How Much Does Bellingham Real Estate Appreciate?

After the recession of 2008-09, Bellingham real estate prices began to recover as we worked through hundreds of foreclosures, short sales, and bank-owned property sales.

Prices continued to decline through 2012 as that “distressed homes” inventory cycled through, then we saw the first uptick in average prices in 2013.

Since that year,  prices have been on a steady incline as more and more sales were “equity sales” (versus short sales or distressed sales). And yes, we’ve seen a steady decline in inventory over the same time.

The way we track average price appreciation and other metrics is through the NWMLS, or Northwest Multiple Listing Service. This is the database us Realtors pay to be members of, that tracks all listed Active, Pending, and Sold homes and properties.

We can log into the “MLS” and set various criteria points to pull just the data we’re looking for. The “dashboard” for setting the criteria looks generally like this:

Then it produces the report we need to analyze the output. We can look at specific time frames, towns, neighborhoods, individual streets, particular sizes of homes, just those with 2, 3, or 4 bedrooms, or 1-car garages, or only sales that closed with all cash… the criteria aren’t infinite, but they are vast, for sure!

To determine average sale prices for various years, I might set the criteria to show me…

  • All  closed sales in Area 860 (Bellingham)
  • Of all single family detached residences
  • Between January 1st and December 31st in any given year.

Then I’ll get a report that shows me…

  • The total number of sales for that year
  • The average beds, bath, and square footage of all those homes
  • The average beginning list price
  • The price when the listing went Pending (under contract with a buyer)
  • The final sale price
  • The average days on market
  • I also get a chart showing the total number of sales in each 30-day increment of “days on market”, and
  • Sale price to list price percentages

For example,  the 2010 sales report for Bellingham looks like this:

An important data point from one year to the next as is whether the home’s physical characteristics, the beds, baths, and square footage, remain basically the same year over year.

If I know I’m measuring the same basic home each year, then I consider that a good data set.

Homes have gotten slightly bigger over time, as builders are forced to build bigger homes to make any money.

But the “average” Bellingham home is and has been a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2000-ish square footer.

From this report, I take the average and mean final sales prices (highlighted on the report above) and put those into a new chart where I do the same for each success year, through 2019.

*NOTE: “Average” is the total dollar value of all sales divided by the number of sales. “Mean” is the price at which 50% of sales occurred below that number, and 50% occurred above it.

Then, with those figures listed out, I can factor for total appreciation from one year to the next, and calculate the percentage of appreciation.

That final chart looks like this:

As the chart shows, Bellingham real estate prices continued to decline through 2012, but then began gaining upward momentum.

The peak appreciation year was 2018, when both average and mean prices jumped by 12 and 12.9% respectively. That year, the average Bellingham home increased in value $1,071 every week.

The average appreciation over the past 10 years has been 5.15%.

Incidentally, if we jump all the way back to 2003 — the year the NWMLS began tracking this data in a meaningful enough volume to establish these averages — the average annual appreciation over that 17-year time span has also been 5.15% in Bellingham proper.

As  of this writing, on January 29, 2020, the last 30 days of sales (statistically the slowest time of year) average price has been $561,181 and mean has been $465,000.

Every house is unique and will sell for its own unique value, but this data gives us a good look at the market as a whole — and is just plain fascinating to observe.