Tight housing market means competition, higher prices for Whatcom County homebuyers

An inventory shortage continues to make finding a home difficult for would-be homebuyers in Whatcom County.

Unlike in the rest of the state, the county did not see an increase in the number of new listings in May, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Where the state as a whole saw an increase in new listings of houses and condos from 11,939 in April to 12,272 in May, here that trend was reversed.

In Whatcom County, there were 493 new listings in April and just 474 in May. While that decrease is slight, it’s a whopping 22.7 percent fewer listings than went on the market in May of 2015.

There is just 2.54 months of inventory in Whatcom County, which is tight, but not as tight as the 1.76 months of inventory left at the state level.

“Inventory is being squeezed from all directions,” Frank Wilson, branch managing broker at John L. Scott in Poulsbo, said in the statement. He said in this market, every listing seems to draw multiple offers, making for tough competition for those trying to buy a home. He also doesn’t see an end to the crunch coming any time soon.

Many of the housing projects that went idle during the recession of 2008 to 2012 are being completed and built out, said Northwest MLS director George Moorhead, in the statement. That’s leading to builders buying more lots with tear-downs or looking for land farther away from urban areas.

That, plus the tight inventory is pushing prices up. In May the median price for a house was $309,000 in the county, an increase of 6.32 percent year over year.

“Low inventory coupled with the huge number of buyers has our market moving at a record pace,” Ken Anderson, owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty in Olympia, said. In his market in Olympia, last month set records for both pending and closed sales. “Well-priced homes are selling in an average of just 12 days – a full month faster than the peak of the market in 2006,” he said.

Brokers have some advice on how homebuyers can compete in this market. They may have to consider a “stepping stone” property — one that is further out, but near areas of future growth. Buyers should also carefully study the market, to make decisive offers when they find the listing they want.

“With the robust activity, success for buyers means making an offer that stands above the competition,” Anderson said.


Whatcom County housing market: May 2016

  • New listings:
    • Single-family: 420
    • Condo: 54
    • Total: 474
  • Total active listings:
    • Single-family: 789
    • Condo: 140
    • Total: 926
  • Median price:
    • Single-family: $309,000
    • Condo: $178,194
    • Total: $294,000
  • Months of inventory:
    • Single-family: 2.55
    • Condo: 2.5
    • Total: 2.54
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