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Originally published August 5, 2010 at 1:44 PM | Page modified August 6, 2010 at 6:31 AM

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King County home sales melt in July, but median price rises

Buyers closed on 1,474 houses in King County last month, down 15 percent from a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. But the median price of the houses was $399,950, up 4 percent from last July.

Seattle Times business reporter

Fewer sales. Higher prices.

That's the abridged version of how the real-estate market fared in King County in July.

With expired federal tax credits no longer an incentive, home sales dropped. Buyers closed on 1,474 houses in the county last month, according to statistics released Thursday by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

It was the smallest total since February, and a 15 percent drop from July 2009. The decline broke a 13-month string of year-over-year increases.

But the median price of the houses that sold last month was $399,950, highest since December 2008. The median price was up more than 4 percent from last July, and was just the second monthly year-over-year increase since January 2008.

Real-estate professionals attributed the increase to a shift in the makeup of properties that sold. With fewer first-time buyers in the market because of the expiration of the tax credits, higher priced properties made up a larger share of sales in July, they said.

In Seattle, for instance, 40 percent of the houses that closed in July sold for $500,000 or more, compared with just 26 percent in the same month last year, Windermere Real Estate spokeswoman Sonja Riveland said in an e-mail.

"We're seeing increased sales in the higher-end market," Pat Grimm, managing broker in Windermere's Capitol Hill office, said in a prepared statement. That's partly because sellers have dropped asking prices, he added.

Pending King County single-family home sales — mutually accepted offers that haven't yet closed — slipped more than 22 percent from July 2009, continuing a trend that began in May.

Closed condo sales fell 29 percent year-over-year. The median price held steady at $250,000.

In Snohomish County, closed house sales dropped 11 percent from the same month last year. The median price, $285,000, was down 5 percent.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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