With Spring now upon us, the real estate market is experiencing an uptick in activity as noted with increases in the number of new listings, pending transactions and closed sales last month. The median citywide condo price remained essentially unchanged at $275,000 compared to February, while compared to last March, it reflects the largest year-over-year percentage decline we’ve seen in years, down 16.7%. Though, the March 2008 median Seattle condo price of $329,975 was the second highest on record.
The number of active listings rose last month to 1,363 properties, up 6.3% from February though it’s 5.7% fewer compared to last March. Fortunately, pending transactions (properties going under contract) and closed sales increased over February by 2.9% and 19.4%, respectively. However, compared to last year’s activity, the market continues to underperform with sales only about 56% of the level we experienced last March.
The citywide inventory supply rate (absorption rate) inched up slightly from 9.2 to 9.5 months, not bad considering that the rate of new listings outpaced pending transactions. The downtown area and West Seattle reflected the largest increase in supply rate, both now around 15 months. Two areas did experience a one month drop in the supply rate, Queen Anne / Magnolia and North Seattle. With few new construction or conversion projects adding to inventory, those areas are likely to be the first to stabilize.
The overall citywide median price is the lowest since mid-2006 for the second consecutive month, so buyers can find good condo values. While it’s a little too early to tell how much impact the revised first-time home buyers tax credit will have locally, moderate priced units, where most first-time buyers fall, are moving. Condos under $350,000 remain the most active segment of the market.
At the other end of the spectrum there’s a large surplus of high-end inventory particularly with Olive 8, Enso, Escala, Alex, 200 West Highland and Rollin Street completing this year. With so much competition, and a smaller pool of qualified buyers, we can expect more price fluctuations and incentives as new developments do what they can to generate sales.