Home prices stabilize, but sales slump in 3Q

The Bellingham Business Journal

Third quarter home sales in Whatcom County dropped by 33.2 percent compared to last year, but home prices appear to have stabilized, according to data compiled by Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group.

Bellingham, which accounts for nearly half of the county’s home sales, had 28.2 percent fewer sales while most of the other areas of the county experienced drops of 35 percent or more. The relative bright spots were Lynden, which saw 15.4 percent fewer home sales and Mount Baker, which dropped 17.1 percent.

The median home price, however, actually rose 3.5 percent to $264,000. The median was boosted by an increase in homes selling for more than $750,000 combined with a decrease in homes selling for less than $300,000, Johnson said press release.

“The market is very unsettled right now and generalizations about pricing and demand are even less applicable than usual,” Johnson said. “We are still seeing multiple offers and fast sales; we are also seeing homes that have been on the market for years. For sellers, it is more critical than ever to price a property correctly when it first goes on the market.”

Typically, the third quarter has the highest number of sales. However, Johnson noted this year was skewed by the federal tax credits for first-time and existing homeowners, which required sales agreements by April 30, leading some buyers to make decisions before the summer.

Looking at the first nine months as a whole shows a larger picture of the real estate market and takes out any quarterly fluctuations caused by the federal tax credit, Johnson said. So far, Whatcom County homes sales in 2010 are down 12.6 percent to 1,266 units and the median sales price is down 1.9 percent to $255,000 compared to last year.

When compared to the first nine months of 2007, the last strong period for county real estate in recent years, Johnson said, this year is down 41.1 percent in sales and the median price has declined 12.5 percent.

The following data compares 2010 third quarter home sales around Whatcom County to the third quarter of 2009.

Whatcom County — Median price: $264,000, up 3.5 percent; units sold: 410, down 33.2 percent; days on market: 139, up 14.9 percent.

Bellingham – Median price: $299,900, up 0.3 percent; units sold: 201, down 28.2 percent; days on market: 123, up 9.3 percent.

Birch Bay/Blaine – Median price: $219,000, down 2.2 percent; units sold: 57, down 39.4 percent; days on market: 147, up 9.3 percent.

Ferndale – Median price: $266,000, up 1.7 percent; units sold: 48, down 35.1 percent; days on market: 152, up 19.7 percent.

Lynden – Median price: $265,000, down 1.5 percent; units sold: 33, down 15.4 percent; days on market: 142, up 2.9 percent.

Mount Baker – Median price: $71,000, down 49.3 percent; units sold: 29, down 17.1 percent; days on market: 146, down 9.8 percent.

Nooksack Valley – Median price: $258,950, up 23.3 percent; units sold: 12, down 58.6 percent; days on market: 346, up 288.8 percent.

Sudden Valley – Median price: $251,700, up 9.5 percent; units sold: 22, down 53.2 percent; days on market: 91, down 16.5 percent.

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