Real Estate

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Thurston County home sales to tumble in April, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released Wednesday.

But although sales fell 25 percent, the median price rose to $359,000, nearly $30,000 more than a year ago.

The decline in the number of houses for sale this April compared to 2019 did nothing to unseat the deeply entrenched sellers market that has rewarded sellers and frustrated buyers here for years.

With inventory low, demand pushed the median price of a single-family residence higher by nearly 9 percent, the data show. Somewhat surprisingly, 313 single-family residences were sold here last month, although many of those homes likely went under contract before the governor's stay-at-home order.

Ken Anderson, president and owner of Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty of Olympia, has another description for the county's low inventory: "hugely under-supplied."

"Our absorption rate (months of inventory) was just 1.14 months, which is still among the lowest measurements our market has seen," he said. "I expect to see the rate trend toward balance throughout the summer, but not take us out of a sellers market. This means that prices will still be on the rise, but the rate of increase will moderate."

A real estate market that shows a balance between buyers and sellers is thought to have four to six months of inventory.

Meanwhile, the pace of sales is likely to slow, he said. Sales fell 25 percent, but pending sales were down 33 percent, which likely will lead to another down month in May.

"The numbers moving forward will be largely dictated by economic activity and the pace of jobs coming back online," he said. "We expect to see local sales down between 20 percent and 30 percent throughout the summer."

Still, the county remains an attractive destination for buyers.

"Our market already has a great deal of inbound migration," Anderson said. "Many industry observers predict that will continue as people reconsider dense urban living. It is likely that some markets, like ours, will see much higher demand than others as this migration trend unfolds."

A closer look at the numbers

* Single-family residence sales: Down 25.5 percent to 313 units last month from 420 in April 2019.

* Single-family median price: Rose 8.8 percent to $359,000 from $330,000.

* Single-family pending sales: Fell 33 percent to 419 units from 625 units.

* Condo sales: Fell to 14 units from 16 units.

* Condo median price: Rose 39 percent to $227,450 from $163,500.

* Pending condo sales: Rose to 17 units from 14 units.

Source: Northwest MLS.

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