Housing shortage continues to push Whatcom County home prices up

By BBJ Staff

In the market for a new home? Expect competition and higher prices.

The median price of a home sold in Whatcom County last month was $285,000. That’s up 10.04 percent from March of last year, according to numbers released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service today. That increase is higher than the statewide average of 9.4 percent.

For just the numbers for single-family homes, prices shot up even higher. In March of last year, the median single-family home price in Whatcom County was $270,000. This March it was $303,000. That’s an increase of 12.22 percent, well above the state average increase of 8.69 percent.

The price increase for condos was less dramatic, up to $165,450 from $150,000, or a 10.3 percent increase year-over-year. The state average for condos was an increase of 14.58 percent.

Both the county and the state are short on housing. Whatcom County has just 3.05 months of inventory; the state has just 1.79. Between four and six months is considered a “balanced” market.

“We are virtually sold out of inventory and there’s a pipeline of stalled buyers,” said John L. Scott, the chairman and CEO of John L. Scott, Inc, in a the news release.

The shortage is even making sellers nervous.

“In today’s market sellers want to find their next home before they list their current home, but because of the severe inventory shortage it’s hard to win in a multiple offer situation,” Scott said. Sellers worry that their current homes will sell too fast, and they might not get their next home. “It’s a Catch 22 situation,” Scott said.

There were also 12.36 percent fewer active listings in March than there was in March of 2015 in Whatcom County. In 2015, 462 new listing were added in March, and there were 979 total active listings. In March of this year, a similar 445 listings were added, but there were just 858 total active listings.

Broker Frank Wilson said the situation is especially frustrating for those who finally have equity in their homes.

“They now want to buy, but they can’t find a home to purchase so they can’t sell,”  Wilson said.

Despite the tight market, many buyers aren’t willing to overpay, MLS director George Moorhead said.

“Home pricing is critiqued at a much higher level now with all the information available to buyers,” he said.

Moorhead says he hears almost-daily conversations on two topics: the possibility of rising interest rates and a near-term real estate correction. He also says he hears comments on recent loan programs with zero down or no income qualification — programs similar to those blamed for the 2008 crash.

“It is refreshing to hear such comments as it shows people in the market, both buyers and sellers are more in tune with trends,” Moorhead said.

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