Seattle Home Sellers Give Thanks For Higher Prices

By William Hillis |

As the Thanksgiving holidays approach, S&P Dow Jones has released the September 2019 results for the CoreLogic Case Shiller Home Price Index. This latest report shows that Seattle’s residential home prices rose for a third straight month year-over-year—cheer-bringing news for Puget Sound homeowners who may be expected to bolster the inventories of homes for sale. Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty (RSIR) had previously noted an inflection point in the market, first detected in downtown Seattle in late July 2019, which may now be expanding throughout the metro area to close out 2019.

The Case Shiller index surveys resales of residential homes[1] in the Seattle metropolitan statistical area comprising King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. Its results confirm the pattern in residential selling data for the region from July through September, as reported by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS). Seattle’s upward price index trend can be seen gathering strength against cities across the nation, and surpassing those of New York and Chicago (Chart A). The year-over-year increase of 1.7 percent matched that of Los Angeles in the same month, while the index showed prices in San Francisco continuing to decline (Chart B). Year-over-year trends in Portland and San Diego remained higher, at 2.7 and 2.8 percent, respectively.

In the S&P Dow Jones press release, Craig J. Lazzara, Managing Director and Global Head of Index Investment Strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices observed,

After a long period of decelerating price increases, it’s notable that in September both the national and 20-city composite indices rose at a higher rate than in August, while the 10-city index’s September rise matched its August performance. It is, of course, too soon to say whether this month marks an end to the deceleration or is merely a pause in the longer-term trend.
At a regional level, Phoenix retains the top spot for the fourth consecutive month with September’s 6.0-percent year-over-year gain. The Southeast region was also strong, as Charlotte, Tampa, and Atlanta all rose at greater than a 4.0-percent clip.[2]

The Seattle Times reported the September Case Shiller results with a reminder that Seattle prices were still being “outpaced [by those in] most top national markets,” while noting exceptions for New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

“Seattle-area growth was well behind the 20-city home price index, which was up 2.1 percent in September from a year ago,” wrote Seattle Times business reporter Katherine Khashimova Long.[3] However, this is the first month since last March that Seattle has bested any others among the 20 leading cities tracked by Case Shiller. Specifically, Seattle was 17th among those cities in March 2019, and tied with Los Angeles for 16th in September. In each of the months between, Seattle lagged the nation. With September’s favorable index results following two prior months of improvement, regional home sellers have cause to greet the holiday season with joy.

Chart A: The course of Seattle’s year-over-year Case Shiller index changed direction in June 2019 and turned positive in August. Note that by “decline,” we mean a year-over-year index decline, not a residential price decline. Contrary to contemporaneous news reports, the overall region did not see lower median prices until 2019.

For more details on the September 2019 Case-Shiller Index results, download the S&P Dow Jones Case-Shiller summary report. For a copy of our 2018/2019 Market Report, along with details on the implications for homes in your neighborhood, contact a local RSIR broker.

Chart B: Residential prices in San Diego and Portland remain higher year over year, while gains have contracted in San Francisco. The year-over-year price index trend in Seattle rose steadily from July through September, when it caught up with the Los Angeles index.


Chart C: By August, residential prices recorded by the NWMLS were recovering year-over-year on the Eastside.


Chart D: Though as of October 2019, residential inventories less new listings were lower than they were a year before, they remained higher than equivalent inventories in 2017 and 2016.


Chart E: Residential inventories less new listings remained higher in 2019 than in 2018.


Charts F (Seattle MSA) and G (West Bellevue and vicinity): year-over-year accumulations of inventory in these areas were sold through by August and October, respectively.


Charts F (Seattle MSA) and G (West Bellevue and vicinity): year-over-year accumulations of inventory in these areas were sold through by August and October, respectively.


[1] The Case Shiller Index notably does not account for condominium sales.

[2] “Cities in Sun Belt Region Lead in Annual Gains According to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index,” S&P Dow Jones Indices, New York, 26 November 2019.

[3] Katherine Khashimova Long, “Home prices in Seattle outpaced by most top national markets,” Seattle Times, 26 November 2019.