Despite a global pandemic, Spokane County’s housing market shattered records in 2020 as low inventory and high demand caused the median home price to soar to its highest level in history – issues that likely will have a continuing impact through this year.
Spokane County’s median closing price was $300,000 in 2020, a 15.4% increase compared to $260,000 in 2019, according to data from the Spokane Association of Realtors.
Some 8,150 single-family homes and condominiums on 1 acre sold last year, a 2.2% increase compared with 7,976 properties in 2019, according to the association.
Rob Higgins, Spokane Association of Realtors executive officer, said the county’s housing market performance last year was surprising amid economic uncertainty brought forth by COVID-19.
“In mid-March, we didn’t know what to expect, but the year turned out better than the year before as far as sales,” Higgins said. “It performed better than we thought.”
Competition was fierce in the county’s housing market, in part, because of record-low mortgage interest rates and dwindling housing inventory, Higgins said.
In December, the county had 236 properties on the market, representing nearly a two-week supply of inventory. For comparison, inventory was at less than a month of supply in December 2019. A healthy housing market typically contains six months of supply.
Ken Sax, Professional Realty Services managing broker, echoed that the county’s housing market activity last year exceeded expectations.
“I have never been so busy since the pandemic broke out,” he said.
Multiple offers on homes and buyers paying over listing price were common occurrences last year, he said.
Spokane County’s housing market will likely continue to be impacted by low inventory and increasing prices in 2021, Higgins said.
Buyers may wait to list homes because of concerns regarding COVID-19 and worries about finding a move-up property in the area’s competitive housing market, especially in the first quarter of 2021, but activity is anticipated to be strong during the second half of the year, Higgins said.
Sax also predicts housing demand will continue to outpace supply in the region, in part, because of out-of-area buyers – including those who can work remotely – moving to the area in search of affordability and better quality of life.
“In the pandemic, we learned that we don’t necessarily have to live in the city where our employer is. A lot of us can live wherever we want and work remotely,” Sax said. “It makes Spokane even more attractive than Portland and Seattle, and our average sales price is still half of what it is in major metro areas. (Spokane) is still a very attractive place to live.”
The Spokane region has garnered national attention for its affordable housing market, and that’s also expected to drive demand in 2021.
Zillow named Spokane as a midsize housing market to watch in 2020, while Wallethub.com ranked Spokane Valley eighth out of 300 cities nationwide on its list of the best real estate markets of 2020.
In December, the National Association of Realtors indicated Spokane was among 10 metro areas nationwide that showed resilience during the pandemic and predicted momentum is likely to continue through 2022.
The county’s median closing price in December was $315,000, a 22.8% increase compared with $256,500 in December 2019, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.
Some 727 single-family homes and condominiums on less than 1 acre sold in December, a 6.7% increase over the 681 homes in December 2019.
The national median existing home price was $310,800 in November, according to the most recent data available from the NAR.
Although sellers have an advantage in the local market, it’s important to be sensible when pricing properties, Sax said.
“It’s your time to capitalize on this market, but that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic grand slam,” Sax said. “Be reasonable and align with an experienced Realtor who has the ability and permission to be honest with you.”
Sax advises potential homebuyers to consult with multiple lenders to ensure they are qualified to purchase a home, in addition to aligning with an experienced Realtor who can explain local market dynamics.
“Ask them, ‘How’s the market?’ That one little question will tell the consumer so much,” Sax said. “That’s the Realtors’ opportunity to show what they know.”
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