Whatcom home values rise 3.4 percent in second quarter


Overall home values rose once again in Whatcom County this past spring, joining much of the country in the housing recovery.

Local home values increased 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2013 compared to a year earlier, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. It's the third straight quarter of year-over-year increases after more than four years of declines.

Home appreciation in Whatcom County is expected to continue around this rate while other metro areas seeing big jumps will moderate in the next year, said Glenn Crellin, associate director at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. Reasons for the moderation are the expected rise in interest rates and more inventory coming on the market.

The Seattle metro area posted a significant increase in home values, rising 8.3 percent.

Some areas across the country hardest hit by the real estate crash are now seeing the biggest bounce back, including Stockton, Calif. (up 19.4 percent in the past year), Phoenix (up 18.5 percent) and Las Vegas (up 17.6 percent).

The reason for this, Crellin said, is because prices dropped too far after the real estate bubble burst. He noted home values in those areas are still down quite a bit compared to 2008, after the market began its freefall.

While those hard-hit areas are bouncing back quickly, he doesn't believe another real estate bubble is forming. It's still more difficult to get a loan than during the last real estate bubble, and buyers are much more cautious now.

"Appreciation of 1 to 3 percent above the inflation rate is typical," Crellin said. "With Bellingham, 3.4 percent is a sustainable number."

The Federal Housing Finance Agency uses home purchases and refinance data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to come up with its all-transactions home price index for metro areas. It uses only home purchases for the state index.

In Washington, the purchase-only index showed a rise of 9.3 percent in the past year, ranking it 12th highest in the U.S. Nevada (up 22.8 percent) led the way, followed by California (up 19.1 percent) and Arizona (up 18.3 percent). New Mexico had the lowest increase, at 1 percent.

"The housing market experienced one of its strongest quarters since the boom in the middle of the last decade," said FHFA principal economist Andrew Leventis in a news release accompanying the data.

Changes in the home price index for Wash. metro areas from the 2nd quarter of 2013:
Community1-year chg5-year chg
Mount Vernon-0.4%-24.3%
SOURCE: Federal Housing Finance Agency

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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