Nearly half of all homes bought in Tacoma last year sold above the asking price, according to real estate data firm Zillow.

That’s a stark escalation from 2012, when fewer than one in five sold for above the asking price — about what the national figure was. Since then, the nationwide number has grown to nearly one in four.

For Tacoma, home buyers in 2017 paid a median amount nearly $11,000 above the listed sale price.

In Pierce County, more than 42 percent of homes sold for above the list price. The median amount was $9,700 more. That’s close to Seattle’s 52 percent of homes that sold for above list last year.

Nearly 39 percent of Olympia homes sold for above list price last year, compared to 10.8 percent in 2012. Last year, buyers paid a median amount nearly $7,800 above the listed sale price.

In Thurston County, about one in three homes sold for above the list price. The median amount was $5,800 more.

Droves of people moving to the Puget Sound, coupled with an anemic number of homes for sale, are driving prices up and causing buyers to compete with each other for the few homes on the market.

Plus, buyers from King County bring with them a trend from the north: bidding wars, which now are common across Pierce County.

Home inventories countywide have hovered in the one-to-two-months range for more than a year, according to Windermere Professional Partners.

“People feel an urgency to buy because interest rates are low,” said Vija Williams, CEO of the Vija Group at Keller Williams in Kirkland.

Buyers also see the stratospheric price increases of the past few years and want to buy while values continue to climb, she said.

Last year in Pierce County, the median home price climbed 12.25 percent to $315,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

The largest group of homeowner hopefuls, millennials, can least afford to buy. Those who graduated from college last year did so with an average student loan debt of nearly $40,000 — more than any previous graduating class, according to the website

Such debt is forcing them to reconsider where they can afford to live, Williams said.

Also, student loan debt can delay home ownership by seven years, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors and the nonprofit America Student Assistance.

“Millennials still want to own homes; it’s the American dream,” Williams said. But “they can’t necessarily afford to live in Ballard, so one partner might be willing to commute (to Seattle) and the other will say, ‘Actually I’m looking for a job on the south end.’ ”

Buyers in Seattle have dealt with competitive offers for years, and they bring their sharp-elbow tactics to traditionally softer markets such as Pierce and Snohomish counties, Williams said.

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