Report shows strength, new trends in Whatcom's housing market

Whatcom County’s housing market enjoyed gains in the third quarter of 2013, with homes sales rising nearly 21 percent along with moderate increases in sale prices, according to a recent analysis of Northwest Multiple Listing Service data by Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group.

Local NMLS real-estate agents reported 718 county home sales in the third quarter, which ended on Sept. 30. That’s a 20.9 percent increase from the same period last year, according to Johnson’s analysis.

Percentage increases in home sales were particularly strong in Blaine and Birch Bay, which together rose 38.9 percent in the third quarter, and in Bellingham, where sales increased by 24.2 percent.

The median sale price for homes in Whatcom County in the third quarter increased 4.7 percent to $266,250, which is the highest median price the county has recorded since 2008, when it stood at $275,000.

Johnson, a longtime Whatcom County real-estate agent who has issued reports tracking local housing market trends since 2003, said that the change in price ranges on sold properties in Bellingham during September 2013 was perhaps the most significant finding from her recent analysis.

In 2012, Bellingham homes that sold below $300,000 made up 63 percent of the year’s total sales, according to Johnson. Those sold within the $300,000 to $500,000 range made up 25 percent of the total.

But in September of this year, the number of homes sold in both of those ranges each accounted for 41 percent of the market.

Johnson said this indicates more homeowners are taking opportunities to upgrade and either buy or sell higher-priced homes. The shift could also be evidence of a new influx of home buyers from out of town, she added.

While the overall third-quarter numbers were positive, some smaller communities, including Lynden and Nooksack Valley, saw declines in home sales and sale prices.

Yet Johnson said it is difficult to draw broad conclusions from data in smaller markets, where percentages can sway greatly based on just a handful of new sales, listings or sale prices.

While the county’s overall market usually slows down following the busy summer sales season, Johnson said that with rising inventory rates and pending sales outpacing new listings, Whatcom County’s real-estate world still “feels very active.”

She also downplayed potential negative impacts on the market due to the recent federal government shutdown.

“[For] most transactions, it wasn’t shut down long enough to impact them greatly,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to see any long-term ramifications from that.”

Whatcom County home sales, Q3 2013
Includes number of units sold, median and average sales prices and average days on market. Percentage changes compare Q3 2013 to Q3 2012. 

Total county
Units sold: 718 (up 20.9 percent)
Median price: $266,250 (up 4.7 percent)
Average price: $299,464 (up 3.9 percent)
Days on market: 80 (down 25.2 percent)

Units sold: 344 (up 24.2 percent)
Median price: $301,450 (up 9.6 percent)
Average price: $355,148 (up 7.8 percent)
Days on market: 60 (down 30.2 percent)

Birch Bay/Blaine
Units sold: 91 (up 37.9 percent)
Median price: $220,000 (down 8.9 percent)
Average price: $261,419 (down 14.6 percent)
Days on market: 102 (down 46.6 percent)

Units sold: 81 (unchanged)
Median price: $271,000 (up 5.4 percent)
Average price: $275,555 (up 3.4 percent)
Days on market: 98 (up 14 percent)

Units sold: 56 (down 15.2 percent)
Median price: $251,400 (down 2.9 percent)
Average price: $267,097 (down 3.2 percent)
Days on market: 63 (down 30.8 percent)

Mount Baker
Units sold: 37 (up 19.4 percent)
Median price: $70,000 (down 2.9 percent)
Average price: $137,632 (up 11.5 percent)
Days on market: 128 (down 9.9 percent)

Nooksack Valley
Units sold: 27 (down 10 percent)
Median price: $235,000 (up 19 percent)
Average price: $226,054 (up 9.7 percent)
Days on market: 92 (down 23.3 percent)

Sudden Valley
Units sold: 50 (up 38.9 percent)
Median price: $224,200 (up 11 percent)
Average price: $230,413 (up 7.1 percent)
Days on market: 75 (down 20.2 percent)

Source: Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group

Evan Marczynski, staff reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.

Correction: Oct. 28, 2013:
Third quarter real-estate statistics for Nooksack Valley were accidentally omitted in the original version of this article. They are now included among statistics from other communities in Whatcom County. 

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