Thursday, April 2, 2020
April 2, 2020

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Clark County housing market sees solid numbers in February

By , Columbian business reporter

The Clark County housing market gained ground in February, rising in accordance with usual seasonal trends, according to the latest report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

There’s a catch, however: Those numbers predate all of the state and federal actions taken this week in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. The increasingly disruptive presence of the pandemic has been felt across nearly all businesses and industries, and the housing market is likely to be impacted too, but there will be a lag time before the monthly numbers reflect the change.

“This is rapidly evolving, but so far, we have seen a continuation of the robust spring market and have seen little effect on how quickly a home sells, which does put pressure on buyers to see homes and make offers on homes that pique their interest,” John L. Scott Real Estate CEO J. Lennox Scott wrote in an email. “We will know more in the coming weeks how the novel coronavirus will impact the industry, but we hope the steps we take now will help meet the strong demand we are still seeing.”

The impact of the virus might be partly blunted by another factor, Scott wrote: Record-low interest rates. The rates will continue to spur buyers, Scott wrote, and they can also encourage potential sellers who will need to shop for a new home once their current home sells.

“It’s a great time for both buying and selling a home,” he wrote.

The low rates also present a good opportunity for homeowners who are considering refinancing their mortgages, he said.

Clark County numbers

New listings for February were reported at 780, a 6 percent increase over the 736 reported in January and a 6.6 percent jump from February 2019.

Pending sales jumped to 718, a 6.8 percent increase compared with January and a 13.2 percent year-over-year boost. Closed sales came in at 514, a 4.7 percent increase from January and a 0.4 percent nudge up from February 2019.

The region’s inventory in months — meaning the amount of time it would theoretically take to sell through the market’s remaining inventory — fell from 2.4 in January to 2.1 at the end of February.

Home prices ticked upward in February; the average sale price came in at $417,500, compared with $414,300 in January, and the median sale price was reported at $386,700, rising from $382,000 in January.

A year-to-date summary, comparing 2020 so far to the first two months of 2019, shows an 8.7 percent increase in pending sales and a 2.4 percent increase in closed sales, but a 4.3 percent decrease in new listings.

The lower inventory drives home prices higher, which is obviously good news for sellers, but Scott noted there can also be a downside, known as seller gridlock. Lower inventory leads to more competition among buyers, he said, which can cause potential sellers to hesitate to pull the trigger, out of concern that they’ll be unable to make a successful bid on their next home after they sell their current one.

“When looking at unsold inventory across the entire market in Clark County in the month of February, the total number of available listings is down approximately 34 percent compared to February 2019,” Scott wrote. “The supply of unsold listings in Clark County for homes priced up to $500,000 is at an extreme shortage, and this price range makes up 78 percent of sales activity in the area. These conditions contribute to seller gridlock locally, as listings in these price ranges are often snapped up quickly once they hit the market.”

John L. Scott Real Estate released its own monthly report based on February sales data from its Vancouver office, including a breakdown of Vancouver sales by price range, which highlighted the continuing inventory scarcity for lower-priced homes.

Pending sales outpaced new listings for houses priced at or below $250,000. New listings stayed narrowly ahead of sales for homes in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, as well as the $350,000 to $500,000 range, although both ranges still showed high sales rates. The report listed less than a month of unsold inventory remaining in all three price ranges below $500,000.

“Homes priced up to $500,000 in Clark County are virtually sold out, with an extreme shortage of unsold inventory,” Scott wrote in the report.