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Jim Davis, Editor
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Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Home sales, prices rise again in January

Real estate brokers reported brisk sales in January, but many home buyers expressed frustration as the number of available homes for sale continued to shrink.

Across Snohomish County, listings fell from 3,162 single-family homes and condominiums in January 2012 to 1,548 this January, a decline of 51 percent. That conspired to drive up the combined median sales prices for homes and condos to $235,950, up 12.4 percent from $210,000 in January 2012.

The latest housing activity report from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, released Tuesday, showed 713 closed sales during January, up 20.2 percent from 593 transactions one year ago. Single-family homes accounted for 580 of those sales, up 19.1 percent from 487 sales one year ago. The median sales price of $258,500 was up 12.4 percent from $230,000. For condos, the median sales price of $130,000 was up 4.9 percent from $123,950 last January.

The supply of listed homes has dwindled to less than two months in some counties close to job centers, including Snohomish County, the Northwest MLS said in its news release. Brokers also report fewer buyers making offers on short sales.

Lena Maul, a new member of the Northwest MLS board of directors and the designated broker-owner at Windermere/North in Lynnwood, agreed now is a good time for sellers to list.

“Sellers who are considering a spring or summer listing may want to consider listing now as demand is outweighing supply,” Maul said in the news release. “This has given well-priced sellers the advantage with the benefit of quick sales and multiple offers.”

With multiple offers on the rise, buyers are seeking an edge as they vie for a desirable home. Brokers report more heartfelt letters from buyers who want to distinguish themselves and forge an emotional bond with the sellers.

Maul recalled a letter-writing effort last month by one of her office’s clients. Those buyers wrote a letter introducing themselves to the seller and explaining why they liked the home so much. After reviewing 13 offers, including one from an all-cash investor, the seller chose the letter-writer’s offer.

“Buyers should not forget the human element of appealing to a seller in this multiple-offer market,” Maul said. “You just never know who is on the other side of a transaction and what might be important to them. In this case, selling their home to an owner-occupant who appreciated special features of their home versus an investor sealed the deal, not cash.”

“I personally have never seen the ratio between active buyers and available inventory in Seattle’s close-in neighborhoods so out of balance,” said Mike Skahen, owner-designated broker at Lake & Co. Real Estate in Seattle. “Even homes that were hard to sell for various reasons are being snapped up.”

Sixty percent of homes close to job centers are selling within the first 30 days of being listed — twice the average rate, according to figures compiled by John L. Scott Real Estate.

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com.