Western Washington housing market adjusting to new ways of operating.
Residential real estate activity around Western Washington reflected expected declines during April with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic taking its toll. A new report from Northwest Multiple Listing Service shows year-over-year (YOY) drops system-wide in new listings, pending sales and closed sales, but prices increased nearly 6.4%.
“With the first full month of post-COVID-19 data in hand, it’s clear the Puget Sound housing market has been hit but not knocked out,” stated Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardener. “The normally active spring market is significantly slower than normal due to COVID-19, but it has not come to a halt,” he observed, adding, “In my opinion, it is responding to the current circumstances exactly as expected.”
In comparing April to March in the tri-county area (King, Pierce and Snohomish counties), economist Gardner noted the total number of active listings rose (up 14,8%), but new listings dropped (down 25.5%), which he said suggests sellers may be waiting until the shelter-in-place order is over. In the same area, home prices were essentially flat, which Gardner said, “This tells me that sellers are having realistic expectations about value and buyers, hoping for deep discounts, are not finding them.”
In King County, prices rose 4% from a year ago, from $625,000 to $650,000. Snohomish County prices were up nearly 6% and Pierce County joined Kitsap with a double-digit gain; prices there increased from $355,000 to $397,750 for a 12% gain.
System-wide, prices were up about 6.4%, rising from the year-ago figure of $424,950 to last month’s figure of $452,030. Year-to-date prices are up nearly 9.3% compared to twelve months ago.
“With peripheral areas still showing price increases higher than the Seattle area core, April’s figures highlight the trend of migration to outer suburban areas, along freeway corridors,” suggested James Young, director at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research (WCRER). He also believes the figures illustrate “a continued preference for lower density areas given the likely persistence of distancing measures in the future. The virus has refocused many potential buyers, especially for those owning high-density properties in Seattle and elsewhere, on more space and less density. It makes social distancing easier!”
Young expects the trend of households moving to outer counties will likely accelerate in the coming weeks. “Older households in Seattle and other urban centers will be attracted to lower density areas because it is easier to maintain social distance while possibly gaining more space at a lower price point. As long as older householders in urban areas are able to sell, other counties will continue to see increased prices,” he stated.
Changes in lending practices could influence activity according to some market watchers, including Young. “The biggest factors in mortgage markets are first-time buyers, who may not qualify under new criteria, and jumbo markets,” he remarked.
“Buyers are relying more and more on technology and tools to allow for virtual open houses and viewings. Social distancing, face masks, showings by appointment only and only two people in a home at a time with one of them being the broker are the new norm,” stated Wilson. Like WCRER’s Young, he
said he could imagine homeowners wanting to change their living conditions to accommodate for more room or more outdoor space. “This could well cause a shift in what buyers are looking for in the future.”
The report covers:
Seattle residential neighborhoods of West Seattle, South Seattle, Central Seattle, Queen Anne-Magnolia, Ballard-Green Lake, North Seattle, Shoreline-Richmond Beach, and Kenmore-Lake Forest Park.
Eastside residential neighborhoods of South Eastside, Mercer Island, West Bellevue, East Bellevue, East Lake Sammamish, Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, and Renton Highlands.
Downtown Bellevue and downtown Seattle condominiums.
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© Copyright 2020. Information and statistics derived from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.