The Lewis County real estate market for the short term remains an extreme sellers market with a tight inventory leading to an opportunity for new investments for building more housing, specifically apartments.
A housing shortage in Lewis County will only become more acute as the massive cold storage facility at the Port of Centralia opens with its accompanying estimated 350 jobs, and continue with the development of Centralia Station, which just announced major anchor grocery store WinCo is slated to open in 2021.
In addition, a booming market in Puget Sound for the past several years has people looking for lower cost housing in rural areas adjacent to King County.
“We have numerous anecdotal stories of people from King County being forced to Pierce, Pierce to Thurston, and Thurston to Lewis,” said Scott Horner, the designated broker for RE/MAX Key Land Company based in Centralia.
Jill McNaught, the owner broker of RE/MAX Key Land Company, said the “trickle down” from Puget Sound is starting to impact the local housing market. Horner said weak inventory continues, which is good for sellers, but not so much for buyers. Horner said, for example, people wanting to cash in on their soaring values of their homes in Puget Sound are having a hard time finding new homes due to lack of inventory in counties such as Lewis.
McNaught said the cost of median homes in Lewis County is also on the rise. Horner said between 2014 and 2018, home prices in Lewis County rose a whopping 53 percent.
“Prices are rising up,” McNaught said. “I see it continuing but starting to level out. They usually level out and slow down a bit during an election year. Until we have more construction and development I see it staying about the same.”
Horner agreed, saying people are flowing into Lewis County for the lower home prices and also the quality of life. He said the long-anticipated movement out of Seattle to the south and Portland to the north is underway.
Horner said with the rising prices in Lewis County, “spec” builders, those that build without a buyer in hand, should increase. He said the lack of housing in Lewis County should also start to attract apartment developers.
Earlier this week the Northwest Multiple Listing Service released its latest data, which confirms Horner and McNaught’s analysis.
A depleted inventory across Western Washington has people searching beyond the major job centers in Puget Sound.
“Areas immediately outside the Puget Sound region and along the I-5 corridor continue to see double-digit house price growth,” said James Young, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington, due to high prices in the Seattle area — too expensive for first-time homebuyers and also causing homeowners to cash out.
OB Jacobi, president of Windermere Real Estate, agreed that people are finding affordable housing value in areas outside of King County.
“Pierce County is now experiencing what King County did 24 months ago where a surplus of buyers and lack of supply are pushing up home prices. Snohomish County also saw a big bump with a massive 16 percent increase in pending sales year-over-year. This tells us the secret is clearly out that housing in the counties to the north and south of Seattle is more affordable.”
A median single family home and/or condo sold for $615,000 last month in King County. In Pierce County, the median price of a home is $369,000, a 6.1 percent increase.
Real estate brokers believe the real estate market will remain highly active for the next few months.
“As we enter the fall housing market, both interest rates and job growth in Puget Sound are extremely positive,” stated J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, adding September and October are “historically the best for selection and availability out of the next six months. With kids back in school and summer vacations over, homeowners who wish to sell their house before the winter season will look to put their home on the market soon. Similarly, buyers can take advantage of the market timing and low interest rates in the next two months to come.”