County real estate market: Low inventory, higher prices

The real estate market in Grays Harbor County had a relatively robust year in 2019, especially in the East County area, with average sales prices up about 13% and the increase mostly driven by high demand and low housing inventories.

Those trends are part of a report distributed monthly by longtime local real estate broker Tom Quigg at Windermere Real Estate in Aberdeen. In his most recent report that covered December of 2019, Quigg also looked at the year as a whole.

He said there’s a lot of interest in Grays Harbor from buyers coming from outside the area these days, many of them surprised at how much house they can buy, compared to higher priced markets.

“A lot of buyers are from the Seattle area seeking less congestion,” he said. He also said there are a many people looking at the area who might be considered climate refugees from the Southwest and Southern California.

“All things considered, Grays Harbor County had a good year in residential real estate,” Quigg stated in his annual report.

But Quigg also stated that buyers are challenged by low inventories of homes in most parts of the county.

That situation is best illustrated in East County, where low inventory and high demand have seen “the median and average prices for homes rising steadily throughout the past 12 months,” according to the report.

Those observations were echoed by Jill Warne, a real estate broker with Century 21. Warne has been selling real estate out of her office in Elma for more than 30 years after getting her start in Aberdeen.

“It’s been crazy up here, especially the last year was really crazy,” said Warne. “There’s just a serious shortage of inventory.”

Warne said the demand is coming from first-time home buyers locally and a lot of prospective buyers from Thurston, Pierce “and even King counties.”

“People from King County are coming down with just a bucket load of money and are just amazed at what they can buy down here,” she said of the Harbor’s still relatively low home prices.

Warne pointed to a subdivision of about 80 homes just outside of McCleary, where homes are selling as fast as they can be built. There, new three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes ranging from 1,500 to about 1,700 square feet are selling in the ranges of $305,000 to $325,000.

Warne said another subdivision of about 40 homes on the east side of Strawberry Hill in Elma is “pretty much built out” and sold. “There may be one or two left up there,” she said.

But Warne said potential sellers in this market still must pay attention to asking prices because today’s buyers are really doing their homework.

“We’re getting more inventory,” she said, “but a lot of it is not priced right, and if it’s not priced right, it doesn’t sell.”

Other key points from Quigg’s report include:

At year’s end, according to Multiple Listing Service data, the number of home sales closed in the entire county for 2019 was about even with 2018, and the average sales price was up by 13%.

The Grays Harbor County inventory of homes for sale continues to drop. However, it is up by 2.1% when compared to December 2018, with the number of homes listed for sale in December 2019 at 291.

The trend line for homes listed for sale in the North Beach region, excluding Pacific Beach (Seabrook), is similar to that of the county, with listing inventory up by 4.8% over December 2018. Prices of homes sold performed well, with median price up 29.4%, and the average sold price up 20.6% over December 2018.

The Aberdeen/Hoquiam market ended 2019 in a seller’s market. Listing inventory is 4.4% less than the same time last year. It’s noteworthy that the inventory months for listings on the inner Harbor has been two months or less for the past 13 months.