Home demand strong as inventory remains low

Prices have increased by 25 percent in the past year in Oak Harbor alone.

During the pandemic, strong demand from potential home buyers and “woefully inadequate” listings have pushed housing prices upward across the state and on Whidbey Island, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Last month, Island County Auditor Mary Engle warned county commissioners about the trend. She gave an example of a South Whidbey house that was assessed at $500,000 but sold for nearly $1.2 million after receiving multiple offers in just one day on the market.

Since property taxes are based on market value, some residents may see a change in the future.

Joe Mosolino, designated broker for Windermere in Langley, said the combination of low mortgage interest rates and off-island buyers has resulted in a spike in home prices, especially with more expensive homes on South Whidbey.

Rates are so low, he said, that some people who could pay in cash find it is financially advantageous to borrow money.

In addition, he said, real estate clients have included Seattle residents who’ve been working from home during the pandemic and are hoping to make it a permanent situation; they are looking for residences outside of the King County area.

The underlying message, Mosolino said, is that it’s an excellent time to sell a house.

The holiday season has always been a advantageous time to sell a house, he said, since many people take homes off the market during the period.

This year it’s an especially good time.

“When you’re the only one on the market,” he said, “you’re the top dog.”

While the examples may not be as extreme on North Whidbey, which has historically had more moderately priced homes, Oak Harbor real estate agents say they’ve never before seen such an extreme imbalance in supply and demand for single-family homes.

“I have never seen anything like this, and we never dreamed it could dip this low,” said Linda Earnhart, who has been a real estate broker in Oak Harbor for over 45 years.

Statistics from the Northwest Listing Service tell the story.

When it comes to single family homes and condos, the number of active listings in October went from 319 in 2019 to 126 this year, which is a decrease of more than 60 percent.

The median price increased from $350,000 in October of 2019 to $437,000 last month, which is an increase of 25 percent.

Dick Beeson, the managing broker at ReMax Northwest in Tacoma-Gig Harbor, said he has never seen so many buyers needing to write multiple offers before securing a home.

“Interest rates are incredibly low. Inventory is incredibly low,” he said.

”And anxiety is incredibly high among buyers.”

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