Home sales in western Washington climbed 8.7 percent in January from the same month last year, according to the latest figures from the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

MLS members logged 5,775 closed sales during January, improving on year-ago totals by 462 transactions.

System-wide the median price of last month’s closings of single-family homes and condominiums was $282,995, which represents a 14.1 percent increase from the year-ago figure of $248,000.

The more affordable homes were in Grant County, where the median price was $113,926, and Grays Harbor County, where the median price was $139,950.

At the other end of the price spectrum, home sales that closed during January in San Juan County fetched a median price of $910,000. Three counties reported median selling prices above $300,000: King County ($390,000), Snohomish County ($317,000) and Jefferson County $305,300.

MLS figures show pending sales slipped in seven counties during January compared to a year ago, with most of those areas reporting modest, single-digit declines. Results were mixed in the four-county Puget Sound region with Kitsap and Snohomish counties reporting gains, while King and Pierce counties had fewer pending sales. Seven counties – Cowlitz, Grant, Jefferson, Okanogan, San Juan, Thurston and Whatcom – had double-digit increases in pending sales last month.

Inventory, while improving in some locations, is still a concern in many areas and for some price ranges, according to the NWMLS. The number of active listings in both King and Snohomish counties is down from a year ago, but inventory improved significantly in several other counties, including Pierce (up 19.7 percent) and Kitsap (up almost 28 percent).

“The lack of inventory coupled with bad weather has delayed some of the normal buildup of activity we usually see in January,” said NWMLS director Ken Bacon, the broker at Windermere’s Redmond office. He predicts continued increases in market activity and believes inventory shortages will prompt bidding wars on many listings throughout 2006. MLS figures show inventory in many Eastside communities down 20 percent to 40 percent from a year ago.

Kirkland, Wash.-based Northwest Multiple Listing Service covers most of western Washington and encompasses more than 2,000 companies with approximately 26,000 sales associates.

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