How’s this for a flashback to 2017?
Seattle home prices rose faster in October than they have for a year.
But make no mistake, brokers say: The Seattle housing market has not returned to days of careening growth.
After years — if not decades — of seesawing between rapid growth and rapid contraction in the housing market, King County home shoppers are finally getting to experience buying a home under what some brokers are calling a return to normal conditions.
It looks… nearly as expensive as an overheated housing market.
In Seattle, October prices rose 3.3% from a year ago, to $775,000 — the largest percentage increase in 12 months, new data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) shows.
Meanwhile, after hitting extremes the past two years, inventory countywide has settled down to a calmer medium.
In King County, there were 25.7% fewer homes on the market in October than a year previously. Snohomish and Pierce Counties saw similar dips, of 23.5% and 30.0%.
But that’s not an indicator that the market is returning to the days of ultra-tight inventory.
It’s just a correction from 2018’s inventory glut. This time last year, there were 86% more homes on the market than there were in the year previous — partially a function of ultra-tight inventory in 2017.
The number of homes on the market also fell compared to last month, which isn’t surprising. Generally, the number of homes for sale falls through autumn and winter, then rises again in the spring.
Countywide, pending sales are up, signaling that buyers haven’t lost faith in the housing market after the slowdown at the end of 2018.
That could be helped going forward by mortgage rates that continue to hover around historic lows.
Months of inventory, a measure of how long it would take to sell all the homes currently on the market, has also settled into what brokers quoted in an NWMLS press release called a “new normal” — lower, by far, than what could qualify as a buyer’s market, but still higher than the days of bidding wars.
Months of inventory dipped this month from September, to 1.63 months, signaling the start of the winter mop-up, when homes generally get purchased or taken off the market.
“’Tis the season for the number of homes for sale to start dropping, and we don’t expect to see a significant influx of new inventory until spring,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, in a statement.
The market’s return to stability, said Windermere chief economist Matthew Gardner, is just as interesting as its years of wild yo-yoing — if only because for many Seattleites, the dynamic is entirely new.
“From 2000 to 2008 … if you had a heartbeat, you could get a mortgage,” Gardner said. Then came the market crash, followed by years of wild growth.
“A lot of people have forgotten what normal looks like,” he said.
One metric that hasn’t dropped into a lower groove? Prices.
Sure, they may not be increasing by double digits.
But they’re not going down much, either. And it still costs more to buy a house in King County now than it did in 2017.
Last month, the median King County home price was $660,000, only 1.64% lower than this time last year, and exactly the same as last month, the NWMLS data shows.
Home prices in King County peaked this year in May, at $700,000, down from the all-time peak of $726,275 in May 2018.
Within Seattle, Magnolia and Queen Anne — Seattle’s priciest neighborhoods — saw double-digit price growth, compared to last year. The median price last month was $1.18 million, up 15% from last year.
Condo inventory is expected to improve in the coming year, as projects currently in the pipeline come online — including, in Seattle, Nexus, the nearly-500-unit tower slated to open later this year in the Denny Triangle.
Year-over-year, condominium prices in King County were down 3.75% overall, to $385,000, and nearly 7% in Seattle, to $460,000.
That’s still the most condos have cost in Seattle since June, signaling strong demand for housing priced under the area median.