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Tuesday, March 7, 2006 - Page updated at 09:00 AM

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Home sales slow a bit, but sellers still see lots of buyers

Seattle Times business reporter

The housing market around Puget Sound has slowed from its blistering pace of a year ago, meaning some sellers don't get multiple offers and some have to lower their prices.

But prices remain buoyant, with the median sales price for a single-family home in King County last month climbing to $392,950, up 14.7 percent from February 2005, according to numbers released Monday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. The Kirkland-based group tracks home sales in several Washington counties.

Sellers can no longer count on numerous offers for properties with high price tags, but buyers are not calling the shots either.

"It's more balanced than it was last year, but it's not a buyer's market by any stretch of the imagination," said Mike Grady, president of Coldwell Banker Bain, which has 19 offices around Central Puget Sound.

The market is taking longer to ramp up this year, Grady said. People are slower to put homes on the market, partly because of bad weather and distractions from the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

Still, Grady's Bellevue office had 13 offers on a $395,000 home last week, and it recently had eight offers on a $749,000 home, office broker Paula Fortier said. Most homes below $1 million in western Bellevue will receive multiple offers, she said.

On the Eastside, the median price for a home — single-family homes and condos combined — rose 21.9 percent from a year ago to $464,500 . (Median means half the properties sell for more, half for less.)

Closed sales fell 12.1 percent on the Eastside, and pending sales were down 18.6 percent from last February.

Pending sales, those in which offers have been made and accepted, reflect market activity for the previous month. Closed sales tend to reflect the activity of a couple months earlier because it can more than a month for a sale to close.

In Seattle, sales of single-family homes and condos combined rose 8.7 percent, while the median price climbed 13.8 percent to $380,000.

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In South King County, homes below $325,000 tend to get several offers, said Kim Emmons, a John L. Scott Real Estate broker in Maple Valley.

"Last year, at least half of the homes had multiple offers," Emmons said. "Now it's more like 10 percent."

Sam Pace of the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors said in a news release that South King County still has some of the best buys, but "a quarter of a million dollars for a home is now the rule, not the exception."

In Southwest King County, combined median prices were up 14 percent to $268,200. In the southeastern part of the county, they rose 13 percent to $294,000.

Closed sales rose in both areas of South King County last month, but pending sales fell 20.4 percent in the southwest and 9 percent in the southeast.

Brian Nasset, an agent with Executive Real Estate in Bellevue who works mostly with buyers, says he is relieved to see the market slow down a bit.

It's much better than last summer, Nasset said.

"I got as aggressive as I could be, and we would continuously lose properties," he said.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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