By most measures, Spokane remains an affordable place to buy a house, with a variety of options available in the $200,000-and-under price range.
More than 7,500 homes changed hands in Spokane County in 2016, with a median sale price of $195,000, according to the Spokane County Realtors Association.
“If you’re looking for an older home in the South Hill that’s fully remodeled, you might get a two-bedroom, one-bath,” said Jennifer Valerien, the owner/broker of Re/Max Inland Northwest and president of the Realtors association.
But buyers looking for properties priced at $200,000 or less aren’t limited to small houses or condos, she said.
“You can also find homes on acreage. Or, maybe you want a larger home and you don’t mind doing some remodeling or painting,” Valerien said.
The local real estate market is in its fifth year of recovery since 2011, when home sales hit rock bottom as a result of the national housing crisis, said Rob Higgins, executive officer of the Spokane Association of Realtors.
Though housing prices here remain affordable, particularly compared to larger West Coast cities, shrinking inventories are starting to put some pressure on prices, Higgins said. Median home prices in Spokane County have increased 8.4 percent since 2015, and inventories are down 22 percent.
“If you’re looking at homes in a popular area, or at a particular price, you should expect multiple offers on the house,” said Valerien, the Re/Max broker.
She encourages her clients to pre-qualify for bank loans to increase the chance their offer will be accepted if there’s competition.
“It makes the seller more confident,” she said. “They know if they accept the offer, it’s solid.”
Across the state line in Kootenai County, real estate agents are seeing similar trends. More than 3,250 homes sold in Kootenai County in 2016. The median sale price rose 9 percent to $222,000, according to the Coeur d’Alene Multiple Listing Service.
“It’s a little bit tougher to find something under $200,000 when you’re looking for a typical three-bedroom, two-bath house,” said Allyson Knapp, past president of the Coeur d’Alene MLS, who works as a Windermere Realtor and an appraiser for Custom Valuation.
“The repo market has all but vanished from our area,” said Chad Oakland, co-owner of Northwest Realty Group in Coeur d’Alene. “Home values are back up where they were three to six years ago.”
Kootenai County’s inventory of homes for sale also has declined. That’s discouraged some local residents from putting their homes up for sale, even if they’re interested in a larger home or want to downsize to an empty-nester property.
“A lot of people are having a problem with, ‘If I sell, where do I go?’ ” Oakland said.
They’re worried about finding replacement housing, he said.
Some local listings are starting to include clauses that make the sale contingent upon the sellers finding a home to buy, said Valerien, the Re/Max owner/broker.
But even with the changes in the local market over the past year, she’s continuing to see first-time buyers purchasing homes.
“The market is still kind of exciting for first-time buyers,” Valerien said. “Interest rates are still low and reasonable. And our prices are not like other markets, where you can’t find anything at the low end. There are still great houses out there.”
This story was updated to correct the spelling of Allyson Knapp’s first name and her affiliation as an appraiser.