The Bellingham Herald recently published the latest Case-Schiller numbers, which are undeniably the best measure of what is happening in a real estate market.  Basically, they consider all sales in a market, compare same house sales and use a 3 month comparison period to even out month to month wiggles.  My numbers, on the other hand, consider only sales through the MLS, look at average and median numbers of the total sample, and compare specific periods.  The one advantage of my numbers over Case-Schiller is that they are numbers just from our area.

Back to the Herald article.  It said that of the 20 cities tracked by Case-Schiller, only 2 showed stronger prices than 2010 from February to March.  One of those was Seattle.  This raised the question in my mind of how changes in our market compare to Seattle’s.  Since I was also interested in the change of pricing in our market from the height (2006) to now, I decided to look at that change for Seattle and for us and see how they compare.  The table below tells the story.



% Change


% Change

January - May  2006





# of Units Sold





Average Sale Price





Median Sale Price










January - May 2011





# of Units Sold





Average Sale Price





Median Sale Price











There are several bright spots: 

  • The number of homes sold is holding up well compared with one of the better housing areas in the country.
  • While prices have certainly fallen, 13.5% on the average during a major recession over 5 years isn’t all that bad.
  • The smaller decline in the median price might actually indicate that our upper end market has held up better than Seattle.

So what happened to residential sales in Whatcom County in May?  For the most part, the number of homes sold was down from May of 2010…from -14.9% in Bellingham to -24.9% in Whatcom County as a whole.  Average sale prices dropped 11.1% in Bellingham and 4.8% over the entire County, while the median dropped 2.7% in Bellingham and increased 1.2% overall.        

Units sold in May were up from April in Bellingham and down through most of the county, for an overall change in number of units sold of 0.7%.  Prices bounced around from one area to another, but countywide they were up an average of 4.6% and the median increased by 1.2%. 

Distribution of sales in Bellingham changed slightly, as shown by the table below, with the primary loser being the $300,000 to $500,000 range and $500,000 to $750,000 the only sector to add a sale (literally, just one). 

May 2010 Price Ranges in $1000s

Total Sales Volume

Total Units Sold

Average Sales Price

% of Market

Changes in May Year to Year Distribution of Residential Sales in Bellingham











300 to <500






















May 2011 Price Ranges in $1000s

Total Sales Volume

Total Units Sold

Average Sales Price

% of Market

Unit Change

Average Price Change















 300 to <500





















May is the last month of 2010 that should have had a great deal of impact from the homebuyer tax credits.  To qualify, homes had to be under contract by April 30, so most of them would have closed by the end of May.  From here on, comparisons to sales a year ago will give us a better sense of where the market has actually moved. 

Some numbers of which buyers and sellers need to take note are these: 

  • Good properties sell quickly.  Of the 80 homes that sold in Bellingham during May, the median days on market before going under contract was 45.  The median sell price to list price was 97%.
  • Inventory levels are still down.  In Bellingham, 21% of the homes for sale are under contract – last year it was only 18%.

When one sorts through all the numbers, the reality is that the basics still rule, only more so.  The condition, location and price of a home will determine whether it sells quickly or not at all.  As a seller, waiting for tomorrow, hoping to get the price you started at 4 months ago, is probably not going to get a sold sign in your yard.  As a buyer, if you find that great house, you had better be ready to move… because someone else is.

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.