Business

Real estate year chugged along

Set to enter the market in coming months are the 20 homes of the Parade Ground at Fort Ward, developed by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. The three-bedroom homes, clustered around a park, will start at $288,950. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Set to enter the market in coming months are the 20 homes of the Parade Ground at Fort Ward, developed by the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. The three-bedroom homes, clustered around a park, will start at $288,950.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Island home sales were up, but prices held surprisingly steady in 2002. The net result, local brokers say, was a marketplace generally unaffected by the larger economy around it.

“It was a funny marketplace,” said Jim Laws, owner/broker of the island’s Windermere office. “I think everybody had their breath held all year long, but it chugged right along.”

Added Doug Nelson, owner/broker at Re/Max Unlimited: “It doesn’t feel like a recession to me.”

Year-end statistics furnished by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show that 470 homes and condominiums were sold on Bainbridge Island in 2002, up from the 446 units the previous year.

Brokers credited unusually low interest rates, and a year in which personal investments may have shifted away from a sour stock market toward the more certain bet of real property.

For the first time in years, the average island home price dropped slightly – from $409,000 to $406,100. That number is a bit misleading, though, because the island’s largest-ever real-estate transaction – a $3.3 million compound on Manzanita Bay – occurred in early 2001, pushing up the average price for that year.

The median price, meaning half the homes sold for more and half for less, was $379,000 in 2002, compared to $373,000 in 2001. Median prices are considered a more reliable indicator of activity because they are not affected by extreme highs.

The highest Bainbridge sale recorded in 2002 was $1.738 million for a waterfront estate near the Bloedel Reserve; lowest was $124,000, for a property that did in fact come with a home.

Fewer homes were listed for sale in 2002 than a year earlier – 894 to 820 – and at the end of 2002, there were only 206 homes on the market, well below the 292 available at the end of 2001. Even so, Barb McKenzie, owner/broker of Coldwell Banker/McKenzie and Associates, said her office saw record sales during the last quarter.

While sales prices stayed basically level, asking prices did not. Average list price rose to $521,000 in 2002, up from $505,000 in 2001, and the median price at the end of 2002 was $467,000.

The disparity between average and median asking price and sales price does not necessarily mean that homes are selling for well below their list price, but could also mean that homes at the lower end of the market are selling better than higher-end properties.

Time required to sell a house didn’t change – 98 days, on average, in 2002 compared to 96 days in 2001.

“The hottest market right now is $300,000 to $500,000,” Nelson said. “If you have a home in that range, it’s being shown, and it’s going to sell.”

Realtors island-wide are relying more heavily on resales than new construction, and that should be true in 2003. Numbers from the city planning department show that island construction is slowing down.

Last year, 138 single-family-home permits were issued, down from 166 in 2001. Activity was up in multi-family units, with eight permits issued for a total of 43 units in 2002, compared to five permits for 12 units in 2001. Remodeling activity stayed steady, with a total of 87 permits for additions or alterations issued in 2002 compared to 84 such permits in 2001.

Based on January activity, brokers are predicting strong sales in the coming year, with McKenzie suggesting that the top end of the market may be seeing a resurgence. “In the last six months, I’ve seen a real increase in upper-end sales,” she said. “They weren’t on the market very long, either. They were on the market 60 or 90 days and selling.”

Laws and Nelson agreed that activity has been brisk so far. Said Nelson: “It used to be when I’d have an open house, I’d get two or three people.

“Now I’ll have 20 or 30 families come though.”

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