Housing inventory reaches record low, but brokers expect spring bounce
KIRKLAND, March 6, 2017) – Home buyers are in a spring mood, but sellers are still hibernating, suggested one broker while commenting about the latest statistics from Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Figures for February and feedback from brokers indicate record-low inventory is spurring multiple offers, rising prices, fewer sales, and frustrated house-hunters.
Year over-year pending sales (mutually accepted offers) declined for the first time since March 2016, falling 8.9 percent. Eight counties, including King and Snohomish, reported double-digit drops in pending sales as the volume of new listings couldn’t keep pace with demand.
During the past three months, brokers have added 17,572 new listings to inventory, down only 5.7 percent when compared to the same three-month period of a year ago. During the latest December-to-February time frame, MLS members reported 22,393 pending sales, far outpacing the number of new listings.
“Our robust market has created extreme conditions, and we’re seeing frenzy hot activity on each new listing coming on the market,” reported J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott. “We’re also experiencing some of the lowest inventory levels on record,” he noted.
In fact, a check of Northwest MLS records dating to 2004 shows no other month when the number of active listings dipped below the 10,000 mark – until last month.
At the end of February, there were 9,091 active listings in the Northwest MLS system, which encompasses 23 counties. That represents a drop of nearly 25 percent from the year-ago total of 12,107.
“Home sellers and buyers are complaining equally about the current market’s low inventory,” remarked MLS director George Moorhead, designated broker at Bentley Properties. “Sellers are frustrated when they cannot find another home to match their current needs, or when a home goes off market so fast that the option of a contingent sale is not even considered,” he stated.
Buyers have been grumbling about the market for the past two years, Moorhead said. “That mood has escalated into a panic as other buyers up the ante – at times to a level that even causes real estate professionals to shake their heads,” he remarked.
Brokers believe seasonality is a factor, with several saying they are expecting an uptick in listings.
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Northwest Multiple Listing Service, owned by its member real estate firms, is the largest full-service MLS in the Northwest. Its membership of nearly 2,100 member offices includes more than 25,000 real estate professionals. The organization, based in Kirkland, Wash., currently serves 23 counties in Washington state.