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What’s driving Whatcom’s growth? A hot Seattle real estate market could be a factor

A view from Bellingham Bay toward downtown and Mount Baker. According to state’s Office of Financial Management, Whatcom County added 3,760 people in the past 12 months for a total population of 216,300.
A view from Bellingham Bay toward downtown and Mount Baker. According to state’s Office of Financial Management, Whatcom County added 3,760 people in the past 12 months for a total population of 216,300. The Bellingham Herald file

A significant number of people moved into Whatcom County this past year, more so than any other year this decade.

As of April 1, the county added 3,760 people in the past 12 months for a total population of 216,300, according to a report released last week by the state’s Office of Financial Management.

That’s the largest year-over-year increase for Whatcom County since 2007, the data indicated.

Between 2010-2017, the net migration percentage for Whatcom County is 65.9 percent, indicating that last year was stronger than average. That comes as no surprise to Darin Stenvers, manager at the Bellingham branch of the John L. Scott office, a real estate company. He’s noticed an increase in buyers from out of the area, something that has continued this summer.

The state numbers don’t show where people are coming from, but Stenvers said a big influence is the red-hot Seattle market.

With the median home sale price in King County hitting $560,000 in May, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Stenvers said more people are willing to buy a home here and commute to Seattle or work from home.

More than 5,000 people commute from Whatcom County to the Seattle, Bellevue and Everett areas for work, according to data collected by Hart Hodges, director of the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University.

Stenvers said he has also noticed an uptick in retirees moving to the area, as well as more homebuyers from typically hot parts of the U.S., noting more of them want a cooler place to live during the summer months.

Net migration accounted for 72 percent of Washington’s population growth in the past year.

Bellingham added 1,870 people in the past year and has an estimated population of 86,720, according to the report. Lynden has a population of 13,620, just ahead of Ferndale’s population of 13,470.

Blaine rose to 5,075 residents by adding 145 people in the past year, while Everson’s population rose to 2,630. Sumas has an estimated population of 1,571 and Nooksack came in at 1,490.

The unincorporated portions of Whatcom County continued to grow and now has a population of 91,724.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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