Heading full steam into spring, it’s time for a quick look at the stats and performance of our Seattle condo market for the first quarter.  Will it give us some clues as to what to expect for the summery and fall?  Maybe.  

We first take a look at the whole city of Seattle to get a general overview of our area’s condo market and then we drill down by neighborhood using the MLS areas focusing on the areas that have the largest concentration of condos here in our city.  Those areas we closely track are:

  • Capitol Hill/Central/Madison Valley (area 390)
  • Queen Anne/Magnolia (area 700)
  • Downtown/Belltown/SLU (area 701)
  • Ballard/Fremont/Wallingford/Phinney (area 705)

We then use this data and information to make forecasts and to help our buyers and sellers make decisions on their real estate needs.

First Quarter Recap- Seattle City In General

As in previous reports, in Seattle overall, we saw a decrease in the number of listings on the market compared to the same periods last year.  28.5% less in January, 26.4% less in February and 23.9% less in March.  This is substantial and is an obvious clue, to me, that our city as a whole is not bringing on more inventory to help ease the upward pressure on pricing, nor calm the incidences of buyers competing for very limited number of condo options. Curiously, the month-over-month median prices did take a small dip in January and February (-1.1% and -3.8%), but then shot up by 11.2% in March. My guess is that in January and February there were some sales of inventory that languished on the market over the holidays and finally sold at lower prices in the new year, starting the year off slow, but March neutralized that slow down just based of this median price increase in March.

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By the Neighborhoods:

When we drill down to the local neighborhoods where things can be quite different from one another,  we find this trend generally continues with all four areas tracked for this quarter showing less closed sales than last year, with Belltown/Downtown (area 701) showing up with smallest of the decreases with even a period in January where they had an increase in inventory over the same period last year.  This is likely being softened by the new construction presales at Insignia Towers. For median prices, this was all over the board basically.  Both Ballard/Fremont and Belltown/Downtown seem to have started the year down over all compared to last year, all be it slightly.  With decreases in January being followed by increases in March, I suspect this was a short dip and we’ll see prices continue up into the summer being driven by very low inventory as noted above.  Queen Anne/Magnolia didn’t show an overall decrease in the medial price point, but they are fairly flat.  Whereas the shining star for median prices is Capitol Hill/Madison (area 390), which saw the median prices up over last year’s numbers in January and March (9.2% and 19.6%). These increases wiped out a small dip in February of 3.6%.  I’m curious if some of this might be due to the upcoming new Capitol Hill Light Rail Station to be opening in the near future?  

In summary, this first quarter is starting off a bit all over the place with regard to number of sales and median prices.  Frankly, it was not as I expected it to be.  I thought for sure we’d see more of an across the board increase in median prices, but instead it’s a bit of a mix.  However, the areas have one common denominator, which is much lower inventory than the same periods for last year. That in combination with recent announcements that companies such as Expedia and Weyerhaeuser are moving their headquarters to Seattle, along with Amazon’s continued expansion going full steam ahead,  I’m going to hold firm on my prediction of the condo market pricing quickly catching up and exceeding the pre-recession market values.  

Until we start to see the number of new listings increase and more new construction condos here in the city begin to balance out the buyer demand, we will still see buyers incredibly frustrated with the lack of options which will create upward pressure on pricing, I feel.

Happy sunny days Seattle!

Belltown & Downtown
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Capitol Hill, Central District & Madison Valley
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Ballard & Fremont
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Queen Anne
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For a copy of the MLS report or any questions or comments feel free to reach out me [email protected]

By Marco Kronen with Seattle Condo Review: A guide to Seattle downtown condos.