For most of the housing market, homes are selling in Pierce County faster than owners can put new ones up for sale, drawing down an already dwindling supply of houses just as the market heats up for the spring and summer.
Typically, Tacoma-area homes in the million-dollar range are immune to broader market trends or even what’s happening in King County. Until now.
Think of it as our new trending market, without the bidding wars (yet).
In recent months, dozens of million-dollar abodes have sold or are in the process of closing. If the pace keeps up, sales of homes worth a million dollars or more could eclipse the record of 86 sales set in 2007.
“This is crazy talk,” said Kevin Mullin, owner-partner and designated broker of Windermere Professional Partners in Tacoma. “If all (homes) currently under contract sell, that would mean 42 sales, which is already more than half of last year. And we are not even halfway through the year.”
To date, 16 such homes have sold in Pierce County, with another 26 million-dollar homes pending sale. Among those pending is the $5.5 million Weyerhaeuser mansion, also known as Haddaway Hall.
Compare that with just a few years ago, when 23 residences worth $1 million or more sold in each of 2011 and 2012, according to data from Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
Thurston County also has seen growth in these properties. Just one sold for $1 million or more in 2012, the data show. Last year, nine such homes sold in that county.
Where are these buyers coming from? Many fly in from other parts of the country, said Jeff Williams, a real estate broker for South Sound Property Group, part of Windemere Professional Partners. He works with fellow broker Mark Pinto.
“They could be coming for a job or lifestyle change,” Williams said. “It could be a second home for people who live in California.”
One historic home in Tacoma’s North End listed at nearly $1.3 million. Its sweeping views of Commencement Bay and the Olympic and Cascade mountains drew 25 showings in three weeks — a pace unheard of just a few years ago, Williams said. The final sale price was not available.
Williams and Pinto work together to sell luxury and historic properties in Tacoma, Lakewood and Gig Harbor. They said the luxury or “trophy home” market has heated up in the county in the past six months to a year.
“I think it speaks to the confidence that people have in the market and the broader economy,” Pinto said. “They probably have been sitting on the sidelines in a house that they like, but they want to buy up to that aspirational house.”
Unlike homes at lower price points, high-end buyers won’t get into a bidding war just yet, Williams said.
That’s because it’s a buyer’s market above $1 million. Unlike the rest of Pierce County’s housing market, which has less than one month’s supply in some areas of the county, million-plus homes have a whopping 19.6 months of supply, Williams said. Most of those homes have been on the market for more than 100 days — a dream for a buyer in the lower-end markets.
But not all homes at that price point are priced realistically, Pinto said.
“If it’s completely unrealistic, the phone doesn’t ring,” Pinto said. “Well-priced homes over $1 million are selling and much more so than we’ve seen in years.”
In 1999, just 34 homes in Pierce County were valued at more than $1 million, according to News Tribune archives. Last year, the county valued 715 residences at $1 million or more, according to Pierce County Assessor records.
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