The market is continuing to bump along, with some hot spots and some slow spots, so let’s  look at some indicators of where those might be...and why.

  • Average days on the market for May sales in the county as a whole were 145.  It ranged from 251 in Ferndale down to 90 in Bellingham. 
  • Median days on the market for May sales in the county as a whole were 75… that means half of the houses sold were on the market 75 days or less before having an accepted offer.  It ranged from 172 in Sudden Valley down to 23 in Bellingham. 
  • Average sales price relative to original list price for May sales in the county was 89.7%.  It ranged from 93.8% in Ferndale and 93.6% in Bellingham to 90.9% in Sudden Valley and 90.7% in Lynden.  Averages relative to list price at time of sale are considerably higher, indicating a significant amount of early overpricing.
  • Of the homes currently for sale in Whatcom County, 10.5% are either bank owned or a short sale.  In Bellingham, that percentage is 4%.  In Sudden Valley, it is 20%.
May 2011 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 $12,051,289 53 $227,383 64.6%
300 to <500 $6,975,900 18 $387,550 22.0%
>500 $5,104,000 9 $567,111 11.0%
>750 $2,450,000 2 $1,225,000 2.4%
May 2012 Total Sales Total Average % of Unit Change Average
<300 $10,989,020 51 $215,471 63.0% -3.8% -5.2%
300 to <500 $7,503,700 20 $375,185 24.7% 11.1% -3.2%
>500 $5,598,500 9 $622,056 11.1% 0.0% 9.7%
>750 $750,000 1 $750,000 1.2% -50.0% -38.8%

If all this explains everything to you, that’s wonderful…if it’s not, join the crowd, and keep reading.

Let’s start with the hot spots.

  • The indicators clearly point first to Bellingham.  Its homes sell more quickly and for a higher price relative to the list price.  Why?  It has an advantage over other areas simply because of its size.  It offers more services.  There are more housing choices in all respects, but this is particularly true in properties often considered “first time” homes.  We are seeing a lot of demand for smaller, well kept homes with some character within walking distance of services and recreation.  Bellingham has lots of those, but not a lot for sale, and they are often selling with multiple offers.
  • Ferndale looks like it is sending mixed signals.  Its average days on market are the highest in the county, but its ratio of sell price to list price is also the highest.  Ferndale and Lynden had nearly the same number of sales in May, but Lynden’s sell to list price ratio was the lowest.   An answer could be that 39% of Ferndale’s May sales were new construction, which are often listed early but don’t go under contract until they are finished.  Lynden’s new construction sales in May were just .4% of total sales.  Many people specifically want new construction, and since there isn’t a lot of it around right now, contractors don’t have to deal much regarding price.

So how about the slower areas?

  • Sudden Valley comes to mind.  Homes tend to be on the market for a longer time than most other areas and they sell for less relative to their list price.  A major factor is the high percentage of bank owned homes and short sales.  Many of them are vacant and many have been vacant for a while.  The prices are really good and the setting is beautiful, but some of the good prices are offset by dues and property taxes based on tax assessments that have not yet been adjusted to reality.  

Obviously, there are factors at work in every market over which an individual homeowner has no control.  That makes it more important than ever for a seller to maximize the impact of those things he or she controls. 

Over the past 2 months, we have listed and had accepted contracts on at least 6 homes within a week of putting them on the market.  All sold at least for the list price and most had multiple offers.  Others we have listed within that time period are still on the market.  During the last 2 months, we have also helped some buyers purchase homes and have seen others miss out on a home they wanted.  So what can a seller do to minimize the selling time and maximize the selling price…and what can a buyer do to get the house they really want?

Sellers:  There are many details that should be done to effectively market your home, but two are critical:

  • Price it to the sales (fact), not to the listings (fantasy).
  • Create an environment where someone will want to live.   Clean, repair, get rid of stuff.

Buyers:  If you really want to buy a house, get ready:

  • Get a preapproval letter BEFORE you start to shop.
  • Be prepared to make a decision quickly…if you sleep on it, you may lose it.
  • Be prepared to pay full price…or more.  Someone else might.

Quick notes on the May market in general:

  • Inventory at the end of May was down from a year ago by 12% in Bellingham, 5% & 6% in Birch Bay/Blaine and Ferndale and 11% in Lynden.
  • Unit sales for the county as a whole were up slightly over May of last year. 
  • Average and median prices for the county as a whole were down slightly from a year ago.

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.