December home sales fall and inventory rises, but Thurston is still no buyer’s market

The Thurston County housing market is trending in the right direction if you’re a prospective buyer. Single-family home sales fell nearly 10 percent last month and inventory continues to inch higher, according to new Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Monday.

However, the trend has a ways to go before it unseats an entrenched seller’s market. Why? Months of inventory remains low at about 1.5 months, which means there’s still plenty of demand, and that demand sent median prices higher by 12.5 percent last month.

A balanced market between buyers and sellers is thought to have inventory in the range of four to six months. And it could be a while before that balance returns, said Ken Anderson, president and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty in Olympia.

“The trend has us slowly moving back toward a balanced market, but it will likely be another couple of years before reaching a balanced market state,” he said.

But it’s not all bad news: Mortgage interest rates, which flirted with 5 percent for a 30-year mortgage in the fall, have fallen to an average of 4.5 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

And if you’re a seller, hear this: 2018 was the second best year for home sales. Only 2017 was better, Anderson said. The final tally for Thurston County home sales for 2018 will be released by Northwest MLS on Jan. 17.

As for 2019, Anderson projects that the median price will rise 6 percent this year — compared to 10 percent overall for 2018 — and sales will continue to slow. However, he still expects 2019 to shape up as either the third or fourth best year on record for the county.

“The combination of moderating price gains and lower interest rates is keeping our market the most affordable of the major counties on the Puget Sound,” Anderson said. “That is great news for our area. Overall, we are looking at a healthy 2019.”

A closer look

Single-family residences: For December 2018, compared to December 2017, sales fell 9.7 percent to 374 units from 414 units. The median price rose 12.5 percent to $320,500 from $285,000. Pending sales rose 8.4 percent to 336 units from 310 units.

Condos: For the same year-over-year period, sales fell to 4 units from 11 units; median price rose 21 percent to $241,750 from $199,900; pending sales rose to 16 units from 15 units.

Source: Northwest Multiple Listing Service