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NORTHWEST MULTIPLE LISTING SERVICE: HOME SALES SURGE AS REALTY AGENTS SCRAMBLE TO KEEP PACE WITH DEMAND

KIRKLAND, Wash., March 7 /PRNewswire/ ---- Area real estate agents report a rise in multiple offers as buyers try to out-maneuver each other in a fast-paced market. In figures released today, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) reports a 57 percent increase in pending sales compared to a year ago, while the volume of new listings rose only 16.5 percent.

NWMLS members reported 3,463 pending sales last month, up from a year ago when members logged 2,204 sales. The volume, which includes figures of King and Snohomish counties and northern Pierce County, also rose almost 25 percent from January's figure of 2,775 pending sales.

Inventory is about the same as this time last year, with 14,646 listings currently offered for sale, which compares to 14,800 listings at this time last year. Members added 5,900 new listings during February, up from a year ago when 5,062 single family homes and condominiums were added to inventory, but down from January's figure of 6,812 listings.

Closed sales also showed improvement from 1995. Members reported 1,867 completed transactions during February, an increase of 13.4 percent from the year-prior figure of 1,647 closings. The volume fell from January's total of 1,920 closings, reflecting some seasonal slowdown in the number of pending sales.

Although some brokers characterize the market as "balanced," other industry leaders are expressing anxiety about shrinking inventory and an emerging seller's market. Officials agree buyers who have pre-approved loans are in stronger bargaining positions than those who are only pre- qualified and those who are beginning a search with no commitments for financing.

Gary O'Leyar, an officer with Northwest MLS and the managing broker of Prudential Signature Properties in Seattle, said activity is strong in all price ranges, while remarking he is "amazed at the interest at the higher end of the price spectrum." He reports a rise in full-price and "full-price plus" offers, an experience his colleagues also seem to be noticing.

Presha Sparling, also an officer with NWMLS, said one new listing attracted four offers within hours of being offered. As the broker of Gerrard Beattie & Knapp Inc. on Capitol Hill, she monitors in-city activity more closely than other areas served by the MLS. "Our marketplace is very busy and any new inventory is eliciting a quick response," she said, while noting it's "still important to be realistic in pricing."

NWMLS vice chairman Kathy Estey, the broker of MacPherson's Kent office, said the momentum shift first noticed in December seems to be accelerating. She believes the South King County market is especially appealing to first-time and move-up buyers who are finding "more for their dollar" compared to other segments of the NWMLS tri-county market area.

Industry analysts seem to agree that activity can be sustained indefinitely, so long as attractive financing remains available. Recent upticks in interest rates have not yet had a dampening effect, since the rates for 30-year mortgages are still among the lowest in the past four decades. Mike Welty, president of Bancshares Mortgage in Bellevue and a member of the Communications Committee of the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors, said more would-be buyers are obtaining full approval for loans as they begin their search, a step he recommends with current market conditions.

Interest rates in recent days have been somewhat volatile, causing some fluctuation in rates. With less predictability, Welty is detecting a greater sense of urgency among buyers. He and spokespeople for NWMLS believe technology will be used with increased frequency to calm anxious buyers. Online services that are accessible to the public are expediting both loan approvals and searches.

NWMLS, which posted its residential database on the Internet on February 23, reports tremendous interest in the service since its launch. An average of 80,000 browsers are viewing the site (http://www.nwrealestate.com) each day, and they're requesting full-page listings on individual properties at the rate of 16,000 per day.

Statistical summary follows
 NWMLS Activity Summary - February 1996


Res & Condo
 Summary/Feb. King County Snohomish Co. Pierce Co. TOTAL
 Listings - New 3,859 1,630 411 5,900
 Total Active 8,884 4,466 1,296 14,646
 Pending Sales 2,286 965 212 3,463


Closed Sales
 # units 1,267 506 94 1,867
 Avg. Price 192,963 158,290 148,680 181,336
 Median Price 160,000 143,970 135,250 153,950
 -0- 3/7/96


/CONTACT: Jack Johnson, NWMLS President & CEO, 206-820-9200; or For statistical reports: Cheri Brennan of Alliance Communications, 206-448-6675/

CO: Northwest Multiple Listing Association ST: Washington IN: SU:

JF -- SETH012 -- 1392 03/07/96 18:37 EST
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Date:Mar 7, 1996
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