UW News

August 17, 2015

Washington state housing market stays strong in second quarter of 2015

A house for sale.Washington state’s housing market remained strong in the second quarter of 2015. Home sale prices, the number of sales and the number of new building permits were all up compared with a year ago, according to the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington.

The statewide median sales price for a single family home rose to $289,300 in the second quarter of 2015, 9.5 percent higher than the second quarter of 2014, though still significantly lower than the all-time high of $316,700 in the second quarter of 2007.

Similarly, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales rose 8.9 percent from the second quarter of 2014 — to 94,550. This means that if the quarter’s pace continued unchanged for a year, that number of homes would be sold. Although robust, the current annual rate of sales is 33 percent below the high in 2003.

Home sales rose in all of the state’s 17 metropolitan counties in the second quarter of 2015. Of the state’s 39 counties, the highest increase in home sales was in Wahkiakum County at 34.6 percent, followed by Skamania County at 32.4 percent. Median prices were lower than a year earlier in only two counties, with prices in Lincoln County Washington coming in 39 percent below last year.

Snapshot of home sales for the second quarter of 2015, from the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the UW.

Runstad Center

Given the variety of location and market diversity in the state, median housing prices are highly variable, ranging from $85,000 in Lincoln County to $495,500 in King County.

Housing affordability for all buyers statewide reversed its recent course and fell slightly in the second quarter. That index — where 100 means a middle-income family can just qualify for a median-priced home, given a 20 percent down payment and a 30-year fixed mortgage rate at prevailing rates — was 143.1, down from 152 in the first quarter of 2015.

Statewide, the first-time buyer index showed a decrease of 4.9 points, ending the quarter at 81.0. This index assumes a less expensive home, lower down payment and lower income. This means that a household earning 70 percent of the median household income, as may be true of first-time buyers, had only 81 percent of the income required to purchase a typical starter home statewide.

Though down in general, housing affordability varied widely across the state. The least affordable county continues to be San Juan, and Lincoln County the most affordable.

For first-time buyers that pattern was mirrored, with Lincoln again being the most affordable, and San Juan continuing to be the least affordable. Nearly all counties east of the Cascades were affordable to first-time home buyers (Kittitas being the exception) while five counties west of the mountains, especially in the central Puget Sound area, presented issues for first-time home buyers.

Affordability remains a challenge in the state’s housing market, the report said. This is despite continued strong permitting activity of nearly 7,755 new units, primarily in multifamily housing developments in metro areas, marking a 3.8 percent increase in the number of units under construction compared with a year ago.

The Runstad Center produces home sales statistics in partnership with Washington Realtors. Each quarterly release coincides with information from the National Association of Realtors regarding median home prices by metropolitan area.

Sales, median home prices and affordability data for all Washington counties are available at the Runstad Center’s website.

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For more information, contact Peter Orser at 206-795-7008 or porser@uw.edu.

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