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Strong Seattle housing market sparks ripple effect in Thurston County

With Seattle home prices on the way up, buyers and renters are looking for housing 60 miles south in Olympia and other cities in Thurston County.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Seattle was one of the top three U.S. cities that saw home prices rise in August, according to one price index.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, showed that home prices nationwide were up 5.2% in August from a year earlier. In Seattle, prices were up 8.5%

The ripple effect is being felt in Thurston County, 60 miles south of Seattle.

Realtor Phil Harlan says about half of his homes are now selling to agents representing buyers from King and Pierce counties.

“People are fleeing where they can’t afford,” Harlan said.

While homes in Thurston County sell for about half the price of comparable home in King County, Harlan said it’s getting too expensive for first-time buyers in Thurston County. 

“They’re trying to save money and outpace the price increases,” Harlan said.

U.S. home prices posted a robust gain in August — another sign that the American housing market is strong despite economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The gain was stronger than economists had expected. Phoenix (up 9.9% from August 2019), Seattle (up 8.5%) and San Diego (7.6%) posted the biggest gains. All 19 cities in the index saw price increases.

The housing price surge in Seattle is also affecting renters.

For the first time in his 30-year career as an apartment developer, Ken Brogan said Seattle renters are showing an interest in one of his Olympia properties.

Some of the first tenants at Brogan’s “Views on Fifth” apartments moved to Olympia, Brogan said.

The renovated nine-story apartment building in downtown Olympia has some of the county’s most expensive places for rent.

The top-floor two-bedroom apartment rents for $4,350.

Brogan said the same kind of apartment in Seattle would cost more than $7,000 to $8,000 a month.

As a result, Brogan said the units are being marketed towards Seattle buyers, something he would not have imagined doing years ago. 

“No, never,” Brogan said. “We were always an unknown, an unseen bedroom community.”

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