Puget Sound housing market enters busy spring season with few homes for sale

The inventory of homes available for sale remains extremely tight as the Puget Sound market moves into the busy spring selling season, according to a new report from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Tight inventories are leading to more multiple offers and rising prices as buyers compete for properties.
In February, the inventory of single-family homes and condominiums available for sale dwindled to just over a 1.2-month supply in King and Snohomish Counties and a 2.1-month supply in Pierce County. A six-months supply is considered a balanced market.
Compared to February a year ago, the number of active listings was down 45.3 percent in King County, 47.7 percent in Snohomish County and 29.3 percent in Pierce County in February. That compares to an overall drop of 29 percent in active listings in the 21 counties served by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
“This restriction of homes for sale is prevalent in the price ranges where more than 90 percent of the activity is taking place, causing prices to rise,” said J. Lennox Scott, CEO of the Bellevue-based brokerage company John L. Scott Inc.
Distressed properties continue to be a drag on the market, accounting for roughly one-fourth of the single-family homes and condominiums listed for sale through the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Some would-be sellers are prevented from listing their homes because they are underwater on their mortgages and either don’t have the cash to cover their losses at closing or can’t qualify for short sales.
Federal budgets cuts from sequestration could further hobble the housing market as it moves into the spring sales season. Federal agencies may have fewer workers to process loans, slowing the approval process. Federal staff cuts may also make it more difficult to sell distressed properties, according to some residential brokers commenting in the NWMLS release.
Tight supplies continue to boost the median prices of single-family homes and condominiums in the tri-county area. The median price for a home in King County in February was $332,577, up 20.9 percent compared to the same month in 2012. In Snohomish County, the median home price was $260,000, up 18.2 percent year over year. Meanwhile, the median home price in Pierce County was $195,725, up 15.5 percent.

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