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MLS figures show pending sales across the 23 counties it serves dropped about 4.5 percent in March compared to the same period a year ago. Inventory fell sharply – down more than 25 percent. Brokers say that imbalance helped spur a 9.4 percent escalation in prices area-wide, with 12 counties reporting double-digit increases.
One MLS spokesperson wondered if spring “has sprung in the wrong direction.” Noting inventory usually grows at this time of the year, yet it is shrinking, broker Frank Wilson said “I feel like we planted our tulips upside down in Kitsap — as if the spring housing market has sprung in the wrong direction. Instead of growing up, things are growing downwards.”
“The housing pool is getting smaller, resulting in a market that is extremely hard on people who are looking to find a place to live in Kitsap,” remarked Wilson, the branch managing broker at John L. Scott’s Poulsbo office. He suggested the only homes that aren’t selling “are truly overpriced or have some other challenging condition.”
Kitsap County is one of six counties with less than two months of supply. Area-wide, Northwest MLS figures show only 1.8 months of supply, well below the “balanced” range of four-to-six months.
The year-to-date drop in pending sales versus first quarter 2015 is a reflection of tight inventory, according to MLS members. “It’s not for any other reason except there aren’t enough homes coming on the market to satisfy pent-up buyer demand,” stated Scott. He also points to listing shortages for the steady escalation of home prices.
To illustrate his point, Scott cited figures for the single family component. In King County, pending sales for March declined nearly 11 percent, while prices spiked 20.7 percent. Pending sales of condos (excluding single family homes) were about the same as a year ago in King County, but year-over-year prices jumped 15 percent.
MLS members added 10,511 new listings to inventory during March, about the same as a year ago when they added 10,505 single family homes and condos to the offerings. At month end, there were 12,653 total active listings in the Northwest MLS system. That represents a drop of 25.6 percent from the year-ago total of 17,007 active listings.
“In today’s market sellers want to find their next home before they list their current home, but because of the severe inventory shortage it’s hard to win in a multiple offer situation,” Scott explained. He said some sellers are hesitant to put their home on the market because they fear it would sell instantly and they might not win their next home. “It’s a Catch 22 situation,” he explained.