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In Seattle real estate market, inventory is finally up

Inventory has been tight for years, but the crunch is starting to ease

Frank Fell/Shutterstock

The short version of the story of the past while in Seattle real estate is not just high prices, but extremely low inventory. Fortunately, at least one thing that’s making things harder for buyers and agents alike seems to be changing, according to the latest numbers from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS): The city ended June with more than a month of inventory for the first time since September 2016.

In the Seattle city limits in June 2018, NWMLS saw 1,246 active listings, a 75.5 percent increase from the year before. Seattle ended last month with 1.2 months of inventory—a figure based on number of homes for sale and typical sales time—which is nearly double what the market had the previous year.

While this didn’t translate to a decrease in housing prices, they did rise less than last month or last year. Median closing prices rose 8 percent compared to June of last year—but at that time, home values had risen 17 percent. So although the median closing price for last month in Seattle was a whopping $740,000, or $812,500 for a single-family home, it rose far less quickly than this time last year.

County-wide, the inventory picture also improved, although home prices continue to rise; King County ended the month with 1.3 months of inventory compared to .84 last year. And while home prices are rising less quickly than this time last year, too, it’s not by as much. County-wide, home prices rose 10.2 percent over last year—compared to 15.7 percent over the previous year.

Even if home values are rising less quickly, they’re still already high—and still, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council, going up by about $5 every hour of every day. With renters already cost-burdened at a higher rate than homeowners, there seem to be fewer options for entering into homeownership. For people already priced out, there’s not a lot of good news here.

But it’s decent news for current househunters worried about getting priced out before they can get an offer accepted, agents short on listings, or current homeowners sitting on their properties because they’re worried about their next steps.

Meanwhile, though, there’s not much relief in sight for would-be homebuyers in Tacoma. As the City of Destiny’s rent rises faster than Seattle, closing prices have jumped more than 13 percent in Pierce County. Inventory is down and median sale prices are up across the city proper, with the biggest jump in home price, 34.6 percent, in central Tacoma.