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It is clear that housing sales throughout Whatcom County are down from 2008 levels in quantity, although impacts on price are mixed. The overall picture is less clear cut on a month-to-month basis. Let’s look at some examples, first comparing February 2008 numbers to February 2009 numbers:

  • Bellingham went from 68 to 37 houses sold
  • Birch Bay/Blaine held even with last year with 17 houses sold
  • Whatcom County as a whole dropped from 163 home sales to 88

In comparing January to February home sales this year we see the following:

  • Bellingham went from 39 to 37 houses sold
  • Ferndale, Birch Bay/Blaine & Lynden numbers all increased
  • Whatcom County as a whole dropped by 4 house sales – from 92 to 88

Due to the small numbers in many of the local markets, there were some wild average price fluctuations – from an increase of 44% in one area to a decline of 23% in another compared to last February. The larger samples in Bellingham and Whatcom County as a whole are more meaningful:

  • Bellingham: Average down 8.6%, Median down 5.1% February 2008 to February 2009
  • Total Whatcom County: Average down 5.1%, Median down 11.4%

The chart shows us that we do seem to be starting on a lower sales curve this year, but the pricing trend was actually a bit stronger from January to February. As you will note, March typically sets us on the path to the stronger sales numbers that should show up in the warmer weather – we will be watching closely to see if that is the case.

Part of the explanation for the drop in average and median prices can be seen in the table below. Note the percentage of sales that are now below $300,000 relative to February 2008, and also note in which price ranges there were the greatest changes in number of units sold. With this said, the reality is that the value of the average home in most of Whatcom County has declined over the past year, meaning that some homes have slipped from one price range down to another.

So what is ahead I think that we will see our spring bump, fueled by a couple of factors:

  • There are some very good loan programs and rates out there, not the least of which is FHA, where the limit has been raised to $375,000.
  • The $8000 credit for first time homebuyers is a phenomenal gift, and it can be used on a 2008 tax return if the house closes before the return is filed.
  • We are starting to hear people – on the street, in restaurants, in open houses – talking about the fact that there are some great housing buys out there, and we are starting to see those great buys come through the system as closed sales.

If you have any question on the above statistics or are in search of other data to help you in your real estate sale or purchase feel free to give us a call at (360) 303-2734 as we would be glad to help.