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Originally published December 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Page modified December 5, 2013 at 1:02 PM

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King County home-price gains lose some sizzle

The median price of a single-family home in November was up 7.5 percent from a year earlier. The number of homes for sale rose, but inventory remains tight.


Seattle Times business reporter

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The residential real-estate market is winding up a very good sales year with price increases moderating.

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service said Wednesday the median price of a single-family home in King County rose 7.5 percent compared with a year ago. It was the 20th consecutive month of a higher year-over-year median price, but the first time in more than a year that the increase was less than 10 percent.

The drop-off may mean the housing market is moving away from the dreaded boom-and-bust cycles that can lead to a market crash, brokers and economists in the region said.

“A single month doesn’t make a trend, but it is indicative that we are moving toward a more stable market,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director of research at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. “The market just can’t sustain those double-digit increases.”

The median price for a single- family home was $414,000 in King County in November. The market peaked at $481,000 in July 2007 and bottomed at $308,125 in February 2012.

While mortgage-interest rates remain relatively low in the 4 percent range, real-estate brokers and buyers are more worried about homes on the market.

Kim Andes and her husband have been looking for a house for eight months. The couple said they realized quickly that even with her husband’s six-figure income as a Microsoft developer, they were not going to find their dream house because there just wasn’t a lot to choose from.

“Seeing what is actually available out there is just surprising,” she said while at an open house in West Seattle with her daughter Tuesday.

There were 3,820 houses listed for sale in November, about 2.7 percent more than a year earlier. That represents a two-month supply.

Industry analysts consider a balanced market to be a four- to six-month supply.

“Going forward, the market will normalize because of the inventory getting back to an even-Stevens level,” said Dick Beeson, principal managing broker at RE/MAX Professionals in Tacoma.

“Once again, this year we will be heading into the New Year with shortages,” J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said Wednesday. “The market activity is at a strong level, which is mainly being driven by job growth, investors in the market and foreign buyers.”

But Scott said he thinks that if more homes are not built in the Seattle area, not just in Snohomish and Pierce counties, the people moving to the city could create an even larger home shortage and potentially hurt the Northwest’s recovering housing market.

More houses and condos in the four-county region have changed hands so far this year than in all of last year.

In 2012, 19,799 single-family houses and 5,268 condos were sold, according to the MLS.

In the first 11 months of 2013, 22,899 houses and 6,150 condos have sold, increases of 15.6 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively.

In Snohomish County, the median price for a single-family home increased more than 14 percent over the previous year, to $309,925, and the number of listings jumped almost 36.8 percent to 2,108 last month.

The median price of a single-family home in Pierce County was $214,990, up 7.5 percent.

In Kitsap County, the median price dropped 10.6 percent to $224,900, according to the MLS.

The median price of a condo in King County increased 17.4 percent from a year ago, to $240,000. There were 1,056 listings, a 3.8 percent increase from a year ago.

In Snohomish County, the median condo price increased 19.7 percent to $190,000. There were 343 listings, up 61 percent from a year ago.

Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or cgarnick@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @coralgarnick



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