King County home prices down 7% compared to last year

Mar 4, 2011

Foreclosures and uncertainty are clogging up the real estate market, and one local expert says prices won't go up again before next year.

The median price of a home in King County  is down nearly 7% compared to a year ago.  That's one of many tidbits in the mass of numbers released this month by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. 

Sales data for February show the median sales price in Washington's most populous county down 7 percent compared to last year. The median price of a home in King County has dropped to $320-thousand dollars. That's about $23,000 dollars less than in February of last year. 

Banks are overloaded, slow to process difficult sales

More than a third of homes on the market now are so-called "distressed properties" – sales in which a bank is involved .

"Certainly the distressed properties are what are driving the price side of the housing market," says professor Glen Crellin, who directs the Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University.

Crellin thinks real estate prices won't be going up in Washington till next year at the earliest – because right now, distressed properties are sitting on the market for so long. "Properties that are still in the process of foreclosure have been delinquent on their mortgages for a very extended period of time.  They are on average, 447 days delinquent."

Translation: one year and four months is the average amount of time a distressed property gets stuck in a bank's pipeline.

But Crellin adds there are also some encouraging signs for the local economy and for those with good credit. Interest rates are still very low, and affordability is good for those trying to enter the real estate market in the Puget sound region. 

Two major employers - Boeing and Amazon dot com – are listing hundreds of new jobs, thanks to the recent win of the tanker contract from the US Airforce, and pent-up demand from consumers.

Here's a story I did for NPR News last year, "Foreclosure Clogs..More Headaches for Local Agency," on this topic in general.