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Housing market shows no signs of slowing down

Staff Writer | February 22, 2021 1:09 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — In the midst of a cold snap, the local housing market is hotter than ever.

January and February are traditionally two of the slowest months of selling activity — but that’s not the case in North Idaho this year. Demand for housing is high and supply is low.

"The market continues to be a frenzy of buyers," said Kristen Johnson, a real estate agent with Century 21 Beutler & Associates and president of the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors.

The average sale price of a home in Kootenai County was $415,000 in January, a 33% increase from January 2020, according to the Association of Realtors. Also in January, 184 homes were sold in Kootenai County, up 3.4% from the same month last year.

RedFin, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage, reported that the median sales prices of a home in Coeur d'Alene rose to $509,000, a 50% increase from a year ago.

There were only 129 homes for sale in Kootenai County as of Feb. 10, according to the association. In comparison, in December 2016, Kootenai County residential listings were 1,153. So, a little over four years ago, there were another 1,000 homes on the market in the county.

“We have very limited inventory and a very large number of buyers,” Johnson said. “It’s a difficult time.”

Homes in Coeur d’Alene reportedly receive four offers on average and sell in around 13 days. Stories of people buying homes without actually seeing them in person are true.

"That trend still continues with video tours of homes and buyers actually purchasing homes sight unseen," Johnson said.

Rathdrum and Spirit Lake, generally areas with lower housing costs, are seeing high prices and low inventory.

"Just drive up Highway 41 and look at the prairie full of new homes with more on the way," Johnson said.

The Coeur d'Alene Multiple Listing Service reported that the median sale price of sold homes in January was $403,324 vs. $307,756 in 2020, an increase of 31.1%.

The MLS reported that "typical residential sales (Existing/Non-distressed) for the month was 244, an average sales price of $463,624 and an average of 96 days on market."

Homes are going for over the listing price.

“We’re seeing more multiple offers on properties than we’ve ever seen before,” Johnson said.

The majority of prospective homebuyers Johnson works with are from out of state, she said, as opposed to current North Idaho residents looking to move.

“It’s very difficult for locals to list at this time,” she said. “If you don’t have a rental lined up or something else in place, you can be in a bind.”

Almost 80,000 people moved to Idaho in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Moving marketplace HireAHelper reported that 194% more people have moved into Idaho than left the state since March 2020.

“People thought Idaho was the place they wanted to be when the pandemic started,” said Samuel Wolkenhauer, the Idaho Department of Labor’s northern region economist.

More employers are becoming open to permanent telework, which makes it possible for some workers to relocate from more congested tech hubs, like California and western Washington.

Johnson said she’s noticed this trend among prospective homebuyers — some folks who planned to retire in Idaho have decided to skip the wait and move here instead.

“With more and more people working from home, we’ve seen a greater number of people moving here,” she said.

She expects this pattern to continue through 2021.

“The builders can’t keep up with our demand,” she said. “There’s just not enough to go around.”

"We have a huge need for affordable housing for our locals," she said.

In such a competitive market, Johnson said buyers need to be more prepared than ever. Often, they also need to be willing to compromise.

That could mean potential buyers not having any home sale contingencies, for example, or even sellers negotiating to stay in the residence for a period after closing.

“Sellers are getting what they need,” Johnson said. “They’re setting the demands.”

Existing homes aren’t the only hot commodity. Undeveloped land sales have also increased throughout North Idaho.

“Some people just want a piece of Idaho,” Johnson said. “They’ll move here when they can.”

She expects much of the same to continue with housing in North Idaho.

"I am not seeing any slowing in the demand for homes or vacant land so I cannot see our inventory increasing any time soon which in turn keeps our prices rising," Johnson said.

This story has been updated.