The end of 2020 marked a most unusual year, and the real estate market was no exception. While homes sales usually take a holiday during December, this year saw the continuation of an exceptionally strong and competitive market. New listings, closed sales and home prices all went up. With supply nowhere close to meeting demand, the strong market is expected to extend into 2021.
Inventory continues to be the biggest challenge for buyers. While King County had a 62% increase in new listings compared to a year ago, homes were snapped up quickly, leaving the county with just over two weeks of available inventory at the end of the month. The supply of single-family homes was down 35% year-over-year. Buyers considering a condo had far more choices. Inventory was up 45%, but at about five weeks of available units the condo market is still significantly short of the four month supply that is considered balanced. Inventory in Snohomish County was even more strained, with the month end showing only a one-week supply of homes. At the end of December there were only 373 homes on the market in all of Snohomish County, a 63% drop from a year ago. With inventory this tight, it’s more important than ever for buyers to work with their agent on a strategic plan for getting the home they want.
Low inventory and high demand continued to push prices upward. The median single-family home price in King County was up 10% over a year ago to $740,000. Price increases varied significantly by area. Seattle home prices were up 10%. The traditionally more affordable area of Southwest King County, which includes Federal Way and Burien, saw prices jump 15%. And on the Eastside, the most expensive market in King County, home prices soared 17% — the largest increase of any area in the county. Home prices in Snohomish County rose 12% to $573,495, just shy of its all-time high of $575,000.
With 2021 ushering in a new record low for interest rates, and inventory at its tightest in recent memory, 2021 is expected to remain a very competitive market.
Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner’s prediction: “As we move into 2021, I expect continued strong demand from buyers, but unfortunately, the likelihood that there will be any significant increase in inventory is slim. As a result, I believe prices will continue to rise, which is good news for sellers, but raises concerns about affordability. This, combined with modestly rising mortgage rates, could end up taking some steam out of the market but overall, I expect housing to continue being a very bright spot in the Puget Sound economy.”
The charts below provide a brief overview of market activity in Seattle.