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For Sale

A seller’s market continued to prevail as both the number of houses sold and the number listed for sale in Cowlitz County declined in December, but housing prices rose significantly again, according to data released Monday.

The median price for homes sold last month in Cowlitz County rose 12.5 percent, to $247,000, compared with a year earlier, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The median home sales price — which means half the homes sold for more and half sold for less — was $220,000 in December 2017.

But there were some signs that the market is starting to cool off. New home listings in December fell to 62, down from 70 a year earlier, and the total number of homes for sale last month slipped by 5 percent, to 203, according to the NMLS.

The number of closed sales also fell, from 129 in December 2017 to 83 last month, a 36 percent decline.

The county’s real estate market remains tilted in favor of sellers, with an inventory of homes for sale of about two and a half months. A balanced market typically has four to six months of inventory of houses for sale, according to NMLS. In addition, the median listing price for homes last month ($320,000) was 11 percent higher than a year earlier ($295,000).

In its decline of both sales and in sales inventory, Cowlitz County’s housing market is matching the pattern of the rest of the state. Realtors attribute the trend to fluctuating interest rates and unsteady consumer confidence. What does this mean for buyers and sellers?

“This situation can make for a deliciously deceptive market for either buyers or sellers,” NMLS Director Dick Beeson said in a prepared statement. Buyers who are paying attention will find very good values and receptive sellers, he said.

December marked the first time since July that showed declining numbers of houses for sale in all 23 market areas NMLS tracks statewide. Even though residences are selling for more than they did a year ago, rising interest rates will put downward pressure on prices, said James Young, director for the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington.

During the last year, “the typical mortgage repayment has increase by about 10 percent for those looking to buy. That limits spending power and stops buyers from bidding up for the house they want rather than the house they can afford,” Young said.

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