Home sales slow down in 2001

The pace of home sales on Bainbridge Island dropped significantly in 2001, dipping to a level last seen in 1997.

But at the same time, the sale of condominiums almost doubled, with the result that total residential sales in 2001 almost precisely equalled the totals from 2000.

“There is a strong demand for the condominium lifestyle downtown,” said Rod McKenzie, whose Courtyards on Madison project accounted for 20 of the condominium sales

“Our experience at Courtyards and at Winslow Mews showed that 65 to 70 percent of the buyers came from the island, and were people who didn’t want to be chained to a lawn mower.”

According to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service compiled by the Bainbridge Island office of Windermere Real Estate, a total of 387 single-family homes were sold on the island in 2001, down from 419 in 2000.

But condominium sales rose sharply, from 34 in 2000 to 63 last year, bringing total sales to 440 last year compared to 443 in 2000.

After several years of steady escalation, prices levelled off last year. The median price for a detached single-family home – the price below which half the homes sold – was $377,800 in 2001, only slightly above the $375,550 figure of 2000.

The average single-family home price rose to $434,500 in 2001, up from the $419,000 average price in 2000.

Median price is generally considered a better indicator of the price of a “typical” home, because average price can be skewed by a few high-end sales.

The highest-price paid for a home in 2001 was $3,300,000 for a multi-structure compound on Manzanita Bay. That was almost double the top price in 2000 of $1,750,000. The difference between those two sales alone hikes the average 2001 sales price by more than $4,000.

Condos fetched a median price of $279,000 in 2001, up sharply from $207,000 in 2000. Top price paid was $675,000.

As always, location was the key to price. The 44 waterfront homes sold last year brought a median price of $635,000. Median price for the 94 water-view homes was $536,000, while the median for the 75 mountain-view properties was $460,000.

The drop in the sale of detached homes continues a four-year trend on Bainbridge. From a high of 484 in 1998, detached-home sales dropped to 447 in 1999, 419 in 20000 and 387 last year.

Mirroring the growing economic uncertainties, the decline in island home sales occurred during the last four months of 2001. After September 1, only 103 detached homes were sold on Bainbridge, compared to 139 during that period in 2000.

According to one local broker, the slowdown affected high-end homes particularly.

“In the segment of the market below $500,000, the low interest rates are keeping sales firm,” Erin Gallagher Whitson told the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce last week.

“But above that level, the declines in the stock market are having an impact. Those homes are on the market a little longer.”

Craig Clark of Johannson Clark & Associates refines that observation further.

“The very high end of the market has not been so severely impacted,” he said, pointing to six sales near or over $1 million that closed in November and December.

“Waterfront sales remain strong,” he said. “I think those new inland homes built on half to three quarters of an acre and selling for above $500,000 are staying on the market a little longer.”

Sales of unbuilt land were also unchanged from 2000 to 2001. A total of 58 parcels changed hands last year, compared to 60 in 2000. Median price dropped from $163,000 in 20000 to $140,000 in 2001.

The reported figures track homes sold through local real-estate offices, but do not include direct sales by owners, which comprise a small fraction of the market.

Sales are reported only upon formal closing, which normally occurs 30 to 60 days after a deal is struck.

That is significant, Clark said, because he believes the November and December closing figures reflect the impact of the September terrorist attack, but do not show the rebound that he believes is occurring.

Looking ahead, Clark said, “I don’t think it will be an incredible record-breaking year, but I think it will be pretty active. Our market has held up pretty well, especially considering everything that has happened in the world.”

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