How high will home values go? Here's how Whatcom County remains on this top 20 list

The Bellingham Herald file

Rising home values show no sign of slowing down not only in Whatcom County but in much of Washington state.

Home appreciation in Whatcom County increased 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, according to a new report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Whatcom's increase was 18th-highest among 245 U.S. metro areas.

Whatcom is among several Washington metro areas that made the top 20 in terms of highest home appreciation. Seattle ranked third in the U.S. with a 13.4 percent increase compared to a year earlier, Tacoma (up 13.1 percent) ranked fourth, Bremerton (up 12.2 percent) ranked eighth, Yakima (up 12.1 percent) ranked ninth, Spokane (up 11.8 percent) ranked 11th and Olympia (up 11.8 percent) ranked 12th.

It was the fifth-straight quarter where Whatcom County posted double-digit, year-over-year home appreciation increases with this index, which looks at purchased and refinanced mortgages to determine changes in home values.

Across the U.S., home values rose 6.9 percent compared to the same period a year ago, but the national rate rise may start slowing, said William Doerner, a senior economist for the agency.

"Since housing markets began to rebound in 2012, house price appreciation has been positive because demand has outpaced supply. In the last month, however, some regions reflect a slowing or even flattening of house price growth," Doerner said in a news release accompanying the data.

The region that includes Washington state continues to have the strongest year-over-year home appreciation, and Whatcom County is not showing signs of increasing inventory.

In April Whatcom County's home inventory was at 1.9 months, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. That means if no new houses or condominiums come on the market, Whatcom's inventory would be gone in less than two months. Typically, a balanced housing market has around six months of inventory.

The number of new listings in Whatcom County last month was 415, down 12 percent compared to April 2017.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz