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Washington real estate prices at a record high as inventory stays low

Home inventory was down 25 percent in April

Two houses shot from the street, one brown with gold trim, the other red with blue trim. The brown house is closer, and has an arched entryway. Matthew Rutledge/Flickr

This story has become a monthly tradition in 2017: Home sale prices are through the roof as inventory stays low.

Data released last week shows that homes listed through Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS), which aggregates listings for much of Washington State, in April had a record-high median closing price of $360,000, up 10 percent from April 2016, while inventory continues to fall. Brokers listed 11 percent fewer homes through NWMLS in April 2017 compared to April 2016.

Those record-high closing prices were serious business: Despite inventory being so far down, total closed sales in April totaled more than $3 billion, up 6 percent from last year.

NWMLS serves 23 out of 39 counties in Washington, tending toward the western half, including King, Pierce, and Snohomish.

In King County alone, the median home sale price in April was more than half a million dollars, at $550,000—but again, listings were down more than 20 percent.

One could say it’s a seller’s market, but NWMLS said in a release that brokers are finding the current environment “frustrating”—and potentially hazardous to all parties.

The Seattle market is "a tale of overconfident sellers meeting desperate buyers,” said NWMLS chairman and Coldwell Banker Bain principal John Deely in a statement. "Buyers looking to edge out the competition are being asked to, or are, waiving contingencies intended to protect both parties.”

“Sellers are pushing the upper boundaries of value and competing buyers are driving prices beyond the reasonable appraised value,” he added.

If the environment is desperate, it’s a continuation of the same trend. Data from early April showed frenzied bidding wars in Seattle, where 61 percent of houses were going for above asking. Later that month, a Redfin report found that 91 percent of homes in the Seattle metro were weighing multiple offers.

This environment has been brewing for quite some time. Home inventories have been low in Seattle all year—a report in January found that Seattle had the second-lowest inventory in the country, right behind San Francisco.