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Seattle-area home market was nation's hottest for 2017 — and cheaper areas from Bellingham to Spokane weren't far behind

Mike Rosenberg, The Seattle Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

The same market fundamentals continue to worsen for buyers here: There are fewer and fewer homes for sale -- the lowest on record since 2000 in King County -- along with a rising number of qualified buyers. That leaves home shoppers to duke it out over the few homes that do hit the market.

There are fewer backup options for buyers of single-family homes here, as condo costs surge to record highs and nearby cheaper towns continue to experience the same tight market with soaring prices.

Looking more broadly, Washington as a whole continues to lead all U.S. states in home-price increases, as it has since the middle of 2016, according to CoreLogic.

The Case-Shiller reports only cover big metropolitan areas. But a separate home- price index released by the government on Tuesday, which covers all metro areas, showed Washington had five of the nine hottest housing markets in the country in the fourth quarter of 2017.

In addition to Seattle, prices were up 14.6 percent over the past year in the Tacoma-Lakewood area, 12.9 percent in Mount Vernon-Anacortes, 12.2 percent in Bellingham and 12 percent in Wenatchee, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Not far behind: Prices are up 10.5 percent in Bremerton-Silverdale, 9.6 percent in Kennewick-Richland, 9.2 percent in Olympia-Tumwater, 8.2 percent in Spokane-Spokane Valley and 8 percent in Yakima.

Those areas remain far cheaper than Seattle, of course. For instance, the typical home costs $378,000 in Bellingham, $266,000 in Wenatchee and $202,000 in Yakima, according to Zillow.

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On top of all that, mortgage-interest rates recently have been ticking up to their highest point in years, adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a long-term home loan for Seattle-area buyers.

And for existing homeowners, King County property taxes are rising at their fastest rate in modern history.

In Seattle, the property tax on a median home hit $5,700 this year, with bills recently being sent to property owners around King County. In 2013, that average bill was $3,600 -- a 56 percent increase in five years.

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