Kitsap housing market improving, but some remain cautious

The Kitsap County real estate market may be showing signs of life, but optimism varies among local brokers.

After screeching to a halt during the start of the recession, pending home sales numbered 218 this past month, a 36 percent spike from November 2008, according to figures released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Bottom Line Real Estate owner Jim Oliveto, who runs a one-man operation in Silverdale, attributed the upturn to the desires of customers, who expect far better deals now that home prices have fallen.

“Most of my buyers have fangs,” he said. “Three years ago, they had no teeth, and two years ago, they sharpened them up.”

Despite the increase in demand, Kitsap home prices continued to slide. At this time in 2008, the median home price was $252,500, a figure that has decreased by 4.5 percent during the past year to $239,995.

The trend is similar to most counties in the Puget Sound area, whose experience in the housing crisis has been marginal compared to such sprawling metropoleis as Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Marie Flanders, the managing broker at Windermere Real Estate in Silverdale, credits the recently renewed $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers, which began under the Obama Administration, with most of the pending sales.

“There’s a lot of concern about how that money is going to be paid back, but it’s something that they needed to do,” Flanders said. “The real-estate market has a lot of trickle-down effects to other industries and businesses.”

Though Oliveto agreed the tax credit has been helpful in the short term, he thinks the potential long-term consequences are too great to warrant the program’s continuation.

“As real estate broker, I like it. As a citizen, I hate it and think it should stop tomorrow because our kids are going to pay for it. I’m schizophrenic on it,” he said. “I don’t think it is going to get any better until Obama is out of office. We are going back to the Carter days.”

Mike Eliason, association executive of Kitsap County Association of Realtors, said he expects prices to slowly rise in 2010 as consumer confidence improves, adding that this relative price stability would be welcomed.

“We were very concerned for a number of years with the annual double digit increases in housing prices,” he said.

Bremerton provides the most affordable housing in the county because household incomes are lower than in surrounding neighborhoods, and because large demand has pushed up prices in Silverdale for much of the past decade, Flanders said.

Eliason said the housing market will only improve with the help of an increased job market, which he said is relatively stable in Kitsap because of the number of military-related jobs.

“We are fortunate compared to much of the country,” Flanders said. “There’s a lot of good realtors in the area. Being a small community is a good thing.”

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