Space Needle view of homes

The Space Needle overlooks pricey properties in every direction.

It's almost hard to remember now, but there was a time—weeks, even!—when Seattle's real estate market was not blazing hot. In March 2020, as the novel coronavirus began to spread throughout the Seattle area, home sales froze. Homeowners clung to their properties; real estate agents shuddered.

But with the gradual lifting of economic restrictions came a surge in demand and a spike in prices. The spring home-buying season had merely been pushed back to summer...and fall...and winter. The run on homes didn't stop. Hasn't stopped.

The latest evidence arrived last week from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Real estate numbers for March 2021 looked comically different (unless you were a buyer) than figures from the previous March. Across King County, home prices were up nearly 15 percent year-over-year. Closed sales climbed nearly 21 percent. Pending sales rose almost 34 percent. And maybe most telling of all, active listings plummeted 37 percent. Few were buying when social distancing still felt like a new concept; now property seekers are scooping up homes so fast, even a slew of new listings last month didn't give inventory much of a boost.

The story in Seattle is slightly different. While the differences in year-over-year pending and closed sales are even more pronounced, active listings are actually up a smidgen. That's because condos across the city continue to linger on the market for much longer than houses, though not quite as long as in pre-vaccine times. Perhaps for that reason, the median price of a home in Seattle was $750,000 last month—high, but only $25,000 more than in March 2020.

The greatest price differential could be found on the Eastside, where many have flocked since the pandemic began. The median sale price was more than $1.1 million, about 31.6 percent higher than a year earlier. Bellevue homes were regularly fetching in the neighborhood of $1.8 million. Kirkland was similarly competitive.

So...sorry buyers. It's still pretty rough out there. But hey, hopefully you'll be able to commiserate over drinks in person sometime soon. Just be sure to split the check.

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