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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Home builders tour draws all sorts

Annual event concludes this weekend

Buddy and Lauri Aguiar had visited more than a dozen homes when they parked their Lexus SUV in front of a $745,000 townhouse on the hills overlooking Spokane Valley.

The retirees from Texas own a home in the area, but it does not have all the features they wanted. And prices are “getting more reasonable” with the downturn in the housing market, Buddy Aguiar said. In fact, that Lexington Homes property was marked down to $670,000 for the remainder of the Fall Festival of Homes.

“We may consider doing another home,” said Buddy Aguiar, 56.

For builders, the festival – a tour of 50 homes that runs through Sunday – was a chance for builders to show off their products after a rough year; new home sales were down 35 percent from last year through August. By Friday, four of the 50 homes on the free tour had sold, including a $749,000, three-bedroom in Nine Mile Falls, said Katherine Morgan, marketing and events director for sponsor the Spokane Home Builder Association. Attendance has increased from last year, she said.

“There’s an excitement in the air in our industry, and this show has really been a great gift,” Morgan said. “It’s been a long summer.”

While some buyers, like the Aguiars, might have enough equity to purchase new homes, tightening credit markets and a national economic crisis could dissuade some would-be buyers. As usual, a fair number of window shoppers turned out to get ideas for their dream homes.

“We’re just having a fun, looky-loo day,” said Cheryl Steele, 52, who checked out a $799,000, 4,378-square-foot house on Five Mile Prairie with her mother.

The houses in the show range from $197,000 to nearly $2 million, for a total value of about $28 million, Morgan said.

Realtors at more affordable, entry-level homes in Spokane Valley saw few tourists Friday morning, but dozens of curious people toured that $799,000 home.

The Ted Miller Custom Homes structure in Vista Ridge has an oversize garage and unfinished second floor reached by a hidden stairway. Workers finished it just weeks ago. It has “the most spectacular view I’ve ever seen, ever,” Steele said.

Developer Jim Greenup said more than 800 people visited the home last weekend. “We just lost count,” he said.

He’s almost sure the tour will result in a sale, he said. But before the downturn, the home might have sold for more than $900,000, he said.

Greenup said he sees people finding and buying lots but waiting to build until they can sell their existing homes.

Builders also have cut back on the number of homes they are building before securing buyers, Greenup said. This summer, Sullivan Homes Inc. declared bankruptcy and closed, listing properties worth nearly $21 million.

In Spokane Valley, Doris Wells ducked into a new Markham Homes Inc. house near her home off Argonne Road. She bought her house there in 1997 because it was in a rural setting, but now she has to battle heavy traffic in the morning, she said.

“I’m looking, but I’m not looking,” said Wells, 56.

Recently laid off temporarily from Triumph Composite Systems, Wells said the only way she could buy a new home “would be to upgrade into something we can’t afford.”

Reach Parker Howell at (509) 459-5491 or
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