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News / Northwest

Seattle homebuyers no longer have to rush as housing market stalls

By Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times
Published: January 9, 2023, 8:39am

SEATTLE — Seattle’s housing market finished 2022 with a chill, as fewer people bought homes and prices stalled in one of America’s fastest — cooling markets.

Buyers and sellers signed fewer deals across the Seattle area in December, with a drop ranging between 20% and 35% compared to the same month a year earlier. The number of transactions was also down 30% to 40% from December 2019, before the pandemic and rock-bottom interest rates fueled a home sales boom that finally began to slow this past summer.

Around the region, home prices are still up from pre-pandemic levels, but have begun to decline or level off compared to this time last year.

The median King County home price was $825,000 in December, up about 2% from a year ago, according to new data released Friday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The Snohomish County median price of $700,000 was flat, and the Pierce County median price of $504,500 was down 3%. In Kitsap County, the median home sold for $497,777, flat year over year. Those figures include single family homes and townhomes.

The result of the slower market for buyers who are still trying to make a deal? They are no longer “making a faster decision on buying a house than you would [when buying] a pair of shoes,” said Windermere agent Cristina Ross.

And for sellers? They “have to work with those buyers,” said Tacoma-based Ross.

According to Ross and other local agents, sellers have had to be more accommodating as the market has shifted. They put more effort in sprucing up their homes before listing, they slash their prices when homes linger on the market and they sometimes help buyers cover the cost of getting a lower rate from their lender. Those tactics are a marked change from earlier days of the pandemic, when sellers could count on buyers scrambling to quickly submit offers, often for more than the list price.

“We’re going back to more give and take on both ends,” Ross said.

Seattle homes are spending around 22 days on the market, more than two weeks longer than a year ago but still below the national median of 37 days, according to November data from Redfin, the latest available. Homes in Tacoma and Everett are taking a bit longer to sell: 27 and 26 days, respectively.

Nearly five times as many King County homes were still listed for sale at the end of December as during the same time in 2021.

Throughout King County, the slowdown is showing up more in some areas than others: The median home price dropped 15% year-over-year on the Eastside, while prices climbed 5% in Seattle.

The condo market is slowing down, too. Forty percent fewer condo sales went pending in King County in December than a year earlier, and the median price stood at $465,000, up just 1%.

Even so, affording a home remains difficult for many buyers. The monthly payment for the median King County home is about $4,300, up 41% from a year earlier, according to the real estate data firm Attom Data Solutions.

Local real estate brokers expect the market to pick up in the new year as the typically busier spring market arrives. But economists expect Seattle home prices will continue to fall in 2023.

That dynamic could continue to attract buyers who want to take their time.

“Two categories of buyers are starting their search right now,” Seattle Redfin agent Shoshana Godwin said in a recent report. “First-timers hoping prices and competition are more manageable than they have been over the last few years, and returning buyers who took a break after losing out on multiple homes during the pandemic bidding-war frenzy.”

“They should be able to take their time and find a home for a slightly lower price than last year, but the market will likely become more competitive over the next few months.”

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