Puget Sound sees historic spike in home prices

SEATTLE -- Home prices in some Puget Sound areas are higher than ever before, and real estate experts say buyers are willing to spend more and more to get their dream home.

Local homes are now more expensive, on average, than during the housing boom of 2007. Commute times, a pending interest rate hike and low inventory are sending some Seattle home buyers into a bit of a panic.

Prospective buyers are flooding open houses, and real estate agents say it's not uncommon to see a packed house even in the middle of a work day.

"We've probably had 25 groups go through in a hour an half," said Windermere broker Carli Sulcer. "It's nuts, it's nuts right now."

Economists at Zillow back up those claims.

"The cities of Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, home values are actually more expensive than they have ever been," said Svenja Gudell, Zillow's director of economic research.

The median price for a home sold last month in Seattle was $535,000, which is 19 percent more than the same month last year and the biggest year-to-year jump in five years.

"We're renters now and trying to get into the market for under $600,000," said potential home buyer Grant Wojahn.

But Wojahn and his wife say homes are selling quickly, often within days of being listed. The reason is simple supply and demand. The demand is high and the number of homes listed for sale is down 23 percent from a year ago.

"They would love to sell their home and move up to the next place or a different neighborhood and can't find anything to buy, so they are choosing not to sell," Sulcer said.

Condominium prices are also up.

"Because there aren't condominium buildings being built," said Windermere broker Steve Blackbourn. "The ones you see with the cranes are apartment buildings."

But not everywhere is as rosy as Seattle. Prices are up in Snohomish and Pierce counties, but not as much as in King County.

"King County is doing very well, but Snohomish and Pierce County are lagging behind -- especially Pierce County," Gudell said.
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