The Seattle metro area ended the first quarter with a 25% increase in single-family building permits over the prior year, along with a 101% increase in multifamily permits, the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS) reported.
The data appears in the June edition of the Builders Bulletin, MBAKS’s monthly compilation of statistics from sources including the U.S. Census Bureau and Northwest Multiple Listings Service (NWMLS).
The uptick in permitting, based on Census Bureau data, might be encouraging to those concerned about the region’s housing inventory shortage. But, as MBAKS senior policy analyst Allison Butcher noted, “It’s too early to say if this is really a trend that’s going to hold.”
As of April 2021, the inventory of available homes for sale in King County was .65 months, and Snohomish County’s inventory was just .49 months, based on NWMLS data. A four- to six-month supply of homes is widely considered to be a sign of a healthy market. King County’s inventory has not exceeded one month since September 2020. And buyers in Snohomish County haven’t seen more than a month of inventory since May 2020.
For the first quarter of 2021, Pierce County led the way in single-family permit activity, with its 1,173 permits reflecting a 61% increase of the prior year’s quarter. King County’s 855 single-family permits marked an 8% increase over 2020, while Snohomish County’s 656 permits were just 5% above last year.
For multifamily homes, King County topped the region with 4,194 permits, more than double the activity from the prior year’s quarter. In Pierce County, 1,075 multifamily permits represented a 214% increase. The 286 multifamily permits in Snohomish County marked a 50% drop from the prior year.
For comparison, the three counties combined to end the 2020 calendar year with a 0.5% increase in single-family permits over 2019, while multifamily permits were down 17%, according to a past edition of the Builders Bulletin.