Local real estate agents are reporting that the market has officially swung to the sellers' side with demand for homes far outpacing supply.
While closed sales in February jumped more than 9 percent from a year ago and median sales prices are up 13 percent, low inventories are hampering activity, according to new figures from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
"In my 37 years working in the real estate industry, I have never seen inventory this low," said Diedre Haines, regional managing broker for Coldwell Bank Bain-Snohomish County and a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors.
According to the NWMLS, the median price for single family homes (excluding condos) was $255,000, up about 11.4 percent from the year-ago figure of $229,000. Homes in King County commanded a median price of $365,000, rising from $308,125 for a year-over-year gain of about 18.5 percent.
Condo prices jumped 22.7 percent area wide (from $150,000 to $184,000) and more than 31 percent in King County, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of the transactions. Condos that sold last month in King County had a median selling price of $210,000; a year ago it was $159,950.
The number of active listings system-wide is down 29 percent from a year ago, with three counties reporting even more contraction: Snohomish County (-47.7 percent); King County (-45.3 percent); and Clark County (-44.7 percent).
Compounding the shortage is the fact that about one-fourth of the MLS inventory is classified as "distressed," meaning they are short sales or bank-owned. Such homes are sometimes in need of significant repairs or have prolonged transaction times, which may make them less desirable.
"The market is struggling to provide enough inventory for anxious buyers seeking to take advantage of low interest rates," said Dick Beeson, principal managing broker of RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma. Also, he said, considering 25 percent of the selection is distressed, "It leaves some buyers with tough choices."