Island housing market is neither boom, bust

Prices level off a bit, as more homes hit the market and spend longer there.

For a while there was a boom. Then things slowed.

Now the island real estate market is neither sizzling nor fizzling.

“I think we’re starting to get back to normal,” said Bill Barrow, of Deschamps Realty. “Prices were out of this world, but things last year started skidding off.”

While the skid was by no means disastrous, it has led to a larger inventory than what was available a few years ago, when the market was doing exceptionally well.

The island now has 203 active home listings; 75 others are pending. Two years ago at this time there were 117 active listings.

As of the end of April, the island’s median home price – the price at which half the homes on the market cost more and half cost less – was $657,000, about $5,000 off of last May’s median, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which compiles home sale statistics across the state.

The average home is selling for $762,000, about $10,000 more than the average last year.

Meanwhile, the total number of sales through April (95) is nearly identical to last year’s number (94). Market time has slowed, with the average home spending 115 days on the market, as opposed to 87 last year. In general said John Clark of ReMax, well-priced homes are selling.

What has changed are the expectations of sellers who during the boom were seeing their home’s value appreciate by as much as 20 percent annually.

“There’s no reason why this market is not thriving and blowing and going,” Clark said.

“I think a lot of people are hearing about the doom and gloom in other markets and it’s holding them back. In our diverse economy, I don’t get why it’s not moving faster.”

Most realtors agreed that the highest demand is in the $450,000 to $500,000 range, both for single-family homes and condominiums.

Twelve single-family homes have sold in that price range this year, compared to 13 condos, the highest number of sales for any price range in either category.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Clark said. “That’s the price range most people can afford.”

Inventory is also increasing in the high-end market (see related story on page A9), with a record number of homes on the island listed at $1 million or more.

Many realtors are watching the island’s condo market, which recently experienced an explosion of new construction.

Through April of this year Bainbridge saw 48 condo sales, compared to 18 through the same period last year.

The median condo price is $469,500. The minimum price paid for a condo is $168,500; the maximum is $1.185 million.

Barrow said it’s hard to gauge the condo market. It’s still developing, with this year’s sales figures slightly inflated by sales that were made last year but didn’t close until after Jan. 1.

He also said that the numbers have been skewed by investors who have been buying new condos with the intention of reselling them at a higher price.

Maureen Buckley, of Buckley & Buckley Real Estate, said condo buyers can be picky in the current market.

“We tell them to look for some special element,” she said. “Most of the ones that are selling have something special about them, like a view.

“The more modest units are selling too. They’re just taking longer.”

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