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June 20, 2008

In the Midst of Difficulty Lies Opportunity

Albert Einstein was once said “in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” It does not take a theoretical physicist to decipher the recent Seattle housing market sales data to see that opportunity still exists in an otherwise bleak market outlook.

The median house price in the city of Seattle last month was $475,000, up significantly from the previous month’s $440,000, but still reflected a 2.7 percent decline from the previous May 2007. While the overall data for single family residences does reflect recent improvement it is still struggling out of its slump.

Proof that opportunity does exist in a time of difficulty, lies in the statistics of new condos in Seattle. King County condo sales were up considerably in May at 648 compared with 579 in April. More importantly, Seattle’s median condo price, $320,000, was an increase from the previous month’s $312,500. It also reflected a 4.1 percent increase over May 2007.

Moral of the story: Summaries of real estate data as a whole can be misleading. Individual markets each have distinct personalities, characteristics, and may perform very differently from each other in a distressed market. While one sector struggles, another may thrive and the overall analysis does not reflect these polar opposite performances. Or as Einstein may have put it “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.”

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