After a chaotic summer that saw extremely low housing inventory, bidding wars and record-breaking jumps in median sale prices, Seattle's tight real estate market could be showing signs of cooling off for the fall season.
A new market report form the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) found that competition for homes in Seattle eased slightly in July, with brokers adding more listings and less homes going under contract. The agency saw slightly fewer pending sales in July than in June and May.
Some of that slowdown might be seasonal, while other experts took into account that the state lifted all COVID-19 restrictions on June 30, and more people could be traveling after spending so much time at home.
"Although the local market is intense, buyers can find some relief because there aren't as many offers to compete with compared to earlier this year," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate in a news release Thursday. "August historically is the last month of the year with elevated levels of new listings before they slowly taper down in the fall and decline more substantially over the winter.”
However, inventory still remains historically low and prices are still climbing, meaning any breathing room for homebuyers might be short lived. Across all 26 Washington counties surveyed by the NWMLS, there is only 0.73 months of inventory. And only 12 counties report having more than one month of supply.
"Despite the extreme shortage of inventory and robust sales activity, there seems to be a bit of a leveling off from the market frenzy," said Gary O'Leyar, broker owner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Signature Properties. "In my opinion this is due to a typical mid-summer season market combined with some buyer fatigue."
Prices also continued to climb. In June, median sale prices for homes in the region soared 30% compared to the previous year, marking a new record high. In King County, the median home sale price hit $775,000 in May, up 23% from the same time last year.
However, that growth is not just in the Seattle metro area. Many brokers said that suburban counties along the Interstate 5 corridor have seen sharp price increases, mirroring the fact that homes in the heart of Seattle are appreciating at a slower rate than homes located away from downtown.
"Prices in Lewis County are up 54.2% from the July 2019 level, Snohomish County is up 40.6%, and Island County is up 44.3%," said James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington. "The search for value in the suburbs with sharp price increases suggest households are making their housing preferences known. They want to own rather than rent.”
One area of the market continues to rebound from the pandemic: condominium sales. New listings outpaced pending sales in July, and prices rose more modestly at 12.6%. In King County, where the majority of condos are sold, the median priced condo sold for $460,000.
Brokers are advising residents to make the most of the seasonal lull in the market while also warning potential sellers about overpricing.
"My advice to buyers would be to take advantage of this time before Labor Day and the fall market," said O'Leyar. "[For sellers,] don't get overly hyped with anecdotal information about the real estate market. Overpricing a listing in this market is still a big mistake.”
~Callie Craighead, Seattle P-I