Whatcom County continues to follow the national trend of increased home sales and rising prices, according to a new midyear report.
Local real estate agents sold 1,077 homes in the first six months of 2013, a 15.9 percent increase compared to the first half of 2012, according to a report put together by Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. That's the highest first half total since 2007, when 1,337 homes were sold.
A factor in the jump was a particularly strong second quarter - Whatcom County home sales rose 18.6 percent in that three-month period, while Bellingham sales rose a whopping 29.4 percent.
Johnson expects the second half of 2013 to see similar increases, although steadily rising interest rates could slow things down.
"Interest rates are my primary concern, which may impact more on the lower-end homes," Johnson said. "It is also possible this will stimulate more buyers to enter market due to fears that they may go even higher."
A significant change taking place locally is the shorter amount of time a house is on the market. According to Johnson's statistics, which are based on data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, the average number of days a house is on the market is 106, the shortest time period in the second quarter since 2006.
The quicker turnaround on homes has meant tighter inventory, but it appears a steady stream of homes are entering the market. What's becoming frustrating for buyers is that at times they've come in with an offer that's not being accepted.
"It is a changing market, so it's harder to gauge what a price should be on a house," Johnson said.
The median price for Whatcom homes sold was $255,000 in the first six months of 2013, up 3.8 percent compared to a year earlier.
The Bellingham median home price for the first half was $285,000, up 3.6 percent.
The numbers are still well below the median price before the real estate bubble burst; in 2007 the median price for homes sold in Whatcom County was $292,000.
"At the rate we are going, it will take a few years to get back to those values," Johnson said.
While sales are on the upswing, it's not at a point where sellers can become complacent, she said.
"The basics have to be there; the house has to be in the best condition," Johnson said, noting she's seen an increase in landscaping and home staging prior to homes going on the market.
HOME SALES BY COMMUNITY
The median sales price, average sales price, number of units sold and average days on the market (DOM) before a sale for the county and individual communities for the second quarter of 2013, with percentage comparisons to the second quarter of 2012.
Whatcom County - Median price, $265,500, up 1.9 percent; average price, $297,771, up 3.4 percent; units sold, 656, up 18.6 percent; DOM, 106, down 21.5 percent.
Bellingham - Median price, $300,000, up 2.7 percent; average price, $347,263, up 0.3 percent; units sold, 317, up 29.4 percent; DOM, 85, down 23.4 percent.
Birch Bay/Blaine - Median price, $237,450, up 3.2 percent; average price, $265,601, up 1.4 percent; units sold, 70, up 22.8 percent; DOM, 125, down 34.2 percent.
Ferndale - Median price, $266,500, up 3.1 percent; average price, $267,071, up 0.6 percent; units sold, 88, up 22.2 percent; DOM, 97, down 31.7 percent.
Lynden - Median price, $266,806, down 0.4 percent; average price, $295,868, up 4 percent; units sold, 59, down 10.6 percent; DOM, 112, down 17.6 percent.
Mount Baker - Median price, $100,000, up 20.5 percent; average price, $133,535, down 14.1 percent; units sold, 36, down 2.7 percent; DOM, 183, up 15.1 percent.
Nooksack Valley - Median price, $228,000, up 10.7 percent; average price, $212,350, down 8.5 percent; units sold, 20, down 20 percent; DOM, 137, down 1.4 percent.
Sudden Valley - Median price, $213,900, up 8.5 percent; average price, $223,126, up 6.9 percent; units sold, 47, up 46.9 percent; DOM, 138, down 6.8 percent.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269.