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Sept. 26, 2021

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Clark County home sales dip slightly in August as prices rise

By , Columbian business reporter
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A for sale sign sits in front of a house at the Haven Northwest housing complex on Northeast 118th Street. Clark County's housing market slowed slightly this summer, but remains very hot in relative terms, with limited inventory setting off bidding wars among buyers and contributing to a steady rise in home prices.
A for sale sign sits in front of a house at the Haven Northwest housing complex on Northeast 118th Street. Clark County's housing market slowed slightly this summer, but remains very hot in relative terms, with limited inventory setting off bidding wars among buyers and contributing to a steady rise in home prices. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County’s housing market saw mixed results in August, notching a second consecutive month of minor cooling following months of record-breaking sales intensity and low availability earlier in the year. Prices rose. That’s according to the latest data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

The August data shows a trend toward “a sustainable inventory supply,” according to Terry Wollam, managing broker at Wollam & Associates in Vancouver, but he cautioned that the inventory is likely to tighten again in the fall.

Real estate agents have often attributed the high pace of sales in the past year to the COVID-19 pandemic, because social distancing and work-from-home policies have prompted families to purchase bigger houses.

That phenomenon might also explain the relative slowdown in the local market over the summer, Wollam wrote in an email, because increased vaccination rates and declining case rates had prompted an end to most of the pandemic restrictions – although that trend has since reversed.

“With school now started and (COVID) restrictions again tightening we may see a bump in activity compared to prior months,” he wrote, “which would also be reflective of the increase in sales activity seen in September of 2020.”

New listings fell from 1,213 in July to 1,087 in August, a decrease of 10.4 percent, but remained 1.3 percent above the 1,073 listings in August 2020.

Pending sales jumped 4 percent, from 969 in July to 1,008 in August, but decreased 7.9 percent from the 1,095 pending sales reported in August last year. Closed sales, at 926, dropped 6.7 percent from July’s 993, but grew 12.8 percent year-over-year, from 821.

The region’s inventory in months, an estimate of how long it would take to sell through all the currently listed properties, grew to 0.8, marking a second month of small backlog growth but remaining relatively close to the all-time low of 0.5 set in March.

Total market time – the average length of time it takes to sell a home – rose to 18 days in Clark County, a slight increase over June and July but still “extremely low,” according to Wollam, reflecting ongoing bidding among homebuyers competing for the limited listings.

“We continue to see an aggressive increase in home values year-over-year, which is reflective of demand and low inventory levels,” he wrote.

The median home sale price in Clark County rose from $475,000 in July to $484,800 in August, and the average price rose from $537,900 to $543,100. For comparison, the median sale price in August 2020 was $420,000, and the average was $473,400.

New construction accounts for 21.4 percent of the total current listing inventory, Wollam noted, which is a low point for the year – new construction typically comprises closer to a third of the inventory.

The change in ratio is due in part to an increase in the number of pre-owned homes coming onto the market, Wollam wrote, but it’s also likely caused by a shortage of buildable lots in the area and ongoing labor and supply challenges. Most builders would be unable to start construction on any current pre-sale homes until next year, he wrote.

There is one good sign, Wollam added – shortages stemming from the pandemic pushed lumber costs up to astronomical levels earlier this year, but the price of lumber has declined significantly in more recent months, which should slow down the rate of price increases for new homes and allow builders to get started on more projects.

In its own monthly analysis of the RMLS data, the local office of John L. Scott Real Estate offered a breakdown of inventory supply by price range, showing drastic shortages in every price category up to $1 million.

The $250,000 to $350,000 and $350,000 to $500,000 price ranges each had only about 0.3 months of inventory remaining, according to the report, and the $500,000 to $750,000 range had only 0.6 months. More than three-quarters of resale listings in the region fall into the $350,000 to $750,000 range.

Echoing Wollam’s assessment, the Scott report also predicted that market intensity for each new listing “will start tightening back up” in the remainder of the year.

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