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Neighboring counties catching Seattle’s fever

Ferries acting as buffers to housing swings

Tom Trimbath

Seattle’s real estate market is busy, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. King County has a similar fever, and so do most of the neighboring counties. Affordability is encouraging sprawl which is now reaching into Snohomish, Pierce, Skagit, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. Kitsap and Island counties have a slightly different story.

Prices are nicely bracketing King County’s increase of 6.9 percent: up from 6.3 percent in Thurston County to 11.6 percent in Pierce County with two outliers. Skagit County was up 27.7 percent while Island County was actually down 1.2 percent. It looks like Mount Vernon is getting busy while the ferries may be slowing down at least one island. In general, real estate is keeping ahead of inflation.

The number of listings has dropped dramatically. Again, King County set the pace at down 18.9 percent; but the neighbors dropped faster. Thurston County “only” dropped 21.8 percent while Whatcom dropped 30.5 percent. The two outliers have ferries in common. Island County was only down 6.3 percent while Kitsap County was actually up 3.1 percent. At a glance it would look like people have figured out how to commute on highways but not by boat.

The benchmark for a healthy market is about six months of inventory. No place gets even close. The closest any county gets is 2.5 months, which is the case for Island and Whatcom counties. In most markets, they would be considered hot markets. Here and now they are the slow pokes compared to the 1.0 - 2.0 month inventories in most of the other counties.

For more details, head over to for analyses of each county. The story doesn’t end there. Ocean Shores is seeing something similar.

And, if you want to cruise through some markets that are a bit less frantic, hop on a ferry.