July a busy month for Whatcom County residential sales


For sale sign

According to data compiled by RealtyTrac, Whatcom County has a lower percentage of homeowners seriously underwater - owing at least 25 percent more on their mortgages than the property is worth - than the state and national averages. The report indicates 12 percent of Whatcom County residents were seriously underwater, while Washington checked in at 20 percent.


Whatcom County real estate agents continue to have a busy summer, but it could start slowing down if interest rates continue to rise.

Local agents sold 323 homes and condominiums last month, the highest monthly total since August 2007, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. It's also a 44.2 percent increase compared to July 2012.

While residential sales jumped in July, the median sales price decreased slightly. The median price for local houses and condos sold last month was $252,000, down from $254,800 a year ago.

The volume of sales is back to pre-bubble levels, but the growth could start slowing down if interest rates rise, said Darin Stenvers, branch manager at the Bellingham John L. Scott office and vice chair of the NWMLS board. He expects something more like single-digit growth this fall rather than the double-digit increases this area is currently experiencing.

"The rise in interest rates is already starting to have an impact on sales," said Stenvers, noting that the closed sales in July were from agreed-on sales from 30 to 45 days earlier.

He views the current climate as a balanced market between buyers and sellers, with buyers evenly divided into four categories - first-timers, those interested in a bigger house, out-of-towners and those downsizing.

Many of the 21 counties the NWMLS covers are going through a rise in residential sales and prices. Last month real estate agents in those counties sold 7,772 houses and condos, up 27.5 percent compared to a year ago. The median price in July was $282,363, a 10.8 percent jump from a year ago.

Skagit County had a 40.5 percent year-over-year jump in sales, with the median price rising 16.4 percent to $230,250.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Business blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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