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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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King County median home price hits $500,000

Sanjay Bhatt Seattle Times

The median price of King County single-family homes sold in June climbed to $500,000, up 10.3 percent from a year ago, according to figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The frenzied market represents a new all-time peak for King County home prices: The last peak of $481,000 was set in July 2007, at the height of the nation’s housing bubble.

But real-estate experts say this market is different in a number of ways. Buyers now must leap over many more hurdles to qualify for a mortgage. Hiring at technology firms has expanded the region’s economic base. And a drought in listings that surfaced in 2013 has no end in sight.

“I wouldn’t say we’re in a bubble,” said Alan Pope, a real-estate appraiser in Redmond. “I would say the balloon is growing, and I can’t tell when it’s going to stop.”

Lennox Scott, CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, said that over the long term, homes in the region appreciate 4 percent annually. Home prices lost so much ground during the past recession that the market today is just slightly above where it should be by that measure, he said.

Local buyers now have to compete with people moving here for new jobs, foreign buyers, and millennials buying a first home, Scott said. More are leaping into the market to lock in interest rates before they rise, he said.

Buyers are fighting for fewer homes available for sale: In June, the number of single-family and condominium listings in King County was 23 percent lower than a year ago, the MLS reported.

The shortage, Scott said, stems from “virtually no new condominiums, virtually no new single-family lots near the job centers, people moving on average every 10 years instead of every six years, and sellers hesitating until they find their replacement home.”

King County had less than a month’s supply of single-family homes and condominiums for sale from March to May, according to a Seattle Times analysis of MLS data. The historical average is about a three-month supply.

Snohomish and Pierce counties also are seeing their lowest supply of listings in more than a decade.

In Snohomish County, the median price of single-family homes sold was $360,125, about 6 percent higher than a year ago; in Pierce, it was $257,000, about 9.4 percent higher.

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