Taking a Closer Look at the State of Real Estate in the Harbor
After our last column about positive trends in the area’s real estate market, we wanted to continue to look at what was happening here.
Last week we talked with Tom Quigg and Pat Oleachea, both of Windermere Real Estate, about the mostly positive trends in the area’s real estate market.
Among other things, Quigg told us that sales are up and the average price of a house is up, but that housing stock available to sell was at record lows.
This week we talked with Mike Rosevear, a private appraiser in Aberdeen, whose business is to determine how much a house (or other property) is worth. Typically most of an appraiser’s work is determining value for lenders who are considering giving a loan to potential home buyers. But appraisers are also hired to help determine a property’s value to settle an estate, or in the case of a divorce, for example.
Rosevear also had some interesting observations of our local real estate market that we’d like to pass along.
Compared to other areas in the state – particularly big cities – our real estate market as a whole is pretty stable, he said.
Yes, Grays Harbor County definitely felt the bubble burst from the high prices several years ago. However, compared to other areas, the impact here lagged hitting the hardest in 2009 and 2010.
“We are now seeing more upper end home sales in the market. Values are based on an area’s employment wages and so in Grays Harbor, high-end homes can sit a long time – that market has been the hardest to recover,” Rosevear said.
Right now he sees our area’s housing stock slowly gaining in value – “I’d say it is slowly moving in a positive direction,” he said.
He noted that the East County market is stronger and has higher median values than, say, Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
He agreed with real estate agents that last year’s flooding in low-lying areas of Aberdeen had Hoquiam has impacted the values there. “That market is more stagnant. … The cost of flood insurance there takes people out of qualifying for loans for those homes,” he said.
“The cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam are talking about the possibilities of building dikes. I know that would be a long-term project, but it would definitely help real estate values within those flood zones,” he said.
The sales on the beaches typically have a different price point, partly because they are attracting out-of-the-area buyers, he said. (For the statistics here, Westport, Grayland and Ocean Shores are considered “the beaches.” Pacific Beach and Seabrook were not included.)
Besides the beaches, there is not a lot of new construction in the area, he observed.
“Especially in Aberdeen and Hoquiam most of the sales are of existing homes. We do have an older average housing stock. In East County there are more new homes and new construction, but not a lot.”
To illustrate, he noted that the Aberdeen Highlands development in the hills near Grays Harbor Community Hospital, is only about half built out.
One reason, however, that there are not as many new houses constructed in Grays Harbor is simply that housing is so affordable here compared to elsewhere, so it’s not always as cost-effective to build a new home, he said.
LOOKING AT SOME STATISTICS
While we are aware of Mark Twain’s classic quote: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics,” we still found the Multiple Listing Service statistics for the area’s housing market quite interesting.
For instance, in the past 10 years, the highest number of sales in Grays Harbor County was in 2006, with 1,128 sales. The highest median price in that time period was the following year in 2007 at $165,000.
Then the lowest number of sales hit our county in 2009 with just 625 homes sold. But it was in 2012 that has the 10-year record for the lowest median selling price – $115,000.
While sales in 2015 weren’t dramatically up, they were the highest they’d been for three years in each of the three areas – Aberdeen/ Hoquiam, the beaches and East County.
And, in 2015, more houses throughout the county were sold than in each of the previous eight years!
In East County, the sales even beat the 10-year record, with the 393 homes sold in 2015 handily beating the 2006 high of 356.
THE IMPACT OF SEABROOK
We will continue to explore various perspectives on the housing market in Grays Harbor in the next few columns. Next week we’ll be taking a peak at what is happening at Seabrook on the North Beach and seeing how it affects the rest of the county. Stay Tuned!
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen