Market Report: Real estate, car sales data indicate strong finish to 2012


Auto Sales Whatcom County

Diane Parker of Blaine looks at new Toyota Camry models while hers is in the shop at Wilson Motors on Iowa Street on Wednesday Sept. 19, 2012 in Bellingham. Parker was looking for a new car and joked about her current car. "After 253,400 miles, its probably entitled to a new starter," she laughed.


As we start closing the books on 2012, some of the local economic numbers indicate a strong end.

Residential real estate agents had a busy final month to cap off what was the busiest year in terms of sales since 2007. Sales of new cars also were strong in the second half of 2012 through at least November. Bankruptcies also continued to tail off locally.

However, foreclosure filings were on the rise at the end of 2012.

One interesting aspect of the year-end totals is in building permits. In Bellingham, the values of the permits issued totaled $143 million, the highest annual total since 2007, when valuations totaled $200.2 million. Much of this year's strength appeared to come in new commercial construction and business remodels.

In the unincorporated parts of Whatcom County, permit valuations totaled $97 million, which is down from $142.4 million the previous year. BP Cherry Point put in permits for a major installation project, making 2011 was a particularly busy year for the county permitting department

Other significant events that took place in December/January:

• The Barkley Company filed a building permit application to build a mixed-use building in the empty lot near the Scotty Browns restaurant. The project, valued on the permit at $15.6 million, will have two parking levels along with four stories of apartments totaling 112 units. It will also have about 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

• Thousands of people took part in the sneak preview and grand opening events at the new 16-screen Barkley movie theater, which opened in mid-December.

• Clarence "Gabe" Gabriel stepped down as president and CEO of Haggen Inc. and is being replaced by three members of the grocery company's management team. The leadership group consists of Clement Stevens, John Turley and Ron Stevens.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q3 2012: $860.9 million

Q2 2012: $792.1 million

Q3 2011: $797.7 million

Quarterly change: up 8.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

November 2012: 38

October 2012: 50

November 2011: 53

Monthly change: down 24 percent

Year-over-year change: down 28.3 percent

Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

November 2012: 265

October 2012: 369

November 2011: 224

Monthly change: down 28.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 18.3 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

December 2012: 197

November 2012: 192

December 2011: 170

Monthly change: up 2.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 15.9 percent

Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

December 2012: $3.7 million

November 2012: $3.6 million

December 2011: $2.9 million

Monthly change: up 2.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 27.6 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

November 2012: 91

October 2012: 61

November 2011: 61

Monthly change: up 49.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 49.2 percent

Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

December 2012: $255,000

November 2012: $238,950

December 2011: $211,000

Monthly change: up 6.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 20.9 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

December 2012: 160

November 2012: 208

December 2011: 131

Monthly change: down 23.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 22.1 percent

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

December 2012: 48,486

November 2012: 45,811

December 2011: 42,256

Monthly change: up 5.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 14.7 percent.

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

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

Canadian dollar

End of December 2012: $1.01

End of November 2012: $1.02

End of December 2011: 98 cents

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

October 2012: 1,181,225

September: 2012: 1,322,233

October 2011: 1,159,433

Monthly change: down 10.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,676,071 August 2012

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

December 2012: $4.6 million

November 2012: $4.7 million

December 2011: $9.5 million

Monthly change: down 2.1 percent

Year-over-year change: down 51.6 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

November 2012: $4.4 million

October 2012: $4.2 million

November 2011: $1.3 million

Monthly change: up 4.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 238.5 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

November 2012: 6,300

October 2012: 6,500

November 2011: 5,700

Monthly change: down 3.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 10.5 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom November 2012: 6.5 percent

Whatcom October 2012 (revised): 6.3 percent

Whatcom November 2011: 7.4 percent

State November 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.8 percent

Nation November 2012 (seasonably adjusted): 7.7 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 Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read his business blog at or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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