The Kitsap County housing market continued to head into the usual seasonal slowdown with fewer homes on the market in October at higher median prices, according to statistics from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.
"We continue to be in a seller's market," said Mike Eliason, Kitsap Association of Realtors CEO.
The number of active listings in Kitsap County dropped by almost 24 percent year over year, down from 826 houses on the market in October 2016 to 629 listed houses last month.
At the same time, Kitsap's median home price increased by 11 percent, up to a price of more than $324,000 from $292,000 in October 2016.
"What this means to Kitsap County buyers is that everything is compressed — with lower inventory and higher prices the pressure continues to build for those buyers who need to find a home," said Frank Wilson, branch managing broker of the John L. Scott Poulsbo office.
Fewer houses were newly listed on the market last month, down from 423 new listings in October 2016 to 403 listings last month.
Eliason did not foresee any major changes in the supply of houses on the market in Kitsap in the near future.
"The winter marketplace is generally a slower time of year," Eliason said. "No one should expect a dramatic increase."
With fewer available homes on the market in Kitsap, the demand for each available house has increased. Northwest Multiple Listing Service estimated it would take about a month-and-a-half to sell all of the active listings on the market in October. At this point last year, it would have taken almost two months to sell all of the active listings on the market.
"Now, if you're a seller, you're in a great position," Eliason said. "For buyers, there's a continuing lack of inventory."
A balanced market that favors neither the buyer or the seller would have a supply of three to six months worth of homes for sale, Eliason said.
Kitsap's rising home costs have "squeezed" some low- and middle-income home buyers out of the county's market and caused challenges in the rental market, Eliason said.
"It used to be, in recent years, that only the North Kitsap market had a median that high," Eliason said. "Then Silverdale had a dramatic increase in prices, then Bremerton and South Kitsap followed, to the point of where the median price across Kitsap is now $324,000."
One factor causing the rising home prices could be buyers from King County relocating to Kitsap because of more affordable prices and availability, and then commuting to work in Seattle, Eliason said.
"People love Kitsap and the Pacific Northwest," he said. "We'll continue to have a greater net in-migration and the supply will continue to be lower."
This migration has displaced some Kitsap residents to other counties as they search for affordable housing. The greatest number of purchases he sees in North Mason and Belfair are coming from relocating Kitsap residents, Eliason said.
"There's this dramatic effect from King to Kitsap, and then Kitsap buyers can't afford to live here anymore so they look elsewhere," he said. "As a public policy issue, it's a matter of concern for us."
The neighboring Mason County housing market continues to heat up, with more closed sales last month at a higher median price than the previous year. Last month, 137 homes sales closed at a cost of $216,000, up from 103 closed sales last year at $185,000.
Just as in Kitsap County, fewer houses were listed on the market in Mason County last month as compared with last year, down from 409 listings in 2016 to 344 active listings in October.