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South Sound home prices continued to rise last month amid tight inventory, according to new data today from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS).

“The so-called seasonal slowdown normally sees serious buyers gain an advantage over casual buyers who take a break during the holidays,” Mike Larson, managing broker at Compass in Tacoma, said in the November NWMLS release. “The difference this year is that there are fewer buyers taking a break and demand remains high."

Inventory of single-family homes and condominiums remained about a month or less in Pierce, Thurston, Lewis, Mason, and Grays Harbor counties in November. Inventory indicates how long it would take to sell every active listing at the current rate of sales. A balanced market is considered four to six months by most industry experts.

The median sales price of homes and condos combined in November was $505,000 in Pierce County, up 15.8 percent from November 2020; Thurston’s median was $470,000, up 22 percent; Lewis’ was $365,000, up 11.3 percent; Mason’s was $393,000, up 19.3 percent; and Grays Harbor’s was $305,000, up 8.9 percent.

“Waived inspections and funds committed upfront in the event of a low appraisal are not as common, but sellers still have the upper hand,” according to Larson, a member of the Northwest MLS board of directors. “Buyers still need to be very bold and very intentional with their offers.”

Twenty of the 26 counties in the NWMLS report added more new listings during November than a year ago, but with demand outstripping supply, inventory was meager in many areas, the release said.

“The pandemic continues to put pressure on home sales and prices,” Dean Rebhuhn, owner of Village Homes and Properties, said in a statement. “Historic low inventory is still influencing multiple offer situations in King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties. Increasing interest rates have not slowed the pace of sales.”

Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, commented on recent adjustments in Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) limits for conforming loans (mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac), which included a record 18 percent jump in most markets, but also an increase from $776,250 to $891,250 in the tri-county area encompassing King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

“I anticipate this will be a further boost to more expensive markets,” he said in the release. 

In 2022, Gardner expects the pace of appreciation “to slow significantly” from levels seen this year. “In fact, I predict single-family prices will increase by around 8 percent in King and Snohomish counties, and by almost 11 percent in Pierce County. Although still well above the long-term averages, affordability issues and modestly rising interest rates will take some of the steam out of the market in 2022,” he added.