Thurston County median home prices remained relatively stable in 2009, bucking a trend seen in other counties throughout the state, according to year-end data released Tuesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The combined single-family residence and condominium data show that Thurston County median prices fell 4.97 percent to $239,000 in 2009 from $251,495 in 2008. Although year-over-year prices fell, the Thurston County median price decline was among the lowest in Western Washington. Median prices in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties all fell more than 10 percent year over year. Lewis County had the largest year-over-year median price decline at 14.21 percent.
Washington Realtors president-elect Phil Harlan, a South Sound real estate agent, said Tuesday that the stabilizing effect of state government on the local economy has helped the Thurston housing market outperform other areas. “We’re blessed at 4 percent,” he said about the county’s median price decline.
Although median prices were stable, home sales totals fell 7.46 percent to 2,938 units in 2009 from 3,175 units in 2008, according to the data.
Other Western Washington counties that experienced sharper price declines had higher home sales figures. Year-over-year sales in Pierce County rose 0.04 percent to 8,431 units from 8,428 units, the data show.
Home sales in Thurston County eventually will turn around, but it’s going to take time, Harlan said. “I would say 2009 was a year of transition, and another year of transition is ahead of us,” he said. Harlan said he reminded those in the real estate community to “hang in there” because the market will work through this slower cycle as it always has, he said.
Median prices also will increase, but maybe not in the next six to 10 months, said Jerry Wilkins, Northwest MLS area services manager. Foreclosures and short sales, a process in which the lender agrees to accept less than the value of the mortgage, will continue to have an effect on median prices and price appreciation, he said. Job growth will help reverse that trend, but that means banks need to start lending to small businesses again, Wilkins said.
“Until that piece gets really fixed, it’s going to have a secondary effect on the housing market,” he said.
Still, there were encouraging signs in the year-end data. Of the 2,938 homes that sold in 2009, more than 650 homes sold for between $100,000 and $199,999.
Harlan said he thought the last time that many homes sold for less than $200,000 was in 2004, just before the housing market started to overheat, he said. The data also show that two homes in the county sold for a $1 million or more last year.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403