Spirits were high Thursday at the Spokane Kootenai Real Estate Research Committee’s annual Real Estate Market Forum at the Spokane Convention Center. The popularity of the event was greater than anticipated as the convention center failed to prepare enough meals for those remaining to hear the keynote speaker from the Cowles family’s Real Estate Company. The developer recently purchased the former Macy’s building downtown Spokane. That and the family’s legacy Chronicle building are currently under transformation to retail with apartment additions to what is described as Spokane’s vibrant downtown core.
Much of the development in downtown Spokane is to accommodate present and anticipated demand for apartment rentals. Millenials are choosing to reside closer to their work and opting to rent rather than buy to minimize commutes and be closer to other like-minded people who make up their communities. Even though 80 percent of these young people say they intend to purchase a home at some point, most are delaying that investment until they are comfortable in their careers. As they begin to have children and apartments become too confining, it is anticipated they will move into more traditional family housing.
Rental properties are very tight throughout the Inland Northwest as reported by most speakers on the subject from our area. Interestingly enough, some of the demand gobbling up available rental properties is coming from the gray Americans, or folks over 55 years of age. With the stigma of divorce that has held elder couples together fading, now one in four divorces are of couples over 55. Many of those people are opting to rent as well, competing with younger groups for available rental housing. This demand is driving up rental prices in our region with the average apartment renting for $1.17 per square foot in Coeur d’Alene or $1.28 in Spokane. Those wanting a downtown location in either town will pay a higher premium for that privilege.
Even with the demand for rental properties running high, our entire marketplace continues to experience a shortage of available, affordable housing to buy. Part of that reason is the improving employment market. Our area continues to experience a rise in non-farm-related employment with nearly 70 percent of our jobs now in the service sector. Low unemployment in our area has led to a growing problem for employers who are having difficulty finding employees. According to Avista economist Grant Forsythe jobs paying less than $14 per hour are exceedingly difficult to fill. As unemployment continues to decline upward pressure on wages is being felt by employers even without legislation to require higher wages.
All in attendance at this year’s forum can agree that the overall feel was the most positive in at least a decade. The future appears very bright as commercial spaces continue to fill and new construction in housing, multi-family and special purpose commercial continue to grow. We have been discovered and people continue to move here guaranteeing demand for the foreseeable future.
Ask your agent to fill in some details about the market. They have the tools to show you why this is the best real estate market in more than a decade.
Trust an expert…call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.
Kim Cooper is a real estate broker and the spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors. Kim and the association invite your feedback and input for this column. You may contact them by writing to the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, 409 W. Neider, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815 or by calling (208) 667-0664.