Seattle-area home sales hit a six-year high for the month of January, rising above a year earlier for the 19th consecutive month. The median sale price fell from December, as it normally does, but increased year-over-year for the 10th consecutive month, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 3,102 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow during January in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area encompassing King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. January's total sales fell 26.0 percent from the month before and increased 25.1 percent from a year earlier, according to San Diego-based DataQuick. The firm tracks real estate trends nationally via public property records.
A dip in sales between December and January is normal, with that decline averaging 25.6 percent since 1994, when DataQuick's complete Seattle-area statistics begin.
The number of homes sold this January was the highest for that month since January 2007, when 4,223 homes sold. This January's sales total was still 6.7 percent below the average number of homes sold during all months of January since 1994. Resale single-family house sales were 9.2 percent below the historical average for January, while condo resales were 28.4 percent above average and sales of newly built homes were 20.4 percent below average.
The Seattle-area resale market - existing single-family houses and condos combined - posted a 19.4 percent increase in sales compared with a year earlier, while sales of newly built homes logged a 63.7 percent increase. January sales of new Seattle-area houses and condos combined were the highest for that month in five years.
The year-over-year increase in total January sales was driven by big gains for sales above $200,000, while the number of homes that sold for less than $200,000 rose just 1.0 percent year-over-year and sub-$150,000 sales fell 12.2 percent. Sales of homes priced above $200,000 rose 42.6 percent year-over-year, while $300,000-plus sales rose 50.5 percent. The number of homes that sold in January between $200,000 and $600,000, a typical move-up range, rose 24.3 percent from a year earlier. Sales over $700,000 rose 41.4 percent year-over-year, though sales in that price category represented a relatively small portion (6.4 percent) of total sales.
In January, 13 homes sold for $2 million or more in the three-county region, down from 24 in December but up 160.0 percent from five $2 million-plus sales in January 2012. During the six months ending in January this year, multi-million-dollar homes sales rose 32.5 percent from the same six-month period one year earlier. The figures are based on public property records, where either a sale price or loan amount indicating a $2 million-plus sale was available.
Across all price ranges in January, buyers paid a median $267,750 for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the three-county Seattle area. That was down 7.4 percent from the prior month and up 11.6 percent from a year earlier. The median price has risen on a year-over-year basis each month since April 2012, following 20 consecutive months of year-over-year declines.
January's median was 26.7 percent lower than the Seattle area's peak $365,200 median in June 2007, and it was 11.6 percent higher than the post-peak trough of $238,000 in January 2012.
Another key price measure, the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses, was $154 in January, down 3.9 percent from the month before and up 10.5 percent from a year earlier. The January figure was 35.8 percent lower than the peak $239 median paid per square foot in June 2007.
Distressed property sales - foreclosure resales and "short sales" combined - represented roughly 40.0 percent of the Seattle area's resale market in January, down from about 53 percent a year earlier.
Foreclosure resales - properties foreclosed on in the prior 12 months - represented 14.7 percent of the resale market in January. That was up from 12.2 percent the prior month and down from 32.5 percent a year earlier.
Short sales - transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property - made up an estimated 25.0 percent of the Seattle-area's January resales. That was up from an estimated 24.2 percent the month before and 20.6 percent a year earlier.
In January, lenders foreclosed on 908 single-family houses and condo units in the Seattle region, down 3.5 percent from the prior month and up 51.1 percent from a year earlier. The foreclosure figures are based on the number of Trustees Deeds filed with county recorder offices. The steep year-over-year gain in foreclosures likely reflects lenders playing catch-up after a lull in foreclosure activity following the July 2011 passage of a new state foreclosure law. The law allows many borrowers in distress to request "foreclosure mediation," where a mediator helps the homeowner and lender try to negotiate an agreement to avoid foreclosure, such as with a loan modification.
Absentee buyers - mainly investors - accounted for 21.9 percent of the Seattle area's January home sales, up from 19.9 percent a year earlier and up from a decade-long monthly average of 16.7 percent. Absentee buyers paid a median $211,000 in January, up 24.2 percent from a year earlier. While many of these buyers are investors, they can include second-home buyers and others who indicated at the time of sale that the property tax bill would be sent to a different address.
Many investors are among the cash buyers, who accounted for 23.4 percent of January home sales, up from 21.7 percent a year earlier. Cash buyers paid a median $211,500 in January, up 21.6 percent year-over-year.
In January, 21.2 percent of Seattle-area purchase mortgages were government-insured FHA loans, a popular, low-down-payment choice among first-time home buyers. That was down from an FHA share of 26.2 percent a year earlier. The FHA share of the purchase loan market has been in the 19 percent to 22 percent range for the past nine months, well below the region's peak FHA level for the current housing cycle, which was 39.9 percent of all homes loans in October 2009.
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA
|Number of sales
|Median sale price
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