This Autumn is the best season for Seattle Home Buyers since 2001. There are several reasons for this.
The Mortgage Meltdown caused many loan programs to disappear, and lending standards became tighter (good things in the long run) so that some buyers who were planning on buying a Seattle home this fall are now finding themselves having to put it off until later (spring?). These buyers may have to look for different loan programs because theirs became unavailable, or may find themselves having to improve their credit scores since the standards have tightened, or may have to save for a higher down payment or for closing costs.
Some buyers may have been influenced by the national media and its' reporting of home prices declining in many areas of the US, and are waiting (hoping) that home prices will decline here in Seattle. Fall usually has a higher ratio of inventory (homes for sale on the market) to buyers when compared to spring, resulting in slightly lower prices and this year we have about 1/3 higher inventory than usual which is causing some extra downward pressure on home prices. These buyers may be deciding to wait until spring to see if the prices on Seattle real estate will continue to go down as it becomes a balenced market.
Now we have two groups of buyers waiting until spring to buy. This means that home buyers who are looking to buy now have less competition than in the past, and have an increase of inventory to chose from. Next spring this will change. Spring typically has a higher ratio of buyers to inventory which causes upward pressure on prices for Seattle homes. This coming spring may have the additional buyers (as outlined above) who have decided to wait until spring to buy a home, added together with the typical number of buyers in the spring causing additional upward pressure on home prices.
Even with the tightened mortgage standards, I believe this spring will have a lot of buyers looking to buy homes because of our strong Seattle economy, and continued growth with more people moving to Washington and the Seattle area. While I believe that while we won't have the kind of sellers market the past few springs have seen, it will still favor sellers (in the close in Urban areas) and the buyers who decided to wait out the buyers market this Autumn will have lost their advantage.
So here's a tip for some Seattle Home Buyers: this Autumn could be a very favorable time to "Harvest" the opportunity to buy a Seattle Home!
UPDATE: Dec. 7 2007 Seattle Times article "Home Prices Slip..." on recent trends in Seattle area home prices.