The South Sound real estate market showed no signs of a seasonal slowdown in December as sales once again jumped by a double-digit margin in Pierce and Thurston counties. And the lack of inventory continues to drive the market, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Wednesday.
Pierce County months of inventory — the amount of time it would take to exhaust the number of single-family residences for sale — fell below two months to end the year at 1.78 months. In Thurston County, it was 2.4 months. A healthy supply of single-family residences that doesn’t favor either the buyer or seller is thought to be around six months.
But with little to choose from, combined with buyer demand (mortgage interest rates are still low and the economy has improved), puts the seller in the driver’s seat.
The result is that the median price of a single-family residence in Pierce County rose 11 percent in December 2015 from December 2014, the data show.
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Although prices rose, buyers in Pierce County still snapped up single-family residences, pushing sales 21 percent higher last month from the previous December. Eight of 12 months last year in the county had 1,000 or more sales of single-family residences, the data show.
The state of the King County housing market might be pushing buyers south.
The median price of a King County single-family residence last month rose to $508,000, and there’s nothing to choose from anyway because months of inventory fell below one month to 0.86, the data show.
Single-family residence sales in Thurston County remained brisk, rising 16 percent last month from the previous December.
Despite a hot market, Dick Beeson, principal managing broker of Re/Max Professionals in Tacoma, is not ready to declare a “housing bubble.”
“Today’s buyers are generally well qualified and they are using real money — their own money — as down payments,” he said in a statement. “They aren’t relying on creating a second mortgage as their down payment, thereby disguising the fact that they had no real money of their own for a down payment.”
Keep an eye on lending activity, though, said Beeson.
“Watch out for lenders if they begin allowing buyers with lower credit scores to qualify to buy homes as interest rates tick up,” he said. “Those days are to be feared.”
A closer look at the numbers:
▪ Pierce County: Single-family residence sales rose 21 percent to 1,125 units last month from 930 units in December 2014. Median price rose 11.2 percent to $252,500 from $227,000 in the same period.
▪ Thurston County: Single-family residence sales rose 16 percent to 326 units from 282 units in the year-over-year period. Median price was flat, rising 0.45 percent to $245,000 from $243,900 in the same period.
Condo data for Pierce County, December 2015/2014
▪ Sales rose to 84 units from 49 units.
▪ Median prices rose 35.3 percent to $189,500 from $140,000.
▪ Pending sales rose to 84 units from 49 units.
▪ Number of condos for sale fell 38 percent to 128 units from 209 units.
▪ Condos listed in December fell to 36 units from 52 units.
Condo data for Thurston County, December 2015/2014
▪ Sales fell to nine units from 10 units.
▪ Median price rose 65 percent to $165,000 from $99,450.
▪ Pending sales fell to nine units from 13 units.
▪ Number of condos for sale fell 47 percent to 20 units from 38 units.
▪ Condos listed in December fell to five units from 10 units.
Source: Northwest Multiple Listing Service