September tested the housing market’s resilience around Western Washington with fluctuating mortgage rates, record-setting rains, and persistent inventory shortages in some areas. By month’s end, however, both pending and closed sales outgained the same period a year ago, according to the latest figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Prices also increased compared to 12 months ago, but fell slightly from the previous month. Year-to-date figures through nine months show prices for homes and condominiums that have sold in the 21 counties served by the MLS are up 12 percent from a year ago.
Locally, Pierce County's median sale price for homes and condos rose in September to $220,000, up from $200,500 in September 2012 — a 9.7 percent uptick. Thurston County's median price also went up to $228,498, up 8.2 percent from $211,000 in September of the prior year.
With uncertainty about the duration of the government shutdown, brokers say the positive momentum could stall.
Asked about the shutdown, Northwest MLS director OB Jacobi said, “Nobody has a crystal ball, but in some instances, lenders will face challenges verifying information from various federal agencies, like the IRS, which impacts their ability to approve and close home loans.”
Noting all except one government agency (USDA) involved in housing finance remain open, Jacobi, the president of Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate, explained that the shutdown affects various functions that are part of the financing process. “On a macro level, we don’t expect this to have a significant impact on the housing market,” he stated, while cautioning, “This will largely depend upon the length of the shutdown and its effect on consumer confidence.”
The shutdown was preceded by four weeks of falling mortgage rates, which brokers credit with boosting September sales. Improving inventory also Northwest MLS director John Deely said the Seattle market shows no signs of slowing down and house-hunters seem undaunted by soggy weather. “Buyers continue to flood open houses and multiple offers rain down on competitively priced properties,” he commented.
NMLS data also shows that there were 3,810 active residential and condominium listings in Pierce County in September, compared to 3,732 in the same month last year. In Thurston County, there were 1,320 active residential listings, compared to 1,283 in September of 2012.