Big drop in Bellingham home sales as real estate returns to a more typical pattern

Whatcom County took a big step back to a more typical real estate market last quarter, particularly in Bellingham.

Home sales in Bellingham were down 16.5% and the median price was basically flat in the third quarter compared to a year ago. That’s according to report put together by Troy Muljat of Muljat Group Realtors using data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The slowdown in sales and a flat median price suggest a plateau is being reached in this market, Muljat said.

“We are basically returning to a more normal market,” Muljat said in an interview, noting the double-digit percentage increases in prices and sales earlier this year were unsustainable.

Several of Whatcom County’s smaller communities were more active during the third quarter. Sales in the Birch Bay/Blaine market jumped 45.9% in the third quarter compared to a year ago, while Ferndale sales rose 7.9% Overall in Whatcom County sales were down 1.5% while the median price rose 2%. The median price for homes sold was $472,900 in Bellingham, while Whatcom County as a whole came in at $400,000.

With the slowdown in sales, Muljat expects inventory to finally start increasing again. Local inventory has hovered around two months, with so few choices it’s been very much a seller’s market. A balanced market between buyers and sellers typically has between four and six months of inventory.

It’s a similar situation for the rental market, Muljat said. New apartment units are quickly being filled and keeping the vacancy rate low. As more apartment units become available through the current construction boom, he expects supply to catch up with demand, leading to a higher vacancy rate.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.