Whatcom County homes sales jump 21 percent in third quarter

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 3, 2013 

For sale sign

A for sale sign in front of a home.

FILE PHOTO — AP

Home sales rose sharply this past summer in Whatcom County, approaching levels last seen before the recession.

Whatcom County real estate agents sold 718 homes from July through September, a 20.9 percent increase compared to the third quarter of 2012, according to a report from Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. That's the highest third-quarter total since 2007, according to the data.

Johnson uses data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service to analyze the Whatcom County market.

Bellingham represented a big chunk of the increase: 344 homes were sold in the third quarter, up 24.2 percent compared to a year earlier. Blaine/Birch Bay also posted a large increase, selling 91 homes, an increase of 37.9 percent.

One community that posted a significant drop in sales was Lynden, which was down 15.2 percent. Year to date, Lynden home sales are down 8.5 percent compared to the same period in 2012.

While sales jumped significantly, the median price had a less dramatic rise. The median price of homes sold in Whatcom County was $266,250 in the third quarter, up 4.7 percent compared to a year earlier.

"Based on the data, I think we will continue to see gradual price appreciation in the most popular areas and property types in Whatcom County, together with gradually increasing sales," Johnson said.

Gragg Miller of Coldwell Banker Bain said what he's noticed recently is more of a shift to purchases of homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. Previously the sales growth was in homes priced under $300,000.

Johnson agreed, noting that in September the percentage of homes in the $300,000 to $500,000 range increased from 25 percent last year to 42 percent this year.

To Miller, it's a sign that homeowners that bought their first home around 10 years ago are now selling that and buying homes in the next price range. This moving-up process would impact sales as well as the median price.

Through the first nine months of the year, 1,817 homes sold in Whatcom County, an 18.1 percent increase compared to the first nine months of 2012.

While Johnson expects the final three months of 2013 to be relatively busy, the market could be affected if the federal government shutdown continues by slowing the approval process of some government-backed mortgages, including rural housing and veteran loans.

HOME SALES, PRICES BY COMMUNITY
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 third quarter of 2013, with percentage comparisons to the third quarter of 2012 (from Lylene Johnson, the Muljat Group):

CommunityMedian priceAvg. priceUnits soldDOM
Whatcom County$266,250, +4.7%$299,464, +3.9%718, +20.9%80, -25.2%
Bellingham$301,450, +9.6%$355,148, +7.8%344, +24.2%60, -30.2%
Birch Bay/Blaine$220,000, -8.9%$261,419, -14.6%91, +37.9%102, -46.6%
Ferndale$271,000, +5.4%$275,555, +3.4%81, unchanged98, +14.0%
Lynden$251,400, -2.9%$267,097, -3.2%56, -15.2%63, -30.8%
Mount Baker$70,000, -17.6%$137,632, +11.5%37, +19.4%128, -9.9%
Nooksack Valley$235,000, +19.0%$226,054, +9.7%27, -10.0%92, -23.3%
Sudden Valley$224,200, +11.0%$230,413, +7.1%50, +38.9%75, -20.2%

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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