Latest market reports won’t make you feel better when it comes to home prices, rents

Housing shortage in Pierce and King counties driven by a surging jobs market

Job growth in Pierce and King counties has pushed the cost of housing higher resulting in a shortage of homes for sale and to rent.
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Job growth in Pierce and King counties has pushed the cost of housing higher resulting in a shortage of homes for sale and to rent.

While other counties may be seeing some slowdown year over year in median closed home sale prices, Pierce and Thurston counties are still on their upward trajectories.

That’s according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service figures released this week.

The median closed home sale price for Pierce County in February was $355,000, up 9.23 percent from the same time last year. While still not nearly as high as King County, at $655,000, or Snohomish at just under $475,000, neither of those counties saw the percentage price change that Pierce did.

Thurston County showed a higher percentage change than Pierce in year over year closed home sales prices, with its $325,850 median closed home sale price a 9.71 percent change over February 2018.

Pierce and Thurston also are remaining low in inventory, with just over a month’s worth in both markets. King County is in slightly better shape at about 2 months’ worth.

Pierce’s condo market also is sharply increasing when it comes to price, year over year, with its median closed sale price at $260,000, a more than 18 percent increase over February 2018.

“The sales activity intensity is at the extreme frenzy level for new listings up to $500,000, which is the price range where 88 percent of sales take place,” J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said of the Pierce County market in his market sheet analysis.

Both sales activity intensity and unsold inventory is slightly higher than 2018 numbers.”

For Thurston County, Scott said, “We are seeing hotter sales activity intensity than we did in 2018.”

It’s not just home sales in a frenzy. The scene is pricey for apartment rentals, too. In a March 1 report from Apartment List, median two-bedroom rents in Tacoma were up 1.4 percent year over year with two months of consecutive rent increases.

“Compared to most large cities across the country, Tacoma is less affordable for renters,” the report noted.

Tacoma’s median two-bedroom rent of $1,560 came in above the national average of $1,170, according to the report.

The report listed Lakewood’s two-bedroom median the lowest in the Seattle-Tacoma area among its list of cities, at $1,450. Lakewood also saw the fastest rent growth, with a year-over-year rise of 3.9 percent.

Take heart, Tacoma renters, it’s still more expensive in Federal Way, where the two-bedroom median rent price was $1,740 on Apartment List’s February roundup. Kent was even higher, at $1,820, along with Puyallup at $1,920.

Debbie Cockrell has been with The News Tribune since 2009. She reports on business and development, local and regional issues.