Northwest MLS brokers not seeing much seasonal slowdown, say buyers still need to be bold
Soggy weather and the onset of holidays did not deter thousands of home buyers and sellers this year. Reports from the NWMLS show numbers for new listings, pending sales, and closed sales were comparable to year-ago totals, while prices rose a little more than 15%. “It is normal for there to be a seasonal slowdown which normally allows serious buyers to gain an advantage over casual buyers who take a break during the holidays. This year neither class of buyers have taken the sideline, commented Frank Hawkins, President of Hawkins-Poe, Inc. The difference this year is that there are fears of increasing interest rates which is keeping the demands high and the pressure on all types of buyers,” reported Hawkins.
Northwest MLS figures show 8,571 pending sales across 26 counties last month, nearly matching the year-ago total of 8,584 mutually accepted offers. The 8,976 closed sales marked a slight improvement on twelve months ago when MLS members tallied 8,875 completed transactions. “Waived inspections and funds committed upfront in the event of a low appraisal are not as common, but sellers still have the upper hand.”
Twenty of the twenty-six counties in the NWMLS report added more new listings during November than a year ago, but with demand outstripping supply, inventory was meager in many areas. Area-wide there were 4,621 active listings of single-family homes and condominiums at month end, down nearly 29% from a year ago when there were 6,505 listings. The selection at month end amounted to about two weeks of supply (0.51 months). Five counties had even less supply: Snohomish, Thurston, King, Clark and Pierce.
Looking at other areas, James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, believes “the normal seasonal effects have taken hold,” but pointed to Skagit and Whatcom counties, and other areas along the I-5 corridor as areas where the “main price action” is still occurring. “The return to these suburban areas seems to continue unabated as first-time buyers seek value and those seeking a more relaxed lifestyle are taking advantage of low interest rates,” said Young. He singled out Skagit and Whatcom counties for their large price increases, at 21.2% and 26.5%, respectively.
Area-wide, the November numbers were “pretty much as expected with the market starting to slow as we move into winter,” stated Hawkins. He also commented on recent adjustments in Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) limits for conforming loans (mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac). Loan limits for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties took an 18% jump increasing from $776,250 to $891,250.
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