August 9, 2013 in Business

Spokane home sales have ‘recovered dramatically’

Despite dip in prices in July, market is strongest in years
By The Spokesman-Review
 

More than 600 Spokane-area homes were sold in July, in one of the highest monthly totals since the housing boom of 2007.

While the average and median home prices were slightly off from June, the Spokane numbers reflect what’s happening nationally and regionally, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, based at the University of Washington.

“Spokane and other markets have recovered dramatically from the depths of the recession,” he said.

Spokane’s previous highest home sales month in the past two years was May, with 588 sold.

Next highest in that period was June, with 497 homes sold, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Crellin said homebuyers are taking advantage of rising incomes, improving job prospects and relatively low interest rates.

But Crellin said Spokane’s sales in the past few months don’t match the impressive housing numbers on the West Side of the state.

Pierce County home sales grew 24 percent in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier. King County showed a 23 percent gain quarter over quarter.

Crellin said Spokane County had a respectable 5.6 percent increase in homes sold in that period.

“Seattle and Tacoma just has more activity going on,” he said.

Two-thirds of homes put on the market in the Seattle area are selling within 30 days, he said. “That’s unheard of,” Crellin noted.

Crellin also said home sales in Washington’s urban areas are far stronger, generally, than in rural areas.

A national consumer survey of potential buyers and sellers found that most see the housing market as better than it was several months ago.

The July Fannie Mae National Housing Survey found 74 percent of those interviewed said it’s a good time to buy a house, and 40 percent said it’s a good time to sell a house. Both numbers are mild increases from the month before.

The increased activity by sellers is one reason home prices are dropping, Crellin said. In short, the more homes go on the market, the lower the starting price sellers set on those properties.

In Spokane County in July, the average home sale price was $187,460, down 3.9 percent from the month before.

Spokane’s median home price in July – meaning half sold for more, half for less – was $170,000, down 2.4 percent.

The only factor that might spook buyers is the inching upward of mortgage rates, Crellin said. “It depends on how skittish buyers get to the bump in interest rates,” he said. “They’ve become accustomed to almost unheard-of low rates that even a slight increase will probably cause some fall-off in sales,” he predicted.

Other key numbers from Spokane’s July home sales numbers:

• New home sales are up 64 percent in 2013; 402 new homes were sold from January through July, compared with 245 a year earlier.

• So far, 3,089 homes have been sold in Spokane in 2013, with an average price of $180,894. During the January-July period in 2012, 2,583 homes were sold, at an average price of $172,609.

• The busiest area in the county for home sales remains Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. Those two areas accounted for 30 percent of all July home sales, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

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