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Pierce County shows signs of life in real estate

june data: Pending sales up 27 percent over last year

KELLY KEARSLEY; The News Tribune
Last updated: July 7th, 2009 07:11 AM (PDT)

The residential real estate market in Pierce County is perking up for the summer as more people move from simply looking at homes to actually making offers on them.

Pending sales of homes and condominiums in the county were up 27 percent in June to 1,341 from the same month last year, according to the figures released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

The median price ticked up slightly over the month to $230,000, though it remains 11 percent below the $259,250 recorded a year ago. (Median means half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.)

Local real estate agents said low interest rates, first-time home buyer credits and the prospect of good deals are spurring some hesitant shoppers to take action.

“It’s the people that have been tire-kicking for awhile – maybe they’ve been waiting for their homes to sell and their homes are finally selling,” said Cheryl O’Brien, president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors.

O’Brien, a real estate agent with John L. Scott in Gig Harbor, said her office currently has more sales than listings, including the sale of two properties that were over $1 million and six properties over $500,000.

“Everything is creeping up,” O’Brien said. “It’s been awhile since we’ve seen anything over $1 million sell.”

Still much of the recent sales activity remains in the lower price range. O’Brien said that it’s a “seller’s market” for homes priced at $300,000 or less and other agents reported some instances of multiple offers on such homes.

And while there’s been an uptick in pending sales, the number of closed sales has yet to catch up to where the county was last year at this time. Closed sales were down 7 percent to 798 in June when compared to June 2008, according to the MLS report.

Dick Beeson, a NWMLS director and a broker with Windermere Commencement Associates in Tacoma, attributes the gap between pending and closed sales to the number of offers on short sale homes that don’t come through.

A short sale happens when a homeowner sells a home for less money than what’s owed to the bank. Such transactions require bank approval before the sale can be completed.

But Beeson said the increase in number of people making offers on homes is a good sign. “It means they want to buy something,” he said. “They’ve actually stepped up and put it into writing – they are getting into the game.”

Kelly Kearsley: 253-597-8573

kelly.kearsley@thenewstribune.com

Originally published: July 7th, 2009 12:18 AM (PDT)

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