Spokane Journal of Business

Spokane home sales decline 5% in 2019

Low home inventory said to cause drop, yet also is reason for rise in median prices

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The number of single-family homes and condominiums sold through the Spokane Multiple Listing Service fell 5% in 2019 compared with the previous year, says Rob Higgins, executive vice president of the Spokane Association of Realtors.

About 7,900 single family homes and condos were sold in 2019, compared with about 8,300 in 2018. Higgins attributes the decrease in sales to a lack of available inventory on the market and a national trend of people choosing to stay in their homes longer, rather than moving.

The median price in 2019 was $260,000, up 10.7% compared with the 2018 median sales price, Higgins says.

“We did see an uptick in new construction sales this last year,” he says, “So, that’s a positive sign.”

Sales of newly built homes through the MLS were up 8.9% compared to activity in 2018, but lower than pre-recession years when 17% to 19% of homes sold through the MLS were new homes, Higgins says. 

“It’s still up,” he adds, “but it’s not meeting the demand for housing.”

Year-end inventory represented a one-month supply, he says, or about 600 homes currently on the market, down from just under 800 a year earlier.

SAR adjusted its inventory system in August, removing contingent inspection sales from the inventory count and instead counting pending inspections, which Higgins contends is a more accurate measure of inventory in the area.

Contingent inspection sales were dependent on inspection by a home inspector, Higgins says, and usually closed.

“We included those prior to August 2019 in inventory because all contingent sales under law are still active,” Higgins says. “But it just turns out the high percentage of contingent sales actually ended up closing as a sale.”

Pending inspections don’t fall under the active category, he adds. Under the old system, Spokane would have about a 1.4-month supply, or just under 940 properties.

Higgins believes 2020 will see similar results as 2019.

“The local economy continues to be doing better than other parts of the country,” which should lead to a strong year, albeit perhaps not as strong as 2019, he contends.

“Inventory will continue to be a headwind,” Higgins says. “It was a headwind in 2019, and it will be another issue in 2020.” 

Higgins says reports from Realtor.com continue to show strong outside interest in the Spokane-Spokane Valley metro area, with the region ranking as the most searched by out-of-area homebuyers among 100 metros evaluated in the third quarter two years in a row.

That interest, along with job growth from companies moving to the area and the growth in remote working, will continue to drive the Spokane housing market into 2020, Higgins says.

Natasha Nellis
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Reporter Natasha Nellis joined the Journal in May 2018 and covers real estate and construction. Natasha is an avid reader and loves taking photos, traveling, and learning new languages.

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