An article in the Puget Sound Business Journal this week compared the available local condominium inventory to New York City. Granted, NYC is a much larger and more expensive market, but currently NYC has 388 condos for sale priced less than $500,00. At the time the article was written there were only five condos available for sale in Seattle priced under $500,000. Here on the greater Eastside there are less than 100 condos available for sale – not nearly enough to satisfy demand.
We are fortunate to live in a region where the economy is thriving, employers are hiring, housing is relatively affordable (compared to some other major metropolitan areas) and its a beautiful place to live with a temperate climate and year-round recreation options. Recent U.S. Census Bureau reports show that nearly 250 people move to the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area every week (for all the reasons just mentioned). Its also a great place to retire because of the mild climate, vibrant arts, entertainment and social scene and world class health care services, so people aren’t leaving in great numbers either. Because retirees stay in the area and because job opportunities bring hundreds of people a day to the area, it doesn’t appear there will be much change or relief to the tight inventory or escalating housing prices in the near future.
So far this year 636 Bellevue condominiums have sold compared to 746 in 2016. With a current median sales price of $486,500, condo values have increased over 25% compared to last year. The downtown Bellevue marketplace, with its limited number of condominium residences, follows the same pattern. This year 241 condos have sold compared to 279 last year and the median sales price is $690,000, up 19% over last year.
Where are the condos? There are a few new construction townhome communities that have recently been completed, but most have pre-sold or are selling quickly. There are a few 40-50 unit townhouse projects in the design/review phase but it will be another 2+ years until completion and prices will likely start in the $700,000s. The only new high rise community, One88, recently broke ground in Bellevue’s central business district (21 story building with 143 residences). Its anticipated pre-sales will be start next spring and be absorbed quickly. Unfortunately 350+ new construction units won’t come close to satisfying demand.
While it will continue to be a seller’s market for the foreseeable future, there are signs the market has taken a short (but perhaps brief) breath as we approach the holidays. Multiple offers are still common, but in many cases 4-5 vs. the dozens seen last spring. And while some homes are still selling for more than the list price, there have been several closed sales at the list price or even just under the list price. Market time is also increasing in some areas.
2018 will be another challenging real estate market but there is hope. More properties come on the market February – June than any other time of the year so buyers should have more to choose from in the coming months. Buyers must be smart about their search, be patient and be in a position to make a decision. (Do your homework, get your financing in order, be available to see new homes quickly and work with an experienced broker who knows the market and is committed to your success.) With more homes for buyers to choose from next spring, sellers (and investors ready to shed rental properties) will have more competition. It will still be a seller’s market but it will be important to bring a good product to the market. A home in disrepair, unsafe, overpriced or with too many flaws will linger on the market and won’t command top dollar. Too many buyers are comfortably living in new, modern apartments and have the luxury of taking their time to find the right house, maybe even lose a house or two (or three) before becoming homeowners.