Let's have a look at the local press reaction to the market's continued slowdown, shall we?
First up, the poster child for slowdown denial in the media, Elizabeth Rhodes. This month she actually managed to sandwich a morsel of reality in between the excuses and the unbridled optimism:
A nasty dose of winter last month meant sales of single-family houses and condominiums were down 4 to 14 percent throughout the four-county central Puget Sound region, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service's monthly report released Wednesday.Keep the faith brother, keep the faith.
"People were not buying in January; it was the weather," said [Jack] Cosby, an agent in Prudential Northwest Realty's Kent office.
Besides the weather, two other factors — the number of properties on the market and the rate of home appreciation — point to a continued sluggishness of the market.
Compared with a year ago, countywide listings were up 25 percent in King, 31 percent in Snohomish, 42 percent in Pierce and 46 percent in Kitsap.
Near the month's end the market started to pick up, said Judy Hay, an agent in Coldwell Banker Bain's Bellevue office.
Likewise [RE/MAX Broker Pat] Reagan also sensed a month-end rally with "more appointments being set up to see the interiors of homes, as opposed to just shopping on the Internet."
If that continues this month, spring sales will be strong, Reagan said.
"But if we have a very bad February," added Cosby, "it doesn't look like it will be that good of a year. Still, I'm an optimist, and I do believe in our area the market will be fine."
The silver medal for bubble boosterism goes to our good friend Aubrey Cohen, who points out some interesting statistics and then does his darndest to explain them away:
Seattle's median home price in January was the lowest it has been in a year, according to statistics released Wednesday.Absolutely delightful. You know, I am really starting to enjoy reading this kind of stuff. It just gets more and more ridiculous with every passing month. Moving on...
The median price of $379,990 was down from $420,000 in December, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
A seasonal decline is consistent with recent years, but Seattle's January median home price also was lower than King County's median — a first since at least 2001. King County's median home price in January was up 8 percent from a year earlier, while the median for all 19 counties in the Northwest MLS was up 10.6 percent.
"That's odd," Bob Melvey, assistant manager at Windermere Real Estate's Ballard office, said of the Seattle numbers. "My personal experience doesn't jibe with the stats."
The median price could be dragged down by the sale of condominiums...
Melvey speculated that town homes ... might have made up a larger chunk of Seattle's sales in January.
"I've noticed a lot of town homes in what I would consider not desirable neighborhoods coming on the market, and they're at pretty low prices," Melvey said.
Shifts in how home sales are distributed among Seattle neighborhoods also could be to blame, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.
Crellin said he expects prices to go up in general, but said they would not go up as fast as they did in the past couple of years and they could decline in higher-end areas or those with many speculators.
Lastly, we check in with Mike Benbow at the Everett Herald, who seems to believe that prices will continue to rise no matter how low sales drop or how high inventory gets.
Home sales in Snohomish County continued to slow significantly in January, but that didn't stop a double-digit increase in the median price, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.That's the ticket. The market only appears slow because, you know, we had three days of snow last month. Yeah.
Following a trend that emerged last summer, inventories rose substantially and sales dropped from prior-year levels. Prices rose more slowly than they had a year ago.
But the combined median price for single-family homes and condos still hit $348,000 in January, a 16 percent rise from a year ago, when the median was $299,950.
Listing service officials said January sales started slowly because of the bad weather but picked up significantly later in the month.
"Pent-up, frustrated people who, due to snow, wind and rain, postponed looking, found their way out of the house and into open houses," said Kathy Estey, managing broker at John L. Scott in Bellevue.
Addendum 02.09: I missed the Devona Wells' article in the Tacoma News-Tribune yesterday, so here it is now. Better late than never.
Pierce County median home prices in January were the lowest in eight months, pointing to a market still better for buyers than sellers.Pretty much the same template as the P-I article. Quote the stats, then quote plenty of local real estate "experts" telling us all that it'll be okay, nothing is broken.
While trending flat, the median sales price of $266,725 did inch upward from the same month last year by 5.3 percent, according to figures released Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
"I think sellers are realizing that there is a whole lot more competition out there," [real estate agent Mike Larson] said.
A strong economy and relatively low interest rates, however, should make for a healthy 2007, he said.
"What's going to be interesting is to see what happens outside the winter months. When spring and summer hit, we’ll have our increase, probably 5 percent or 6 percent," [real estate agent Dick Beeson] said.
Stay tuned for even more lame excuses and blind optimism approximately 28 days from now. It's sure to be an entertaining show.
(Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 02.08.2007)
(Aubrey Cohen, Seattle P-I, 02.08.2007)
(Mike Benbow, Everett Herald, 02.08.2007)
(Devona Wells, Tacoma News-Tribune, 02.08.2007)