Inventory rebounds, prices up

By Mary L. Grady

The number of homes and condos sold in King County has slowed this past year partly due to fewer houses for sale. But despite fewer choices, sales and prices of homes and condos remain strong. According to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, 995 homes and condos were sold last month on the Eastside (including Mercer Island) down from 1,144 sold in October and 1,051 a year ago. However, home prices were up last month by nearly 15 percent over November a year ago. On the Eastside for November, the median price of $449,500 for all homes and condos sold dipped from the all-time high set in October of $569,000 -- but was still the second-highest on record.

The median price for the 21 single family homes sold on Mercer Island during November was $805,000. For the year to date, the median closed sale price for 342 Mercer Island homes was $875,000 -- up significantly from the median price of $680,000 for 355 homes sold in 2004.

The Kirkland-based Northwest Multiple Listing Service tracks sales of homes and condos throughout Western Washington on a monthly basis. The median price means an equal number of properties sold for both more and less than that amount.

Despite the usual slowdown in listings as the holidays approach, the market remains active, according to John Deely, the managing broker for Coldwell Banker Bain Associates of Mercer Island. The number of units on the market during the past month or two here has rebounded somewhat, he said.

The percentage of homes sold each month as a percentage of the homes listed on the Island has been about 20 to 30 percent. A rate of 25 percent or above indicates an active market, Deely explained.

In the past six months, 196 single family homes have sold on Mercer Island. Of those, 80 sold at prices of $1 million and above. In the price range of $700,000 to $800,000, 33 homes sold during that period. Just two home sold for prices between $450,000 and $500,000.

Homes in the $700,000 to $800,000 range appear to be the most sought after, Deely said.

As of Monday, just two homes on the Island were listed between $550,000 and $599,000.

Affordable homes in the Puget Sound region continue to remain out of reach for many. Cheri Brennan, spokeswoman for the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, reported last week that a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo Bank found that only one-third of homes sold in the Greater Seattle area this past summer were considered affordable to families with an annual household income of $73,000, the median income for this area.

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