Real Estate News

‘Virtually sold out.’ Homes priced under $500K in Pierce County hard to find

Home sales in King and Pierce County are feeling the pinch of continued tight housing inventories.

The Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s news release Thursday about January’s sales results notes that Seattle and the Bellevue area have essentially run out of lower-priced “luxury” inventory.

For Pierce County, things are starting to look even more challenging for first-time home buyers looking for homes that cost less than a half-million dollars, putting even more pressure on an upwardly spiraling rental market.

Developers and rental markets combined are scrambling to fill the demand.


According to a summary Thursday from John L. Scott real estate, “In Pierce County, homes priced up to $500,000 (this range comprises 86 percent of sales activity) are virtually sold out.”

It noted Thurston County was in the same situation, with unsold inventory down 41 percent compared with January 2019.

In Pierce County, unsold inventory was down 47 percent.

“We have a three-month trend where we’re seeing pending transactions exceeding new listings added in all major counties in the Puget Sound region,” said Mike Grady, president and COO of Coldwell Banker Bain, in the NWMLS release on Thursday.

“At the end of January, the MLS database totaled only 7,791 active listings of single family homes and condos, well-below the year-ago figure of 11,687 (down 33.3 percent). A check of records dating to 2005 shows the selection is at a new low level, shrinking below the previous low of 7,921 reported for February 2018,” the NWMLS said in its release.

“For the 15-year span from 2005-2019 (180 months), inventory has dipped below 10,000 listings during only eight of those months.”

Seattle and the Bellevue area have essentially run out of its lower-priced “luxury” inventory with “listings virtually sold out in the $1 million to $1.5 million range,” according to NWMLS.

Closed sale prices for January and percent change compared with 2019:

King: $630,525, up 3.36 percent

Pierce: $380,000, up 15.16 percent

Thurston: $351,167, up 11.48 percent

Mason: $253,440, up 15.25 percent

Kitsap: $380,000, up 10.47 percent

Narva Walton, John L. Scott office leader in University Place, told The News Tribune on Thursday via email that for first-time buyers, “the most important thing in the current market is getting all their ducks in a row and being prepared to pounce. This includes having your financing taken care of.”

What about sellers afraid to put their home on the market, given the current shortage?

“There’s a backlog of buyers currently that are ready, willing and able to buy,” she said. “Sellers have to come up with a game plan, which sometimes means putting their home on the market and potentially renting or making other temporary living arrangements. Once their home is sold, they’ll be in a better position to make a strong, non-contingent offer that will increase their chances of getting their home of choice.”


Along with Pierce, Kitsap County has shown some of the more dramatic price surges.

Condo closed sales prices in January alone in Kitsap County were up 84 percent from a year ago.

The McCormick Planned Community in Port Orchard recently announced 46 new home sites in its Muirfield neighborhood development along the 10th Fairway at the McCormick Woods Golf Club.

The new construction is a result of the city lifting its moratorium on water hook-up permits for undeveloped areas of the McCormick site, in exchange for an agreement with McCormick for an $18 million investment in private funds for building and repairing water infrastructure.

The Muirfield home prices start just above $500,000.

McCormick points to the fast ferry resulting in Kitsap’s current home development rush.

“The fast ferry into Seattle has changed the equation for where Puget Sound homebuyers are looking to move,” McCormick said in its news release about the new homes.

As Kitsap County grows its new home inventory and Tacoma’s existing inventory of homes for sale continues to be among the lowest in the NWMLS reporting area, local apartment rents are rising.

A report issued earlier this month from Apartment List noted that rents in Tacoma have risen 0.2 percent over the past month and are up 1.3 percent year-over-year. Tacoma’s median two-bedroom rent at $1,568 is above the national average of $1,193.

“Of the largest 10 cities that we have data for in the Seattle metro, all of them have seen prices rise,” it notes.