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Wednesday, April 7, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Real-estate sales jumped in county during March

Times Snohomish County bureau

Snohomish County house and condominium sales in March leapt ahead of last year's figures.

Last month, 1,152 sales closed, a 9.5 percent increase over the 1,052 closings reported the previous March.

Real-estate agents had predicted last month's sales would be brisk, in part because February closings were sluggish despite low interest rates and plenty of inventory. February closings were down 19.7 percent compared with 2003, and many blamed the declines on snow days that made it difficult for prospective buyers to shop and then bid on homes. With bids coming at the end of February or spilling into early March, some said March would show a rebound.

"I haven't had a day off in a month," said Linda Simanek, a real-estate agent at Re/Max Northwest Realtors in Bothell. "This is probably one of the best months in my (23-year) career."

Simanek said almost every sale she handled involved multiple offers and bidding wars. She also said first-time and other buyers were taking advantage of zero-down loans during a time of interest rates that hovered between 5 and 6 percent.

"I'm seeing that the Eastside is moving north," Simanek said, noting she sells homes priced anywhere from $230,000 to $850,000. "Mill Creek and Bothell are becoming more popular because prices in Bellevue and Kirkland are not affordable anymore."

Although Snohomish County communities may be more affordable than those in East King County, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, which tracks house and condominium sales each month, reported price increases in every section of Snohomish County last month compared with March 2003. Median prices increased significantly around Bothell, climbing 15 percent from $259,975 to $298,945.

The most affordable areas of the county remained the farthest from Seattle. The Marysville-Arlington-Stanwood area is now the only section of the county where median house and condo prices, at $197,400, fall below $200,000. Houses and condos in the Lake Stevens-Granite Falls area, the next-most-affordable area of the county, grew by 12.8 percent from March 2003 to last month, from $195,000 to $219,975.

The Multiple Listing Service reported more closings in every section of the county. In particular, the Lake Stevens-Granite Falls area had 140 closings during the month, a 47.4 percent increase over March 2003. In the Everett-Mukilteo area, 383 houses and condominiums sold, a 20.8 percent increase over March 2003.

Debbie Taylor, a broker with John L. Scott in Granite Falls, said sales growth in the midcounty area has been fueled by home construction in the area as well as its continued affordability.

Most buyers who come through her office, she said, are families looking for reasonably priced homes with yards. Many of them like Granite Falls because it has affordable homes with a variety of architectural styles, rather than houses often found in subdivisions or planned communities elsewhere in the county.

"I think it's mostly (appealing to) first-time-home-buyer affordability," she said. "We're still a neighborhood-type community up here."

Jane Hodges: 425-745-7813 or jhodges@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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