Paul's Bellingham Blog

My thoughts on Bellingham, the Real Estate market, and more

2016 Year in Review in Bellingham & Whatcom County, Plus 2017 Forecast

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2016 turned out to be one of the best Real Estate years in Bellingham & Whatcom County’s history. Home sales were up 8%, with the most home sales ever in Bellingham.
And with the lack of new construction to meet this demand, home appreciation was the highest it’s been since 2006-2007. Median home prices rose 11% in Bellingham ($344,000 avg sale price) and about the same appreciation level throughout Whatcom County. Looking at the dollar per sq ft average sale price for Whatcom County, below (which is another indicator) it also shows about a 10% appreciation over the last year.

But home appreciation is always local to your neighborhood and price range. The biggest price jumps occurred in the most popular Bellingham neighborhoods, like Columbia, Cornwall Park and Sunnyland, which saw appreciation of about 15% over the last year. But just about every area of the city and the county saw appreciation of at least 7%.

The condo market in Bellingham, which has been slower to rebound, also finally saw a jump in values, with condos also appreciating about 9%.

Now moving forward, what shall we expect? There is some reasons to assume the hot market could cool down a little bit.
-Interest rates have jumped up from an average of about 3.7% for most of last year, to 4.25% average.
-The Canadian dollar continues to be weak, which impacts the Blaine and Birch Bay market a bit (Particularly the condo market near the border).
-And with prices having gone up, affordability becomes more of a concern.
Zillow has tempered predictions of home prices rising–just another 3% in Bellingham this year. That sounds right on paper, but looking at the 2 charts below, and being in the mix every day with buyers and sellers, I can easily see home prices jumping up more than Zillow’s projection.

The months of inventory (which is: How many months it would take to sell through all of the available homes based on current pending sales pace) is really incredible right now. Normally, being at a 3 to 6 month mark is a sign of a healthy and strong Real Estate market. Higher then 6 months, and prices may be declining, lower then 3 months, and home prices are typically going up.

The Bellingham market is absolutely on fire with just a 1.4 month supply of homes available.

Whatcom County also has a lack of inventory with just a 2.4 month supply.

So the numbers say prices are still going up. And I meet with a network group of top agents every week, and our first meeting of the year, every agent is working with multiple buyers looking for a home right now.. The point being that there is a HUGE back log of buyers still looking to buy this year in Bellingham & throughout the county. So with the lack of inventory and high demand, prices should continue to rise in our area at least through the spring. Very tough to be a buyer right now, but really an ideal time to sell.

Gateway Pacific Terminal could be major boost to Whatcom County

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The Bellingham Herald recently announced the Gateway Pacific Terminals plans to start the permitting process this month. Gateway Pacific Terminal would be a full-service dry bulk commodity export-import facility on 1,092 acres in Whatcom County, located between Cherry Point Refinery and Alcoa-Intalco Works. This is an area designated by the county for heavy industry.

The Herald article indicated the process has some major hurdles to overcome and it’s expected to take about 2 years. But it’s being endorsed by all of the major political figures in Whatcom County, including the Bellingham mayor, as well as our rep, Rick Larsen.

The terminal would be a full-service export-import facility for dry bulk commodities, such as grain, potash, and coal. The terminal is designed to handle a variety of commodities.  But the big one sounds like it will be coal.

This terminal would offer literally thousands of jobs to Whatcom County during construction, and they are estimating about 500 high paying permanent jobs for Whatcom County once the project is complete. That is incredible!

This would without question be a HUGE lift to the local economy and Real Estate market. Home values in Ferndale and Blaine,closest to the facility would benefit the most, along with Bellingham.

I would estimate that if the project gets approved, it will stimulate the market before construction even begins, simply in anticipation for the demand that will be created for local housing. Since new home construction has almost completely stopped in the last 3 years, existing supply and demand would increase dramatically.

You can find out more information here. http://www.gatewaypacificterminal.com