An aerial view of West Seattle, looking west from White Center. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
Like much during the pandemic, the latest news on home prices inspires a definite sense of deja vu.
For the fifth month in a row, home prices around Seattle rose faster in June — 6.5%, year-over-year — than any of the nation’s other top 18 metro areas, save Phoenix, according to new data from S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index. That’s more or less the same rate of growth we’ve seen since spring.
Price growth in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties topped national averages for the eighth month straight. National year-over-year home price growth of 4.3% in June pointed to a “stable” market, said S&P Managing Director Craig Lazzara in a statement. Prices rose in each of the 19 large cities that Case-Shiller tracks; among just those metros, year-over-year price growth averaged 3.5%. (Typically, Case-Shiller examines home prices in 20 metro areas, but data for the Detroit metro area has been unavailable since the start of the pandemic.)
A major imbalance between the number of homes for sale and a swell of interested buyers on the market has boosted prices. Until very recently, far fewer people were listing their homes than did in 2019. Many would-be sellers decided instead to take advantage of historically low mortgage rates to refinance their homes.
Price growth in the Seattle metro area has been driven by an uptick in cost for the area’s most affordable homes. Prices rose nearly 9% year-over-year among homes that sold for less than $448,069, which represent the most affordable third of all homes sold this spring. Among the most expensive third of homes, those selling for more than $670,317 — including most homes in King County, where a typical home now runs $727,500 — prices rose relatively more slowly, 5% compared to last year.
The lure of an under-three-percent mortgage has drawn younger buyers to the market, many likely for the first time. Across generations, only millennials are taking out more for-purchase loans than last year, according to data on VA loans from the Department of Veteran Affairs. The number of Seattle millennials who received for-purchase loans in the first nine months of the fiscal year rose 21.8% over the same period the previous year.
Refinances, however, have swollen a whopping 276% across all demographics, compared to the previous period.