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The median sales price of single-family homes in five South Sound counties rose between 23 percent and 35 percent in May versus May 2020, according to figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).

The median sales price of a home in Pierce County last month hit $510,000, up 28.6 percent. In Thurston County, the median hit $452,000, up 23 percent. Other counties’ median sales prices were: Mason, $375,000, up 34.9 percent; Lewis, $350,000, up 31.3 percent; and Grays Harbor, $300,000, up 25 percent.

Year-over-year price increases measured by percentages appeared to hit a new high in the 26-county NWMLS system. The median price on last month’s 9,374 closed sales of single-family homes and condominiums combined soared 30 percent from a year ago, NWMLS said in a news release.

Prices on the 8,011 single-family home sales (excluding condos) that closed last month sold for 107.3 percent of the asking price systemwide. In the four-county Puget Sound region (King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap), the figure was 108.6 percent. In King County, it was 109.5 percent, the release said.

“Everything is about breaking records this past year with record-breaking housing prices, record-breaking low inventory, and record-breaking consumer savings rates during the pandemic,” Meredith Hansen, owner/designated broker at Keller Williams Greater Seattle, said in the release. “All this equals a very strong, chaotic market that may not slow down for the next year,” added Hansen, who is also a member of the NWMLS board of directors.

Systemwide, the number of active listings for single-family homes dropped from April to May for the first time in at least 20 years, Robb Wasser, branch manager at Windermere Real Estate/East in Bellevue and a NWMLS director, noted in the release. The month-to-month decline was only 83 listings. But compared to May 2020, inventory plummeted by 4,824 listings, down 46.6 percent.

High demand kept supply depleted. At the end of the month, there were 5,533 active listings of homes and condominiums in the NWMLS database, nearly half the inventory of a year ago when buyers could choose from 10,357 listings, the release said. Pierce County had 737 active listings at the end of the month, down 41.8 percent; and Thurston County had 223, down 40.1 percent. Listings were down 42.8 percent in Grays Harbor, 39.6 percent in Lewis County, and Mason County, 47.1 percent.

“The dramatic increase in prices and low inventory just continue in such a way that although we have more inventory coming on the market, it is immediately absorbed because of a demand that simply cannot be met,” John Deely, executive vice president of operations at Coldwell Bank Bain and a NWMLS director, said in the release.

James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate at the University of Washington, commented on the challenges facing first-time buyers. “Residential month’s supply (excluding condos) has continued to decline with less than two weeks of inventory in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties, and slightly more than two weeks in the region. These are amazingly low levels of inventory,” he noted in the release.

“Coupled with continued low interest rates and eased borrowing criteria, rapidly rising prices reflect huge supply imbalances. Given these imbalances, first-time buyers have had almost no chance to take advantage of low interest rates unless they leave the city. Unfortunately for them, continued supply constraints along the I-5 corridor mean they are increasingly being left out of the market for the whole region. Only a decrease in demand will moderate house price trends,” Young stated.

Looking at condo sales in Pierce and Thurston counties, prices rose 21.3 percent in Pierce County to $344,950, while prices rose 33.7 percent in Thurston County, to $270,000. Only seven condos closed in the other three South Sound counties combined.

Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner commented on the “pronounced impact” COVID-19 had on the urban Seattle condominium market last year as many condo owners decided to sell and relocate away from the downtown area.

“By summer, inventory had jumped to levels we had not seen since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008, resulting in more supply than demand and lower listing prices,” he said in the release.

“The good news is the Seattle condo market has settled back down with inventory dropping and sales rising,” Gardner added. “Because of the shift in this market there was a price reset, but this appears to be luring buyers who previously thought they could not afford to buy downtown, leading to more balance between supply and demand.”

The NWMLS report for May shows condo inventory is down nearly 36 percent from a year ago as pending sales (1,613) outgained new listings (1,607). At month-end, the condo selection totaled 1,093 listings, with about three weeks of supply (0.80). Young noted the condo supply in King County is dwindling. There was about a month’s supply at the end of May, down from 1.67 (about 50 days) in January, the release said.

Pending sales of condos in King County surged 62.4 percent from a year ago. In Seattle, last month’s pending sales shot up 83.7 percent, while systemwide, they rose 37.2 percent. Pending sales of condos in Thurston County rose 50 percent but dropped 3.9 percent in Pierce County.

Closed sales of condos systemwide more than doubled from a year ago, from 658 to 1,363 (up more than 107 percent). Prices on last month’s sales increased 21.7 percent from last year, with the largest gains outside of King County, the release said.