Spokane home sales on rise; prices declining

THURSDAY, FEB. 9, 2012

Over the past seven months, Spokane County home sales have been increasing compared to the year before, indicating the area may have made the first step toward a housing rebound.

The next step – gains in the sale prices of Spokane homes – may still be months off, said Rob Higgins, executive officer of the Spokane Association of Realtors.

The upward trend was clear during the second half of 2011 when home sales in Spokane County were 12 percent higher than the same period of 2010, Higgins said.

January’s home sales continued the trend; Spokane saw 205 home sales in that month, compared with 184 in January 2011, Higgins said.

“That could mean that we’ve hit the bottom for the number of units sold in Spokane,” he said.

But because Spokane has a long list of unsold distressed homes – those in foreclosure and “short sales” by home owners who have no equity – the sales numbers continue to show declines in average and median Spokane County home prices, he noted.

In December, Spokane home prices, including distressed sales, declined by 4.5 percent compared to December 2010.

With distressed homes excluded, December’s average home sale prices in Spokane fell 1.7 percent, according to numbers collected by CoreLogic, a national real estate data collector.

CoreLogic didn’t produce numbers for Coeur d’Alene, a company spokesperson said.

CoreLogic has also not yet released January home sales numbers.

But Higgins said the Spokane MLS reports January home sales prices in Spokane were 5.4 percent lower than one year earlier. Of January’s 205 home sales in Spokane, 32 percent were classified as distressed; those include 56 foreclosure sales and 10 short sales.

That’s roughly 10 percent higher than 2011’s yearly average of 22 percent of home sales being from distressed properties, Higgins said.

That increase in distressed sales is positive, he explained. It reflects more home-buying taking place as more buyers qualify for credit. It also shows the county’s backlog of unsold homes is diminishing, he said.

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