Summer is almost here and it seems like the perfect time to explore the housing markets of island communities around the Puget Sound! Whether you are looking for a vacation home or a permanent abode, let's see what island living is looking like.
Bainbridge Island in Kitsap County includes Port Madison, Rolling Bay, and dozens of other small communities, as well as the historic town of Winslow. The island’s Bainbridge High School and Eagle Harbor High School are both ranked among the top public high schools in the state by U.S.News & World Report. The population has held relatively steady at just over 23,000 since 2010.
Despite its proximity to Seattle by ferry, Bainbridge Island’s 27.6 square miles available as living space render a population density of only 847 persons per square mile (psm). This is 59 percent less concentrated than Tiburon in California’s San Francisco Bay Area (2,065 psm), and even 39 percent less dense than Anacortes in Skagit County (1,388 psm). Accordingly, 80.8 percent of Bainbridge Island’s housing stock remains single-family.
The island has been a seller’s market since October 2014, and monthly supply spent most of 2015 below two months. The months in inventory averaged 2.1 in 2015, 2.8 in 2014, and 3.5 in 2013.
As in many other exurban locations, prices tend to be more volatile on Bainbridge Island, as seen in these charts. Yet here again, the island benefits as a bedroom community to Seattle: the median price rose by double digits in each of the past two years, and in 2015 was 137.9 percent higher than the Kitsap County median. In 2014, seller price concessions were more common on Bainbridge Island than later in the past year, underscoring the need for a comparative market analysis and professional guidance when pricing a property for sale.
Camano Island is the second of the two main islands in Island County. The local chamber of commerce has positioned the island as a retirement haven or vacation retreat. In 2014, 45.8 percent of residents were drawing social security funds and 29 percent were pensioners. The Census Bureau also reports, however, that of the 15,201 residents of Camano Island, more than 4,500 were commuting to work in the Seattle MSA, which includes Snohomish County as well as King and Pierce counties; and more than 2,000 are either commuting north to Mount Vernon, south to Everett, or further south to Seattle.
Camano Island residents find their peaceful getaways at Utsalady Bay in the north, Madrona Beach on the western shore, Driftwood Shores along Triangle Cove on the island's eastern coast, and southeasterly by South Camano Drive along the banks of the Saratoga Passage.
There are 8,590 housing units on Camano Island, 6,285 of which are occupied (an occupation rate of 73.2 percent). Despite the faraway ambience, Camano Island is close-in enough to have participated in the market dynamics driving sales nearer to King County. The island flirted at the edge of seller’s market territory for much of 2015. Months in inventory averaged 4.5 months in 2015, 6.2 months in 2014, and 7.4 months in 2013.
Reflecting the more volatile market dynamics of exurban areas, Camano Island followed a less-than-one-percent increase in median sale prices in 2014 with a double-digit increase from 2014 to 2015. Less-frequent selling intervals in this area show their influence in the deviation of prices paid from list, reminding sellers to consult a licensed agent when pricing a property for sale.
Island County’s largest employer is the U.S. Navy, primarily at Naval Air Station Whidbey, north of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. This island is the fourth longest and fourth largest in the contiguous United States; Coupeville at its center is the county seat. Although two elementary schools are located on Camano Island, this second major island in the county is primarily a retirement haven and a vacation retreat. It is profiled later in this report.
There are no incorporated towns on Camano Island, and none but Langley south of Coupeville on Whidbey Island. Therefore, 72.3 percent of the county’s housing units are built on unincorporated land, more than any of the other six counties surveyed. Year over year, Island County’s 2015 population grew by just 0.75 percent; however, 85 percent of that growth was in the unincorporated areas to which Camano Island contributes substantially. From 2010 through 2015, the number of multifamily units in the county increased by 1.2 percent, and SFRs increased by 2.7 percent.
Despite this slow rate of new home construction, the average monthly supply in Island County is also approaching what are normally considered seller’s market levels, having tightened to 3.9
months in 2015 from 5.8 months last year, and 7.3 months just two years ago. The monthly median price of SFRs and condos here peaked at $307,500 in October and the county ended the year with an annual median price of $280,000, 8.11 percent higher than the median for 2014.