Like many hot spots in Washington, Sequim is seeing a surge in housing sales leading to low inventory and an increase in prices.
Data compiled by Michael McAleer, managing broker for Team McAleer at RE/MAX Prime, and his team reveals that at the end of the second quarter of this year, housing inventory within the Sequim School District boundaries had an average of 270 homes available each month, which is the lowest second quarter inventory since 2005.
This followed the first quarter’s trend that also saw an inventory low for its quarter since 2005 with an average of 208 homes available in Sequim.
“We’re at a record low of availability,” said McAleer, who has been compiling quarterly sales reports since 2002.
“There were 153 (homes sold in the first quarter) but there’s nothing to choose from. The 65 homes sold in March was the highest ever.”
In the second quarter, 204 homes were sold, too, which is the most ever for a second quarter, McAleer said.
Between the two quarters this year, he reports the median sale price went up from $290,000 to $300,000, which is the highest middle sale price since the first quarter of 2007.
McAleer finds unlike the boom in the early 2000s where a large number of Californians moved to Sequim, this time it’s a large number people from the I-5 corridor in the Seattle-area.
He said Sequim follows Seattle’s market, which continues on record pace and its “economy continues to soar as people sell their homes and move here for half the cost and they don’t have to live their life in traffic.”
Madeline Riordan, 64, a former Oregon State Patrol officer, moved into her Sunland home in mid-May after renting another home in the subdivision 11 months ago on a 1-year lease.
But for her to purchase the nearly 1,600-square-foot home, it took some labor and prayer.
Riordan said she isn’t a newcomer to home purchasing and this was the 25th house that she’s lived in. She also moved to Sequim sight unseen on a friend’s recommendation and she said it didn’t take her long to realize she wanted to make it permanent.
While renting, she began investigating options to build a home but eventually decided on purchasing an existing home.
However, like many other buyers she was outbid. Her current home was the third place she made an offer on but how it came about was possibly coincidental or divine inspiration.
Riordan said she became so discouraged at one point that she went to friends at her church, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, and asked for prayer.
She also considered moving out of the area, saying, “This house didn’t even go on the market so at the time I was looking to rent along the Oregon Coast when my realtor called me, Terry Peterson with Windermere Sunland,” Riordan said.
Peterson told her the owner was considering selling the home and within an hour they made a deal.
“I think he was sitting there with the seller because it never went on the market,” Riordan said.
She bought the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a two-car detached garage for $299,900.
Steve Jackson, fire inspector for Clallam County Fire District 3, found his Carlsborg home in similar fashion.
He took the job in February 2015 on a one-year probation period and has been commuting from Port Orchard four days a week.
Jackson said he didn’t want to commit until the probation was over and once it was he and his wife Shannon began looking.
“When we’d see something, we’d coordinate our schedules and go look together but by the time we’d make an offer it was snatched up,” he said.
In their early house hunting, they made two offers and were beat out on and another house they were interested in was pulled off the market.
Jackson said he considered throwing in the towel twice while looking and they took a break but began seriously looking again in November of last year.
Through his work, he was connected with a retired firefighter who was planning to sell his home and move elsewhere in Sequim.
“He hadn’t even put it on the market yet but he went ahead and listed it with a sales pending sign on it,” Jackson said.
The last time the Jacksons bought a home was in 1985, which they’ve paid off, he said, but their current experience was “very frustrating.”
“It has nothing to do with the people and has everything to do with the market,” he said.
“I do know, if you want a house, you better move fast. We’re not that way. We’ve never committed ourselves to high expenditures without considering it first.”
Both Riordan and Jackson, who worked with Jackie Ansotegui of Team McAleer, found their experiences with realtors positive.
Riordan said it’s important to find someone who advocates for you.
“Any (home) I found, (Peterson) was ready to take me to even though some of them might not have worked,” she said.
Despite the boom that may seem reminiscent from sales in the early 2000s, McAleer feels the housing market is on more solid ground now because it’s harder to obtain a loan.
“I feel more confident we’re not going to have a bust like we did in 2008, 2009 and 2010 because of that fact,” he said. “The requirement to get a loan leading up to 2007 was that you needed to fog up a mirror.”
Jennifer Sweeney, senior loan originator for Cherry Creek Mortgage in Sequim, said before the housing bubble “you basically had to say how much money you made.”
“That went away real fast,” she said.
“We’ve gone away from stated income/assets and now we have to pay fully amortizing loans,” she said.
Kathi Larsen, senior loan officer for Evergreen Home Loans in Sequim, said “There were a number of changes in mortgage regulations at the national level in reaction to foreclosures seen during the recession.”
“Today, there are a wide-range of affordable home loan programs, and even better, expanded guidelines that can help more borrowers qualify,” Larsen said. “There are even programs that do not require a lot of cash down to buy a home.”
Larsen says considering several lenders is a smart idea but the lowest offered rate may not be the best choice.
“There are lenders who may offer you a lower rate and not be able to close your loan on time, which may cost you additional time and money,” she said.
Sweeney recommends all buyers be pre-approved by an underwriter.
“When we get into those multiple offers on homes, cash is always going to be king,” she said.
Larsen said buyers talk to a trusted mortgage lender to see how much they can afford and their loan options.
Both Larsen and Sweeney anticipate the current market to continue before it slows down.
McAleer said “(Sequim is) not on an economic island because our buyers come from other places. When buyers are coming from places getting astronomical numbers for their homes like Seattle or California, they look at Sequim as a really good value,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Aug. 1, Sequim has 181 homes for sale at a median price of $375,000, reports Team McAleer, and 105 of those are under contract.
Look for a follow-up report on land sales in the Sequim area and its impact on the area.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.