Archive for February, 2011

Feb 25 2011

Gig Harbor homes parallel national distressed market


Gig Harbor homes parallel national distressed market

Distressed sales for Gig Harbor homes totaled 23% of everything sold in January. And for Key Peninsula it hit 70% of all sales. This was a total of 15 properties–all but two were bank-owned.

Figures from the National Association of Realtors® show distressed homes rose nationally to 36% of sales of existing homes in December, up from 33% in November and 32% a year ago. Such homes are typically discounted by 10 to 15 percent, according to NAR research.

Local figures show an increase from 2009 in distressed properties for Gig Harbor homes as well. Gig Harbor is up 6% in the 4th quarter of 2010 compared to a year before…that is 31% of all homes that closed in the three month period. Key Peninsula was up 17% during that same time to a high of 56% of all closings.

Recently reports indicated the Greater Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area’s foreclosure rate jump 23 percent from a year ago, second only to Houston. Regional experts believe that as our economy and unemployment improves, our market will recover more quickly than Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada, because they have been in a deep trough longer. Snohomish and Pierce counties are currently experiencing the highest rates. And Seattle Metro prices dropped 6% from a year ago in December, which backs up the discounting of house prices due to distressed home sales. I would anticipate the Boeing award for the Air Force fueling tankers will help pull up the local economy up more quickly.

Most foreclosures now are being caused by unemployment and economic displacement, rather than bad loans and overheated values. But many of the 5 year ARM loans taken out in the heat of the 2006 housing bubble are coming due this year. Another record year for foreclosures is forecast which no doubt will drag house values down even further, pushing other homeowners into negative equity territory. It could be another five years to completely purge the housing inventory. Assets are being kept in weak hands longer as this becomes a long tedious market correction.

Distressed properties currently make up 29% of all listings in Key Peninsula and 19% of all listings for Gig Harbor homes. Two-thirds of Key Peninsula distressed homes are already owned by the bank where just 44% of the distressed inventory for Gig Harbor homes has been taken back thus far. However there is a large “shadow inventory” of bank-owned properties not yet on the market. Lenders are obligated to not flood the market.

Largest inventories are currently found in North Key Peninsula at 39%, Fox Island with 34% and Wauna/Minter at 32%.

 MLS area map by area


MLS Area

Listings Distressed %

Gig Harbor (close in)






So Key Peninsula


Fox Island




Arletta/Horsehead Bay


Gig Harbor No


No Key Peninsula



The largest impact by price range is under $300,000 where 72% of January’s closing was distressed, and where 38% of all homes on the market fit this price range. This makes it very difficult for sellers, not in a distressed situation, in these price ranges to compete for buyers. Realty Trac, nationally foreclosure reporting service just this week noted that foreclosed properties are sometimes selling for a 28% discount over non-banked owned.

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Feb 15 2011

Gig Harbor waterfront sales end strong in 2010

Gig Harbor waterfront experienced some strong signals at the end of the year.

 Gig Harbor waterfront sales volume facts:

  • Closings 25% better in 2010 than 2009
  • December closings 66% better year-over-year
  • 4th qtr 71% better than 4th qtr 2009
  • 15% more homes closed in 2nd half of 2010 than 1st half—normally close to 50/50
  • Only 21% of sales Key Peninsula homes—normally 33-35%
  • January started strong with 7 sales “under contract”–on a par with 2002 (only 2003 & 2004 higher)

Gig Harbor waterfront median sales price facts:

  • Up 8% in Gig Harbor (median sales price)–$782,000
  • Down 2% in Key Peninsula–$455,000
  • 18 Gig Harbor waterfront homes closed over $1m in 2010—double 2009
  • Homes selling over $1m bunched in the $1.2m range
  • Gig Harbor waterfront prices back to 2004-05 prices
  • January sales show 3 over $1m “under contract”

Waterfront sales thru 2010









I believe the strong 4th quarter closings were due, in part, to savvy buyers picking up some incredible Gig Harbor waterfront buys–recognizing the bottom was nearing while interest rates were increasing.

Key Peninsula is not providing its traditional 33% of sales—one big change in the market.  Likely this is due to the Gig Harbor waterfront inventory pegged at prices not seen since 2004-05, allowing buyers to not drive the extra miles for “value”.

A second change for Gig Harbor waterfront is bank-owned homes have become a part of even the local waterfront scene. 17% of all sales last year were bank-owned or short-sales, including three homes priced over $1m as well as five built since 2004.

Gig Harbor waterfront homes took an excess of a year to sell–doubling 2009 figures and reflective of how slow the market has been. Homes originally listed at more than $1.5 took on average nearly 600 days before receiving a contract. Key Peninsula waterfront took a bit less time—315 days.

