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Kitsap's moving in

POULSBO — It’s a buyer’s market in the real estate industry, and many of those buyers are coming to Poulsbo.

According to Northwest Multiple Listing Service reports for the month of April, Poulsbo home sales are up 11.8 percent over last year, with 19 homes sold in the month — two more than in 2007. Compared to last year, other North End communities had less success to report: Kingston is down 54.8 percent from 13 April sales in 2007 to six in 2008; Indianola is down 25 percent with three in April this year compared to four last year; and Suquamish and Hansville each broke even with six.

Other areas in the county report downturns in home sales as well. Port Orchard, Silverdale and East and West Bremerton all saw a comparative drop.

While local real estate brokers say the housing hit many areas in the country are taking still shows in local pricing, it may just be Poulsbo’s unique situation that is securing it as a viable option for buyers.

Poulsbo has seen 79 home sales in the first four months of this year, nearly equal to last year’s 82. Windermere real estate broker Terry Burns said while Little Norway stays on an even keel, the county is seeing a 25 percent decrease in transactions. Burns said because of development and Poulsbo’s proximity to Bainbridge ferry services, it makes for an attractive place for Seattle commuters not wanting to stay on the pricey island.

“Poulsbo’s a great place to live,” he said. “Bainbridge is kind of expensive and still people want to get to Seattle, so Poulsbo is kind of the crossroads of the county.”

The opportunity for employment, quality of schools and quality of homes — and increase in their inventory — seals the deal. Burns said there are currently 600 homes for sale in all of North Kitsap; two years ago there were less than 300.

With the number of homes to choose from more than doubled, it’s an even greater time to be a buyer, he said. For sellers, realistic expectations and realistic pricing are the best bets. But neither side needs to panic.

“The market is not crashing, things are not falling apart,” he said. While certain parts of the country suffer more than others, “I think we’re going to keep moving along here at a moderate clip.”

The current climate provides a great opportunity for first-time buyers. While in the last five to six years prices rose dramatically, homes are now becoming more affordable, he said.

When it comes to affordability, Prowse & Company broker Brenda Prowse said a major draw in Poulsbo — and leading reason homes sales are so high — is the Stendahl Ridge development of Quadrant Homes. The 185-home neighborhood is a competitively priced option many buyers are taking advantage of.

“Their price per square footage can’t be beat,” Prowse said. She said 11 in the development sold in April. Since the start of 2008, 32 have sold.

Prowse also said prices — Poulsbo’s median is $332,025 compared to 2007’s $344,000 — haven’t hit bottom yet, but will continue to drop toward affordability.

“Prices have fallen, they have, and as I see it they’re continuing to fall,” she said. “If people don’t have a house to sell and they’re a good viable buyer they’re getting a good deal.”

Poulsbo City Council Member Ed Stern said the Finance Committee has been tracking sales tax revenue as a similar indicator of Poulsbo’s draw, and at the end of March numbers were up 20 percent year-over-year. He said as Bainbridge Island and its ferry terminal serve as the front door from Seattle to Kitsap, “Poulsbo is its living room.”

“We’re the conduit, we’re the crossroads for western Washington,” he said. “That’s what we’re experiencing.”

He said the combination of Poulsbo’s quality of life and affordable housing have made it an attractive place for all kinds of people to call home. The city will continue to preserve the town while meeting present obligations to keep the positive trend going.

“I think we’re a real melting pot of both type and age and economic class,” he said. “It’s a charming, beautiful community that hasn’t lost its identity, has a strong sense of community and all of that just spells a great economic ship afloat.”

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