By Oliver Lazenby
The number of homes sold in Blaine and Birch Bay increased 25.7 percent in the last year, a bigger increase in sales than any other area in Whatcom County, according to a new real estate report.
The report by Lylene Johnson, a real estate listing specialist who has been analyzing Whatcom County real estate data for more than 10 years, found 127 homes sold in Blaine and Birch Bay in the second quarter of 2016, up from 101 in the same period in 2015.
That increase in sales has had an impact on the amount of homes available; in June 2016, 184 houses and condos were on the market in Blaine and Birch Bay, which was down 14.4 percent from June 2015, according to data from the Northwest Multiple Listings Service.
That trend – an increase in real estate sales, with concurrent declines in the amount of houses on the market – has worked its way outward from Bellingham in the past few years.
Tight inventory and high prices may have pushed some potential Bellingham buyers into Ferndale, where inventory has dropped 33 percent in the last year, according to Johnson’s report, which is a bigger drop than in any other market area in the county.
As buyers look farther and farther out from Bellingham, they seem to have found Blaine and Birch Bay, said local real estate agent Hugh Brawford.
Brawford said he expected the market to decline when the Canadian dollar dropped in value relative to the U.S. dollar in late 2014. The Canadian dollar has remained low, but the real estate prices remained steady and have recently picked up.
“The market is probably just as strong or stronger than when the Canadian dollar fell off and the buyers who are coming in are non-Canadians,” Brawford said. “It’s out-of-area people, local people retiring and downsizing, people who realize what neat places Blaine and Birch Bay are.”
In Brawford’s experience, “the simple three-bedroom, two-bath home is always the hottest property out there.” Condos, which were popular with Canadians as vacation homes, aren’t selling as fast as they were when the Canadian dollar was stronger, he said.
Sale prices in Blaine and Birch Bay have increased in the past year as the number of available houses has dropped, but not as much as in some other areas in Whatcom County, according to Johnson’s report. The median home price rose 9.1 percent to $265,000 in Blaine and Birch Bay. In Bellingham, the median home price jumped 15.6 percent to $374,000 for the second quarter of 2016, a new high in a multi-year trend.