Fourth Quarter 1999 Existing Home Sales May Indicate Real Estate Market Slowdown

“Sales data collected and produced by the Washington Center for Real Estate Research on the campus of Washington State University suggests activity may have slowed to a more traditional pace in many counties. Statewide sales of existing homes located on five acres or less increased a modest six-tenths of one percent in the last three months of 1999 as compared to the same period in 1998. 1999 existing home sales were the highest of the decade, according to the center, at 120,030. In the final three months of the year only two of the five metropolitan centers of the state, King and Pierce counties, sold more homes than in 1998’s fourth quarter. Pierce County led with an 11.4 percent rise while King County posted a 0.8 percent gain. Sales in Clark County were down 10.1 percent, Spokane County, down 74 percent, and Snohomish County was down 3.8 percent. The more typical sales pace in the final quarter of 1999 did not stop home prices from increasing 6.6 percent, compared to the same quarter of 1998. The highest median sales price for existing properties was $241,000 in San Juan County where 140 existing homes were sold during the three-month period. The median King County price was $238,00 with 8,680 properties sold. King County’s result was 9.7 percent higher than the prices for the final quarter of 1998. Wahkiakum County reported a total of 20 home sales during the last three months of 1999, with a median closing price of $62,000, making it the state’s lowest median price for existing single family dwellings. The Housing Affordability Index was the third lowest in the decade. The index is an expression of relationships between the 30 year fixed mortgage interest rate, median family income, and median home cost. In the fourth quarter of 1999, the HAI revealed that a Washington family earning the statewide median income and able to make a 20 percent down payment on a median priced family home has 113.3 percent of the income they need to qualify for the transaction.The data for the quarterly Housing Market Snapshot is collected and compiled by the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at WSU.”