Market Report: Whatcom County real estate, construction data show increased activity


SpringHill Marriott

The new SpringHill Marriott Monday, Oct. 21, 2013, located on 4040 Northwest Avenue in Bellingham.


With the end of 2013 approaching, the economic data is pointing toward a busy year for real estate and construction.

In tallying up the year-to-date data through October, Whatcom County residential sales are on pace to hit the highest total since 2007. The 15.7 percent year-over-year increase in October sales numbers, the second-highest monthly total of the year, suggests a busy finish to the year.

Construction appears to be on a bit of a rebound as well. Through October the approved projects totaled $134 million, on pace to be the most valuable total since 2007. Unincorporated Whatcom County permits so far this year are valued at $89.2 million, up 18 percent from a year ago. In Ferndale, the value of approved projects was $40.2 million, already more than any year back to 2007.

It's interesting that while construction projects are up locally, construction employment is similar to last year. Construction activity could remain steady into the early part of next year if several projects, including those hotel and retail projects in north Bellingham, move forward.

Significant local business events that took place in October and early November:

- The Whatcom Council of Governments released the results of an interim survey taken last summer of travelers going south through the region's five border crossings. The survey estimates about 310,000 vehicles crossed the border into Whatcom County with shopping the travelers' primary purpose in July; that's more than quadruple the number of vehicles during the same period in 2007.

- The Oxford Hotel Group recently submitted a building permit application to put in retaining walls on property at 4051 Meridian St., which is tucked on the west side of the Pier 1 Imports store. The application is one of the early steps in building a five-story, 99-room Oxford Suites hotel. Along with rooms, the facility will have meeting space, a pool, fitness center and a restaurant, said Edmund Wadeson, the lead administrator and project manager for the Oxford Hotel Group.

- Whatcom County's 93 farmers harvested more than 63.4 million pounds of raspberries this past summer, a 9.8 percent increase compared to 2012, according to data from the Washington Red Raspberry Commission. It's the second-highest harvest locally; the record was set in 2011, at 66.3 million pounds.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q1 2013: $757.1 million

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Q1 2012: $716.1 million

Quarterly change: down 15.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 5.7 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $891.5 million, fourth quarter, 2007

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

September 2013: 45

August 2013: 48

September 2012: 35

Monthly change: down 6.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 28.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Seven-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

September 2013: 335

August 2013: 341

September 2012: 310

Monthly change: down 1.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.1 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Seven-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

October 2013: 280

September 2013: 259

October 2012: 242

Monthly change: up 8.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 15.7 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

September 2013: $8.7 million

August 2013: $17.2 million

September 2012: $17.2 million

Monthly change: down 49.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 49.4 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

September 2013: 27

August 2013: 68

September 2012: 55

Monthly change: down 60.3 percent

Year-over-year change: down 50.9 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Seven-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

October 2013: $249,000

September 2013: $269,000

October 2012: $257,625

Monthly change: down 7.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 3.3 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

October 2013: 272

September 2013: 311

October 2012: 310

Monthly change: down 12.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 12.3 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Seven-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

September 2013: 41,959

August 2013: 52,909

September 2012: 40,936

Monthly change: down 20.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 2.5 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 61,402, March 2013

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

Canadian dollar

End of October 2013: 96 cents

End of September 2013: 97 cents

End of October 2012: $1 dollar

Seven-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Seven-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

August 2013: 1,786,840

July 2013: 1,640,597

August 2012: 1,676,071

Monthly change: up 8.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.6 percent

Seven-year monthly high: 1,786,840 August 2013

Seven-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

October 2013: $13.6 million

September 2013: $8.7 million

October 2012: $12.8 million

Monthly change: up 56.3 percent

Year-over-year change: up 6.3 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

October 2013: $3.5 million

September 2013: $1.4 million

October 2012: $4.2 million

Monthly change: up 150 percent

Year-over-year change: down 16.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

August 2013: 6,200

July 2013: 6,200

August 2012: 6,000

Monthly change: no change

Year-over-year change: up 3.3 percent

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

Seven-year monthly low: 4,900, January 2013

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom August 2013: 6.5 percent

Whatcom July 2013 (revised): 7.2 percent

Whatcom August 2012: 7.7 percent

State August 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7 percent

Nation August 2013 (seasonably adjusted): 7.3 percent.

Seven-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Seven-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.

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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