Bellingham residential, single family sales numbers were up by 18.4% for the first 2 months of the years and Lynden matched its 2010 sales.  Whatcom County residential sales as a whole for the two month period dropped 38 units…down 17.3% from 2010 numbers.  Median sale prices were up 8.5% in Bellingham, although the average sale price dropped by 2.8%.  As a whole, average prices throughout the county dropped 2.7% and the median was down 1% from the first two months of 2010.

Considering that the first months of 2010 had the bonus from the Homebuyer tax credits, Bellingham did very well.  Why is the rest of the county struggling?  There are a number of possibilities:

-The most highly serviced areas are typically the most stable in price and demand.  In Whatcom County, that is Bellingham.

-The Homebuyer tax credit benefited lower priced home sales the most.  Since home prices in general tend to be less outside Bellingham, the county areas could be competing in 2011 against higher relative sales numbers in 2010.

-As shown in the table below, demand for homes in the $300,000 to $750,000 price range in Bellingham increased substantially in 2011, perhaps reflecting increased confidence among the population with steady jobs or more move-up buyers.  Anecdotally, we saw more out of area buyers for Bellingham property, and as a group they usually spend more for houses.

-Higher gasoline prices due to the uncertainty in the Middle East may also be keeping buyers closer to the primary service center in the County.

So what does all this mean?  Bellingham sales numbers in January and February continued their gradual increase, and since Bellingham is the indicator for an upturn in the Whatcom County housing market, that could bode well for the entire county.  One bright spot throughout the county is that inventory levels are  lower in all areas than they were a year ago.  Typically they tend to rise quickly after the first of the year, but that has not happened in the first two months.  Pending sales, on the other hand, are rising.  Distressed sale percentages seem to be relatively stable at around 20% of the market in Bellingham.

I remain optimistic about our 2011 market.  There are still some great buys available, and we are seeing low inventory levels in some sectors move buyers from “test the water” offers to something much closer to list prices.  On the other hand, we are also seeing sellers accept offers that they wouldn’t consider 3 months ago.  It all depends on the motivation on both sides of the transaction.  There is a bit more new construction available, and it seems to be selling consistently.  Interest rates are up, but 4.75% for a 30 year fixed rate loan is available with a 1% fee this week, and that’s not bad.  It’s too early to say the worst is over, but it certainly feels better than it did a few months ago. 

If your neighborhood would like a presentation or a link to your website of up-to-date information on real estate in the neighborhood, we can provide it – just give us a call.

            www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com also includes a constantly updated list of newly listed properties and a list of properties being offered as short sales & foreclosures (REOs), as well as the entire listing database of the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, fully searchable to your specifications.