainty about interest rates also affected the numbers.
But the region continues to enjoy a relatively strong market when compared with the rest of the country.
"You can see the national trend is happening here to a lesser degree," Tenore said.
Washington state has always been a little late to the party, Crellin said. While housing markets took off in other parts of the country, the state waited to recover from a recession. Now, as other markets have cooled, ours remains strong. And we're not likely to see a huge downward trend.
"We're just going to return to more normal sales expectations," Crellin said.
(Bibeka Shrestha, Seattle Times, 08.07.2006)
(Bibeka Shrestha & Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 08.08.2006)