1-6-10 Whatcom County Home Sales

Interesting article in the Bellingham Herald regarding home prices in the county.

Whatcom County homes sales up a bit in 2009,  but at lower prices

DAVE GALLAGHER – THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
click here for link to original article
A late-season rally put Whatcom County home sales about on par with the previous year, but the price continued to drop in 2009.

Last year Whatcom County real estate agents sold 1,992 homes, slightly more than the 1,981 sold in 2008.

The median price for homes sold last year was $258,950, down 6.5 percent compared to the previous year, according to Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. Johnson is a real estate agent who analyzes local housing data.

In a separate report, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service estimates 175 homes sold last month in Whatcom County, 65 more than in December 2008.

While the year-over-year increase is a sign that sales have stabilized, it was still just a small step toward recovery. Last year was the second lowest total for the decade, according to Johnson’s data. The peak was in 2003, when real estate agents sold 3,052 units.

The coming year appears to be an uncertain one for real estate because of the economy, said Gragg Miller of Coldwell Banker Miller-Arnason. High unemployment and foreclosure numbers could make 2010 look similar to 2009.

“I’m not as nervous as I was last year at this time, but there are still some things to be concerned about,” Miller said.

Johnson agreed, noting the threat of interest rates rising later in the year and the homebuyer tax credit program ending by summer could spur increased activity for the first four months of 2010. The trend after that is less predictable.

“It really depends on what is happening in the economy after the (government tax credit) program ends,” Johnson said.

While home sales activity has been up in recent months, distressed sales are playing a bigger role. According to Johnson, more than half of the sales under contract in Bellingham on Dec. 31 were either a short sale or a bank-owned property. Much of the spike has been in short sales.

“That tells me there were a significant number of people who needed to sell right now,” Johnson said.

Other trends:

• The demand for homes remains in the lower price ranges. There is a three-month supply for homes in Bellingham under $250,000, while there is a four-month supply for those between $250,000 and $500,000. Those supply numbers would typically mean it’s a seller’s market, but that hasn’t led to a rise in prices.

• Bellingham fared better than most of Whatcom County’s communities, seeing a 3.3 percent rise in sales while the median price only dropped 3.5 percent. “People continue to move into the city from the county,” Miller said.

HOMES SALES BY COMMUNITY

A look at the median sales price, average sale price, total homes sold and average days on market in 2009 and percentage change to the previous year.

Whatcom County:Median sales price, $258,950, down 6.5 percent; average sales price, $295,100, down 7.2 percent; total homes sold, 1,992, up 0.5 percent; average days on the market, 102, up 1 percent.

Bellingham: Median sales price, $288,444, down 3.5 percent; average sales price, $339,537, down 5.5 percent; total homes sold, 910, up 3.3 percent; average days on the market, 92, unchanged.

Lynden: Median sales price, $268,850, down 9.5 percent; average sales price, $288,852, down 11 percent; total homes sold, 154, down 15.4 percent; average days on the market, 108, down 10.7 percent.

Ferndale: Median sales price, $262,950, down 9.7 percent; average sales price, $287,920, down 6.9 percent; total homes sold, 247, down 4.3 percent; average days on the market, 98, down 4.9 percent.

Sudden Valley: Median sales price, $231,700, down 9.4 percent; average sales price, $246,909, down 7.8 percent; total homes sold, 152, up 7 percent; average days on the market, 108, up 4.9 percent.

Blaine/Birch Bay: Median sales price, $223,600, down 10.6 percent; average sales price, $266,843, down 5.6 percent; total homes sold, 251, up 5 percent; average days on the market, 131, up 72.4 percent.

Nooksack Valley: Median sales price, $214,950, down 10.1 percent; average sales price, $241,849, down 11.8 percent; total homes sold, 108, up 16.1 percent; average days on the market, 101, up 11 percent.

Mount Baker: Median sales price, $135,000, down 17.4 percent; average sales price, $146,760, down 19.5 percent; total homes sold, 123, up 3.4 percent; average days on the market, 102, down 1.9 percent.

SOURCE: Lylene Johnson, The Muljat Group

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com

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