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The value of middle-class Americans' most important assets - their homes - rose faster than inflation over the year ended in March, with the biggest gains reported in the Midwest and South. Nationally, the median price of existing homes rose 4 percent to $119,400 - meaning half sold for more and half for less, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.
April home sales rebounded after a dismal March, signaling a possible upswing in the market. Though the number of home sales closed in April was the largest this year, it was behind last year's pace.
Housing sales on the South Side dropped in January from year-ago volume, along with the average sales price, according to figures from the Spokane Association of Realtors. Last month, 55 South Side homes sold for an average price of $119,041. That compares with the sale of 60 homes in January 1996 at an average price of $128,410.
Winter doldrums hit the North Side housing market in January, with fewer homes sold than in previous months. Prices, however, were a little higher than a year ago. January statistics are typically the lowest of the year. While 182 North Side homes sold in October, 133 in November, and 180 in December, just 104 closed in January - the same as last January.
In the Valley, 1996 was the year of the home buyer. There were plenty of homes to choose from and prices were steady, making it easy for people to find the home of their dreams, real estate agents said.
Reports of a prolonged slowdown in South Side real estate sales may be premature. Tom Crowley, outgoing president of the Spokane Association of Realtors, said buyers have been turning out in big numbers this month. "Right now, we are swamped," said Crowley, of Crowley Realty/ Better Homes & Gardens. "This should be a fabulous January."
North Side home buyers wanted it all in 1996: big houses, spacious back yards, good schools. And for the most part, they got it. Throughout the north end there was a generous selection of houses and steady prices.
Home sales in south Spokane chilled down in November because of the paralyzing ice storm, but real estate experts said the market has picked up again. Only 98 homes in the south and west parts of Spokane and Spokane County sold last month, compared with 120 in the same period in 1995. At least 15 of the homes were new.
Kootenai County home sales dropped sharply in November, suggesting a mild slowdown in the pace of the local real estate market. Home sales fell 31 percent compared to November 1995, though the average price of homes sold topped that of a year earlier by 6 percent.
Work is expected to get under way Jan. 1 on the Riverside Court project planned by Spokane developers Ron and Julie Wells.
Fewer Valley homes sold last month than in August of 1995 and those that did sell were on the market longer. Last month, it took an average of 81 days for 116 homes to sell. A year earlier, 138 homes sold after being on the market an average of 64 days.
One of the Palouse-area's largest property managers has agreed to pay a $10,000 settlement to a Genesee couple who claimed the company violated federal fair housing laws. Nancy Draznin and Ken Nagy said Palouse Properties discriminated against them when they went to rent a two-bedroom apartment in 1995. Upon learning the couple had two children, an office worker said, "You have two children! We can't rent you the apartment."
Although owners are waiting longer to sell their homes, home sales funneled 18 percent more money into the economy during the first five months of the year than a year earlier. The bulk of the increase came in the traditionally slow winter and early spring months. In May, 456 homes were sold, up from 438 last year, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors' multiple listing service. That's only a 4 percent increase, but the continued strength of the market - and a slight increase in the average price of a home - pushed sales volume for the first five months of the year to $204.3 million, up from $172.4 a year ago.
A growing number of Americans are willing to make sacrifices to become home owners despite increasing job and financial worries, a survey shows. The Federal National Mortgage Association said a nationwide survey of 1,857 Americans found most are willing to give up expensive cars and vacations and even postpone retirement to achieve home ownership.
Florrie Brassier of the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance says her group prefers to educate, not litigate. Photo by Kristy MacDonald/The Spokesman-Review
Home sales in Spokane County sped up in April, outpacing March and topping last April by more than 20 percent. The Spokane Association of Realtor's Multiple Listing Service reported 473 home sales were closed in April, up from 393 last year.
Rising mortgage rates caught up with home buyers in March, reducing sales of new houses by 7.6 percent to the lowest level in 10 months. But analysts noted the March pace still was higher than last year's monthly average and that sales had little chance of keeping up with the pace set in the first two months of the year.
Spokane home sales dipped slightly in March, but not enough to dampen a strong first quarter. Twelve fewer homes - 345 total - were sold this March compared with last year, but 871 sales were made during the first quarter, 106 more than the same period last year. Through the first quarter, sales are up almost 14 percent over last year as the Spokane residential real estate market continues at a strong pace.
Real estate Home builders in the Valley are starting to turn their attention to affordable digs. A combination of low interest rates drawing new buyers and thriftiness taking hold of everyone else is causing developers to scale down a bit. It's becoming more profitable to build homes aimed at first- and second-time buyers. Tony Higley, owner of Certified Appraisal, said developers he works with are calling him to view more and more starter homes.
Despite severe weather conditions during parts of February, home sales continued to climb in Spokane County. Experts attribute the improved sales compared with 1995 to low interest rates, flexible financing, a stable housing market and a large inventory of available homes.