Photo: Zillow

According to monthly figures released by the Northwest MLS, median home prices in Seattle hit a record $700,000 in March, double the price of five years ago.

With prices hitting a peak far in advance of Seattle’s busy summer home buying season, buyers can expect to pay top dollar for housing in the Puget Sound. In King County, prices skyrocketed more than 7 percent from February, the second-biggest increase in the last three years. The median price of a home county-wide was $600,000.

On the Eastside, homes sold for a median price of $870,000, or $38,000 more than last month’s record-breaking figure. Eastside prices were up 17.7 percent from a year ago.

Pierce County prices increased 11.3 percent, from $265,000 to $295,000, while the year-over-year gain in Snohomish County was nearly 10.4 percent, rising from $385,000 to $425,000.

“Some, including me, are seeing signs of a developing bubble,” said Diedre Haines, principal managing broker-South Snohomish County at Coldwell Banker Bain in a NWMLS press release. She said most new construction in Snohomish County is being sold before foundations are even poured. “Builders are trying to keep up with the demand, but it isn’t or doesn’t seem to be possible in the near future. Buyers are starting to move into panic mode and doing unadvisable things just to get their offers accepted.”

Rising employment numbers, growing salaries and tenants desperate to escape rising rents has created intense competition and demand for limited housing in the area. According to the Seattle Times, inventory of homes on the market was down 21 percent from a year ago in March because fewer people are putting their homes up for sale and once the homes are listed, they sell very quickly.

“It’s a straight up crazy, frenzy market in King and Snohomish counties,” said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott in the NWMLS press release. About 75 percent of homes are selling within the first 30 days, according to his analysis.

On the high end of the spectrum, the luxury market is still attracting tons of wealthy buyers. For the first three months of 2017, the number of homes that sold and closed at prices of $1 million or more is up 60.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago (926 such sales this year versus 577 for first quarter of 2016), according to NWMLS.

Prospective home buyers are advised to prepare to bid way over asking. As Northwest MLS chairman John Deely, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain, said in the press release, “We are seeing more multiple offers than ever on new listings, and all cash offers are dominating the winning bids.” He also noted some brokers are reporting a contrast from a year ago with regard to escalation closes. “Last year they were advising a buyer to bid 10 percent above the list price, this year they’re advising 20 percent over in certain Seattle neighborhoods.”

Sellers celebrate! Buyers beware.

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