Market Report: Property transactions a sign of new economic activity


An uptick in property activity in the Blaine and Birch Bay area last month could mean a boost to the local economy.

• Last month a major piece of property on Birch Bay was sold to a Canadian Investment Group. North America Chen's Holdings LLP, purchased the former Sea Links Golf Course and CJ's Beach House restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 21. The property was formerly owned by Homestead Northwest before it was taken over by Union Bank. Soon after the sale it was announced that Jack Niemann signed papers to put in a new restaurant at CJ's.

• A major residential project, the Marin Condominiums, was restarted after years of sitting inactive near the Semiahmoo Spit.

These transactions will mean some construction jobs as well as new tenants in the restaurant and possibly the golf course, but it also points toward increased interest in other property in other parts of Whatcom County.

"Essentially all these distressed properties have dropped to such a price point that it is attracting groups to come in and finish these jobs," said Mike Kent of Windermere Real Estate last month. "It's become value driven."

With some properties starting to look like a value again and the Canadian dollar remaining strong, agents including Kent are expecting more real estate transactions in the coming months.

Other significant events that took place in August:

• Gas prices continue to rise in Bellingham. The average price for a gallon of gas in the Bellingham metro area was $4.19 on Aug. 27 and stayed around that level into the first week of September, according to AAA Washington.

• Through court documents, it was revealed in August that a deal is in the works to buy the Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine.

• The Fairhaven area now has a major hardware store. Last month the Whatcom Farmer's Co-op, also known as WFC, had a soft opening in the former Market at Fairhaven grocery store building on Old Fairhaven Parkway. The store itself is WFC's other retail outlets in the county, but it has partnered with True Value to offer additional hardware products in its 40,000-square-foot store, said manager Russ Stewart.

• A cool spring and some untimely rains made the raspberry harvest challenging for Whatcom County commercial farmers. It was a down year for raspberries, possibly a "double-digit" percentage drop in quantity, said Henry Bierlink, executive director of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission. Total harvest figures aren't expected to be released until later this year. In 2011 Whatcom farmers harvested 66.3 million pounds of raspberries, a 22 percent increase compared to 2010 and the record highest one-season total, according to data from the Washington Red Raspberry Commission.

• The Lummi Gateway Center celebrated its official opening in August. New businesses in the center include the Schelangen Seafood Market, Lummi Gateway Café and Lummi Gateway Arts and Crafts.

By the numbers

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q1 2012: $716.1 million

Q4 2011: $828.1 million

Q1 2011: $657.7 million

Quarterly change: down 13.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

July 2012: 47

June 2012: 48

July 2011: 60

Monthly change: down 2.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 21.7 percent

Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

July 2012: 263

June 2012: 326

July 2011: 243

Monthly change: down 19.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.2 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

August 2012: 262

July 2012: 224

August 2011: 250

Monthly change: up 17 percent

Year-over-year change: up 4.8 percent

Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

July 2012: $6.7 million

June 2012: $8 million

July 2011: $65.3 million

Monthly change: down 16.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 89.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

July 2012: 45

June 2012: 35

July 2011: 70

Monthly change: up 28.6 percent

Year-over-year change: down 35.7 percent

Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

August 2012: $237,250

July 2012: $254,800

August 2011: 234,750

Monthly change: down 6.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.1 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

August 2012: 414

July 2012: 399

August 2011: 414

Monthly change: up 3.8 percent

Year-over-year change: no change

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

July 2012: 55,407

June 2012: 49,720

July 2011: 51,421

Monthly change: up 11.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.8 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 55,407, July 2012

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

Canadian dollar

End of August 2012: 99 cents

End of July 2012: $1

End of August 2011: $1.01

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

June 2012: 1,326,464

May 2012: 1,317,092

June 2011: 1,180,623

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 12.4 percent

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

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

July 2012: $44.6 million

June 2012: $8.1 million

July 2011: $10.2 million

Monthly change: up 451 percent

Year-over-year change: up 337 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

July 2012: $2.7 million

June 2012: $2.9 million

July 2011: $2.9 million

Monthly change: down 6.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 6.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

July 2012: 6,400

June 2012: 6,200 (revised)

July 2011: 5,800

Monthly change: up 3.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 10.3 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom July 2012: 7.6 percent

Whatcom June 2012: 7.3 percent (revised)

Whatcom July 2011: 8.3 percent

State July 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.5 percent

Nation July 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 8.3 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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