Real Estate News

Area house hunters take note: This inventory news won’t make you happy

Pending home sales in the South Sound are outpacing homes coming onto the market, reducing inventory and driving up prices, experts say.
Pending home sales in the South Sound are outpacing homes coming onto the market, reducing inventory and driving up prices, experts say. Bloomberg file

For-sale home inventories nationwide are at their lowest mark in more than a decade, said federal mortgage lender Freddie Mac.

The inventory is even tighter for starter homes for couples and small families, the mortgage lender said in a report released this month.

In a balanced market, where sellers and buyers are on even footing, around six months of inventory would be available. Nationwide, that figure averages 3.6 months.

We should be so lucky here in the Puget Sound.

Last month, Pierce County’s home and condo inventory was at a low of 1.13 months, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Thurston County’s housing market wasn’t much better, at 1.38 months of inventory.

King County had the fewest available, with an anemic 0.78 months worth of inventory.

And it may get worse, said Realtor Kevin Mullin, owner-partner and designated broker of Windermere Professional Partners in Tacoma.

More houses are pending sale than are currently on the market. That means people are buying down existing supply.

“We are selling them faster than they can come on,” Mullin said.

Buyers are also facing stiff competition, especially in the starter home range, he said.

For instance, Mullin said, a home was listed earlier this week for $250,000 on South 41st Street in Tacoma. It’s pending sale after 11 buyers made offers on it. Another home on North Ninth Street listed at $395,000 and had nine offers.

The final prices won’t be public until the deals are done, but Mullin said both will sell for above asking.

Some buyers also have considered waiving the inspection process in Tacoma, a competitive but risky tactic that has made its way from King County.

Another issue: Faced with double-digit home price increases but slower income growth, homeowners who might want to otherwise buy a larger home are worried that if they sell their home, they will not be able to buy another.

That may be true if buyers are looking in the $300,000 range. However, Mullin said homes priced at around $450,000 and up are not moving as quickly as their less-expensive counterparts, especially on the Tacoma side of the Narrows.

Demand in the South Sound is surging, and home prices are showing it. Last month, single family home values in Pierce and Thurston counties tiptoed past home values not seen since before the Great Recession for the first time, NWMLS data shows.

Kate Martin: 253-597-8542, @KateReports

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