Housing market showing balance

Good news for buyers

Housing inventory continued to improve during September while the pace of sales slowed in many counties served by Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

“Balance is finally returning to the market, and with it, slowing home price growth,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate.

A new report from Northwest MLS shows double-digit increases in inventory in several of the 23 counties it serves, led by a 78 percent year-over-year gain in King County. Despite improving selection in the central Puget Sound region, a dozen counties reported drops in the number of active listings compared to last year.

System-wide, the month ended with 2.56 months of supply of single family homes and condos, well below the four to six months analysts use as an indicator of a balanced market between sellers and buyers. The current level is the highest since February 2015 when member-brokers reported 3.56 months of inventory. In King County, supply exceeded two months for the first time since January 2015.

Condo inventory remains sparse, with only .34 months of supply area-wide, despite improving inventory (up nearly 70 percent from a year ago). The shortage is expected to ease as construction progresses on several recently-announced high-rise projects.

Brokers added 10,458 new listings of single family homes and condos to the MLS database during September, slightly more than last year’s figure of 10,120. At month end, buyers could choose from 19,526 listings, a 22.9 percent improvement from 12 months ago when selection totaled 15,888 listings.

“Buyers are at long last now seeing properties that stay on the market longer,” said Mike Grady president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain.

With improving inventory, some brokers suggest the market may be showing signs of pausing, if not softening. A market shift may be under way, but they believe activity will stay strong.

Northwest MLS director Robert Wasser reported the recent re-balancing of the market “has led to fewer listings with offer review dates and pre-inspections,” which he said is a positive for buyers hoping to retain their contingencies. His analysis of MLS statistics indicated the median marketing time in King County has risen to 14 days. Also, prices for closed sales are at 100 percent of their list price for a third straight month.

“In the South Sound the market has shifted into neutral and is idling at the moment,” said Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Gig Harbor. Noting inventory has improved in both Pierce and Thurston counties “but nowhere near what King County has experienced,” Beeson said buyers can see more homes available for sale for the first time in three years. “Buyers are taking deep breaths as they survey this new territory.”

Beeson thinks the “new normal” at two-plus months of inventory is “healthy and long anticipated.” He also believes the steep curve of ever-increasing prices and scarcity of properties has crested.

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