The steep rise in local home prices is showing no signs of slowing down, particularly in Bellingham.
The median price for a home sold in Bellingham in the first quarter of 2017 hit $382,763, a 10.6 percent increase compared to a year ago.
That’s according to data put together by Troy Muljat, who took ownership of The Muljat Group earlier this year. Muljat is also taking over the real estate report from Lylene Johnson, who recently retired from real estate. Muljat puts together the report based on data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The median price of homes sold jumped significantly in several other Whatcom communities. It was up 20.5 percent to $336,350 in Lynden and up 13.5 percent in Sudden Valley to $256,707. Across Whatcom County, the median price rose 8.7 percent to $322,779.
It’s a basic issue of not enough supply for the current demand, Muljat said, noting that at the beginning of April there were just 95 homes for sale in Bellingham that weren’t already pending. During the boom period of around 2005, there were hundreds of homes for sale.
The lack of supply will make things challenging in the upcoming busy home-buying season of late spring/early summer. There were 515 active listings in Whatcom County last month, down 40 percent compared to March 2016, according to the NWMLS.
Last month the housing inventory was 1.9 months, meaning if no new homes were put on the market the inventory would be gone in about two months. A balanced market typically has about six months of inventory.
If interest rates rise as expected in the coming months, that may actually help inventory, Muljat said. Rising interest rates mean less buying power, and sales could slow down. As sales slow, inventory will get a chance to build back up.
The number of homes sold remained about the same as a year ago, according to the report. The number of homes sold in Whatcom County during the first quarter totaled 560, up 1.6 percent. The Lynden area saw a spike in home sales during the first quarter, with 72 homes sold, a 67.4 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016.
With low inventory, the average number of days a house is on the market continues to decline. In the first three months of 2017 the average was 47 days, a 14.4 percent decrease compared to the same period a year ago.