2010 was a reality check for sellers.  Prices are down 25% from the 2007 peak and 17% from 2008, which was still a good year for sellers. Gig Harbor waterfront homes sold in 2010 for 79% of the original listed price. This figure would actually have been lower, if prior listings were factored in.  Key Peninsula’s selling price to original price was 82%.

2010’s priciest Gig Harbor waterfront sale was a high bank estate in the Horsehead Bay area—for $2,350,000. Three of the other $1m sales came from the same area.

This is “the season” for Gig Harbor waterfront.  Inventory is down but a high percentage of this year’s buyers are already actively looking. March is historically the best month for written contracts, followed by May.


Carole Holmaas is a Broker at Windermere Gig Harbor, licensed since the late 1960’s. She may be reached at 253.549.6611 or

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Feb 07 2011

Gig Harbor home sales up 17% from year ago

Gig Harbor home sales up 17% from year ago. January has not been flooded with buyers for either Gig Harbor or Key Peninsula—but the pace appears to have picked up at the end of the month. 

Gig Harbor posted a 40% gain in sales (31 sales) but Key Peninsula slipped by 15%(10 sales). Gig Harbor home sales were on a par with 2006. But Key Peninsula total is typical of the trend all last year with the area no longer producing its historic one-third of all sales.

Local homeowners and Realtors got part of what they were hoping for–more sales, but higher prices eluded them…for the month of January at least.  Newly generated (pendings)sales were on a slower pace than a year ago. It will take another two to three months to determine a more definite pattern for Gig Harbor home sales.

Median sales prices are reflective of prices last seen in 2004…in other words, nothing encouraging by way of price increases yet.  The median sales price actually dropped substantially from last January.

Half the months in 2010 showed improvement for Gig Harbor home sales over the year before for both sales numbers and median price. While this does not show a major uptick it does show some signs of stabilizing. Most homeowners are obviously hoping prices don’t slip any further.

Inventory is continuing to fall—7% fewer homes were listed in 2010 than 2009. Once we move into the Spring season we should see inventory absorption improve too. Six months supply is considered a balanced market.  Pockets of better sales can be found between $200,000 and 350,000.

So what has happened to prices in your neighborhood this past year? This map will show you the median price for Gig Harbor home sales and market days in your zip code.


Map with call outs
















The zip code 98332 experienced a 2.2% increase in median sales price over the year, while 98333 and 98335 dipped 15.7% and 3.3% respectively.

University of Puget Sound economic professors Bruce Mann and Douglas Goodman this fall forecast the first half of 2011 will be the better part of the year for Pierce County because of the returning troops to JBFLM. That impact will diminish as the year progresses. The professors said historically recessions are caused by weak local conditions but our region’s strong economy was what caused the local delay of the national events. So our downturn started later—the end of 2008—and ended later–the summer of 2010. Their predictions look like 2011 could be another sluggish year.

The professors also said at the December meeting that Pierce County could be affected with overseas devaluation. In fact the Port of Tacoma has gone through three years of sharp declines in traffic. Very little growth is expected for 2011 at the Port.

They also indicated that Gig Harbor home sales could improve faster than the rest of the county.


Carole Holmaas is a Broker at Windermere Real Estate, licensed since 1968. She may be reached at 253.549.6611. Her postings can be followed at

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Feb 01 2011

Seattle area “hands-down” the best place to live and boat!

Seattle area is “hands-down” the best place to live and boat!  And Gig Harbor is a part of this. Seattle was recently declared the “Best Place to Live and Boat” by Boating Magazine. Mike Tyler, the judge of this examined numerous boating communities. He looked at the mix of boating opportunities, regulations, water access, availability of waterfront homes, economics and lifestyle.

He declared the Seattle area to be The Best. He explained that boaters here have the option of miles of protected salt water from the South Sound to the San Juans, as well as fresh water Lake Washington and numerous smaller lakes. Surrounding all this water are two ranges of snowy mountains and the mix of Seattle and the many small towns with water access. Gig Harbor is a prime example of one of those cities boaters love to visit.

The author gave the Seattle area a 5 (1-5 scale) for Ease for Boaters and Strong Boat-related Businesses, a 4 for Waterfront Availability and 3 for Number of Good Boating Days (weather-related).

Others that made the cut in order were Benton County Arkansas, Tampa Bay, Knoxville Tennessee, Fort Lauderdale, Otter Tail County Minnesota, Finger Lakes New York, Austin, Oconee County So Carolina, and San Diego.

This is not news to any of us who live in Gig Harbor, is it?

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