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Real estate market showing a pulse; prices drop, inventory and sales edge up

POULSBO – It cost about $235,000 to buy a home in Kitsap County in August.

That was the median price for a home here, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks real estate data in 21 Western Washington counties.

There were signs of momentum in the local real estate industry in August. Excluding the more populous King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, Kitsap was second in number of new listings, first in number of active listings, second in number of pending sales, first in number of closed sales, third in average price for a home and fifth in median price. (The median price means half of the homes sold for more than that price, half sold for less.)

In August, there were 455 new listings in Kitsap County, up from 436 in August 2010. There were a total of 1,925 homes on the market, down from 2,062; 333 pending sales, up from 289; and 270 closed sales, up from 198.

While Kitsap’s median price is 2.1 percent lower than in August 2010, there are signs prices have stabilized; the median home price has hovered mostly in the mid-$230,000s this year. Kitsap was one of only five counties to show slight year-to-date price changes. The others were Grant, -1.85 percent; Whatcom, -0.65 percent; Okanogan, unchanged; and San Juan, +2.6 percent.

“A real estate market is about activity and momentum,” said Frank Wilson, a Northwest MLS director and branch managing broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Poulsbo. “We continue to live in a real estate market of extreme affordability, affordability levels that have not been seen in decades.”

Indeed. Brenda Prowse, broker and owner of Prowse and Company, said it was possible to buy a home for less than $200,000 in Kingston at the end of August.

Inventory – the number of homes on the market – is increasing and prices are dropping in Kingston and Poulsbo, creating a buyer’s market, she said.

MLS directors say potential homebuyers should get pre-approved for a home loan, understand what homes are available in their selected market area and price range, and sign up to receive daily email notifications of just-listed properties. And sellers should take similar steps -- if you want to sell your home, understand the market.

“From a marketing perspective, there is nothing better than motivated sellers who are willing to stage their home for sale and price it to be competitive in today’s market,” Wilson said. “This market is now about serious buyers and serious sellers -- people who have a plan and goals in mind. Our pending sales are up more than 15 percent, which shows the activity of a healthy market.”

Prowse likes to look at numbers over a three-month period. In Kingston, the three-month average sales price of $249,633 is 1 percent lower than a year ago, she said. The average number of closed sales was 44 percent lower than a year ago, while the number of pending sales fell 50 percent from a year ago, compared to an increase of 6 percent countywide.

“The number of active listings in Kingston is 30 percent higher than a year ago” at 82,” she said. “Inventory was falling last year and is building now … Kingston is still a buyer's market.”

Likewise in Poulsbo, including the downtown core, from the head of Liberty Bay southeast to Ne-Si-Ka Bay, and parts north to Sawdust Hill Road. The August median sales price for Poulsbo was $300,000, down about 6 percent from a year ago and down about 3 percent from the previous month, she said. Over a three-month period, the average closed-sale price was $307,983, about 7 percent lower than a year ago – nice for buyers, and not bad for sellers because that price was better than the median price elsewhere in the county.

The market is showing a pulse in response. The number of pending sales in Poulsbo over a three-month period was up 33 percent from a year ago, Prowse said. The number of homes on the market, 125, is 18 percent higher than a year ago and 5 percent higher than the previous month.

See tables and graphs at http://bprowse.com/north_kitsap_market.

There are signs of momentum regionwide as well. August ranks as this year’s best month for pending and closed sales in Western Washington, according to the Northwest MLS. Last month’s volume of pending sales was the highest since April 2010 when the homebuyer tax incentive expired.

Regionwide, Northwest MLS brokers reported 7,632 pending sales, a gain of more than 26 percent from the same month a year ago. Closed sales climbed more than 35 percent from the same month a year ago, rising from 4,211 sales to 5,704. Through eight months, this year’s completed transactions have outgained last year 36,918 to 36,326, an increase of more than 1.6 percent.

 “The underlying factors for improving sales are developing, such as rising rents, record high-affordability conditions and investors buying real estate as a future inflation hedge,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “It is now a question of lending standards and consumers having the necessary confidence to enter the market.”

Kitsap County
Median prices, month by month
January: $239,995
February: $252,700
March: $229,000
April: $209,997
May: $237,000
June: $238,000
July: $239,000
August: $235,000

--Source: Northwest Multiple Listing Service

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