Tight inventory is really doing a number on local real estate prices.
The median price of Whatcom County homes sold in the second quarter jumped to a record $315,000, or 8.6 percent more than a year ago, according to the latest real estate report from Lylene Johnson of The Muljat Group.
In Bellingham, where inventory is especially tight, the median price of the 329 homes sold rose a whopping 15.6 percent to $374,000.
Despite the tight inventory, home sales in Whatcom County increased 7.2 percent, with much of the volume increase happening outside of Bellingham. The biggest increases in second-quarter sales were in Blaine/Birch Bay (up 25.7 percent), Nooksack (up 20 percent), Mount Baker (up 17.4 percent) and Sudden Valley (up 12.7 percent). Bellingham sales were up just 2.5 percent.
“The shift is particularly significant when comparing market shares,” Johnson said.
She noted that Bellingham home sales accounted for 42 percent of Whatcom County’s sales in the first half of 2006; that share was down to 36 percent in the first half of 2016.
Inventory is also down in several communities outside of Bellingham, leading to rising prices. Johnson estimates Ferndale’s inventory is down 33 percent compared to a year ago. The median price in Ferndale in the second quarter was $305,000, up 5.6 percent compared to a year ago. Lynden’s inventory is down 22 percent, while the median price is up 7 percent to $313,000.
Even with prices rising, Johnson said it is still possible to find homes priced under $300,000. It’s just that buyers have to adjust what they might want in a home. If they have a certain amount of space in mind, they might have to think smaller, for example. They also need to act quickly and be prepared for multiple potential offers.
“It’s really a frustrating market for buyers right now,” Johnson said.
The one positive for buyers is that interest rates remain low. Getting the financing in place before shopping for a home is recommended. Johnson said she also advises buyers to take a look at homes that have been listed on the market more than a few weeks. They might be overpriced and there may be an opportunity to make an offer, she said.