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Homebuilding climbs in Spokane, Kootenai counties

It’s morning again for some Spokane-area homebuilders.

For much of the past three years, many would-be buyers have hung on to their cash and waited out the recession.

Builders say the worst seems to be behind them. Over the past four months they’ve reported increased sales, both of starter homes and higher-end residences costing $300,000 and up.

George Paras, owner of Paras Homes in Spokane, said he’s finally seeing solid activity in the above-$250,000 part of the new-home market.

That’s happening because the inventory of unsold homes is being whittled down, and because of “pent-up demand” by consumers who believe new-home prices are reasonable and affordable, Paras said.

McGraw-Hill Construction, a national tracking group, reports that new-home construction in Spokane is up 24 percent for this year compared to 2011.

For Kootenai County, McGraw-Hill reports a 69 percent increase in new-home construction in 2012. The numbers track new residential construction, in dollar value, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 1.

Jae Enos, owner of Coeur d’Alene-based Victory Homes, said he’s doing more work both in Spokane and Kootenai County. He agrees with the McGraw-Hill report that the activity is a bit brisker in Idaho.

“It might be people who’ve been looking to move here but couldn’t until they could finally sell their home elsewhere,” he said.

Enos said the past six months of home building has been his best half-year since 2006.

He said he’s also seeing more spec and more pre-sold home activity.

“And for those who are building smaller, 1,250-foot bungalows, they’re spending money for amenties. I see people spending $15,000 dolling up those homes so that they feel really comfortable, with granite and quality hardware (inside),” Enos said. “We didn’t see that in the past five years.”

The Spokane Association of Realtors reports that 291 new homes have been sold this year so far, compared to 323 over the same period a year ago, suggesting McGraw Hill’s increase in dollar values might be from sales of higher-end properties.

“That fits what I’m seeing,” Paras said. “Most of the homes we’re building and selling are $350,000 to $400,000.”

Rob Higgins of the Spokane Association of Realtors said September’s sales of existing and new homes were down slightly from August. Spokane’s home inventory is down 10 percent compared with September 2011, he said.