Led by a strong Bellingham market, home sales and prices in Whatcom County ticked upward this past spring.
The number of Whatcom County homes sold rose 7.2 percent, while the median price rose 2.6 percent in the second quarter, according to a report put together by Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. Johnson bases her report on data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
In Bellingham, sales rose 10.6 percent and the median price jumped 8.5 percent to $292,125. June was a particularly busy month in Bellingham, with sales jumping 17.8 percent and the median price rising 14 percent compared to June 2011.
While the 86 homes sold in June in Bellingham was up compared to 2011, it's still much lower than the real estate bubble days of June 2007, when 150 homes were sold. Johnson believes last month's Bellingham numbers are a step toward a more normal market.
"Bellingham is leading what could be the beginning of a recovery," Johnson said. "It accounts for 42 percent of overall sales but also seems to be growing more than other areas of the county in higher price ranges, based on the median numbers."
The significant rise in Bellingham's median price to $292,125 last quarter indicates a possible "move-up" trend, a phenomenon where people sell their first home to move into something bigger.
"I think we're at the beginning of that trend, and low interest rates are helping," Johnson said.
One other factor for rising prices is low inventory. In Bellingham, inventory in the middle of June was down 19 percent compared to a year earlier. That's leading to multiple offers on homes that are in good condition at certain price ranges, Johnson said.
With the low inventory, Johnson is uncertain at this point how much shadow inventory is available. Shadow inventory includes homes that might go back on the market if sellers think prices are starting to bounce back.
"A lot of sellers haven't been putting their homes on the market until prices start going up. I think prices will go up if inventory and interest rates remain low," Johnson said.
The median sales price, average sales price, number of units sold and average days on the market before a sale for the county and individual communities for the second quarter of 2012. The percentage comparisons are for the second quarter of 2011, according to information from Lylene Johnson of the Muljat Group:
|Community||Median price||Avg. price||Units sold||DOM|
|Whatcom County||$259,500, up 2.6%||$288,100, up 1.6%||539, up 7.2%||136, down 11.8%|
|Bellingham||$292,125, up 8.5%||$339,432, up 3.4%||240, up 10.6%||112, down 6.7%|
|Birch Bay/Blaine||$230,000, up 3.1%||$266,418, up 1.4%||53, down 27.4%||197, up 6.5%|
|Ferndale||$257,000, down 2.1%||$265,526, down 4%||71, down 9%||144, down 21.7%|
|Lynden||$265,350, down 1.8%||$283,948, unchanged||64, up 28%||134, unchanged|
|Mount Baker||$80,000, up 68.4%||$147,381, up 21.6%||35, up 25%||149, down 17.2%|
|Nooksack Valley||$206,000, down 13.8%||$231,988, down 1.8%||25, up 31.6%||139, down 35%|
|Sudden Valley||$197,200, down 3.3%||$208,806, down 2%||32, up 10.3%||148, up 32.1%|
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