The Whatcom County real estate market in 2012 was at its busiest in five years, led by particularly strong sales in Bellingham and Lynden.
Last year real estate agents sold 2,077 single-family homes in Whatcom County, up 12.8 percent in the past year and the highest annual total since 2007, according to a new report from Lylene Johnson, a real estate agent at the Muljat Group. Johnson analyzes data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service along with her historical data.
Home sales improved throughout the year, with sales especially strong in the fourth quarter. In the final three months of 2012, Whatcom County home sales were up 21.8 percent compared to the same period in 2011.
Prices for those homes sold in 2012 also rose, according to the report. In Whatcom County, the median price was $250,000, up 3.2 percent compared to 2011. It's the highest annual median price since 2009, when it was at $258,000.
The 2012 median price remained significantly lower than at the peak in 2007, when it was $290,000.
Based on the latest data and some anecdotal evidence, Johnson is expecting activity to carry over into the first few months of 2013.
"In the past few days I've had four or five previous clients come into the office ready to look for a new home." Johnson said. "I think our biggest problem will be inventory."
The number of local homes being put up for sale has lagged in the past year, as potential sellers waited for the market to improve. That should continue until sellers see further increases in prices, said Gragg Miller of Coldwell Banker Bain.
"I expect it to be a slow growth (in prices)," Miller said. "Overall 2012 was a positive year in real estate, with the light really turning on around March and continuing through December."
Johnson agreed that prices may need to rise more to convince sellers to put more homes on the market, particularly those who still owe more than what the house is currently worth.
"While inventory should increase somewhat as prices strengthen, there are still many homeowners who cannot afford to sell due to their debt level. Also, spec construction financing for builders is tight, which tends to limit the number of small builders who can contribute to the inventory of new homes."
Bellingham and Lynden home sales were particularly strong in 2012. In Bellingham, the 942 home sales last year was the highest annual total since 2007, when 1,224 homes sold.
The median price for Bellingham homes sold last year was $275,000, up 3.8 percent compared to last year but down compared to 2010.
In Lynden, 228 homes sold last year, the highest total since 2005. The median price for those homes declined 1.5 percent, however, to $255,000. Johnson said the price drop was because of an influx of home sales in the lower end of the market.
In the Blaine/Birch Bay area, home sales were down 9.5 percent, but the median sales price rose 11.9 percent, which Johnson attributed to more higher-end homes selling in the Semiahmoo area.
The median sales price, average sales price, number of units sold and average days on the market (DOM) before a sale for Whatcom County and individual communities for the fourth quarter of 2012, with percentage comparisons to the fourth quarter of 2011 (from Lylene Johnson, the Muljat Group):
|Community||Median price||Avg. price||Units sold||DOM|
|Whatcom County||$250,000, +3.2%||$282,671, +3.7%||2,077, +12.8%||125, -13.2%|
|Bellingham||$275,500, +3.8%||$322,096, +1.3%||942, +17%||105, -13.9%|
|Birch Bay/Blaine||$230,000, +11.9%||$289,549, +18.6%||219, -9.5%||182, +1.1%|
|Ferndale||$254,000, +3.7%||$267,788, +2%||295, +8.9%||126, -20.3%|
|Lynden||$255,000, -1.5%||$274,574, -2.5%||228, +24.6%||116, -22.7%|
|Mount Baker||$96,500, +62.9%||$141,717, +20.2%||134, +6.3%||169, +11.9%|
|Nooksack Valley||$208,000, +6.9%||$216,347, +2.7%||88, +1.73%||138, -19.3%|
|Sudden Valley||$201,251, +5.9%||$215,533, -0.3%||120, +20%||117, -14%|
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.