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Published May 2002

Home sales down,
but prices remain high

By Mike Benbow
Herald Business Editor

The recession has cooled Snohomish County’s hot housing market, but it hasn’t done much for prices, which continue to hover at record levels.

The median price of a home and condominium in March was $205,000, a 6.8 percent increase from last year at this time, according to a report released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The listing service, which represents real estate agents in the central Puget Sound area, also reported that homes sold slightly faster in March than they did a year ago — in an average of 53 days instead of 54.

The high prices and quicker sales are signs that the area’s housing market continues to help carry an economy battered by layoffs at the Boeing Co. and elsewhere.

David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, acknowledged the continuing strength of the housing market across the country “has baffled the experts.”

But he did say that continued low interest rates and an improving economy have certainly helped keep the market strong.

In recent remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Lereah said he predicts a continued strong market and only modest rises in interest rates.

“Though we’ve had favorable affordability conditions from low interest rates for some time, what hasn’t been fully appreciated is the underlying demand for housing from our growing population,” he said.

While demand continues to be strong, it has certainly slipped from the seller-controlled market of recent years, particularly for condos. The listing service report shows that in Snohomish County in March:

  • The number of houses and condos listed for sale dropped 5 percent.
  • Pending sales for houses and condos dropped 13 percent.
  • Pending sales for condos alone dropped 16 percent.
  • The average sale time for a condo increased to 65 days, compared to 42 last year at this time.

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