Still Searching for Spring in Seattle’s Housing Market (March Insider)

Redfin’s monthly Seattle real estate insider report draws from our proprietary database of information on homes for sale and that just sold, along with insight from our agents to get a sense of what’s going on in the market right now. If you’d like to receive the report via email, just sign up.

Greetings Redfinnians,

Spring has officially sprung. Spring–when flowers bloom, birds chirp, the sun makes an occasional appearance through brief windows in Seattle’s perpetually grey winter sky, and the real estate market begins to pick up steam.

Let’s see how spring 2011 is shaping up:

  • Flowers: check
  • Birds: check
  • Sunbreaks: check
  • Real Estate: um…

As it turns out, the usual spring uptick in new listings and sales still isn’t materializing so far in 2011. What’s the deal? Where are the sellers? Where are the buyers? Read on as we dig into March’s data and share on-the-ground intelligence from our agents in the field in search of the answers.

Sellers Still in Hibernation

Usually spring is when sellers come out of hibernation, freshening up their homes and putting them on the market in anticipation of a fresh crop of buyers. This year things are shaping up a bit…differently.

City Compared to Feb. 2011 Compared to March 2010
Seattle -0.1% -20.6%
Bellevue +2.0% -21.8%
Federal Way -2.5% -8.0%
Issaquah -1.5% -25.4%
Kent -9.8% -17.9%
Kirkland +2.9% -20.6%
Renton -5.9% -15.2%
Shoreline -2.6% -10.6%
Redmond +2.5% -7.3%

Change in # of King County Houses for Sale on March 31st 2011, By City

Our customers are feeling the pain of languishing inventory. “Inventory is a little bit stale,” laments West Seattle Redfin Agent Klaus Gosma. “People are definitely thirsty for some ‘new blood.’”

Redfin Ballard Agent Bryan Haynes agrees. “In Ballard we’re seeing two kinds of listings–stale, overpriced homes that end up sitting on the market and well-kept, well-priced homes that quickly attract buyers’ attention.” Sadly, there just aren’t as many of the second kind as buyers would like.

Buyers Hunting With Rare Success

What about sales? Are home shoppers moving out of winter mode and heating up the spring buying season?

City Compared to February 2011 Compared to February 2011 Adjusted for # Weekdays Compared to March 2010 Compared to March 2010 Adjusted for # Weekdays
Seattle +69.6% +47.5% -6.2% -6.2%
Bellevue +41.3% +22.8% -16.3% -16.3%
Federal Way +50.0% +30.4% -7.4% -7.4%
Issaquah +12.8% -1.9% -8.3% -8.3%
Kent +82.4% +58.6% +14.8% +14.8%
Kirkland +16.7% +1.4% -34.1% -34.1%
Renton +25.7% +9.3% -21.4% -21.4%
Shoreline +45.8% +26.8% -12.5% -12.5%
Redmond +33.3% +15.9% -16.3% -16.3%

Change in # of King County Houses That Sold in March 2011, By City

Sales are definitely picking up around Seattle, but are still coming in well below last year in most areas. “I’m seeing a lot of fair-weather tire kickers out there,” says Redfin coordinator Janelle Saylor. “There just isn’t a sense of urgency in buyers.”

Today’s shoppers are definitely choosier than they have been the past few years. “If the home is at all in a good location, reasonable price and reasonable layout, it is moving now,” explains Redfin Capitol Hill Agent Bryon Ziegler.

It’s the same story on the Eastside. “There are a lot of people looking,” said Janelle, “and when a well-maintained, updated, well-priced home comes on the market, it goes quickly.”

Prices Continue Slipping

What do you get when you combine slower sales and stale inventory? Slipping prices, apparently.

City Median Price in March 2011 Median $/SqFt Change since February 2011 Median $/SqFt Change since March 2010
Seattle $399,475 +7.5% -8.5%
Bellevue $515,000 -0.4% -1.5%
Federal Way $204,500 -6.1% -12.8%
Issaquah $462,000 -0.5% -13.6%
Kent $225,000 -3.8% -18.2%
Kirkland $372,000 -4.6% +0.8%
Renton $249,975 +1.3% -10.0%
Shoreline $305,000 +15.5% -11.8%
Redmond $529,250 -4.1% -11.3%

Change in Median Price of King County Houses That Sold in March 2011, By City

Every one of our top cities but Kirkland saw a decrease in size-adjusted median sale price in March compared to a year ago, many by double digits. Much of this is due to an increase in action on bank-owned homes and short sales on the low end, but that doesn’t mean the pricier homes aren’t moving as well. “The sweet spot in today’s market seems to be move-up homes priced in the $400k to $550k range,” explains Klaus. Bryan confirms that he is seeing similar patterns in Ballard.

Today’s market seems to be stratifying more and more with each passing month, with very different action going on depending on your price range and neighborhood. If you’re trying to buy or sell today, or thinking about doing so in the near future, don’t take it lightly–do your research and learn what’s going on in your specific segment of the market.

Want to know what’s happening in your neighborhood? Download our comprehensive spreadsheet and dig into the data for yourself! Inside you’ll find county, city, and neighborhood information galore. To learn more about how we calculate these numbers, check out our methodology page. You can also liven up the place by posting a comment below.


    Spring was early last year due to the tax credit expiring the end of April 2010 as to contracts written. Can you do a comparison to 2009 or any year's prior? Many sellers who would have waited until May last year came out in January or February to catch the Tax Credit buyers, so not a fair comparison.

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  • Cameron Plommer

    You can put me in the “fair-weather tire kicker” category :)