Kootenai County home sales dropped 32 percent last month compared with May 1994, another strong indicator that the real estate market has cooled considerably from 1994’s record pace.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see the market down about 20 percent from last year the way it’s going now,” said Brian Stranger, president of the Coeur d’Alene Multiple Listing Service that tracks home sales.
The housing market’s slowdown reflects a general decelerating economy in North Idaho. Construction permit activity has slowed from last year, and construction jobs make up a large portion of the county’s economy.
For the year, the home sales market is off 16 percent from last year, but it was only off 10 at the end of April.
“The (May) drop was a little surprising to me,” Stranger said.
The problems remain the same: too many houses on the market listed for too high a price. The listing service has 300 more listings than at this time last year, Stranger said.
Post Falls continues to lead the way in the slowdown. Last May, 65 homes changed hands in Post Falls, but only 31 sold there last month.
Allen Mastros of Treaty Rock Realty in Post Falls said that the homes in large-scale home developments just aren’t moving as fast.
However, sales of existing homes and commercial properties are keeping his office quite busy.
“We’re seeing healthy commercial activity along Seltice Way still, as well,” he said. “The commercial growth is always behind the residential growth, and we need the services here.”
Home prices continue to fall, slowly reversing the rapid runup of prices from 1989 through 1994. Prices dropped 12 percent in Kootenai County in May compared with last May.
“I think that’s probably a good thing for the market,” Stranger said. In the high-price Dalton/Hayden area of the county, home prices fell 21 percent from last May.
Existing homes are to blame for the high prices more than new construction, Stranger said. “Someone who buys a home for $100,000 wants to recoup his costs when he sells and then some,” he said.
“A new home builder has fixed costs and can bring a price down to move a home if needed.”
Home sales did increase slightly in outlying areas of Kootenai County, but the homes prices were down 23 percent from last May.
The softening of the Kootenai County market has been mirrored in Spokane. The Spokane Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service shows sales through the April are behind the pace the housing market set in 1994.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Home sales