SEATTLE’S SLUMP: Why buyers are looking North and South for more home for their buck

After a record-breaking period of pedal-to-the-metal acceleration, the Seattle- and Eastside real estate market is finally beginning to pump its brakes a bit.

According to Case-Shiller’s recent home price index, while single-family homes increased in price across the metro area that includes King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties by 12.1 percent over the past year (which is the second largest increase in the country), this growth is due primarily to a 16 percent bump in areas such as Tacoma and Everett where homes are significantly cheaper (homes priced below $410,000 fall into this category).

It is here, outside of Seattle and the Eastside, that many buyers are looking for — and finding — homes that fit more comfortably within their budget. The median price for homes in King County is $669,000, while in Snohomish and Pierce counties that price is $492,000 and $352,000 respectively.

The result of this trend is a rise in inventory and a drop in prices in the Seattle and Eastside markets. According to Dick Beeson, RE/MAX’s principal managing broker in Gig Harbor, “The difference is [that] our price point is just so much more affordable. We’re half of what you guys are [in Seattle].”

According to Beeson, Pierce County has seen a mere 7 percent bump in housing inventory since 2017, while the number of unsold homes in King County has increased by 66 percent. Indeed, Pierce County homes have dropped by only $3,000 since last year, whereas King County home prices have fallen by a whopping $57,000.

Home-sale figures tell a similar story.

According to Redfin, despite having the country’s second-largest bump in housing inventory, Seattle has seen a more significant drop in home sales than any other location. The reason for this, the brokerage said, is not due to new listings but rather to houses taking longer and longer to sell.

The manager of John L. Scott’s Lynnwood, branch, Craig Forehand, indicates that areas like Everett and Lake Stevens have become attractive markets for prospective buyers:

“[In] the Eastside and Seattle markets, the prices have gone up so high that people are looking up here. The further north and the further south you go, people are willing to take that extra commute.”

As of last month, Seattle has been replaced by Las Vegas as the country’s hottest real estate market, with no change whatsoever in the prices of homes throughout the region on a month-over-month basis.

Indeed, the data suggests that Seattle’s down-tick could soon be felt in Snohomish and Pierce counties as well. Even though the bump in inventory in those places is minor, it reverses a several-years-long pattern of inventory decline. And with year-over-year sales in those counties dropping, Case-Shilling’s report highlights a slight slowing of buyer demand.

And yet, as both Forehand and Beeson suggest, it is not uncommon for housing prices on the outskirts of the region to level off this time of year.

So when it comes to whether the Seattle- and Eastside markets are experiencing a new trending downturn or are merely hitting a slump, only time will tell.