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Aug. 1, 2021

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Clark County’s housing shortage continues

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:

Clark County’s constrained housing supply shows no signs of loosening, according to the latest report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

Despite a seasonal slowdown in market activity, year-over-year sales remain elevated — but the same can’t be said for new listings.

Pending sales fell 23.5 percent, from 982 in October to 751 in November, but remained 7.6 percent higher than the 698 accepted offers in November 2019. Closed sales fared similarly, falling 13.7 percent from the 956 in October to 825 in November, but rising 21.1 percent over the 681 closings a year ago.

“And even though sales activity reflected seasonal slowing, both new pending sales and closed sales set records,” Mike Lamb, a broker at Windermere Stellar in Vancouver, wrote in his own monthly report.

Pending sales and closed sales at the end of November both exceeded the figures reported in November 2016, Lamb wrote, which was previously the high-water mark for the region’s November sales, making last month the market’s best November in at least 20 years.

New listings fell from 1,011 in October to 630 in November, a decrease of 37.7 percent, and also fell 1.7 percent from the 641 new listings reported in November last year. The number of new listings isn’t unusual compared with historical data, Lamb wrote, but when coupled with the incredibly high demand, the result was the smallest number of active listings in 30 years.

The region’s inventory in months, a measure of how long it would take to sell through the existing backlog of listings, remained at 0.8 for the second month in a row — the lowest score on record for the RMLS. Southwest Washington inventory levels have ranged from about 1.5 to 3 in the past few years, but fell rapidly during the summer and continued to drop until they reached 0.8 in October.

Comparing 2020’s results to date with the first 11 months of the prior year, 2020 is on track to end the year well head of 2019 in terms of sales but lagging in new listings. Year-to-date pending sales are up 7.3 percent and closed sales are up 3.8 percent, but new listings are down 7 percent.

Sale prices saw a dip in November, although they remain higher than they were a year ago. The average sale price fell from $473,400 in October to $453,000 in November, compared with $416,100 one year earlier. The median price fell from $425,000 in October to $410,000 in November, compared with $384,500 in November 2019.

The price drop came as a surprise, Lamb wrote, because the ongoing strong demand has pushed prices higher in previous months. He speculated that the decline might have happened because the region’s inventory is so small and the few homes that were listed in November “just happened to be less expensive.”

“That is a classic small sample problem, and it tells us we need more inventory,” he wrote.

The local office of John L. Scott real estate released a report based on its own sales data, which included a breakdown by price range. The inventory shortage extends across nearly all homes up to about $1 million, according to the report.

Pending sales significantly exceeded new listings in the $250,000 to $350,000, $350,000 to $500,000 and $500,000 to $750,000 ranges, which together account for about 86 percent of new listings on the market in Scott’s report. The two lower ranges had an estimated 0.3 months of inventory remaining, according to the report, and the upper range had 0.7 remaining.

Lamb called the rate of closed sales in November “a great start for the new year,” but added that with record sales and unabated demand, the availability of inventory would be the determining factor in how well the market performs heading into 2021.

“So if you get a chance to talk to Santa, be sure to ask for a lot more good listings,” he wrote.

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