Want a ‘starter’ luxury home in Pierce County? Prices going up for those, too

As median home sale prices rise, so goes the rest of the market.

In new figures released Friday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the median single-family closed home sale price for Pierce County in March was $363,084, up 3.75 percent from a year ago.

That compares with King County’s median of $667,725 (down 3.22 percent from a year ago but still up from February) and Thurston’s $325,550 (up 8.16 percent from 2018). Kitsap County was at $341,360, (up 5.23 percent from last year).

Snohomish’s median hit $500,000 (up 5.26 percent from a year ago).

Homes priced up to $500,000 make up the vast majority of sales in the Tacoma-area market — 86 percent.

Yet, more expensive homes are feeling the crunch, too.

Since 2014, the number of home sales priced above $500,000 in Pierce County has risen 315 percent, according to Dick Beeson, principal managing broker of Re/Max Northwest in Gig Harbor.

J. Lennox Scott released his Pierce County analysis Friday morning.

“In the $500,000 to $1 million range, there is a surge level of sales activity intensity, with a shortage of unsold inventory,” noted the chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate. “For properties priced above $1 million, there is healthy sales activity intensity.”

It wasn’t always this way.

“Once upon a 2014 market, homes priced at or above $500,000 were considered the beginning point for high-end homes,” Beeson wrote in his own analysis. Now, he says, the starting point for what agents consider luxury is close to $750,000 and is set to move higher. He noted that’s already happened in Gig Harbor and parts of Lake Tapps.

“In Pierce County in 2014, the total number of single-family home sales that were above $500,000 was 578. But that number grew in 2018 to 2,402,” he wrote.

Beeson counted roughly 600 homes in Pierce County priced at or above $500,000 last month, with more than 42 percent of those being new construction.

Thurston County, he noted, also saw a dramatic upswing, going from 99 sales of homes priced $500,000 and above in 2014 to 514 sales in 2018, with new construction counting for a third of those last year.

New construction was a key driver in areas that saw the most dramatic increase in $500,000-plus sales. The Gig Harbor/Peninsula area saw new construction sales in this market going up more than 600 percent.

According to Beeson, other areas that saw a dramatic rise of new and existing homes sold at or above $500,000:

Puyallup/Fife/Milton: 31 sales in 2014, 428 in 2018.

Lake Tapps, Bonney Lake: 89 sales in 2014, 461 in 2018.

While you might not get a same-day offer putting your upscale home on the market, the pace of sales has accelerated among the lucky ones that do get an offer.

According to Beeson: “In 2014, homes sold above $500,000 averaged 64 days on market before accepting an offer. Nearly 33 percent of those homes sold in 30 days or less. In 2018, that number dropped to an average of 47 days on the market before an offer was accepted, with 45 percent of the homes sold on the market 30 days or less.”

There is some relief for those in the below-$500,000 market, which despite rising prices also saw a slightly improving inventory.

“Unlike 6-12 months ago, sellers are now agreeing to do repairs and pay buyer’s closing costs,” Beeson said in Friday’s NWMLS report. “Some type of negotiation is once again prevalent in almost every sale.”

If all this still seems too rich, there’s always the condo market, but it’s still limited in its inventory.

According to NWMLS, in March the median closed condominium price in Pierce County in March was $268,950, King was at $434,000 and Thurston was $215,000.