Saturday, February 03, 2007

Now it’s a buyer’s market; home sales lower in 2006

By Jordan Kline - Daily World writer
Friday, February 2, 2007 10:26 AM PST

Home prices in Grays Harbor County rose again in 2006, but the total number of homes sold dropped.

The beach and East County markets, which had been booming, saw the biggest decline. Real estate agents are now describing those areas as “buyer’s markets” for the first time in several years, so there’s good news for house hunters.
Average home prices in 2006 were $150,664 in East County, $200,723 on the beaches, $123,035 in Aberdeen, $102,995 in Hoquiam and $146,165 county-wide.In 2005, average home prices were $139,663 in East County, $177,572 on the beaches, $105,391 in Aberdeen, $85,987 in Hoquiam, and $130,089 county wide.
Although sales activity dropped, the statistics show the market is still relatively strong, compared to the pre-boom years of 2004 and 2005, according to statistics compiled by Tom Quigg, the owner and broker for Windermere Real Estate in Aberdeen.

Quigg said the statistics he compiles annually are “non-scientific,” but provide a snapshot of the Grays Harbor real estate market. He culled information from the Real Estate Digest and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service — sales data clearinghouses used by brokers — and the Grays Harbor County Assessor’s rolls.
The trend toward more expensive homes began in 2004, when county-wide prices started to rise at a faster-than-usual clip. Prices at the beaches and in East County rose far faster than in Aberdeen and Hoquiam, buoyed by second home buyers and overflow from Thurston County.

Quigg compiles his numbers by splitting the county into four segments — East County, the north and south beaches, Aberdeen and vicinity, which includes Cosmopolis and Central Park, and Hoquiam and vicinity, which stretches west to Grays Harbor City.

The statistics don’t include the sale of newly constructed homes.Russ Hutchinson, an agent at John L. Scott in Ocean Shores, said the market “is definitely trending toward a buyer’s market. We’re a little flooded with houses, so there’s a big supply and not that high of a demand.”

“People are listing their homes on last year’s market, and things have changed,” said Don Cheli, an agent at Coldwell Banker in Elma. “It’s hard for us to sell those properties at the prices people want to sell them.”
Cheli said what’s happening here is happening everywhere. “It’s definitely a trend right now, so it could change. But people will have to start lowering their asking prices if they want to sell.

“The new building that’s going on has hurt us,” he said. New home building doesn’t appear to have slowed down like the existing home market. Grays Harbor County issued 177 permits for new homes in 2006, compared to the 179 it issued in 2005, which nearly doubled the 2004 number.

“These new houses are typically listed at $300,000 to $350,000, so they’re some of the most expensive houses out there,” Cheli said.

Quigg said once the new houses enter the market in a few years, they’ll push prices up even further. “As these start reselling, it’ll bring up the average prices throughout the county,” he said.The survey also shows that the average sale price for homes in Aberdeen — $110,000 — fell short of the $121,000 average sale price in Hoquiam during the fourth quarter of 2006 — the first quarter in five years that Hoquiam homes have been more expensive on average than Aberdeen homes.

Quigg says this may be just a temporary anomaly. “What probably skewed that were a few larger transactions. In Hoquiam, one or two large sales will easily skew this data,” he said.

The study showed that as a ratio, each region’s share of the county’s real estate market was relatively unchanged from past years. The beaches accounted for 26 percent of sales, down from 29 percent in 2005. East County’s share grew slightly, from 21 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2006. Aberdeen accounted for 36 percent of all sales, up from 34 percent in 2005, and Hoquiam’s share decreased from 16 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2006.

The beaches continued to dominate the high-end housing sales. 78 houses over $300,000 were sold county wide in 2006 — 53 on the beaches, 16 in Aberdeen, five in East County and four in Hoquiam.