This just in: Home ownership isn't what is used to be. And though this fact has been much talked about over the last few years,


Seattle Metropolitan Home Prices Continue to Fall, While Apartment Vacancies Decrease

This just in: Home ownership isn't what is used to be. And though this fact has been much talked about over the last few years, another friendly reminder was sent our way this morning via the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index. According to the index, released this morning, home prices in the Seattle metropolitan area fell in January for the sixth straight month.

For those playing at home (likely from a house that's worth far less than it used to be), the Seattle metropolitan area includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Nostalgia buffs would have to travel all the way back to April 2004 to find a time when home prices were lower. The Seattle Times reports home prices are down nearly one-third from the July 2007 peak.

The only good news in all of this, as pointed out by The Times, is it could be worse:

The only silver lining for homeowners: the monthly rate of decline, 0.7 percent, was smaller than December's 1.3 percent. Eleven of the 19 other cities that Case-Shiller tracks had steeper month-over-month price drops.


Home prices in the region were down 4 percent from January 2011, compared with 3.8 percent for the composite 20-city index. Seven metropolitan areas, including all the others on the West Coast, experienced more precipitous year-over-year declines.

While continually dropping home prices inspire headaches for homeowners trying to get out from underneath a property, the trend could be seen as positive by potential suckers homebuyers looking for a deal. Gary Painter, an economist at the University of Southern California's Lusk Center for Real Estate, tells The Times that dropping home prices can be attributed to a glut of short sales and the sale of bank-owned homes. "Falling prices are not so much a reflection of market health, but rather the result of banks disposing of distressed assets by offering low prices to cash buyers," says Painter.

He continues with the positive take:

"As these distressed properties are taken off the market, that trend will end. When employment and rents increase at the local level, more buyers will see the value of entering the single-family market. If the economy continues moving in this direction, it is likely we have seen the bottom and are moving toward recovery."

For some, all of this doom and gloom in the housing market no doubt makes renting an apartment a more appealing option. And the numbers would seem to support that - with the Puget Sound Business Journal, citing a recently-released survey by research firm Dupre + Scott, reporting that the vacancy rate among Puget Sound apartment rentals decreased to 4.7 percent in March, down from 5.3 percent last September. These stats don't include vacancies in new properties in "lease-up" and properties going through major renovation.

As the Business Journal reports:

The survey, conducted by research firm Dupre + Scott, found that, although vacancies dropped in all types of units, three-bedroom units saw the most improvement, with a decrease from 6.3 percent vacancies last fall to 5.4 percent this month.

The survey also found that the Puget Sound region observed one of the lowest production years in the past four decades, as developers opened fewer than 1,800 units last year. However, research on new constructions shows that developers will open more than 5,000 units in 2012, and as many as 8,000 units annually for the next two years.

While it seems more apartments to choose from are in our future, the Dupre + Scott survey also suggests apartment managers plan to raise rents by 2.6 percent over the next six months.

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