South Sound housing prices ended 2020 by continuing to march higher as more buyers from outside the region pursue less expensive housing, prompting one area broker to call South Sound an “awakening giant” in a news release Wednesday from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).

Dick Beeson, managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest in Tacoma-Gig Harbor, studied inventory and price changes in five Puget Sound counties. He attributed the soaring prices in each county to extraordinarily low interest rates and lack of housing inventory.

He believes some King County sellers will opt for less expensive homes in counties like Pierce, Thurston, and Kitsap, saying, “With teleworking becoming the norm for many people, sellers in King County can buy a good home in a good neighborhood in the South Sound and have money left in their pocket. South Sound is a slowly awakening giant.”

South Sound median sales prices of single-family homes and condominiums combined in December posted double-digit percentage increases from December 2019, NWMLS data show.

Pierce County’s median hit $430,000, up 16.5 percent; Thurston, $395,950, up 17.3 percent; Mason, $335,000, up 24.8 percent; Lewis, $291,000, up 14.1 percent; and Grays Harbor, $252,500, up 29.6 percent.

By comparison, King County’s median was $676,000, up almost 10 percent.

Speaking of December’s report for the 25-county NWMLS territory, J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said in the release, “Housing market activity is truly off the charts.” He described activity for new listings going under contract as “frenzy level,” driven by interest rates and more buyers than homes available.

“Now that the holiday season is over, local housing markets will see a surge of buyers entering the market in 2021,” Scott predicted, adding that he also sees people who can work from home moving to lifestyle and destination markets farther away from city centers.