Whatcom County home sales up 6.6 percent in first quarter


The term "normal" hasn't been used to describe the local real estate market for several years, but that appears to be the case heading into the home-buying season.

Whatcom County home sales for the first quarter rose 6.6 percent, while the median price was up 1.6 percent compared to a year earlier, according to data compiled by Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group.

The number of homes sold totaled 451 for the first three months of the year, the highest total since the first quarter of 2008, when the housing bubble was beginning to burst locally.

"Inventory is relatively low, but overall what we are seeing is a more normal market," said Johnson, who analyzes data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service to calculate statistics for local communities.

One continuing trend Johnson has noticed is the steady increase of homes selling in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. During the years after the real estate bubble burst, more activity was concentrated in the first-time homebuyer price range of under $300,000.

The median price was down year over year for Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale and Sudden Valley. The median price jumped in Birch Bay/Blaine, rising 18.2 percent.

Across the 21 counties that the NWMLS serves, 5,753 houses and condominiums were sold in March, nearly identical to the total sold a year earlier. The median price for those houses and condos was $274,000, up 6 percent from a year ago.

In Whatcom County, 246 houses and condos were sold in March, up 16 percent compared to March 2013.

The spring and summer months are typically the busiest locally when it comes to real estate activity. The numbers indicate the upswing started last month, Johnson said. She expects this season to be more of a balanced market between buyers and sellers.

"It's a more typical period where an attractive house will go for more than full price, while others will remain sitting (on the market) for a long time," Johnson said.


A look at the median sales price, average sales price, total homes sold and average days on the market for the first quarter of 2014, with the percentage change from the first quarter of 2013:

Whatcom County - Median sales price, $249,000, up 1.6 percent; average sales price, $276,663, up 3.5 percent; total homes sold, 451, up 6.6 percent; average days on the market, 121, up 5.2 percent.

Bellingham - Median sales price, $268,500, down 0.5 percent; average sales price, $323,018, up 7.6 percent; total homes sold, 196, up 8.9 percent; average days on the market, 97, up 14.1 percent.

Blaine/Birch Bay - Median sales price, $227,000, up 18.2 percent; average sales price, $265,453, up 19.6 percent; total homes sold, 53, up 3.9 percent; average days on the market, 184, up 32.4 percent.

Ferndale - Median sales price, $249,990, down 0.8 percent; average sales price, $253,417, down 4.5 percent; total homes sold, 65, up 8.3 percent; average days on the market, 108, down 3.6 percent.

Lynden - Median sales price, $249,950, down 5.2 percent; average sales price, $253,125, down 2.4 percent; total homes sold, 38, down 13.6 percent; average days on the market, 83, down 30.8 percent.

Mount Baker - Median sales price, $125,000, up 5 percent; average sales price, $179,440, down 12.6 percent; total homes sold, 31, down 3.1 percent; average days on the market, 168, down 15.6 percent.

Nooksack Valley - Median sales price, $214,000, up 12.6 percent; average sales price, $215,176, down 14.5 percent; total homes sold, 17, up 30.8 percent; average days on the market, 192, up 5.5 percent.

Sudden Valley - Median sales price, $199,900, down 3.4 percent; average sales price, $217,920, down 0.4 percent; total homes sold, 37, up 48 percent; average days on the market, 129, up 17.3 percent.


Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2269.

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