Business

Home-sale slide continues in Thurston County

Home shoppers Yvonne and Jason Ferguson of Raeford, N.C., take a tour of a five-bedroom home in the Kiely Glen development in southeast Olympia. (The Olympian file)
Home shoppers Yvonne and Jason Ferguson of Raeford, N.C., take a tour of a five-bedroom home in the Kiely Glen development in southeast Olympia. (The Olympian file) The Olympian

The Thurston County housing market finished the year with 2,834 homes sold, down 3.54 percent from the 2,938 homes that sold in 2009, according to an annual recap of the market released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Home sales continued a downward trend last year, as they have since 2007, and South Sound real estate professionals acknowledged that 2010 was challenging, too.

Adding to the challenges were the number of homes in foreclosure or homes being sold for less than the value of the mortgage – also known as a short sale – that put downward pressure on prices. That’s good for the prospective buyer but hard on the seller, or someone trying to refinance their mortgage.

Washington Realtors Association President Phil Harlan recently told The Olympian that foreclosures and short sales represented about 20 percent of home sales in November.

Median prices here fell 3.79 percent to $229,950 in 2010 from $239,000 in 2009, the combined single-family residence and condo data show. Thurston’s year-over-year median price decline was not as steep as it was in Snohomish County, for example, which fell more than 8 percent in the year-over-year period.

Other 2010 data:

 • Four single-family residences in Thurston County sold for a $1 million or more last year and three condos sold for $500,000 or more. In comparison, 824 homes in King County sold for a $1 million or more and 371 condos sold for $500,000 or more.

 • A Thurston County single-family residence purchased in 2002 – median price $154,000 – since has appreciated in value 49.35 percent. However, a single-family residence purchased in 2007 or 2008 has fallen to a median price of $229,995 from a median price of $265,000.

As for 2011, real estate agents and brokers are hopeful that the new year is stronger than 2010.

Thurston County Realtors Association past president Mark Kitabayashi said he expects the housing market to undergo a steady, slow recovery. Kitabayashi, too, hopes lenders, the government and the private sector can work together to fast-track short-sale transactions, he said. That can be a long process because sellers have to wait and see whether their lender will accept less than the value of the mortgage.

“Short sales take a long time to close, and it needs to be solved in order for it to be a healthy market,” he said. More troops returning to Joint Base Lewis-McChord should continue to stimulate sales activity here; at the same time, all eyes are on the state budget and whether there will be future layoffs tied to budget cuts, Kitabayashi said.

Windermere Olympia broker and owner Steve Garrett said jobs and consumer confidence remain critical issues. Home prices are soft, mortgage interest rates are low and yet buyers continue to hesitate, he said.

“If the bigger issue in people’s economic lives is job security, then I understand that,” Garrett said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/bizblog

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