Whatcom County home values up nearly 6 percent in third quarter

Home values continue to steadily increase in Whatcom County, getting close to pre-recession levels.

Local home values increased nearly 6 percent in the third quarter compared to a year earlier, according to data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Whatcom County home values are also up compared to five years ago, posting a 2.7 percent increase.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency uses home purchases and refinance data from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to come up with its all-transactions home price index for metro areas. Across the U.S., the home price rose 0.9 percent compared to a year ago.

The report noted that the national index is about the same level as August 2005 and about 6 percent lower than the peak of April 2007.

It’s been a steady rise throughout the year for home appreciation as well as a stable real estate market. When all is said and done, 2014 will look similar to 2013 in terms of sales, said Gragg Miller of Coldwell Banker Bain in Bellingham. The differences that Miller has noticed are an increase in new home construction in Bellingham, which will help supply, and more sales of higher-end homes.

Miller said the return to a steadier market is good to see after going through the real estate bubble and subsequent burst a few years ago. He noted that the general attitude now is that a home is a place to live in rather than make money on, which has led to a more stable market.

As for 2015, Miller expects sales to be up slightly compared to this year, unless interest rates rise. He said at this point it is not clear what will happen, with 30-year rates currently hovering around 4 percent.

Six out of the 10 metro areas with the highest home price appreciation were in California, with Vallejo, Calif., topping the list with an 18.3 percent year-over-year increase. Three out of 10 metro areas with the highest depreciation were in Illinois, with Kankakee, Ill., posting a 3.1 percent decrease in home values.

The purchase-only home price index rose in 40 states in the third quarter. Nevada topped the list for the highest increase; Washington ranked 15th.