"Sales down, prices up for island real estate"

"It’s not as hot as last year. Not quite. But Bainbridge Island’s real estate market still has local agents pleased with 1999 sales.“There’s a fair number of smiling faces,” said longtime island broker Ed Kushner of Windermere Real Estate. “It’s been a good year.” Eleven-month figures compiled by Kushner show 412 island home sales so far this year. At this time last year, 430 sales had closed, en route to a single-year Bainbridge record of 483.The figures reflect the sale of both new and existing homes. But even though they’re down a tad from last year, sales have already easily outpaced those of the previous three years. Home sales for 1995-97 totalled 254, 294, and 320, respectively. Bainbridge Island real estate agents closed 40 home sales last month, the highest November number in the last five years. But sales totals topped last year’s sizzling market in only three months this year – in March, June and November.Overall sales are down about 4.4 percent from 1998.About 215 homes remain on the market, with only 31 pending sales reported. Last year, the market closed with a bang, with local agents reporting an unprecedented 53 sales in December.“That’s a hellaciously high number,” Kushner said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen this year.”And prices? One word comes to mind – up.At the bargain end of the market, only one Bainbridge Island home has sold for less than $100,000 this year. Eleven have sold for $101,000 to $150,000, and another 29 in the $150,000-$200,000 range. Those sales account for about 13 percent of the island total.About 120 homes have sold in the $201,000 to $300,000 range – 27 percent of sales – and 119 for $301,000 to $400,00.But from there, the numbers only rise. One-hundred-thirty-five home sales have topped $400,000 this year, accounting for fully one third of the market.At the top end of the scale, six island homes have sold for more than $1 million in 1998, most recently, the Marschall estate on Bean’s Bight two weeks ago. Ten others in that price range remain on the market, with a pending offer on just one.If the numbers illustrate anything conclusively, it’s that the myth of the $200,000 home is just that – a myth. For years, the city and various public agencies have weighed pending tax levies in terms of the impact on the “the average $200,000 home.” That phrase is simply no longer useful on Bainbridge Island, where home prices continue to soar past comparable properties in neighboring communities.“It isn’t that these houses went away,” Kushner said. “It’s that they’re being pushed up in price by demand.”Figures released by the Kirkland-based Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks real estate action in seven Puget Sound counties, confirm the trend.The island median – the price at which exactly half the homes on the market are listed below, and half above – right now is $429,000. The average price, always somewhat inflated by the island’s large number of waterfront properties, is a whopping $517,758.“(The presence of homes valued at) $600,000 is no longer the definition of a really affluent neighborhood,” Kushner said."

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