Eastside home prices break records;

South County inches higher2005-04-07
by Clayton Park
Journal Business Editor
Home prices last month soared to a new record high on the Eastside of $400,000 -- up $50,000 from last year -- while prices in southeast King County remained significantly higher than a year ago.
The Eastside tied with Vashon Island for the highest median price for homes and condos sold last month in King County.
Area real estate agents are reporting bidding wars for homes, particularly for those that are more affordably priced or near major employment hubs.
One older "fixer'' house in Kirkland received 11 offers last week, with the winning bid nearly $40,000 more than the seller's asking price, which was in the $250,000 range, said Ken Bacon, managing broker for the Redmond office of Windermere Real Estate.
The median price for homes and condominiums sold on the Eastside last month rose to $400,000, up from $381,000 in February and $349,990 in March 2004, according to a new report issued Wednesday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
The median price of homes and condos sold in southeast King County last month was $259,900, down a sliver from $259,950 in February but up nearly 9 percent over the median price of $238,970 in March 2004.
The median price for closed transactions in Seattle last month was $355,000, up from $334,000 in February and $311,200 a year ago. Southwest King County had the lowest median price of any area in the county: $244,700, up from $234,950 in February and $212,750 a year ago.
Countywide, the median price of homes and condos sold last month skyrocketed to $324,950, shattering the previous record -- February's median price of $309,950. The countywide median price a year ago was $280,000.
The Kirkland-based Northwest Multiple Listing Service tracks sales of homes and condos on a monthly basis throughout most of Western Washington.
The median price means that an equal number of homes and condos sold for higher and for less than that amount.
J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate, reported this week that March was the "best month ever'' in terms of home sales conducted by agents of the 74-year-old Bellevue company.
Scott attributed the record sales to local job growth, a shortage of available homes, relatively low interest rates, and a "historically active housing market'' during this time of year.
Of the 1,304 homes and condos sold on the Eastside last month, the area east of Lake Sammamish had the highest number of closed transactions: 320.
"That's affordability,'' said Bacon of the reason why demand in that area is so high.
Bacon said condo sales have been on the rise in the past year, now accounting for roughly one-third of all sales conducted by agents in his office, "which was never the case before.''
Compared with the average price of single-family homes on the Eastside, condos are "more affordable,'' newer and as a rule in better condition than comparably priced single-family homes, and in most cases "closer to where (buyers) need to commute,'' Bacon said.
Despite the high prices for homes and condos overall on the Eastside, there are still some single-family homes with asking prices in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, but "they're going to be fixers'' -- older homes badly in need of updating, Bacon said.
Those thinking of bidding for an affordably priced fixer home need to "act fast'' and be prepared to compete against multiple bidders, including professional home remodelers, Bacon said.
"We're seeing a surge in contractors buying older, fixer homes,'' he said.
Of the 782 homes and condos sold in Southeast King County last month, the Kent area had the most of any area within that submarket: 196.
As of the end of March, the pending number of sales of homes and condos totaled 1,530 on the Eastside and 988 in Southeast King County. The Eastside had 1,602 new listings, while Southeast King County had 1,020.
The average number of days that homes and condos sold last month were on the market was 53 for the Eastside, compared with 66 a year ago, and 48 in Southeast King County, compared with 68 a year ago.

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