Seattle’s housing market has cooled: is now the time to buy?

SEATTLE — Seattle’s once-sizzling housing market has cooled off a lot which is potentially good news for those looking to buy.

According to a national survey, housing prices across the country declined for the sixth month in a row.

That drop has been steepest in San Francisco and Seattle. That would appear to be good news for buyers.

It is, but — and there are two big “buts” — there aren’t that many houses for sale, and interest rates are much higher than they were just a year ago.

So, as you might guess, lenders, realtors and buyers are feeling the effects.

“First 10 minutes, we were getting offers,” marveled Nelya Calev. “Like ‘you list the property; Ooh, you have an offer. Congratulations.’”

Calev, a Bellevue-based realtor, remembers even a year ago when buying a house in King County quickly turned into a bidding war. But that was then. This is now.

“It’s not that way; it takes a little longer,” she said. “About 40% of homes sell in the first 30 days, which is still not bad. It used to be 80% of homes were selling in the first 30 days.”

Calev says prices have dropped, too.

“From the height of the market, which was in May, they came down 15%,” she said.

The main culprit is high interest rates.

According to Redfin, nationwide, by the end of last week, a 30-year fixed mortgage had risen to 6.5%, the third week it has gone up.

The week before, mortgage-purchase applications had declined by 18%. That’s the lowest level since 1995. Purchase applications were down a whopping 41% in just one year.

“I think there’s great opportunity here again,” said Luke Zender. “It’s more important to get into the home.”

Zender’s family has been in the mortgage lending business for about three decades. He says even with the bleak interest rate news, this is still a good time to buy.

“It’s kind of like a term, it’s like, ‘marry the house, date the rate,’ said Zender. “The rate can change ... You can refinance at any time.”

That’s the pitch from many lenders because the house you buy today will almost certainly cost less than it did just a few months ago.