Recent reports indicate the Whatcom County housing market continues to slowly improve.
Last month Whatcom County real estate agents sold 224 homes and condominiums, a 21.7 percent increase compared to July 2011, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. However, last month's total is down from June, when 271 homes and condos were sold.
Whatcom County also continued its trend of rising prices. The median price for homes and condos sold in July was $254,800, a 3.5 percent increase compared to a year earlier.
The median price for homes and condos sold last month across 21 counties the NWMLS serves was $254,900.
Foreclosure notices in Whatcom County also remain at a lower level than in previous years. According to RealtyTrac, an online database for foreclosure property, this area received 45 foreclosure filing notices in July, down from 48 a year earlier. The foreclosure filing rate in Whatcom County was one per 2,015 housing units last month - better than the state (one per 814 housing units) and the national (one per 686) rates.
With housing prices slowly rising, Whatcom's home affordability index has started to fall. According to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington, Whatcom's housing affordability index was 142.7 in the second quarter of 2012, down from 153.5 in the first quarter. The first-quarter index was the highest (meaning most affordable) for Whatcom County since it started in 1994.
The affordability index measures the ability of a typical family to make payments on a median-priced home. With Whatcom County's latest index number, a family earning the median income has 42.7 percent more income than the bare minimum required to qualify to purchase a median-priced home with a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year mortgage.
The affordability index across the state was 169 last quarter, still making it affordable for median-income families, said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the center.
"While the market appears to be improving, the sluggish economy combined with a continuing overhang of distressed properties means a sustained recovery is still tenuous," Crellin said.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.