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Real Estate Limbo Drags on in Seattle

As the dreary winter weather drags on in Seattle for what seems like an eternity, the real estate market continues to linger in a sort of limbo with sluggish sales, stagnant prices, and a dearth of new listings. Is there an end in sight? Read on to find out!

Reality May be Setting in for Some Sellers

For the most part selection around Seattle continued the unseasonal shrinkage we’ve been pointing out all year:

City Compared to April 2011 Compared to May 2010
Seattle -0.9% -18.4%
Bellevue -0.3% -25.8%
Federal Way -4.8% -9.2%
Issaquah +8.4% -13.1%
Kent -4.0% -13.8%
Kirkland -1.3% -20.2%
Renton -10.5% -20.0%
Shoreline -3.4% -7.5%
Redmond 0.0% -15.4%

Change in # of King County Houses for Sale on May 31st 2011, By City

However, there may yet be some hope on the horizon as we move into the summer. Redfin Maple Valley Agent Lori Bakken is seeing a shift in the attitudes of potential sellers as they put aside their expectations of a quick price recovery. “Sellers are ready to be realistic, they’re accepting the loss,” said Lori.

Although they may be giving up the down payment they made on this home, those sellers that are also move-up buyers are getting anxious to take advantage of today’s low prices on the buy side. “They’re hoping to buy smart and are excited about getting into neighborhoods that were previously out of reach,” said Lori.

Weary Shoppers, Sales Still Slumping

Sales are picking up just as they do every year as we head into the summer, but they’re still quite a bit below where they were last year (as the tax credit was ramping down):

City Compared to April 2011 Compared to April 2011 Adjusted for # Weekdays Compared to May 2010 Compared to May 2010 Adjusted for # Weekdays
Seattle -10.0% -14.1% -27.0% -30.3%
Bellevue +29.7% +23.8% -6.3% -10.6%
Federal Way +3.4% -1.3% -9.0% -13.1%
Issaquah -11.6% -15.6% -42.4% -45.0%
Kent +8.5% +3.5% -11.1% -15.2%
Kirkland +15.0% +9.8% +37.3% +31.1%
Renton -8.2% -12.3% -35.3% -38.2%
Shoreline +23.8% +18.2% +15.6% +10.3%
Redmond -22.9% -26.4% -5.1% -9.4%

Change in # of King County Houses That Sold in May 2011, By City

Redfin Eastside coordinator Christine Golborne attributes the continued slump in sales to an ongoing sense of unease among potential buyers. “I think there’s a lot of distrust in the marketplace,” explained Christine. “People think that pricing is still going to go lower.”

Speaking of Prices…

So far this year, buyers’ expectations of continually slipping prices have more or less panned out. Although prices are experiencing a slight seasonal bump across most of Seattle, they’re down fairly substantially from a year ago in most cities:

City Median Price in May 2011 Median $/SqFt Change since April 2011 Median $/SqFt Change since May 2010
Seattle $410,000 +4.3% -5.7%
Bellevue $587,500 +4.3% 0.0%
Federal Way $175,000 +5.5% -16.7%
Issaquah $474,500 -0.5% -6.5%
Kent $228,975 +2.6% -13.1%
Kirkland $433,500 +0.9% -10.0%
Renton $251,000 -1.4% -15.0%
Shoreline $278,975 +1.1% -11.1%
Redmond $517,000 +1.4% -5.2%

Change in Median Price of King County Houses That Sold in May 2011, By City

Unfortunately, this is a case where the regional stats might be a little misleading to the typical buyer hoping to snag a deal in today’s “distressed market.” According to Redfin Capitol Hill Coordinator Coventry Merwin, “our agents are really having to educate our buyers about the realities of multiple offer situations.” The crucial insight our agents are seeing on the front lines (which is difficult to see in the regional data) is that “nice homes in hot neighborhoods are increasingly rare these days.”

Coventry explained that “certain pockets of the City of Seattle are seeing these multiple offer situations more and more.”

Want to know what’s happening in your neighborhood? Download our comprehensive spreadsheet and dig into the data for yourself! Inside you’ll find county, city, and neighborhood information galore. To learn more about how we calculate these numbers, check out our methodology page. You can also liven up the place by posting a comment below.

Tim Ellis, Redfin Analytics Team