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Snohomish County real estate sales increase in November, but things may change next year

The inventory of homes for sale in Snohomish County continues to shrink causing an uptick in pending sales and median prices. Many real estate experts expect increased sales and prices in 2013 as long as Congress doesn’t send the economy into a nose dive with overly aggressive budget tightening.
Real estate inventory continues to shrink

The inventory of homes for sale in Snohomish County continues to shrink causing an uptick in pending sales and median prices. Many real estate experts expect increased sales and prices in 2013 as long as Congress and the President don’t send the economy into a nose dive with overly aggressive budget tightening.

According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service there were 1,114 pending sales of single-family homes and condominiums in Snohomish County this November, which is a 7% increase over November of 2011. The median price increased from $230,000 to $257,000 or about 12% for the same period.

“Closed sales and selling prices both rose during November versus a year ago, while the selection continued to shrink,” said a Northwest Multiple Listing Service news release.

"There continues to be extremely low inventory levels and high buyer demand which is causing multiple offers in many local areas," reported OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate. He also noted a "definite uptick" in the number of cash buyers, "many of which are investors."

Commenting on the recent uptick of investors and cash buyers, Jacobi said there is good reason for that. Following a prolonged decline, real estate investors are usually the first to re-enter the market. "This is because investors are generally less concerned with timing the bottom of a market perfectly and more focused on the longer term financial benefits," he explained, adding, "Many investors also believe their cash is better invested in real estate than money market accounts, where it might actually be losing money given the current rate of inflation."

Northwest MLS director George Moorhead said many buyers are complaining about the "limited quality inventory," prompting "aggressive multiple offers on well priced homes." Moorhead, the branch manager at Bentley Properties in Bothell, cautioned there is still a huge shadow inventory of bank owned homes, but he expects they will be put on the market "at a trickle to mitigate any adverse impact on the market.”

Moorhead noted short sales are up significantly from two years ago "and now outpace bank owned (REO) listings," prompting outreach to hesitant sellers. "We all have a call out to sellers who are on the fence to remind them this is the first ‘sellers market' we have seen since 2007. This also means sellers who were on the edge of being in a short sale situation may actually be on the positive side of the ledger," he added.

A number of local real estate experts expect the market to continue to recover according to the Northwest Listing Service news release:

  • George Moorhead: "We are seeing some well-deserved price stabilization, and consumer confidence has been on the rise since first quarter."
  • Frank Wilson: “To have this kind of market momentum going into 2013 is very exciting. Provided we don't fall off a ‘fiscal cliff' we should have a good year in real estate.”
  • Darin Stenvers: "Buyers should be considering their purchase as an investment. If they see a home that fits 75-80 percent of their criteria they should strongly consider that purchase and pull the trigger. Foot dragging or shooting out lowball offers is leaving many empty handed." Noting, "the perfect storm has been brewing," Stenvers said existing homes sales are on pace with 2003-2004 (pre-bubble) volume "but we are enjoying interest rates that are 1.25 to 2 percent lower."

However, Catherine Rampell of the New York Times reports that aggressive fiscal tightening by Congress and the President will substantially reduce growth next year, “The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the entirety of the so-called fiscal cliff would shave about three percentage points off gross domestic product growth next year.”

“A more modest tightening along the lines of what President Obama wants — which would include extending most existing tax rates and spending programs — would still substantially reduce growth, analysts say.”

Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership includes more than 21,000 real estate brokers. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 21 counties in Washington State.

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