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Changing market: Housing demand dips compared to 2020

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | November 19, 2021 11:00 PM

KIRKLAND — Housing sales across Washington have slowed in the last two months, in part because of concern over the state of the economy and confusion over the future of work at home rules, according to data released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service (NMLS).

“There’s a lot of indecisive messages about work at home,” said John Deely, executive vice president of operations at Coldwell Banker Bain of Bellevue. “It’s difficult right now for employees to figure out what the work from home rules are.”

According to an NMLS press release, October pending home sales in Washington fell 3.8% to 10,620 and fell more than 6% when compared with the same month in 2020. Closings were also down in October by 3% when compared with September and 7.6% when compared with October 2020.

Deely said confusion over vaccine mandates — how they will work, and will employees be allowed to continue to work from home, go into the office, or some combination of the two — and a short-term spike in interest rates were responsible for the drop in home sales.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order earlier this year mandating companies with 100 or more workers to require all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022, under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules. However, OSHA on Wednesday suspended implementation and enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers after a federal court blocked the measure.

“While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) pending future developments in the litigation,” stated OSHA’s website, www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2.

The president also ordered all federal employees, contractors, and health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to be vaccinated by the same date, as well.

While the president’s executive orders allow for weekly testing in lieu of a vaccination, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order for state employees and Washington health care workers, which did not allow for testing, and said earlier this year any federal mandate enforced in Washington would not include a testing option.

“The confusion is causing buyers to not really know what their next steps will be,” Deely said.

Deely noted, however, tech workers continue to leave urban areas for remote areas like eastern Washington and central Oregon.

“Data companies are moving there, and we still see a lot of tech employers hiring people in Washington, Oregon and Idaho,” he said.

Kevin Burgess, a real estate agent with Windermere in Moses Lake and president of the Moses Lake-Othello Association of Realtors, said he’s seen some decline in home sales, but it appears to be more of a typical seasonal drop associated with fall, cold weather and the start of school making buying a new home and moving more difficult.

However, he also said people are concerned about the economy, given the steep rise in prices in the last several months, and some may be holding off buying a new home in response.

“A lot of people are worried about the economy, worried about inflation, and worried about where we are headed,” Burgess said.

According to NMLS data gathered in early October, there were 152 homes listed for sale in Grant County, with 118 pending sales and 123 closings. The median price of a home in Grant County for the same period was $325,500.

In Adams County, 28 homes were listed for sale in early October, with 13 pending sales, nine closings and a median home price of $290,000, according to the NMLS data.