Market Report: Whatcom County real estate rebound in June tops economic data changes


The local real estate market is finally showing signs of a recovery.

Last month's total of 271 homes and condominiums sold by real estate agents last month was the highest monthly total since October 2007. At the same time, median prices for homes were up 2.6 percent for the second quarter compared to a year earlier.

It remains to be seen whether June will be a blip or if it's the start of a busy summer for the Whatcom real estate market. One aspect that may keep prices stable is the low inventory. A report by Coldwell Banker Bain estimated that in May Whatcom County had 7.4 months of available housing inventory, the lowest total in five years. Even more striking is the inventory for homes under $300,000, which was 3.7 months in May, putting it squarely in the seller's market.

Other significant events that took place in June:

• Alaska Airlines has announced the start of Bellingham-to-Maui flights beginning Nov. 8, putting that airline in competition with the Maui service that Allegiant Air announced earlier this year. Alaska currently flies from Bellingham to Honolulu daily.

• Sandy Keathley and Ben Kinnebrew sold K & K Industries to NaiMor Inc. in June. The shop and its 24 employees will remain at 2025 Masonry Way, in the Irongate Industrial Park area. Shahrokh Naieni, who heads NaiMor, is now president of K & K Industries.

• Bellingham Cold Storage started producing ice from its new $4.5 million ice house, which is near the water on the north end of the facility. Including the storage bins and with the machines operating at capacity, BCS can have 470 tons of shaved and block ice on hand each day for commercial fishing boats and BCS tenants.

• BP concluded the Friday, Feb. 17 fire that shut down its Cherry Point oil refinery near Ferndale was caused by a pipe failure in the crude processing unit. It's been fixed and the refinery is operating normally again.

• Retailers will have a chance to make shopping in Whatcom County easier for Canadians. The Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry has partnered with a company to launch a Canada Certified program, which will expand the number of businesses accepting Canadian debit cards.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q4 2011: $828.1 million

Q3 2011: $797.7 million

Q4 2010: $789.1 million

Quarterly change: Up 3.8 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 4.1 percent

Six-year quarterly high: $873.4 million, fourth quarter, 2007

Six -year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009

Whatcom County bankruptcies

May 2012: 56

April 2012: 50

May 2011: 62

Monthly change: Up 12 percent

Year-over-year change: Down 9.7 percent

Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

May 2012: 330

April 2012: 301

May 2011: 249

Monthly change: Up 9.6 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 32.5 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

June 2012: 271

May: 2012: 201

June 2012: 215

Monthly change: Up 34.8 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 26.1 percent

Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

June 2012: $8 million

May 2012: $5.7 million

June 2011: $6.7 million

Monthly change: Up 40.4 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 19.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011

Five-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012

Whatcom County foreclosures

May 2012: 57

April 2012: 59

May 2011: 50

Monthly change: Down 3.4 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 14 percent

Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

June 2012: $250,000

May 2012: $235,000

June 2011: $247,450

Monthly change: Up 6.4 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 1 percent

Six-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

June 2012: 392

May 2012: 514

June 2011: 431

Monthly change: Down 23.7 percent

Year-over-year change: Down 9 percent

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

May 2012: 49,573

April 2012: 50,165

May 2011: 43,195

Monthly change: Down 1.1 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 14.8 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 52,872, March 2012

Six-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010

Canadian dollar

End of June 2012: 98 cents

End of May 2012: 97 cents

End of June 2011: $1.04

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

April 2012: 1,247,292

March 2012: 1,271,620

April 2011: 1,196,962

Monthly change: Down 1.9 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 4.2 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,540,776 August 2011

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

June 2012: $8.1 million

May 2012: $13.3 million

June 2011: $12.6 million

Monthly change: Down 39.1 percent

Year-over-year change: Down 35.7 percent

Six-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009

Six-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008

Ferndale building permit values

May 2012: $2.1 million

April 2012: $4.9 million

May 2011: $2 million

Monthly change: Down 57.1 percent

Year-over-year change: Up 5 percent

Five-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007

Five-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

May 2012: 5,600

April 2012: 6,100

May 2011: 6,200

Monthly change: Down 8.2 percent

Year-over-year change: Down 9.7 percent

Six-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006

Six-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom May 2012: 7.9 percent

Whatcom April 2012 (revised): 7.1 percent

Whatcom May 2011 (revised): 8.1 percent

State May 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.3 percent

Nation May 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.2 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Six-year monthly low: 3.7 percent, October 2007

SOURCES: Washington State Department of Revenue; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington; Cross-Sell; Washington State Department of Licensing; Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Whatcom County Planning and Development Services; Bank of Canada; Port of Bellingham; RealtyTrac; Center For Economics and Business Research, Western Washington University; City of Bellingham; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Market Report runs each month.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at or get updates on Twitter at

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