After months of rising prices, is local housing market cooling off?

SEATTLE - The housing headlines have been screaming all spring and summer about how home buyers have been pushing prices up in King County.

There have been bidding wars for some Seattle-area homes, and median home prices are up 15 percent over a year ago.

Around Lake Sammamish, home prices are back up to peak levels set in 2007. In West Seattle, homes in some turn-of-the-century neighborhoods have been selling for up to $650,000 or more. And in other areas, sellers are getting 10 or 20 offers on a single property.

But now it's beginning to appear that the price and pace of sales may be cooling off in the Puget Sound housing market.

Glenn Kelman, the CEO of online real estate firm Redfin, says the 20 percent price spike year over year is already cooling off because the market came back to quickly.

"I think it was a mini-bubble," he says. "There were neighborhoods where it just got too crazy, and some buyers said, 'I don't want to participate in the madness.'"

Windermere agents John Kritsonis and Karl Lindor say they've felt a lull over the past few weeks on the east side, so they brought back boat tours on Lake Sammamish to sustain the housing excitement.

Patty Mermel, who is selling a $1.5 million lakefront home, is hoping the strategy works. Her home has been on the market for four weeks now.

"We've had a lot of traffic and a lot of repeats," she says. "I think it's going to sell any day now."

Meanwhile, other agents dispute whether there actually is a lull.

"I personally have not seen a lull at all," says Prudential agent Gini Johnson, who just sold a West Seattle house for more than the asking price. She says home buyers are still so rabid for a home, that many are getting creative to compete.

"They write beautiful personal letters telling them how badly they would love to live there; they send pictures of their kids and their pets," says Johnson.

Outside the Seattle area, Redfin says even Pierce and Snohomish counties are enjoying rising prices, but that too will moderate as more homes go on the market.

"I would expect the markets to be more balanced where prices don't increase as much, they might flat line or decrease through the winter a bit, but we'll have a more balanced market," says Kelman.

Johnson says balanced or not - she's gearing up for it to get even busier.

"I expect to get even crazier as soon as Labor Day has come and gone," she says. "I expect my hair to be on fire."