A Thurston County home has become increasingly affordable, but that apparently was not enough to entice many buyers in March as home sales fell last month, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Wednesday.
Thurston County median prices tumbled more than 11 percent to $201,947 last month from $227,500 from the same period a year ago, the combined single-family residence and condominium data show.
Windermere Olympia broker and owner Steve Garrett said Thurston County median prices haven’t been this low since at least 2005, and possibly as far back as 2003, he said.
Although prices fell last month, so, too, did home sales. Sales in Thurston County fell 23 percent to 220 units from 286 units, the combined data show.
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One silver lining in the home sales-data is that March home sales this year were competing with those in March 2010, a time when tax credits still were available and spurred the housing market higher, Washington Realtors Association President Phil Harlan said Wednesday.
Still, distressed properties – foreclosures and short sales – continue to put downward pressure on home prices, and the housing market needs job growth to stimulate sales activity, he said. Harlan acknowledged that could be an issue for Thurston County because of the state budget and the potential for more state worker job cuts.
“I’m not sure we’re gong to be as insulated as we have been in the past,” he said about the stabilizing effect of state government here.
Windermere broker Garrett, too, said the lack of consumer confidence remains an issue for the housing market.
“The overall economy is a real challenge for us right now,” he said. Garrett also said the housing market needs to work through the inventory of foreclosures and short sales before the market sees real stability. He estimated that about 21 percent of home sales in Thurston County are foreclosures or short sales. A short sale is when a home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage.
But if a prospective home buyer is secure in his or her job, it’s still a good time to buy because prices are soft and 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates are below 5 percent, he said. If someone is trying to sell a house, though, the prospective seller likely is dealing with a lot of frustration and anxiety, Garrett said.
“Most sellers need to come to grips with the fact that their home is not worth what it was back at the peak in 2005 to 2006,” he said. “It’s getting them to understand that, and that is a challenge.”
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/bizblog