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Originally published April 5, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Page modified April 5, 2012 at 10:29 PM

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King County home prices highest since September

While still down more than 4 percent from March 2011, last month's median sale price of $330,000 was up 7 percent from February, when prices hit a new post-boom low.

Seattle Times business reporter

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The median price of houses sold in King County rose in March to its highest level since September, according to statistics released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

While still down more than 4 percent from March 2011, last month's median sale price of $330,000 was up 7 percent from February, when prices hit a new post-boom low.

March's month-over-month gain also was the first since November.

"I think in some places prices are recovering, but it's very neighborhood-specific," said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. "Those markets that are close to the job centers are by and large doing pretty well."

Prices in Seattle were up more than 3 percent from a year ago and nearly 9 percent from February. Neighborhoods north of Interstate 90 all saw double-digit year-over-year increases.

In Southwest King County, in contrast, the median price was down nearly 17 percent from March 2011. Bank-repossessed homes and short sales for less than sellers owe lenders make up bigger share of sales there — and they are selling for much less than "nondistressed" properties, Crellin said.

Countywide, he said, the median price of single-family short sales in March was 38 percent less than the median for nondistressed houses, while bank-owned houses sold for 57 percent less.

The median sale price of King County condos was down more dramatically year-over-year than houses — 22 percent, from $224,500 to $175,000.

But, as with single-family homes, condo prices were up from February, when the median was $159,950.

Median prices often increase from February to March — but not always. The single-family median fell in both 2009 and 2010, according to listing-service statistics.

Sales volume rose in March; the number of closed house sales was up nearly 8 percent year-over-year countywide, with 15 percent jumps in both Southwest and Southeast King County.

But sales fell nearly 5 percent in Seattle.

Countywide, condo sales were up 22 percent in March from a year ago.

The number of properties listed for sale continued to slide — down 34 percent for houses, 41 percent for condos compared with March 2011. Brokers said the lack of inventory is helping prices stabilize and houses sell faster.

"Close to job centers, 45 percent of new listings are selling within a single month," Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said in a prepared statement.

"Buyers are screaming for more inventory, and they're being more aggressive with presenting offers," said George Moorhead, branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell.

In Snohomish County, closed house sales were up 7 percent year-over-year in March.

The median sale price, $245,000, was down 2 percent compared with a year ago, while listings fell 42 percent.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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