How high can Pierce County home prices go? April shows another increase year over year

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County now is at $500,000 in median closed sale price for single-family existing homes, according to the latest sales data released this week.

Last year, it was at $405,000.

In the Northwest Multiple Listing Service’s report on April home sales, Pierce County is still seeing a dramatic rise in prices amid a thin inventory of available homes for sale as it heads into the late spring/early summer buying season.

Only two counties showed a higher median closed sale price for existing homes: King County at $830,000 and Snohomish County at $675,000.

Total active listings were down nearly 47 percent from the same period last year in Pierce County, and pending sales were up 22.67 percent, with less than a month’s worth of inventory.

A balanced market offers more like four to six months of inventory.

Year over year doesn’t tell the whole story. Pierce County’s inventory did improve somewhat from March to April of this year, with 1,589 new listings reported in March and 1,738 new listings reported in April.

Median closed sale price for condominiums in the county was at $335,950, up from $269,750 a year ago.

The hope among real estate agents is that May will bring even more homes to market, but it would take many more to help Pierce County’s situation.

“The time between coming on the market and going off the market is the shortest I’ve seen in the last 40 years,” Dick Beeson, managing broker at RE/MAX Northwest, Tacoma-Gig Harbor, said in the NWMLS release. “The housing bubble more than a dozen years ago didn’t look like this. There was inventory. There were choices for buyers.

“Now they comb the internet daily, hoping they’ll get the chance to compete with other battle-weary buyers for the one new listing that appears in their price range near where they really want to live.”

Pierce County isn’t alone.

Frank Leach, broker/owner at RE/MAX Platinum Services in Silverdale, estimated 80 percent of sales in Kitsap County exceeded listed values, with “many buyers making the buying decision from a virtual tour.”

Local brokers in Tacoma have described similar circumstances for months.

In its own monthly analysis, John L. Scott Real Estate noted that in Pierce County, “the market is virtually sold out up to $1.5 million,” with a “strong number of homes going under contract above $2 million.”

In data provided to The News Tribune, the real estate company recorded four homes priced $2 million and higher that were pending in April. That compares with just one in 2020, three in 2019 and two in 2018.

For Gig Harbor, a separate John L. Scott report noted, “The entire market is virtually sold out. The market is incredibly hot, with predominantly uber-frenzy sales activity intensity for homes locally.”

It showed that 100 percent of Gig Harbor’s March listings priced at $1 million or more were pending within first 30 days on market.

The recent demise of a workforce housing project in Tacoma that sought to keep its prices below $300,000 is just one example of how affordable housing has become a greater challenge for the city.

It was against this backdrop that Tacoma’s Planning Commission met again Wednesday evening to further hash out revisions and next steps for the Home in Tacoma project, an offshoot of Tacoma’s Affordable Housing Action Strategy that is charged with increasing options for housing in the city with revised zoning and building regulations.

Finding ways to help builders keep projects affordable was among the topics discussed at Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s going to take enormous money to put toward incentives to make it worthwhile for builders to build low-cost housing, or what we term affordable housing,” said Commissioner Carolyn Edmonds during the meeting.

“We’re in this housing market where it is just absolutely crazy, crazy stuff. Starter homes are now $350- to $400,000. That’s what the lowest priced homes in Tacoma are. Creating incentives so the builders will build a home that can sell for considerably less money is going to be a really necessary component of creating anything that we consider affordable,” she said.

The commission expects to hear final details on proposals to send to City Council at its May 19 meeting.

This story was published by The News Tribune.