A summer slowdown is normal in Seattle real estate. Families are more apt to jockey for trailhead parking spots and San Juan Islands ferry seats than spend those precious sun-soaked days bidding on houses. Back-to-school is nigh; moving conversations can wait.
But when the coronavirus pandemic threw conventional house-hunting thinking out the window, so went the traditional summer detente. Shutdowns reset the real estate clock. Spring was now summer. And fall. And winter.
But in July, Zillow and Redfin started seeing signs, on a national level, that the red-hot market was cooling. And the Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s numbers for the month confirm that the Seattle area is indeed in a slightly more normal season of home shopping.
While inventory remains extraordinarily low, nearly 10 percent fewer homes went under contract in King County this past July than a year prior. Single-family houses aren’t seeing the deluge of inquiries that has been typical during Covid times. “Instead of having 15 offers, you'll get two or three, which, prior to two years ago, was amazing,” says Scott Hotes, vice president of Skyline Properties.
For Hotes and Wendy Carrington, a John L. Scott broker based in Seattle Center, the dip in competition has a clear cause: buyer fatigue. People have had enough of the bidding wars. “I heard from umpteen couples and groups…that they were just really tired from that relentless battlefield that is getting a home in our area,” says Carrington, noting that it has taken, on average, four or five attempts to nab a property.
It wasn’t always this way, Hotes observes. Multiple offers weren’t a given pre-pandemic. “If you got a house on the market, and got it sold in less than 30 days and got more than one offer, you were a godlike human when it came to being a listing broker,” he says. “Now if you have less than 10, you go, well, what's wrong with me? Why am I not doing my job correctly?”
The drop in offers during July shouldn’t bring on a sinking feeling in sellers. Prices were still higher during the month than in June across King County, and Carrington says that, in her experience, the quality of offers has not suffered as the quantity has decreased. Cash offers or “really good terms for the sellers” are still common, especially for single-family homes: With office return dates still uncertain, people still want space for Zoom rooms.
In August, buyers will likely continue to see less competition for them as Seattleites flock to vacation destinations (non-smoky ones, that is) before classes are back in session. But come fall, if history is any indication, competition will heat up again. “We expect that this was just a little blip,” says Carrington. “A refresh, maybe.”
Restoring buyers' collective psyche? That will probably have to wait until winter. At least.