Seattle housing sees spring surge

Unlike much of the nation, spring came early to Seattle, and that brought homebuyers out of the woodwork and into the market. Seattle, however, still suffers from a common national problem, which is very few listings up for sale. That is posing a challenge for buyers.

"They will probably make several offers before one is accepted, and they just need to expect to be competing with others," said Frank Wilson, director of the region's multiple listing service (MLS) in a recent report. "Listings are flying off the shelf faster than allergy medicine in this early spring market."

The number of for-sale listings in Seattle in February was down 19 percent from a year ago to just a 1.5-month supply at the current sales pace, according to the MLS. That is a 10-year low.

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"It's very common to have 100 parties through an open house and multiple offers on properties," said Robert Macdonald, a Realtor with Lake & Company Real Estate in Seattle.

Sales did manage to rise 2.6 percent from a year ago, but prices are gaining as well, up 3.6 percent annually. At $427,000, the median Seattle home price is more than twice the national median value.

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"I think we are seeing a lot more appreciation in the close in neighborhoods, more like 10 percent," noted Macdonald, who added overall prices are pulled down by condominiums, which have not yet fully recovered from the housing downturn.

What's driving so much Seattle demand? It's already a very expensive area to live in, and with the possibility of rising interest rates, buyers want to get in sooner than later. Seattle also has a very low, and falling, unemployment rate at 4.2 percent, well below the national average. Add it up, and jobs, price and sunshine equal big Seattle demand.