State housing market still improving

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The state's housing market continued to improve in the second quarter of 2012 despite a drop in existing home sales from the previous quarter, the University of Washington's Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies said Thursday. On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales of existing homes dropped by 2.6 percent from the first quarter, the center found. Still, overall sales increased 10.4 percent in the April-to-June quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago, it said.

The median sales price of homes statewide in the second quarter was $236,000, a 4 percent increase from the year-ago period, the Runstad Center said. Clark County's median was $198,500, a 4.3 percent increase in the same period. King County, which includes Seattle, had the state's highest median at $370,800, a 6.5 percent increase in the same period.

The number of homes, including distressed homes, on the market declined in the quarter, so buyers looking to take advantage of low interest rates are having to bid up the prices of move-in-ready homes, said Glenn Crellin, the center's associate director. The rising prices reduced housing affordability for some even with low interest rates, he said.

Regional data suggest that the Interstate 5 corridor had the strongest home resale market in spring, with eight Western Washington counties reporting higher second-quarter sales rates than those of the previous quarter. Median prices rose in 22 of Washington's 39 counties in the second quarter than in the same quarter of 2011, led by double-digit jumps in four small counties.