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

Springtime means tulips and for-sale signs are popping up in Spokane

As the weather warms in the Lilac City, it becomes the season for days at the lake or time spent in the garden.

It’s also when the real estate market heats up.

“It always happens in the springtime,” said Marianne Bornhoft, real estate broker at Real Broker, a Spokane firm. “There’s just way more inventory.”

Though some things stay the same, like the consistent uptick in real estate transactions in the spring and summertime, there are new trends in the industry.

“There are more cash buyers than ever before,” Bornhoft said, attributing the uptick in such transactions to persistently higher interest rates.

The average interest rate for a standard 30-year fixed mortgage was over 7.00%, an increase of 0.10 percentage points over last week’s 6.92%, according to Tribune News Service.

Thirty-year fixed mortgages are the most commonly sought loan term because it has a lower monthly payment than a 15-year, but usually has a higher interest rate.

“They just don’t want to pay the interest rates,” Bornhoft said.

Though adverse conditions have persisted, she is seeing the Spokane housing market more active than it has been in years. There were more than 1,700 homes in Spokane County for sale in March.

“I think people have to move,” she said. “They can’t wait any longer. Their lives are changing so they just they have to.”

Such is the case for Dorene and Mike Wade. The Spokane couple has wanted to move back to their roots in Orange County, California, to be closer to family but have been reluctant to move to the tougher market. But after their granddaughter announced that she was expecting to have her first child, they knew they had to move.

“We know it’s going to be hard,” Mike Wade said. “It’s very expensive in California.”

The couple is going to miss their life at the Latah Valley dream home where they have lived the past 14 years.

“Here, we have the best of both worlds,” Dorene Wade said. “We’re close to the city, yet it still feels like we’re in nature.”

The couple was often visited by wildlife like moose, and the pine trees in their backyard were often home to hawks.

“Every year we’ve been here, we’ve had baby hawks,” Mike Wade said. “You don’t get that in California.”

But before the retired couple can begin searching for a new home in California, they remain focused on selling their home. And because it is on the upper end of the market, they anticipate some difficulties.

“We are anticipating our place to be on the market for a little while,” Dorene Wade said.

Bornhoft said expensive homes are harder to sell because there is little interest from buyers at this financial tier. They typically are buyers hailing from places like California where homes are more expensive.

So the Wades are trying to remain patient.

“It’s a game of dominos,” Mike Wade said. “We have to get the right money out of this place to be able to make the move down there.”

The sluggishness of the luxury home market also limits their ability to find the right buyer, Dorene Wade said. She would like a buyer to be a gardener like her so they can enjoy the expansive garden they built in the backyard.

“I’d like someone to enjoy the home and the garden we created, but I just want somebody to love it as much as we do,” she said. “They say when you’re a seller, to separate yourself from the personal feelings of your home, but it’s hard. It’s not just a business transaction.”

When their home hits the market at the end of April, they may not have the luxury to be choosy of incoming offers.

But according to Bornhoft, sellers of homes priced near the average price do. She said the current housing market is fairly healthy, meaning it neither favors buyers or sellers – except for homes priced near the average.

“If you’re a buyer, looking for a home around $420,00, those are the ones that are selling so fast,” she said. “So, if you’re out there and you’re buying, you have so much competition.”

This has caused bidding wars that often result in houses selling for much higher than they were listed. High competition also elicits buyers to entice sellers in other ways – sometimes at the buyer’s risk.

“I’ve had one house have 17 offers. Or I’ve seen buyers who want something bad enough that they will waive every inspection – which I don’t recommend,” she said. “Of course, the seller is going to agree to these deals because then they eliminate all the barriers to entry.”

Bornhoft has seen first-time buyers becoming more creative to afford a home. She has seen buyers purchase with multiple friends, buy land first then placing a manufactured home on it, or even buying a home further away from the city.

“If you don’t mind a drive of 30 minutes, you can get a lot for your money at these smaller towns,” she said.

As for within city limits, the veteran real estate agent has noticed the most desirable areas in town are becoming smaller and more spread out.

To ensure a home is in a good area, she recommends searching online resources to analyze a specific neighborhood.

“In every single community, you can be on one block and have rising crime and then the next block, no crime,” she said. “You have to check the sex offender map, and you have to check the crime map, because your agent cannot. And they change all the time.”

Though a home may be out of reach for some people, Bornhoft said to be resilient and to think outside the box.

“There are so many different kinds of loans and pathways into homeownership nowadays,” she said. “You just might have to be a little creative.”