The number of homes sold in some local areas continued to fall in September, but less overall than they did in August, compared both to the prior month and to numbers from 2007. Bellingham residential real estate sales dropped 21% from September 2007 to September 2008, but in August 2008 they had dropped 38% from the prior year. Sales typically slow down from August to September – in 2007 they dropped 39% month to month, while this year they were down 21%.

The differences were even more marked in Whatcom County as a whole, with a drop of 38% in August 2008 compared to August 2007 but just an 11% drop in September from year to year. The change in units sold in the prior month was similar, with a slide of 38% from August to September in 2007 and just 10% in 2008.

On the other hand, Sudden Valley, Lynden, Nooksack Valley and Mt Baker areas all had more sales in September than in August, and Birch Bay/Blaine, Nooksack Valley and Mt Baker areas had more homes close this September than they did a year ago.

Average prices from September 2007 to September 2008 dropped 9.7% in Bellingham and 9% in Whatcom County as a whole, although Sudden Valley, Birch Bay/Blaine/ Lynden and Mt Baker saw increases from 15% to .2%.

The ongoing crises in the financial markets have definitely led to tighter lending practices, although money is still available for qualified individuals. Purchase appraisals are still coming in at value for the most part and non-purchase appraisals (to establish value in the absence of a purchase agreement), often seem to be coming in high. September saw a significant drop in the listing to sale price ratio (the percentage of list price at which the property sells), down to 95% in both Bellingham and Whatcom County as a whole from 97% a year ago. Days on the market for those homes which sold were up for the most part from August to September, but overall pretty equivalent to 2007.

Inventory has remained slightly lower in 2008 relative to 2007 and seems to be dropping a bit faster than usual as we go into fall. Pending sales are continuing to run about 23% below last year, although numbers have improved over the past couple of weeks. Time will tell if that is a trend.

What’s the prognosis Our underlying business community seems to be strong. Contractors who work in the remodel and commercial areas are booked into next year and new companies of various types are either shopping Whatcom County or moving in. Like the entire American economy, however, Whatcom County is dependent on credit to keep business moving. Until the problems on the national level have stabilized, we will share the pain.

If you would like information about any specific areas, feel free to call us at (360) 527-8766 or email Lylene and we will get right back to you.