bulletin board
events calendar
business directory

best friend
news briefs



More for Less
Real estate sales improving

Yes, the Methow Valley real estate market has perked up. No, it’s not booming. But the number of sales for the first nine months of 2012 appears to equal the sales for all of 2011, which is good news for local real estate brokers. Those who work in the business also agree on the reasons things are improving: buyer confidence is up, and sellers have come to grips with the reality of today’s market. Which is to say that many property values are down about 30 percent over their peak market prices.

photoThe Old Marble Ranch north of Carlton recently sold for $700,000. It originally was listed at
$1.18 million, according to Dave Thomsen of Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty.

“Things have perked up a lot,” said Dave Thomsen, owner and managing broker at Coldwell Banker Winthrop Realty. “The first half of this year was much, much stronger... but you have to understand what it’s compared to.” Thomsen compiles regular real estate reports based on sales data from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service Archives. He found there was an 80 percent increase in sales for the first six months of this year over last year in the Methow Valley between Lost River and the Columbia River. But that 80 percent is based on 73 sales this year, compared with 40 in the same period last year.

“The hot market is the Mazama core market but houses are selling well everywhere," said Bob Monetta, owner and managing broker at Windermere Realty Methow Valley, which has offices in Twisp, Mazama and Omak. Riverfront is also doing well, he said, but the raw land market is slow.

Monetta agrees the local market has improved. “It looks like we’re where we were all of last year already,” he said of the end of the third quarter on Sept. 30. Monetta explained today’s market this way: “If you purchased a property for $300,000 in 2007 or 2008, it now has 30 percent less value,” so it’s worth about $200,000. However, with the market perking up a bit, that $200,000 property is gaining value again.

Thomsen shared his local market reports. Among his findings were that 48 percent of local home sales were at or below $200,000 last year while four homes sold for more than $400,000. That squares with what Anne Eckman, owner and associate broker of Blue Sky Realty, reported at a Winthrop Chamber of Commerce meeting a few weeks back. She said sales had picked up in the lower and higher price ranges but that the $250,000 to $350,000 middle range was "still slow."

Put into the context of the last decade, Thomsen's reports show that the Methow Valley real estate market peaked in 2005, when there were 425 sales worth $68 million. The market appears to have bottomed out in 2009, when 103 properties sold for $22.5 million. That's why current sales are good news in real estate circles. Last year, total sales rose to 120 transactions worth $23.7 million, according to Thomsen.

quote from story text"The third quarter of this year has been better,” he said, adding that “We’ve had two sales – one at $700,000 and one at $710,000.” However, he added, those properties “were heavily discounted.” They originally had been listed at $1.18 million and $1.2 million, respectively.

Sales are slowest in the lower valley, according to Monetta, who said, “Nothing significant has sold down there in three years.” He attributes at least some of the slowdown to the Methow River Ranches development, originally sold by the Tacoma Land Company. He said their business model is to buy land, develop it and sell parcels in-house instead of using outside real estate companies. So when the initial buyers want to resell their land, and contact a mainstream real estate firm such as Monetta’s, they sometimes are told their land isn’t as valuable as they think it is given present market conditions.

As for the rest of the Methow Valley, Monetta doesn’t consider it a “real world” market. “We are a recreation real estate market,” he said, more like Aspen and Vail in Colorado. “It’s not what you read in the newspapers about real estate.”

To illustrate his point, he said Omak is a “real world market” but in the Methow Valley “We never were a market with a lot of foreclosures in it, and we’ve always had inventory... The only tie we have to the real world is when prices go up in Puget Sound.” Then, he said, prices go up here “because 60 to 70 percent of our buyers are from the Puget Sound area.”

As for those working in real estate, it has not been an easy life of late. “The first half of 2011 we were on life support,” said Thomsen. When there were only 40 transactions valley-wide over six months, “I was out with a stethoscope trying to find something.”

Monetta, whose been in the business here for 20 years, agreed. “It’s not a matter of sitting in the office waiting for clients,” he said. “You’ve got to get out and find something.” In fact, he adds, “We are working twice as hard for half as much [income].”

In his 2011 report, Thomsen cited price deflation and a "heightened focus on lower-value properties -- not simply lower-cost properties, but less extravagant properties" as basic components of the market. But summing up what he's seeing this year, Thomsen told Grist, “I think we’re seeing an evolution of the market... Some sellers are seeing an opportunity to move on with their lives... Prices are still lower but I think people are feeling more comfortable spending money ... There are some very, very good values out there.”


Have a comment? >>