You could still get into the Pierce County housing market without a down payment

Housing prices in Western Washington are already sky-high, but the question is: how much higher can it go?

The median home price in Pierce County is now around half a million dollars, so it's no wonder that many renters hoping to become homeowners feel too intimidated to even start the process of looking. 

Real estate experts say low inventory is fueling prices to skyrocket. 

Windermere Managing Broker Michael McNeil said in the first quarter of 2006, there were about 4,100 homes for sale in Pierce County. This year, he said there were around 400 homes.

Lani Aviso has been renting in the desirable Proctor District of Tacoma for the past nine years and said she has seen prices go from very low to high. 

She said she sometimes regrets not buying a home years ago.

"It’s a little intimidating and scary at the same time," Aviso said.

Buyers are offering tens of thousands more, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands higher than the list price.

"It’s the cycle of the have’s and have nots," Stacy Kitchen said.

Kitchen is a school teacher in Pierce County who didn’t know much about the home buying process but she did know the odds were against her.

"I’ve never purchased a house before he," Kitchen said.

 She also had no down payment.

But homeownership is still possible even without a down payment.

Kitchen said the loan officer explained the options and she learned about the state’s Home Advantage program that lends down payments to qualified first-time home buyers.

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"I’ve helped a number of people over the years that use the program," McNeil said.

McNeil and Kitchen went home shopping for weeks and weeks and kept losing bids.

"It was so defeating. Michael just kept calling me, ‘have hope, keep trying,’" Kitchen said.

After learning she lost out on a Puyallup condo, Kitchen was hours away from signing a year-long rental lease. But then an unexpected call from McNeil revealed that the person who initially won the bid on the condo had backed out.

"It doesn’t feel real yet," Kitchen said.

As for the housing market moving forward, McNeil says he doesn't see the prices dropping dramatically anytime soon.

  "As we’ve seen this rapid house escalation, they are getting priced out of the market. If they don’t act quickly, they will be left behind," McNeil said.

McNeil and others in the industry say they don’t expect a housing crash like 2008. Back then, loose mortgage lending practices played a big part in the crash. 

McNeil said the demand now is coming from people who can afford to compete. He also said inventory is low for several reasons including uncertainty to list by sellers during a pandemic to home construction lagging behind population over the last decade. 

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