Seattle-area home sales rose above a year earlier for the 12th consecutive month in September, reaching the highest level for that month in five years. The median sale price rose year-over-year for the sixth consecutive month. The median has risen because of price hikes as well as a big shift in market mix, where activity in mid- to high-end neighborhoods has picked up at the same time foreclosure resales and sub-$200,000 deals have declined sharply, a real estate information service reported.
A total of 3,988 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow during September in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area encompassing King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. September's total sales fell 19.2 percent from the month before and increased 6.1 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 August and September is normal, with that decline averaging 11.1 percent since 1994, when DataQuick's complete Seattle-area statistics begin.
The number of homes sold this September was the highest for that month since September 2007, when 4,577 homes sold. However, this September's sales total was still 21.8 percent below the average number of homes sold during the month of September since 1994.
The Seattle-area resale market - existing single-family houses and condos combined - posted a 5.2 percent sales gain from a year earlier, while sales of newly built homes logged a 12.2 percent increase. September sales of new Seattle-area houses and condos combined were the highest for that month in three years.
The year-over-year increase in total September sales was the result of more activity above $200,000. The number of homes that sold for less than $200,000 fell 15.5 percent from a year earlier. Sales above $200,000 rose 19.6 percent, while $300,000-plus sales rose 30.2 percent from a year ago. The number of homes that sold for more than $700,000 rose 22.1 percent year-over-year.
Buyers paid a median $294,480 for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the three-county Seattle area during September. That was up 1.5 percent from the prior month and up 13.5 percent from a year earlier. The median began rising on a year-over-year basis this April, following 20 consecutive months of year-over-year declines.
September's median was 19.4 percent lower than the Seattle area's peak $365,200 median in June 2007, and it was 23.7 percent higher than the post-peak trough of $238,000 in January this year.
Another key price measure, the median paid per square foot for resale single-family detached houses, held at $176 in September. That was the same as in June, July and August, and up 11.4 percent from a year earlier. The median paid per square foot has risen year-over-year for five consecutive months, following 20 straight months of year-over-year declines. The September figure was 26.4 percent lower than the peak $239 median paid per square foot in June 2007.
At the county level in September, the median price paid per square foot for resale detached houses rose to $223 in King County, up 7.7 percent year-over-year, while it increased to $117 in Pierce County, up 4.5 percent from a year ago. Snohomish County's median paid per square foot rose to $163, up 12.4 percent from a year earlier.
Distressed property sales - foreclosure resales and "short sales" combined - represented roughly 34 percent of the Seattle area's resale market in September, down from about 46 percent a year earlier.
Foreclosure resales - properties foreclosed on in the prior 12 months - represented 10.8 percent of the resale market in September. That was down from 29.1 percent a year earlier and it was the lowest level for any month since foreclosure resales were 10.4 percent of the resale market in October 2008.
Short sales - transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property - made up an estimated 23.4 percent of the Seattle-area's September resales. That was up from an estimated 17.0 percent a year earlier.
In September, lenders foreclosed on 611 single-family houses and condo units in the Seattle region, down 41.0 percent from a year earlier. During the first nine months of this year, 5,010 homes were foreclosed on in the Seattle area, down 51.5 percent from the same period last year. The figures are based on the number of Trustees Deeds filed with county recorder offices.
Absentee buyers â€“ mainly investors â€“ accounted for 15.9 percent of the Seattle area's September home sales, down from 16.7 percent a year earlier. Absentee buyers paid a median $219,500 in September, up 12.6 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 22.7 percent of September home sales, up from 19.9 percent a year earlier. Cash buyers paid a median $247,531 in September, up 18.5 percent year-over-year.
In September, 19.0 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 23.5 percent of home purchase loans a year earlier, and the lowest since it was 19.0 percent in June 2008. The region's FHA level peaked for the current housing cycle at 39.9 percent in October 2009.
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA MSA
| Number of sales
|Median sale price
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