December 12, 1996 in Nation/World

Kootenai Home Sales Take Plunge

Eric Torbenson Staff writer

Kootenai County home sales dropped sharply in November, suggesting a mild slowdown in the pace of the local real estate market.

Home sales fell 31 percent compared to November 1995, though the average price of homes sold topped that of a year earlier by 6 percent.

The ice storm and subsequent power outages throughout Kootenai County may have made selling more difficult in the last part of the month. However, transactions can take a month or two to close, so the sales reflected in November might have happened earlier in the year, said Steve Berke of Horizon Homes Realty in Coeur d’Alene.

Sales in the area typically slow down in the late fall and early winter, Berke said. Some in the real estate business believe that the much-anticipated slowdown in sales may have finally arrived.

The number of listings compared to sales remains at near record high compared to recent years. The Coeur d’Alene Multiple Listing Service shows 7,414 listings so far this year, with 2,413 being sold. That means plenty of inventory exists on the market.

So far this year, home sales are 11 percent behind the pace set in 1995, and 20 percent off the record year of 1994. While the first half of 1996 seemed to be better than last year, many expected the market to cool in the second half.

Sales slumped most in the Coeur d’Alene area, down 36 percent from last November, and in outlying areas, where sales dropped nearly in half. The listing association cautioned that it used new software to calculate home sales, which may have skewed the numbers compared to last year.

The market continues to concentrate in lower-cost homes. Through 11 months of the year, nearly a third of the homes sold fell between the $80,000 to $99,999 range, a sector that used to represent about a fourth of homes.

“The new construction seems to be slowing down a little,” Berke said. “Maybe that will give the existing market a chance because the new really had been overshadowing the existing homes.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Home sales

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