The NWMLS recently started providing data to us in a weekly, year over year format that allows us to see the impact of events like COVID-19 more clearly.
The number of new listings coming on the market each week began to drop off in mid to late March of this year. By early April, we were seeing about half as many new listings coming on the market as we were seeing in early April of 2019. That’s major. It tells us that homeowners have been reluctant to put their houses on the market in the midst of the pandemic. Maybe they don’t want to risk increased exposure to the virus. Maybe they don’t want to deal with a move right now. Whatever the reason might be, the number of new listings coming on the market is still about 30% lower than it was at this time in 2019.
Not surprisingly, pending sales also began to drop off in early March of this year. Much of that drop was tied to the drop in new listings, but it may have also reflected a temporary decrease in buyer appetite related to the pandemic. Of note, the number of pending sales has essentially returned to normal levels as of late May. If buyers were skittish in April, they seem to have gotten over it – at least for the time being.
The number of closed sales held fairly steady through March but began to drop off in April. This comes as no surprise, given the significant drop off in pending sales that we saw in March. Closed sales are likely to normalize by June, as pending transactions move to sold.
What about prices? Median home prices typically rise in the spring as the housing market heats up (see the copper colored line on the median price graph for 2019), but we actually saw a drop in median home prices in April and early May of this year. It’s important to note that the drop in home prices hasn’t been steep or sustained. In fact, the median home price right now in the Puget Sound region is about the same as it was at this time last year.
What can we expect going forward? Much will depend on how much new housing inventory comes on the market this summer. The recent uptick in pending sales tells us that buyer appetite is strong - strong enough to absorb quite a bit of new inventory. But if the number of new listings remains low, the number of pending and closed sales may taper offer as well and we would likely see upward pressure on prices as demand outpaces supply. More to come.