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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Buyers can find a home with persistence: Spokane homebuying season starts amid few available properties often attracting multiple offers

Bethany and Caleb Alcamo speak with Realtor Tom Clark, center, in the house they are purchasing on the North Side. As with many properties on the market this spring, the seller received multiple offers.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

When Bethany and Caleb Alcamo began their home search in Spokane, the couple knew they wanted a property in a nice neighborhood with space to raise their family.

But they didn’t anticipate their search would span nearly three years.

The first-time homebuyers submitted dozens of offers on properties but were outbid repeatedly, prompting the couple to put their search on hold a couple of times before entering the market again this year.

“We’ve been renting a house for the last year and a half. Our family is still growing and we want to own our own place,” Bethany Alcamo said in early April. “We decided to start looking again. We’ve put in a couple of offers. We’re hopeful we can get something.”

The Alcamos are among several homebuyers facing intense competition in the hot housing market in Spokane, which is an area that has gained nationwide recognition for its quality of life, proximity to outdoor activities and relative affordability when compared with larger West Coast metro areas, such as Seattle and Los Angeles.

The rise of remote work during the coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the trend of out-of-area buyers fleeing larger cities for midsize metros.

Realtors expect demand will continue to outpace the number of properties on the market during Spokane’s spring homebuying season, which is typically one of the busiest times of the year in real estate.

“I can’t imagine we’re going to experience a spring market that’s currently hotter than what we are in,” said Tom Clark, a broker with Kestell Co. Realtors and governmental affairs committee chair for the Spokane Association of Realtors. “We are very restricted by the amount of inventory that we have.”

Spokane County’s median closing price soared to its highest level in history last month at $341,750, a 17.9% increase over $289,900 in March 2020, according to data from the Spokane Association of Realtors. The median closing price was $325,000 in February.

Housing inventory in the county dropped to 209 properties in March, representing an 11-day supply of homes on the market. That means it would take 11 days to sell all available homes on the market. By comparison, the county had 592 homes on the market in March 2020.

Also in March, named Spokane the 10th-hottest housing market in the nation based on how fast homes are selling and how many page views each listing received on the website.

The national median existing home sales price was $313,000 in February, up 15.8% from $270,400 in February 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. March data has not yet been released.

Buyers are competing against 10 to 12 offers and many are writing escalation clauses into their offer, allowing them to incrementally increase the amount they are willing to pay to avoid getting outbid, Clark said.

“There are more cash offers. Most of those are people coming in from outside the area,” Clark said. “We’re also seeing buyers getting more creative with their offers.”

There’s an uptick in the number of buyers including appraisal gap addendums in their offers that specify they will pay the difference between a lender’s appraisal on the home and the asking price.

Clark encourages elected officials to come up with solutions to reduce barriers to home ownership by addressing the county’s housing supply issue, which is attributed to a variety of factors, including a shortage of new construction following the Great Recession.

The lack of supply issue is further compounded by skyrocketing prices for land, lumber and materials, in addition to new impact fees resulting from the state’s new energy code that could add $10,000 to $15,000 to the cost of an entry-level home, Clark added.

Although Spokane’s housing market is challenging for buyers, it’s a bright spot for sellers, said Jodi Mouchett, Spokane-based broker with John L. Scott Real Estate.

“Right now, if you are a seller, you are making good money. The asking price is kind of a starting point. It’s not really what it’s going to end at,” she said. “Sellers are cashing in on some well-deserved equity. Buyers are struggling. They are paying more for the house than the list price. It’s a tougher market for buyers, but it’s not completely impossible.”

Because homes are fetching thousands over asking price, it may provide an opportunity for sellers looking to move up in the market, Clark said.

“If you sell in this market, chances are you are going to have some available cash when you go to buy,” Clark said. “Sellers think they can’t sell because there’s nothing for them to buy. It’s not true that you won’t find a home if you sell … most sellers in today’s market would be very qualified buyers. Cash-in-hand buyers – they can compete a lot in this market.”

Clark advises buyers to work with an experienced Realtor who can help position them to write the best possible offer.

From her homebuying experience, Bethany Alcamo suggests buyers do their research on lenders, mortgage rates and Realtors. She also advises buyers to check property listings every day.

The Alcamos ended their three-year home search this month. The couple’s offer was accepted on an 1,800-square-foot rancher on a half-acre lot. They are currently going through the closing process.

“Stick with it and eventually something will come along,” Bethany Alcamo said. “It’s just a timing game and waiting game. It will happen when it’s meant to happen.”