The Whatcom County Real Estate Market in Three Interesting Graphs

To be in real estate professionally, is — among many other things — to commit to habitual tracking, studying, and interpreting data.

Numbers are truth. They tell the story of the past, and they dictate, or strongly suggest, the strategies and probable outcomes of the present.

In my 15-year career as a Realtor, especially now with 8 other team members who I help stay on top of it, I have become more and more fascinated with data every day.

(*Each week I track, log, and report to the BNP team members on 9 key metrics, as well as hammering them with more random, almost-daily tidbits).

Let me tell you: Bellingham and Whatcom County, even pre-2020 but especially now, are wildly fascinating markets for data nerds like me.

To help get you quickly calibrated to the real estate landscape in Whatcom County, here are three telling graphs that go a long way in illustrating what our market has experienced over the past 5 years.

G R A P H # 1

Let’s begin with the graph of inventory. That is, the number of Active single family residential listings in Whatcom County over the past 5 years. Here it is:

If you were a buyer in January, 2015 there were 1276 homes to choose from. In late October, 2020, (not quite shown on the graph, since it stops in September) there are 321 listings. That’s a 74.8% drop.

If you’ve heard the term “scarcity” used to describe availability and affordability, or the economics term “supply and demand”… above is your supply graph.

G R A P H # 2

Now let’s look at a graph that represents demand, shown by median number of days on market. This means half of all sale happen in fewer days than the median number, and half happen in more days:

In January, 2015 houses stayed on the market for 44 days. Jump to 2020, and County-wide, median time on market has been 8 days (again, that will show up on the graph as it updates next month). That’s a drop of 81.8%.

*Note that in the graph, we hit very-near-bottom and then basically leveled out a couple years ago. It has inched down marginally, but we won’t see it go below 5 or 6 days. That is primarily because nowadays, Realtors and sellers typically strategize to leave a new listing on the market for 5-ish days to give the market time to see it. This is by no means an across-the-board situation, but it is the median situation.

G R A P H # 3

And finally, if supply decreases, and demand increases, what is the effect on prices? You guessed it. Here’s graph #3 showing median sale price:

If you bought the median house for $266,750 in January, 2015, that house is now worth $429,900. That is appreciation of 61.2%.

I share this data acknowledging that this is likely wonderful news if you’re an owner or seller. Real estate as the largest asset class and holder-of-wealth in the world is alive and well here in Whatcom County.

I also fully acknowledge that this is difficult for buyers, and likely for parents who think of their kids buying here one day. We will go deeper on that in posts to come, including answering the questions:

  • Q: How do you best optimize for a sale in this market?
  • Q: How do you actually get a house as a buyer in this market?
  • Q: What is the long-term outlook for Bellingham’s housing situation?
  • Q: How is Bellingham unique as a real estate market?