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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Making the waterfront within reach

UPDATED: Wed., April 28, 2021

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

A tight housing market has led to higher prices and more competition for available homes, a trend that has carried over to waterfront homes.

But experts say there’s still a way for people to achieve their dream of having a lake home as long as they are willing to make a few concessions.

Bill Fanning, a Realtor with Century 21 Waterfront, recommends that people avoid popular lakes like Coeur d’Alene, Hayden and Pend Oreille and instead look at properties on smaller, less well-known lakes.

“I’d like to believe that anyone can own waterfront today, but it depends a lot on where you go,” he said.

Another option to consider is a secondary waterfront property. The home itself isn’t right on the beach, but it will have a good view of the water. The property should also come with deeded beach access and a boat slip, Fanning said.

“The price drops considerably,” he said.

Waterfront properties on some sections of the Pend Oreille River and on the shores of the smaller lakes north of Spokane are good options, Fanning said. People should also consider Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River by Kettle Falls, Deep Lake by Colville and Kelso Lake.

“There’s lots of small bodies of water with great recreational opportunities,” he said. “They’re out there.”

The catch is that people have to be willing to drive to get to their new property. Most waterfront homes located close to larger cities like Spokane and Coeur d’Alene as well as amenities like restaurants and grocery stores will have a higher price tag than those that require more than a 45-minute drive to get to, Fanning said.

Greg Rowley, a Realtor and luxury property specialist with Coldwell Banker Schneidmiller Realty, agrees with Fanning.

“What makes the waterfront search so hard in North Idaho is that affordable properties are further out,” he said. “Maybe look a little further.”

At the same time, the less-expensive waterfront homes won’t be fancy, Rowley said. “Most of those are modest homes in more remote locations.”

Though picking a property on a smaller lake or river that’s farther away will lower the price, buying a waterfront property still won’t be cheap. Like everything else in real estate, the prices have gone up, Fanning said.

“The waterfront market tends to parallel the local residential market,” Fanning said. “It’s probably gone up a good 25 to 30%. We’ve seen a big spike from August of last year to the present. The reason is the inventory has dropped dramatically.”

This month, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home was available on the shore of Medical Lake at 119 N. Jefferson Street for $399,900. Part of the reason for the affordable price is that the home was built in 1895. A higher-priced, more modern home was available at 11321 N. Nine Mile Road. Perched just above the water, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom home sits on 4.97 acres and was priced at $900,000.

The reason for the reduced inventory is that people appear to be holding onto their properties in the hopes of riding the wave of increasing prices to its peak so they can get the most profit, Fanning said. The area is also a retirement destination and appears to be drawing in people from other markets, he said.

The Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area is blessed because it’s easy to get to.

“We have clean water, low crime,” Fanning said. “We have a four-season climate.”

Rowley said he’s seeing a lot of buyers from Seattle and California.

“They don’t bat an eye at our prices here,” he said.

Those people are buying up waterfront homes as well as traditional homes, cutting into inventory and driving up prices.

“The bottom end of our market has virtually disappeared,” Rowley said. “First-time homebuyers are being priced out of the market. There’s literally more Realtors in North Idaho than there are homes available.”

The purchasing strategy is the same for a waterfront home as it is for a home in a neighborhood cul-de-sac.

“A buyer needs to be ready and willing to pay full price or more,” Rowley said.

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