Before we look at the stats, we need to understand what we are comparing against.  November of 2008 had fewer homes sold in Whatcom County than any month over the past almost 4 years except for January and February of 2009.  That set the stage for Whatcom county residential sales to be up by 87% this year.  Year to date sales were down by just 2.4% from 2008, which was good considering our slow start.  Average sale prices were also up county wide in November over 2008 (by 10.2%), although the median dropped by 4%.  A few details of November sales relative to last year: 

  • Bellingham sales numbers increased 141% (from 36 homes last year to 87 this year).  The average price was up by 17.7%, but the median was down by nearly 2%.  The average reflected the return of some sales over $500,000 (in 2008 there was just one) but the continued dominance of sales under $300,000 kept the median down.
  • Most areas in Whatcom County followed this pattern, with the number of sales up everywhere and median prices dropping.  The one exception was in Lynden, where both average and median prices increased.  This could reflect a change in the type of housing available this year relative to last.

Inventory levels continue to fall relative to both last month and last year in Bellingham, Birch Bay/Blaine, and Ferndale, although they seem to be getting stickier in Lynden & Sudden Valley, with levels close to last year. Pending sales were up 91% in Bellingham as of mid November, and were also up strongly in Ferndale and Birch Bay/Blaine.  Lynden & Sudden Valley are close to last year’s levels.   

Following the trend begun in October, sales over $500,000 in Bellingham were higher this year than last, which brought the overall average price up. Within the individual price ranges, as shown below, the average prices dropped.

So what will happen next year?  Based upon sales currently pending, Bellingham, Ferndale and Birch Bay/Blaine closings should be up in January.  Lynden and Sudden Valley are more problematic.  Pending sales in the first months of the year should be helped along by the extension of the $8000 first time home buyer tax credit and the addition of the $6500 repeat buyer tax credit, although the low inventory for some types of property may cause buyers to delay for a bit, hoping for a better selection.  After April 30, the deadline for a binding contract for both of the tax credits, I would not be surprised to see a drop in both activity and prices.  The number of short sales and bank owned properties continues to rise, and that is not conducive to stronger pricing.

For ongoing real estate numbers, go to www.JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com/blog. We update the site weekly with everything from interest rates to market conditions to information from Fannie Mae, the FED and the FDIC. Also, feel free to call us at (360) 303-2734 or e-mail Info@JohnsonTeamRealEstate.com if you want to know more about a specific portion of the market – we track a lot more than we have space to report.