The Southwest Washington housing market saw another month of high sales activity and shrinking inventory in September, continuing a trend seen throughout the summer. That’s according to the latest report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.
New listings fell by 13.7 percent, from 1,073 in August to 926 in September, although the September figure does represent a 2.4 percent jump from the 904 new listings in September 2019.
Pending sales, at 1,017, decreased 7.1 percent from the 1,095 in August, but grew by 34.4 percent compared with the 757 pending sales in September 2019. Closed sales, at 940, saw both a 14.5 percent gain over the 821 in August and a 28.6 percent jump from the 731 September 2019 closings.
Market activity tends to cool in September as part of the normal seasonal pattern, but the large year-over-year gains indicate that sales were very high in relative terms. Mike Lamb, a broker at Windermere Stellar in Vancouver, wrote in his own monthly report that he considered September to mark three months in a row of exceptionally strong new sales activity.
September sales activity was also constrained by the available inventory, he wrote, but was still higher than in any September since 2005.
“That was really surprising considering the limited inventory,” he wrote. “And for sales to blow past the 2005 records was even more surprising given that those records had held for 15 years. Yet there should have been even more sales.”
The region’s inventory in months, an estimate of how long it would take to sell through the existing backlog of listings, fell to just one month, the lowest inventory score the region has seen since at least the start of 2016.
New listings weren’t able to keep pace with sales, and the market’s number of active listings at the end of September was the lowest on record, Lamb wrote. The local office of John L. Scott Real Estate offered a similar assessment in a report based on its own sales data.
“Sales activity intensity is substantially higher than one year ago for each new listing as it comes on the market,” CEO J. Lennox Scott wrote in the report.
The first six months of the pandemic have seen a steady drop in inventory, starting from a high point of 2.5 months in April. Lamb and other local real estate agents have pointed to the tightening inventory as the cause of a steady rise in home prices over the same time period.
September bucked the trend; the average sale price fell from $473,400 in August to $468,400 in September, and the median price held steady at $420,000. However, Lamb pointed out in his report that average and median September prices had both increased year-over-year. The average price in September 2019 was $401,000, and the median price was $366,500.
“Considering the lack of inventory and strong demand, upward pressure on prices will continue,” he wrote.
The John L. Scott report included a breakdown of listing and sales activity by price range, which showed shortages in every category up to $1 million. The worst shortages were in the $250,000-$350,000 and $350,000-$500,000 ranges, each of which were estimated to have just 0.4 month of standing inventory. The $500,000-$750,000 range was estimated to have 0.6 month.