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King County Home Sales Continue to Defy the Calendar

And two other takeaways from October's real estate stats.

By Benjamin Cassidy November 10, 2020

Bellevue, our new condo capital?

Forget what day—what month is it, again?

The time warp of the coronavirus pandemic has gotten to all of us by now, and real estate has not been immune. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service's October home sale numbers are the latest example of a bizarre, and stressful, year for local home shopping. A few takeaways from NWMLS's report:

Year-over-year doesn't mean as much in 2020, and it might not in 2021, either. Comparing performance over one stretch of the calendar to the same span during the previous year is usually a reliable way to measure results; in real estate and other industries, sales figures often vary by season. But as I noted back in August, social distancing mandates during the coronavirus pandemic have upended our traditional thinking about this year's real estate calendar. Summer was the new spring, with closed sales and prices both climbing as temperatures rose.

And this fall? Nothing like the last. In King County, 39.9 percent more home and condo sales closed in October than a year earlier (Seattle saw the same increase), and median prices climbed 13.2 percent across the county (though a more modest 4.9 percent in Seattle).

These figures signal that real estate has recovered better in this region than in other areas of the country. They don't necessarily mean local real estate is in a stronger position than it was at this time a year ago, however, or that it will get back on schedule in 2021. Good vaccine news helps, but with coronavirus cases rising, restrictions and quarantines loom as we head into winter. Numbers could once again drop precipitously. Even if 2021 is a relatively normal year, in real estate and broadly, comparing segments of 2021 to 2020's extreme fluctuations could be a fool's errand.

Home shoppers have started to take advantage of condo deals in Seattle. On the Eastside, they're shelling out for them. Woe is the condo, conventional thinking has gone during the pandemic. With remote offices, nightlife shutdowns, and space at a premium during the coronavirus pandemic, some smaller units in the Seattle core have remained on the market for months. But there's at least some evidence to suggest that some home shoppers might be taking advantage of this buyer's market. In NWMLS's Belltown/Downtown map area, 40 condos were sold in October, at a reasonable (for Seattle) median price of $622,450. Worth looking into, first-time home buyers.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Bellevue. The Eastside city has rapidly bolstered its condo inventory, and October is another month where we're seeing the effects of all that development. West of I-405, the city saw 101 closed sales with a median price of $1,565,500.

Expect a busy November in King County. Pending sales are up nearly everywhere locally, as are new listings. The calendar may be different this year, but winter still hasn't come quite yet.

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