Though the number of homes for sale in Skagit County has dropped to record lows, historically low interest rates continue to entice buyers and are inciting fierce competition, area realtors say.
In November, there were 129 active listings in Skagit County, down from 321 listings in November of last year — a decrease of 60% — according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
The median closing price of a home in the county was $425,000 in November, up from $375,000 last year, according to the data.
Sara Fish, a Mount Vernon Realtor and president of the North Puget Sound Association of Realtors, said she has been working for eight months with a couple trying to buy their first home.
”We have put in multiple offers and have been rejected multiple times,” she said. “They are getting discouraged. Every home that goes on the market, every person goes to see it.”
With rates on 30-year fixed mortgages at historic lows, buyers are eager, she said. An economist for the association noted a 30% increase in loan applications over the same time last year, she said.
“People are still able to buy, and buying,” Fish said.
In November, there was a 19-day supply of homes in Skagit County, which means all homes on the market will sell within 19 days if no other properties are listed. A balanced market is defined by those in the industry as four to six months of supply.
The supply of homes for sale is down throughout the region, with neighboring Snohomish and Island counties experiencing declines of at least 63%, according to a news release from the MLS.
“When those people around Snohomish and Island (counties) can’t find housing, they come here,” Fish said.
Realtor Josh Scott said high prices and the lack of options are a problem for both first-time buyers and move-up buyers.
“It’s a lot easier if you’re a move-up buyer if you sold your house for $800,000 (in Seattle) and buy the same house (in Skagit County) for half that,” he said. “A lot of multiple-offer situations and cash wins out.”
He said after a brief slowdown in spring in which some sellers took their homes off the market due to COVID-19, the industry has found new ways to operate. Virtual property tours are the norm.
Scott said the issue now is that sellers are wary of listing their homes for fear they won’t be able to find a new home, or be able to afford it.
“They are worried about selling their house so fast they don’t have a place to go,” he said.
Realtor Ron Wortham, who is the government affairs director for the North Puget Sound Association of Realtors, said the pandemic has put more pressure on the area’s already limited housing supply, especially as some companies shift employees to permanent remote work and those employees move out of cities.
He said in his 30 years in real estate, inventory is at historic lows.
“It’s absolutely in a crisis,” he said.
Wortham said the same home he sold a year ago recently sold for $100,000 more.
“That right there shows you how fast things are moving and how difficult it is for young people to get into the first home,” he said. “It’s hard. I don’t know how to fix it. Other than we need more housing choices.”
“Fish said home construction in Skagit County was halted for about six weeks last spring due to COVID-19 restrictions, though has since been allowed to resume.
“Hopefully next year will bring much new and needed affordable construction,” she said.