Real estate prices are up on Whidbey Island. For some folks, that short sentence will suffice to describe real estate and affordability trends on the island. This post and its linked content is for people who want more details, particularly ones dealing with the data. The longer answer is that prices are up a lot (typically more than 20% in a year), but not everywhere in every way. Here are some of the data that show why prices are in the news, why there can be so many offers in such a short time, how that’s affecting affordability, and why this change could be to a new level and not just a blip before we return to something called ‘normal’.
Prior to the pandemic Whidbey’s real estate market was recovering from the Great Recession. The recovery was dramatic enough that I heard guesses that it was a bubble about to pop, that prices had found a new and sustainable level, and that prices would continue to rise. They couldn’t all be true. We’ve seen that prices could continue to rise, even after a rise.
Then, the pandemic hit. We learned new terms, social distancing, rural distancing, work from home, learn from home, etc. Staycations became more popular as borders closed and cruise ships were berthed. Rural real estate markets, like Whidbey, became attractive as enough people decided to move from dense cities to more open land.
Despite the increasing unaffordability of Whidbey Island, Whidbey continues to be more affordable than other major Puget Sound islands, and even more affordable than most large urban centers.
At the same time that there’s increased interest about the island, inventories of houses for sale have shrunk dramatically in the last decade. The nature of an island is that it can be difficult to increase population density. There are inherent limits to growth like water, sanitation, and transportation.
Increased demand and decreased supply leads to increased prices, so the economists say.
For more of the story I updated the presentation (again) and make it available here in a few ways:
my condensed narrative about the slides from the presentation
- The rise in prices continues
- Just when people thought prices might flatten or drop, they popped – probably because of the pandemic
- Every area has basically doubled in the last ten years (houses, land, farms, condos, et al.)
- North Whidbey $418,500 | +19.6
- Central Whidbey $443,000 | +26.6%
- South Whidbey $520,000 | +25.3%
- The increases are from houses, mostly
- Just looking at houses,
- North Whidbey $440,000 | +18.9%
- Central Whidbey $550,000 | +38.1%
- South Whidbey $625,000 | +22.8%
- A temporary spike drove South Whidbey’s median price to over $800K
- Inventory is starting to flatten, partly because it can’t go negative
- Days on Market has also flattened to a few days
- Houses tend to sell for over list, but the median doesn’t show the extremes
- Land is messy in terms of trends and market activity
- Land inventory is also down, though not as dramatically as housing inventory
- Whidbey may be less affordable than before, but it is also less expensive than others
- Whidbey’s inventory may be small, but it is more than the next three large islands combined
- Tacoma is one of the few major areas with a lower median price
- Seattle’s size still dominates all other markets
- The draw of rural spaces and distancing continues
the presentation slides (33 slides – pdf) – Whidbey Real Estate And Affordability Trends – October, 2021
a video of the presentation (~50 minutes – YouTube) – Whidbey Real Estate During the Pandemic – Oct 2021
I hope this help. You are welcome to contact me for details or requests for customized versions.
Disclosure: Tom Trimbath is a real estate broker with Dalton Realty, Inc. on Whidbey Island. (http://whidbeyrealtor.com/)