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Reason for optimism in San Juan County real estate market

The number of accepted offers on real estate bumped up in the San Juan Islands in October, thanks in part to the federal tax credit for first-time homebuyers and prices lowered in response to the recession.

Ditto in Western Washington, which saw a 63 percent jump in pending sales in October compared to the same month a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks real estate transactions listed with agents in 19 counties. The MLS does not track sales by owner.

“As anticipated, October saw a surge in home sales thanks to the federal tax credit,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate and a member of the Northwest MLS board. “The hope of the real estate industry is that the credit will be extended until there is more equilibrium within the economy and the housing market can stand on its own two feet.”

San Juan County real estate companies reported 25 new listings, 439 total listings, 20 pending sales and 14 closed sales in October. The average home price at closing was $479,500, the median price at closing was $464,250.

In September, there were 30 new listings, 491 total listings, 23 pending sales and 18 closed sales. The average price was $527,251, the median price was $480,000.

In August, there were 33 new listings, 524 total listings, 18 pending sales and 14 closed sales. The average price was $522,754, the median price was $470,000.

In October, San Juan home prices again topped the state. At No. 2 was King County, with an average home price of $421,521 and a median of $349,950 on 2,234 closed sales.

In neighboring counties, Island County reported an average price of $318,332 and a median price of $280,000 on 101 closed sales. Skagit reported an average price of $297,600 and a median price of $235,495 on 102 closed sales. Whatcom County reported an average price of $278,738 and a median price of $250,900 on 225 closed sales.

In the 19-county Northwest MLS region, there were 5,512 sales with an average price of $325,245 and a median price of $269,995.

Other real estate data shows continued signs of some stability in the market and improving consumer confidence.

On San Juan Island, the number and dollar volume of real estate transactions in the third quarter of 2009 surpassed the previous two quarters and the third quarter of 2008.

Merri Ann Simonson is associate broker and sales manager of Coldwell Banker San Juan Island.

“In reviewing the third quarter of 2009, the real estate market activity on San Juan Island actually surpassed the level of the third quarter of 2008 by $2,388,565 in volume and eight more closed transactions,” Simonson wrote in her quarterly report.

“Year-to-date, the dollar volume and transaction number still lags the same period in 2008 by $3,768,820, or 6.5 percent. It appears that we are making headway to a leveling off in real estate volume. If our last quarter holds momentum, we will end the year in the range of 5-7 percent in less volume than in 2008, which will be down slightly but reflects a more stable situation as opposed to the 53 percent decrease in volume for the year ending 2008 when compared to 2007.”

On San Juan Island, the median price for a previously owned home on less than 5 acres for the last 12 months is $410,000, compared to the $452,500 and $480,000 for years ending 2008 and 2007, respectively. The median lot price on San Juan for the last 12 months is $167,500, compared to $150,000 and $167,500 for years ending 2008 and 2007, respectively.

“Our current median lot price may be slightly distorted due to how few properties have closed,” Simonson wrote. “It takes volume to stabilize statistical reporting.”

There have been 17 trustees deed recordings for the purpose of foreclosure in San Juan County year-to-date; nine were on San Juan Island. “When this number is compared to the 14,809 net taxable parcels or 953 county wide properties that are currently listed, it verifies that foreclosed properties are not a major part of our market,” Simonson reported.

“The lack of foreclosed properties and distressed sales have helped retain our values as compared to other markets such as Las Vegas. Thanks to the San Juan County citizen’s prudent borrowing habits and our strong local banks, we don’t have bank-owned properties on every corner. Further good news is that we have first-time home buyers.”

Number of transactions, dollar volume, on San Juan Island
- First quarter 2009: 20, $13,191,000
- Second quarter 2009: 43, $19,025,032
- Third quarter 2009: 50, $20,635,810
- Third quarter 2008: 42, $18,247,245

- January-September 2009: 113, $52,852,142
- January-September 2008: 136, $56,620,962

- Total 2008: 161, $68,565,362
- Total 2007: 253, $144,392,887
- Total 2006: 348, $182,591,404
- Total 2005: 469, $210,663,047
- Total 2004: 368, $143,716,501
- Total 2003: 343, $104,238,973
- Total 2002: 352, $102,852,851

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