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A client who has wandered the world once told us, after a particularly good travel story, “The most uncomfortable experiences always make the most interesting stories.” As we look back on the current economic times, I’m sure that will be the case. What makes it uncomfortable today is that we don’t know the story’s ending. In the case of

the real estate market, we want to know, “Will prices drop Will sales fall When should I buy or sell”

None of the experts have those answers. Most of them admit that they didn’t see the current situation coming and that we have no good historical examples to show us what to expect. But as humans, we want answers for the future, so the experts give us their best guesses, which range from a pickup in the 1st quarter 2009 due to excellent interest rates to softness through 2010 due to job losses and lack of consumer confidence.

The reality is that nothing in life is guaranteed and that each of us needs to make our own financial decisions based on our individual circumstances. Some people have to move regardless of the market, but more move by choice, and in today’s market it still makes sense for some people to move up or downsize. The current actual value of your property really doesn’t matter – what matters is whether that value will allow you to make the change you want to make in your lifestyle.

Statistics can show us what has happened in the past, don’t help a lot in predicting the future, but give us some indication as to where we are currently, so let’s look at some of the numbers:

  • Single family home sales in Whatcom County peaked in 2003 at 3052 units sold
  • Single family home average sale price in Whatcom County peaked in 2007 at $334,698
  • Condo sales in Whatcom County peaked in 2007 at 685 units sold
  • Condo average sale price in Whatcom County peaked in 2007 at $225,146

2007 to 2008 comparisons of single family homes in Whatcom County show the following:

  • 26.4% fewer sold (2693 to 1981)
  • 4.4% drop in average sale price ($334,698 to $317,740)
  • 4.5% drop in median sale price ($290,000 to $276,900)

2007 to 2008 comparisons of single family homes in Bellingham show the following:

  • 28% fewer sold (1219 to 881)
  • 4% drop in average sale price ($375,161 to $359,151)
  • 5% drop in median sale price ($315,000 to $299,000)

To summarize the numbers, the odds of a house selling at this time are lower than they were a year ago and the price may be a bit lower than it was, but there has been no dramatic drop. List prices are being negotiated down about ½ % further than they were a year ago.

To summarize the reality behind the numbers, the trend continues down, but the basics of buying and selling have not changed. There are people looking for property. When something comes up that fits their needs and is good value, they buy quickly and pay the listed price. Some areas and price ranges are more desirable and in shorter supply than others so pricing is stronger and sell times are shorter. With less new construction available, newer homes and nicely renovated homes have an advantage.