Home prices jump in first quarter in Bellingham

With fewer houses coming on the market in Bellingham, sale prices rose significantly in the first quarter.

The median price for a home sold in Bellingham was $310,500 in the first three months of 2015, a 15.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to data from Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group. Johnson analyzes data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Across Whatcom County, the median price rose 8.3 percent to $269,950, while home sales totaled 537, up 17.2 percent compared to a year ago.

As of mid-March, the NWMLS indicated that Bellingham had only 213 homes for sale, Johnson said. That’s down 30 percent from a year ago and is the lowest monthly total in more than two years.

The low inventory in Bellingham appears to be having an impact on other parts of Whatcom County. Bellingham had 202 home sales in the first quarter, up only 2 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014. Local real estate agents sold 66 homes in Lynden last quarter, up a whopping 73.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014. Agents sold 93 homes in Ferndale last quarter, up 38.8 percent.

Johnson noted that it’s a situation where more buyers are looking outside the Bellingham city limits to find a home.

“Homes are not coming on the market fast enough in Bellingham,” Johnson said, adding that even some homes under construction are being sold before the work is completed.

Darin Stenvers, branch manager at Bellingham’s John L. Scott office, agreed the city is experiencing a low inventory crunch. He said many homes for sale in Bellingham are getting multiple offers, with several of those buyers willing to pay in cash. He remembers one place that received 13 offers, with 10 of them being all-cash offers.

“It’s purely an inventory problem right now,” Stenvers said, adding that part of what’s driving the demand is more investors coming into the market. One other impact is a rise in condominium sales in Bellingham, he said.

Both Johnson and Stenvers expect the low inventory crunch in Bellingham to continue through the spring and summer.

One area of Whatcom County where home sales have slowed is Sudden Valley. The median price for the 29 homes sold there in the first quarter was $180,000, down 8.8 percent. The number of homes sold in Sudden Valley was down 23.7 percent. Johnson said the low number of basic services is a factor for some potential buyers; Stenvers added that the building limitations and paying homeowner association dues also deter some.