MLS figures for September show inventory reached 1.7 months of supply at the end of the month, matching the year-to-date high in February. That level is still well below the 4-to-6 months of supply that many industry analysts use as an indicator of a balanced market. Buyer intensity for new listings is higher today than a year ago.
Member-brokers in the 23 counties served by Northwest MLS added 10,120 new listings to inventory during September, slightly more than the number reported for the same month a year ago. At the end of the month there were 15,888 listings of single family homes and condos in the MLS database, a drop of 12.4 percent from a year ago when buyers could choose from 18,136 listings. New listings during September and October typically shrink 30 percent - and even more during the winter months - when compared to spring and summer months.
The strong job growth statewide is fueling demand for housing. Washington has added around 83,000 new jobs from August 2016 through August 2017 (not seasonally adjusted), according to the state Employment Security Department. Pending sales last month surpassed the number of new listings, putting pressure on prices. Year-over-year median prices for homes and condos surged 12 percent.
Buyers may be emerging on news of slightly improving supply. For only the second time this year the available inventory was over the one-month mark in King County and a notable number of new listings went past their offer review date, and more listings had price reductions. Personally, I had a listing in West Seattle that only got ONE offer and some buyers got a home in Edmonds where they were the only offer.
During spring and summer it was common to see numerous offers on individual listings. Now, it's more common to see a few in multiple offer situations. This change is a predictable seasonal adjustment as buyers and sellers enjoy the warm weather.
Excluding condos, the system-wide median price for September's single family sales was $390,000. A look at the 23 counties in the report shows a wide range of median prices, from the lowest of $124,000 in Ferry County to the highest, at $625,000, in King County. September's median price for single family homes and condos in King County, at $565,000, reflects a jump of more than 14 percent from a year ago, but it is a $20,000 decline from August (down about 3.5 percent).
In Snohomish County, for example, Northwest MLS tracks statistics for six sub-areas within that county. Last month's median price for countywide sales of single family homes and condos was $430,000, but it ranged from $352,000 in the northwest segment of the county to $606,250 in the southeast portion. Year-over-year price changes ranged from an increase of just over 6 percent to more than 19 percent.
Noting King, Pierce and Snohomish counties all reported year-over-year price hikes of more than 14 percent. All indications are that sales price increases in these neighboring counties are likely to accelerate at an even faster rate. In some of these counties, the median selling price is about half the price in King County. Faced with limited inventory and skyrocketing prices, some buyers are forced to broaden their search to these neighboring counties.
Despite some signs of a slowing market, many renters remain frustrated, pointing to the $125,000 hike in King County's median price in just two years. Builders are also frustrated, who are complaining and requesting to expand Growth Management Area guidelines. The massive shortage of developable land makes it more difficult to create affordable housing.