Real estate, building activities on the rise

Patrick J. Sullivan, psullivan@ptleader.com
Posted 2/21/17

The residential real estate business greatly improved in Jefferson County in 2016, and there are high hopes for 2017.

“We’re back to where we were before the crash in terms of demand,” said …

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Real estate, building activities on the rise

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The residential real estate business greatly improved in Jefferson County in 2016, and there are high hopes for 2017.

“We’re back to where we were before the crash in terms of demand,” said Karen Best, owner/broker at Coldwell Banker Best Homes, with offices in Port Ludlow and downtown Port Townsend. “Supply is the issue.”

According to one analysis, home sales in the Brinnon area rose 43 percent in 2016, compared to 39 percent on Marrowstone Island, 22 percent in Quilcene, and 13 percent in Port Townsend.

“It was a great year,” Val Schindler, owner and designated broker of Windermere Hood Canal in Brinnon, said of 2016. “I can tell you I called clients at the beginning of 2016 who had waterfront properties who hadn’t sold. I advised them to put their properties back on the market, and they sold quickly. It was finally the turnaround we’ve been waiting for.”

A slower December kept 2016 only nine sales short of matching the sales mark for single-family residences and condominiums set from 2015 in Jefferson County, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NWMLS) report, which primarily deals with Realtor-listed properties.

The total of closed sales in 2016, residential and condominium, reached 658, compared to 667 in 2015. There were only 47 closed sales in December 2016, compared to 57 in December 2015.

The median sales price (half higher, half lower) for 2016 finished at $301,500, compared to $269,000 for 2015. It was the first time since 2007, the year the local market’s downward trend began, that the median closed-sale price topped $300,000.

There were 626 residential sales recorded in 2016, compared to 620 in 2015, and 32 condo unit sales in 2016, compared to 47 in 2015, according to the NWMLS.

For 2016, the most sales were in Port Townsend (208); followed by Port Ludlow (143); Discovery, an area outside of PT (49); the Tri-Area (44); Shine (42); and Quilcene (41).

LOW INVENTORY

Low inventory was an issue in 2016, and that condition is likely to continue in 2017.

“We still remain in a seller’s market for residential real estate,” said John Eissinger of ReMax First in Port Townsend, who has been a Realtor here for 18 years. “That means we have six months or less of inventory to sell.”

Some properties are selling above asking price, especially in the most popular areas of Port Townsend: the Uptown District, Morgan Hill and the Fort Worden area, Eissinger noted.

It’s important for buyers to have their financing plan in place before going home shopping, because properties may go quickly.

“As properties come on the market, if they are at the right price point, they are gone within three to 15 days,” said Teresa Goldsmith, designated broker at John L. Scott Real Estate in Port Townsend. “That’s great, except for buyers. It’s hard to compete when you have a price point and somebody else has cash.”

Progress on another front is being seen early in 2017: There are single-family residences being built on “spec,” instead of contractors working only on custom homes. The cost of new construction has steered more buyers to the resale market in recent years, but low inventory and an improved economy is fueling somewhat of a building boom.

“House sales are back to the numbers of 2006; land sales are not back to that level, but are going up,” Goldsmith noted. “There are builders producing spec homes, which we have not seen for a number of years.”

COMMERCIAL MARKET

The commercial real estate market in Port Townsend and Jefferson County has been “on and off” through the years, and is now hitting an “on” cycle, according to Richard Hild, a managing broker with John L. Scott who has been in the real estate market here since 1989.

The biggest boom in commercial development in the past few years has been with legal marijuana production and processing, Hild noted.

He anticipates the commercial market picking up this year.

“There’s a lot of good buys in commercial real estate right now,” Hild said. “New people are coming in and they are well funded. They have the ability to see a profit, if it’s going to be there, even when it may be long term.”

(Editor's Note: This story part of Peninsula Proud: Leader Progress Edition, published in The Leader on Feb. 22)

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