Now that November's numbers are out, let's see what the local dead tree press has to say about it.
First up, Ms. Rhodes at the Times delivers just what we've come to expect; a small dose of reality topped with a heaping helping of positive spin, lame excuses, and bubble denial:
More Western Washington homes were for sale last month, but fewer buyers signed deals, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service's November report, released Thursday.Of course, the Times wasn't the only paper to mention the weather. Despite the complete lack of any evidence that even one potential home buyer was influenced by the weather, all five local newspapers attempted to relate the weather to the November home sales statistics.
Wet weather and attention given to the midterm election and the holidays may have affected sales, the MLS said.
Greg Hoff, owner and broker of Windermere's Edmond's office, said sales declines should be taken in context. A year ago, sales were at record highs, Hoff said, so last month's falloff is a return to normal — not the bottom falling out of the market.
"The question I get is, 'Where's the bubble?' " he said. "They think it's bursting because it's not going up the way it used to."
A true bubble burst would occur if prices fell, Hoff said. That's happening in some Sun Belt states, but not here.
At least Ms. Rhodes was the only one to blindly parrot the NWMLS press release. Other reporters, such as Aubrey Cohen at the P-I, were somewhat more skeptical. Of course she still made sure to end on a positive note:
November's total listings showed a typical seasonal decline from October, which was the only month in the past two years with more homes on the market than November. The year-to-year number of listings has increased in every month since April, while the number of closed sales has been down in every month since June.John Gillie at the Tacoma News Tribune makes only a dismissive passing mention of the weather.
In a news release Thursday, Northwest MLS director Dick Beeson said floods, snow and ice contributed to November's sales slowdown.
But wet weather only can soak up so much blame. It did not, for instance, seem to dampen the market in January 2006, whose 11.65 inches of precipitation was not far off the January record of 12.92 inches (set in 1953). That, of course, was in the midst of a frenzy of frequent bidding wars and rapidly rising prices.
Real estate agents have said for months that the market is back to normal from its recent frenzy, allowing buyers to take their time. They say buyers are taking even more time because of the changing market and news of a national slowdown.
"I still have a lot of people looking but not as many people making the move, pulling the trigger," said Susan Robinet, an associate with Windermere Real Estate. "I just think it's the uncertainty the national news has created."
Jean and David Sauvion, who recently moved to Seattle from London, offered a reminder that everything is relative when it comes to home prices.
"It's a lot better than in London from a buyer's point of view," Jean said after looking at a Greenwood home Sunday.
"We can actually afford houses here."
Torrential rains, early season snowfalls and holiday distractions made only a small dent in the pace of Pierce County home sales last month.One reporter downright rejected the notion that the weather had any affect on the market. Mike Benbow at the Everett Herald seems to think that resistance to bad weather shows just how strong our housing market really is.
The continuing price increases were good for home sellers, said Tacoma Realtor Dick Beeson, but an increasing supply is making sales a bit more difficult for sellers whose homes are overpriced.
The inventory of unsold homes in the 19 Washington counties covered by the Northwest MLS rose more than 35 percent from November of 2005, the report said.
That inventory increase, which could foreshadow price softening, was particularly dramatic in Pierce County, where the number of homes on the market in November grew from 4,124 last year to 6,012 in November this year – up 45.78 percent.
With torrential rains, serious floods and an early snowstorm that left thousands of Snohomish County residents without power, you'd think most people would have been too busy last month to think about much else.Coming full circle, Clayton Park at the King County Journal claims that the rain did slow sales, and quotes some random Realtor to back up the assertion.
But the disastrous weather in November didn't stop people from buying homes. And it didn't keep prices from continuing their climb, according to data released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
County home sales last month followed the trend that began early this year: The number of homes on the market have increased significantly, sales that were pending or closed dropped significantly and prices rose in double digits in comparison to November 2005 sales.
Last month's record rainfall and snowy weather conditions contributed to a decline in the number of homes sold on the Eastside and in south King County. The weather, though, didn't put a damper on prices, which continued to be significantly higher than a year ago.Never mind the fact that the slowdown in sales is consistent with a trend that's been going on for over three years. It was the rain and snow. That's it. Also, if we keep repeating the "Microsoft and Boeing will save us" argument enough times, maybe that will make it true!
Sam Pace, a Realtor with Executive Real Estate who specializes in helping clients buy and sell homes in south King County, said the heavy rains and snowstorms last month resulted in a noticeable drop off in business for him.
"We didn't do much in the rain," Pace said.
But Pace, who also serves as the south King County housing specialist for the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors, said year-over-year prices for homes and condos are continuing to rise, despite the slowdown in sales activity, because demand for homes continues to outpace supply in this area.
Pace attributed the heavy demand for homes to the region's robust economy, which has been bolstered by continued hiring locally at both Microsoft and Boeing, two of the area's largest employers.
Clearly it's too much to ask that a local reporter actually do some serious investigative work into the true health of our housing market. It's far easier to repeat real estate press releases, quote local Realtors, and interview random home buyers.
(Press Release, NWMLS, 12.08.2006)
(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 12.08.2006)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 12.08.2006)
(John Gillie, Tacoma News Tribune, 12.08.2006)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 12.08.2006)
(Clayton Park, King County Journal, 12.08.2006)