Sequim’s real estate market has trended back to its norm in recent months: high demand with low inventory.
Earlier this year, however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused some uncertainty in the industry for some realtors and brokers.
Michael McAleer, managing broker for Team McAleer at RE/MAX Prime, said when the virus became a larger concern locally, phones stopped ringing and emails stopped coming in.
“We were worried,” he said. “Showings were down about 70 percent (from mid-March-mid-April). We were pretty darn nervous.”
McAleer wrote in his quarterly report to clients that there were an average of 48 home sales a month in the Sequim area in the second quarter, a 13 percent drop compared to 2019’s second quarter. He added that between Sequim and Port Angeles, there were 59 showings the first week of April, but 226 showings the first week of May.
“Based on what we’re experiencing thus far in July, we believe the sales volumes will actually increase considerably in the 3rd Quarter,” McAleer wrote.
By the numbers
In his report, McAleer said Sequim’s housing inventory was down 24 percent in the second quarter comparing this year to 2019’s second quarter, which he attributes to the pandemic. However, listings and sales changed for May and June.
“It wasn’t a 180 — it was like three 180s,” McAleer said. “We’ve just been shocked at how quickly things happened. Even during that time when showings were down, it seemed as though every person looking at homes made an offer and bought.”
McAleer said people intending to buy a home took it seriously particularly with state social distancing mandates in place, i.e. one spouse staying in the car while the other looked inside.
“What’s happened since, nothing short of a miracle to me,” he said.
The median price for Sequim’s homes reached a record high for the second quarter at $387,000 — a 9.8 percent increase from 2019, McAleer reports.
The average list price was $416,011 and the average sale price was $410,004.
In mid-July, he reported that there were 200 homes on the market; down 23 percent from the same time in 2019. Of those homes, 90 were under contract or pending sales.
The median asking price is $464,00, a 7 percent increase over the median asking price of $433,000 last year.
The trend of homes under the median price continue to sell faster, McAleer said.
For Brody Broker, realtor/managing broker for Brody Broker and Keller Williams Olympic, he and his team are “significantly ahead this year from last year.”
“For our firm, in the first six months of 2019, we had 124 sales by the end of June,” he said.
“We closed out the year at about 300. In 2020, during that same time period, we had 191 (sales).”
He attributes the increase to joining Keller Williams Realty last December and using their online resources and their reach.
“Definitely technology is the difference-maker,” Broker said. “That’s what’s allowed us to make a difference … we didn’t know if we’d even be half from last year.”
He said with Keller Williams’ listing service it reaches about 350 venues and allows easier access for buyers to connect with sellers.
Incorporating online meetings and virtual showings was already part of their business plan, too.
“It’s like we prepared perfectly for the pandemic,” Broker said.
“The reality is that during the pandemic, we have the technology to answer someone’s questions quickly and we’re doing virtual showings more than anytime in the past.”
A virtual showing can include agents walking through a house with a device answering questions for the buyer as they look around.
“It’s been a huge difference maker for us,” Broker said. “We were pretty serious about being on the front end of all this.”
Broker said they’ve embraced online so much his firm went an entire month closing homes all online with documentation and no physical signings.
Deon Kapetan, Highlands Residential Mortgage branch manager, said mortgage rates are historically low for 30-year loans under 3 percent.
“We’re locking people in pretty long,” she said.
However, with rates so low, many are refinancing and it’s taking mortgage brokers some time to get through the volume, she said.
Kapetan said she anticipates rates remaining low for “quite some time,” but that depends on variables with COVID-19.
The ongoing concern for available affordable housing remains, she and other brokers say.
“I feel for our blue collar workers trying to get into something affordable,” Kapetan said. “I hope we can get a resolution in the coming years.”
The low interest rates can help buyers qualify for homes for larger purchase prices, she said, but Sequim’s inventory is low so “it’s not really happening.”
Along with that, competition has been high among buyers, too.
“I’ve seen way more bidding wars than for quite some time,” Kapetan said.
Who is moving?
Various factors continue to bring people to Sequim and the Olympic Peninsula, local real estate experts say, including the chance to leave highly populated urban areas.
McAleer said Sequim’s prices are another attractive offering at about one-third or less of King County.
Companies are also embracing working from home allowing people to work virtually anywhere.
As for what’s next with the market during the age of the coronavirus, McAleer said he doesn’t know.
“I feel like anybody who speaks with certainty about our future is full of it,” he said.
“You can look at it so many different ways but markets are cyclical.”
McAleer said when statewide and national trends go down, he doesn’t believe it’ll be like the recession of the mid-2000s.
“That was a collapse of a house of cards. That was phoney. They were giving loans to anybody with a foggy mirror,” he said.
“When things go the other direction, I think Sequim will continue to do OK because of the fundamentals: we’re a rural area, people are able to work from home, there’s less traffic, and it’s a beautiful place to live.
“I think we’re going to do well.”