Seattle-area Homebuyers Get Good News as Prices Cool, Choices Grow
Seattle-area homebuyers have a bit of good news as the middle of the housing market continues to come down from what one local housing economist calls last summer’s “sugar high.”
April’s median price of a single-family home in King County dipped to $690,000, down a substantial 4.8% or $35,000 from the April figure last year, according to the latest data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. King County also saw increases in housing inventory and pending sales over the same period.
In Snohomish County, the median price of a single-family home fell by 1.2% from a year ago, to $500,000. April’s decline was even more dramatic in the condo market.
In King County, the median price for a condo unit fell 9.6% in April over the same period a year ago, to $403,750.
“Buyers definitely have more room to negotiate,” said David Palmer, a listing specialist with Redfin who covers Seattle and King County. Palmer said he has seen “some condo buildings downtown where units are upside down” — that is, where the likely selling price is less than the owner paid.
Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere, said the regional housing market is continuing a pattern that began last spring when “we hit a bit of a sugar high.” At that point, Gardner said, some investors decided to exit the market “and that is when we started to see a fairly significant increase in inventory.”
More recently, falling mortgage rates have encouraged buyers to reenter the market. Pending sales of single-family homes in King County were up 17.2% in April over a year ago, according to NWMLS.
But unlike April 2018, the competition for those homes often has been less intense. For the last several years, home sellers could count on three to five offers, Redfin’s Palmer said. “This year,” he said, “it’s more hit or miss.”
As always, the regional housing market is highly diverse, with some areas still running hot. The condo market in both Pierce and Snohomish counties remained hot. Similarly, single-family homes at the lower end of the market — homes priced below $500,000 — are still seeing strong demand, real estate agents say.
In Pierce County, the median home price was up nearly 5% over the past 12 months, to $357,900, in part due to demand by buyers priced out of more expensive King County. Likewise, in Southwest King County, median prices kicked up 4.3%, to $425,762, and competition among buyers was still evident.
“Burien is hot,” said Palmer. “I have a pending little two-bed, one-bath house right on the flight path that we got six offers on, and we’re pending quite a bit over asking price.”
The upper end of the housing market also retained some of its heat. In Queen Anne/Magnolia, the median price in April was up 7.6%, to $1,100,950. In Kirkland-Bridle Trails, the median price leapt 11% to $1,387,500.
But the largest part of the market — the middle — showed definite cooling. In the Ballard/Greenlake/Greenwood area, for example, April’s median price fell 9.5%, to $783,000. In West Seattle, the median price fell 6.3%, to $657,000. In Juanita-Woodinville, it fell 7.2%, to $730,900.
Neither Palmer nor Gardner expects the market to go into a full-scale slide. That’s largely because regional job growth is still strong and housing supply is still limited. King County’s inventory of listed homes is still under two months’ worth, or about half of what a “balanced” normal market would be, Gardner said.
“The market still favors home sellers,” Gardner said. “But it’s just not as boiling over as we’ve seen for the last four or five years.”