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Housing shortage causing 'seller gridlock'

SEATTLE -- As home prices continue to rise, a record shortage in Western Washington’s housing inventory is causing “seller gridlock.”

Active home listings in Western Washington have dropped around 25 percent since last year, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, dipping below 10,000 (to 9,091 listings) for the first time on record, dating to 2004.

Several experts say demand for homes around the Seattle area is up from foreign investors and transplants flooding the area to work at companies like Amazon.

Home prices continue to rise. In King County, the median selling price now sits at $560,000, an 8.7 percent rise from one year ago. Snohomish County prices spiked more than 18.2 percent to $387,250. And Pierce County saw a 10.3 percent increase to $274,950.

Part of that price tag, experts say, is that fewer homes are hitting the market.

During the past three months, brokers added 17,572 new listings to the region’s inventory. That’s down 5.7 percent from the same three-month span last year, according to MLS statistics. But with that surging demand, properties are being purchased quicker than others are hitting the market.

According to J. Lennox Scott, the chairman and CEO of John L Scott Real Estate, more than 70 percent of homes are sold within the first 30 days right now. In past years around 30 percent of homes sold in that span.

“The frustration I think just comes from just not having enough inventory to look at or view,” Windermere Real Estate broker Jeff Reynolds said. “You might have something in mind that you really want or think you can achieve, but if the market doesn’t bring it to you it’s a little disappointing.”

Reynolds says in downtown Seattle condo listings are down 57 percent from this time last year.

As a result of the inventory shortage, experts say the housing market is facing “seller gridlock,” when owners choose not to sell their home because they do not have good options to buy and upgrade their homes.

Some experts, like J. Lennox Scott, say the inventory should improve starting this month because Springtime typically delivers more seller listings, but Scott added that he expects us to remain in a surge market until at least the summer of 2018 due to job growth.

Jeff Reynolds doesn’t believe the increase in inventory can meet the demand Washington could face for years to come.

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