If you or your clients are stressing out over the number of offers it still takes to buy a home, just remember that you are not alone. The latest report from Marketplace Sotheby’s International Realty shows how sharply the scales remain tilted toward sellers. It also shows how the combined impacts of the pandemic and a strong regional economy are redefining long-held notions about the Seattle metro area’s real estate market. With this in mind, here are five takeaways from Sotheby’s Market Report for the first quarter of 2021.
A new normal for “affordability”
Sotheby’s report is based largely on data culled from Northwest Multiple Listings Service. Not surprisingly, it calls out strong year-over-year gains in median sales prices across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. In terms of price growth, Pierce County led the way. Its median sales price grew by 15.1%, compared to the first quarter of 2020. However, in dollars, this median price was still only $435,000. For comparison, King County’s $741,060 median price marked a 9% gain from the prior year, while Snohomish County’s $565,000 median price was an 11.4% increase. In noting that Pierce County saw a year-over-year drop of nearly 50% in inventory, the Sotheby’s report states that market conditions in traditionally affordable Pierce County are “forcing the phrase ‘affordability’ to unintentionally be redefined.”
Buyers embrace rural communities
Sotheby’s also notes that the ability for many employees to continue working from home is helping fuel rising prices in most rural communities. The bump was particularly pronounced in Maple Valley (22.6% year-over-year increase in median sales price) and Gold Bar (15.1%). The median sales price in Darrington jumped 30.2% year-over-year to $315,000, but these figures are based on a relatively small sample size, just nine sales. “Markets that were once considered inconvenient by those who commute have experienced tremendous growth fueled primarily by consumers’ ability to work remotely as well as their desire for greater affordability,” the report’s authors note.
Winners, big winners and an anomaly
A 17.5% gain brought the median sales price in Bellevue to $1.06 million, making it the “most affordable” of the six communities that registered seven-figure prices. In this exclusive club, Medina led the way. The median price of the 12 houses sold was $3.96 million, a 32% gain over the prior year. Nearby Clyde Hill weighed in with a $3.07 million median price, an 11.5% gain. In terms of median prices, Woodway ($1.69 million), Mercer Island ($1.65 million) and Sammamish ($1.13 million) made up the rest of this well-heeled pack. Mercer Island’s median sales price was up 10.5% from last year, while Sammamish was up 14.8%. The median price for the four Woodway homes sold during the quarter represented a 5.9% decrease from the median price in the prior year’s quarter, when eight homes sold.
Suburban and rural communities outpace Seattle
In the city of Seattle, the $735,000 median sales price marked a 6.5% increase from the prior year, while homes only stayed on the market for a median eight days. In other times, these might be numbers to crow about. But countywide, the median number of days it took for homes to get snatched up was just six. And Seattle’s previously noted price gains lagged behind those for communities ranging from Medina (32%) to Maple Valley (22.6%), not to mention the countywide growth rate (9%).
Additional gems shine Snohomish and Pierce counties
In Snohomish County, that freakish 30.2% rise in Darrington’s median sales price outpaced gains in the communities with the next highest price gains: Mountlake Terrace (up 16.8%) and Maltby (15.9%). Meanwhile, the biggest winners in Pierce County were sellers in Steilacoom (median prices up 23.3%), Eatonville (20.3%) and Edgewood (also 20.3%).