King County is experiencing the worst shortage of homes for sale in more than a decade, driving prices higher and keeping more would-be buyers in apartments.
The median price of single-family homes sold last month in King County was $499,950, a 13.6 percent increase over the past 12 months, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service reported Friday. The median condominium price jumped 19.4 percent over the year to $298,500.
There were 2,917 active listings of houses and condos in all of King County, or a month’s supply, compared to the historical average of about 9,000 listings for this time of year. Brokerages are alarmed.
“Looking at the data as far back as 1999, we’ve never seen a lack of homes for sale to this degree,” said OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, the region’s largest residential brokerage.
Housing production can’t keep up with the massive influx of residents from out of state, said Todd Britsch, Northwest regional director for Metrostudy, a research firm that tracks home construction. About 6,000 new people moved to King County, on average, each month so far this year, state data on driver’s licenses show.
Though the long-term homeownership rate has been well above 60 percent, King County, and especially Seattle, don’t have enough buildable land for single-family homes, Britsch said. As a result, about 70 percent of the housing being produced over the next two years is apartments, Britsch said.
“What we are doing with our current regulations is turning the Puget Sound into the next San Francisco, where only the elite can afford a house,” he said.
Land costs are so high that the median price of new single-family homes is $720,000 in King County and in the mid-$500,000s in Snohomish County, he said.
John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle, said the shortage of homes for sale is pushing some King County residents to buy in outlying counties, even if they work in Seattle.
“They’re putting up with the commute,” Deely said.
The median price of single-family homes sold in Snohomish County was $350,000, up 6 percent over a year ago; in Pierce, $249,900, up 8 percent; and in Kitsap, $259,000, up 5.7 percent, according to the MLS.
But the inventory crunch also is pushing prices of homes to new highs closer to core job centers: In Seattle, where the number of active listings was down 42 percent, the median price for homes sold jumped 20 percent to $598,000, the highest so far in 2015.
On the Eastside, the region’s most expensive submarket, the median price was $674,000, up 10 percent. In southwest King County, the least expensive submarket, the median price rose 20 percent over the year to $305,970.
Condos aren’t expected to help make up the shortfall in the production of single-family housing. Developers say production of condos won’t meaningfully pick up until prices move higher or the state limits their liability for construction defects in the state’s condominium act.
The median condo price in Snohomish was $258,900, a 23 percent jump over the year; in Pierce, $166,725, a 16.6 percent increase. Only 11 condos were sold in Kitsap, too few for the median to be meaningful.