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Seattle chugs along as America’s hottest home market despite slowing a bit

Jan. 31, 2017 Updated Tue., Jan. 31, 2017 at 7:04 p.m.

By Mike Rosenberg Seattle Times

Seattle’s home price increases keep surging ahead of the rest of the nation even as the local housing market is showing a clear trend of slowing a bit.

Across Greater Seattle, the typical single-family house cost 10.4 percent more in November than a year ago, the biggest increase of any metro area in the country, according to the Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday.

It’s the third straight month that the Seattle area led the nation as the hottest housing market after a nine-year stretch without being on top.

The winter is normally the slowest time of year for Seattle’s real-estate market. The growth in home values was actually the slowest it’s been in nearly a year, continuing a downward trend since early fall. And compared with just a month ago, home costs were nearly unchanged, matching the national trend.

The Case-Shiller home-price index tracks housing costs in 20 major metro areas, including Seattle and Portland.

Portland was again second for year-on-year gains, at 10.1 percent, as the two Pacific Northwest regions have made up the top two spots on the list for a full year. All other cities were less than 9 percent.

The national increase was 5.6 percent, a little more than half the rate of growth in Seattle. Home prices hit record highs both nationally and locally.

A new year-end report from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service provided some details behind the priciest year ever for local real estate. In all, about 36,000 homes sold in King County in 2016, for a total of $21.1 billion.

The median single-family house sold for $635,000 in Seattle and $751,000 in the Bellevue area. Condos across the county sold for a typical price of $326,000, more than the average full house anywhere in Washington outside Snohomish and San Juan counties.

Perhaps the most startling number is a ratio used to measure supply and demand.

In a healthy market, where buyers and sellers have equal power, it would take four to six months for all the current homes on the market to sell. But in King County, there are so few homes available and so many buyers lined up that all the homes for sale are now forecast to be gobbled up in just three weeks, twice as fast as a year ago and a record low.

The number of luxury sales is also surging, with a record number of homes selling for more than $1 million last year. The priciest sale of the year across the county was a $9.75 million house in Mercer Island, narrowly beating out a house in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. The most expensive condo was an $8.8 million purchase for a penthouse in the Escala tower in downtown Seattle.

Snohomish and Pierce counties had the sharpest rise in home sales last year. The typical house last year cost $390,000 in Snohomish County and $275,000 in Pierce County.

Looking for a deal? The cheapest housing markets in Western Washington were in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties, where the median house can be had for about $145,000. You’ll have to drive at least 100 miles from Seattle for that.

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