State home sales surge, but prices keep falling

Home sales in Washington surged in the second quarter compared to a year ago, but median prices continued to decline, according to a Washington State University report.

The university’s Washington Center for Real Estate Research said Wednesday that the decline in median home prices was much smaller than seen in recent quarters.

The pending end of federal tax credits for homebuyers clearly boosted sales in the April to June period, the center said. Statewide, the number of homes sold rose 27.5 percent from the sales rate of the second quarter last year. Sales were up 3.5 percent from the first quarter of this year.

The center’s director, Glenn Crellin, said nearly every county in the state saw increased sales activity compared to a year ago.

The five-county Central Puget Sound region had home sales of 49,980, more than half the statewide total.

The median sale price during the second quarter was $246,800, which was 6.9 percent less than the median a year earlier, the center said.

The highest median price was $375,500 in King County, which replaced San Juan County as the price leader for the first time in several years. The lowest median price was $107,500 in Columbia County, the center said.

Among urban areas, the biggest median price increase was 5.5 percent in the Tri-Cities, and the biggest decline was 9 percent in Snohomish County.

Low prices and low interest rates made homes more affordable for households with good credit and reliable jobs, the center said. The housing affordability index showed a slight improvement to 136.4, meaning the median income family had 36.4 percent more income than the minimum required to buy a median price home with a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year mortgage.