Temperatures around Western Washington were not the only thing sizzling during June. Northwest Multiple Listing Service members reported 11,453 pending sales last month, the highest volume since August 2005 when members notched 11,546 mutually accepted offers. Last month also marked the fourth consecutive month of 11,000-plus pending transactions.
MLS members credit first-time buyers, an influx of relocating workers, and escalating rents for part of the surge.
“First time buyers are returning to the market, but cautiously and with more knowledge based on market values and trends,” said George Moorhead, designated broker and owner at Bentley Properties in Bothell.
“Educated buyers today are no longer just dipping their toes in the water. They are diving right in,” reported Mike Gain, CEO and president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Real Estate. Gain, a past chairman of the Northwest MLS board, said in his 38 years in the industry he’s experienced “good years, bad years and everything in between,” but he’s never seen a market as complex as the current one. “It’s been challenging for everyone involved in a real estate transaction, whether buyer, seller or agent.”
Gain and many of his colleagues bemoan the lack of listings. “The only real problem we are experiencing today is the lack of inventory,” he said.
Brokers added 11,581 new listings to inventory during June, about the same number as a year ago (11,541), but pending sales outgained the same month last year by nearly 16 percent, depleting the selection. At the end of June, the number of active listings across the 23 counties in the MLS report totaled 20,333. That compares to 25,342 for the same month a year ago for a drop of 19.8 percent.
OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate noted some improvement in inventory over the past three months. “I’m happy to see the total number of homes listed has grown by nearly 20 percent since March. That’s still down compared to last year, and well below historic averages, but we are trending in the right direction,” he remarked.
Most counties in the MLS service area reported double-digit drops in inventory compared to a year ago. In King County, the number of active listings is down almost 24 percent compared to a year ago, while in Kitsap County the volume plummeted nearly 35 percent.
The imbalance between listings and sales means shrinking “months of supply,” an indicator of sales velocity. Industry experts use a figure of four-to-six months of supply as one gauge of a balanced market. For the Northwest MLS market overall, only 2.2 months of inventory existed at the end of June. In King County it was down to less than 1.2 months. Snohomish County had about 1.7 months of supply at month end. Both Pierce and Kitsap counties reported about 2.2 months of inventory.
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