How the Seattle Real Estate Market is Like an Ice Cream Cone

“much can be said” courtesy of our Flickr pool’s +Russ

How is the Seattle real estate market like an ice cream cone? It’s frozen and it either is currently “clearly a double-dipper” or will be. (Once again, Portland gets there first.)

Hell may have frozen over as well as Seattle; the Seattle Bubble says this could be a good time to buy a home. Granted, they’re talking about prepared buyers taking advantage of that below-market deal they’ve found. Anecdotally, this is echoed by Redfin’s report on the Seattle area market, which notes that a few first-time home buyers are making their move. 

Otherwise, of the Seattle area homes pulled off the market in November, a full 60 percent were delisted by owners who plan to wait out the winter. Only 40 percent were sales. Of the city of Seattle 1,700-house November inventory (down 14 percent from October), 344 sold, while the time it took to close on a sale continued to lengthen thanks to difficulties finalizing financing.

Seattle condo sales remain way back in the deep freeze section, down a full 50 percent year over year. 137 sold, but 200 were delisted, to wait for spring. The Bubble warned that the home buying credit program was simply pulling demand from the future, and that once it ended, we’d see the frozen wasteland currently before us. But it is also true that many first-time buyers went the condo route, and now sit underwater, unable even to think of taking a short sale’s loss; the average condo sale price per square foot is down just 1.2 percent from last November.

Meanwhile, bottom-callers have these home-price declines to stare at. (Here’s the Bubble’s latest Case-Schiller graphs.) It’s not just Seattle, of course– reports that Seattle and ten other metro areas are seeing a “triple-dip,” and analysts predict anywhere from another six to fifteen percent slide over 2011. (Nor is the problem limited to residential real estate–the Wall Street Journal reports that Beacon Capital Parters, owners of the Columbia Tower Center, are selling their best-performing asset to raise capital to meet debt obligations.)

The vexing part of the real estate market watch is that all of these valuations are dependent upon an area’s greater economic health, which is something that neither you nor I nor the most perspicacious home shopper can account for. At a time when “A Ton Of Bailed-Out Banks Are On The Brink Of Collapse” nationally (a “ton” here equalling 860 banks), things that have nothing to do with curb appeal are driving the market.