March typically ushers in the start of the "selling season" in our market and many others around the country—which is why sales data for the month of March serves as an interesting indicator for market watchers.


March 2010's numbers for deals on the table ("pending sales") are the best kick-off to residential retail season we've seen since 2007, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service data.

There are more deals than ever which is good news for both buyers and sellers because it shows that the market is busy.

During March 2010,  6,821 homes were in pending sale status in the four-county (King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap) area tracked by the MLS. These numbers on sales-in-progress suggest that a recovery is underway in the market, as this is the best month the four-county area has logged since June 2007 (when 6,876 homes were pending). "Pending status"  means deals still have room to fall through,but "pending" also reflects sentiment—and a little more interest in the market, even if it's partially fueled by fleeting tax credits, is conceivably positive news. While an $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit and a separate $6,500 repeat home buyer tax credit expiring at the end of April may play a role in influencing sales—after all, the credits exist to spur them—the uptick is notable.

This seemingly robust uptick could use a dose of context. March's numbers are nowhere near the market peak in June 2005—when 8,896 homes were pending.

A few high points from local reports:

•Median home prices in King County were up slightly, reports The Seattle Times, for the first time in ages—moving up year-over-year to $367,250, up 0.9 percent from March 2009. A faint increase, but an increase nonetheless.

•But while median home prices were up year over year, they were down month over month (between February 2010 and March 2010), notes bubble watcher Tim at Seattle Bubble.

•Sales were way up in Snohomish County, reports The Everett Herald, but the combined median price for houses and condos—$268,000—is still down at 2005 levels.

So, what's going to happoen to the market? The really interesting data may not be available till June. Once we see the figures for April—the month that tax credits expire—and compare them with traffic in May, post-tax credits,  we'll know if the uptick in sales was induced by credits or somehow an organic happening.
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