Real estate on the rebound?
June 19, 2012 · Updated 4:55 PM
More interest. More volume. More offers, and more sales.
The pulse of San Juan County’s real estate market began to quicken in the past two months. And while the median price of a home sale remains below the same mark of a year ago, $579,000 compared to $597,000 in 2011, an increase in property sales and transactions has San Juan County Land Bank officials breathing just a bit easier, for the moment.
“The first three months of the year were miserable,” Land Bank Director Lincoln Bormann said. “Things started picking up in April and May was pretty good. So far, June has been significantly better.”
In May, the Land Bank saw one of its biggest one-month gains from its principle funding source, a 1-percent excise tax on nearly all local real estate sales. That tax delivered $136,627 in revenue to the publicly owned land conservation agency’s bottom line in the month of May. The mark exceeds all the previous monthly marks dating back to December 2011.
Bormann is keeping his fingers crossed that the momentum of May is no fluke.
“We were almost up to our May level in the first two weeks in June,” he added.
Gary Franklin of Windermere Real Estate San Juan Island isn’t ready to say the market is out of the woods, but a recent surge in sales should not be discounted. Moreover, Franklin believes that prices may well have bottomed out and may begin to rise.
“So far we’ve seen fewer bank-owned properties than last year, less than 5 percent of the total in 2012,” he said. “In 2011, it was closer to 10 percent for the year.”
The overall volume of sales this year, and the number of offers a particular home may draw, are encouraging signs as well, he said.
“We’re seeing a strengthening in prices, more multiple offers and the Seattle market is stronger too,” he said. “That can be good for us in the islands.”
According to Northwest Multiple Listing Service, there were 31 pending sales in May 2012, compared to 13 in May 2011. A total of 18 homes or condos sold in May 2012, versus 12 in 2011.
Year to date, NMLS statistics show 66 home/condo sales in 2012 compared to 50 over the same mark a year ago. Prices have lagged behind, however, with 2001’s median mark, through May, hitting $420,000, compared to a 2012 year-to-date mark of $322,500.
Franklin said buyers looking to “move up”, meaning into a bigger home, account for a good percentage of recent sales and that the sale of waterfront homes this year overshadows the last.
“All of last year we sold 13 waterfront homes,” he said. “So far this year we’ve seen 12 sell through June 1.”
Franklin cautions those looking to sell a home should be patient. He said the average time a home remains on the market, or until a pending sale closes, is still about 325 days.
“There hasn’t been much change in that in 2012,” he said.
Still, Franklin and Bormann agree the market is on a rise and, after years of sluggish sales, may be hitting a stride.
“I think ‘toe-hold would be a good description of where we’re at,” Franklin said.