Within 45 minutes of posting her house on the local Multiple Listing Service website, Libbi Keyes had two showings scheduled.
A cash offer for the full asking price of $289,900 came within three hours.
That was Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, she had sold it for nearly 10 percent more.
"We went nuts getting it all ready," said Keyes' boyfriend, Glenn Barrett.
"It was a combination of excitement, but, ‘OK, so now where do we move?’" Keyes said. "Now there's that apprehension."
On Thursday, the couple was searching the area for their new home. And not without feeling a sense of urgency.
"There are two kinds of buyers right now — the quick and the homeless," said their real estate broker, Kim Cooper. "We're seeing bidding wars."
In North Idaho, and especially Coeur d'Alene, houses in the "sweet spot" range of $350,000 and lower are selling fast.
It's indeed a seller's market in many cases, just as it was for Keyes and Barrett.
“It's good and bad," Barrett said. "Good that what you have is going quickly and going for a higher price, but then what you’re trying to buy is priced a little higher as well, and you have to move quick. You have to be ready. It makes it a little more stressful."
According to an article on www.npr.org, the national average of home prices is back to where it was before the housing bubble burst.
Some prices are actually higher, like in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, but other locations are well below those peak prices, such as Phoenix, Cleveland and most of the state of Florida.
An interactive map on the website allows users to click on different places to see what the housing market is doing around the country — and in Coeur d'Alene, we have a hotspot.
"I’m very glad for our situation. I’m both a buyer and a seller. It's a good time to be both," Keyes said. "But it is more of a seller’s market right now. The things we are looking at, they’re usually under contract (and sell) fairly quickly. It’s definitely a seller’s market and tough to be a buyer, so I put myself in that position. The selling part was fun. The buying, we’ll see."
While some parts of the country are experiencing low to moderate housing prices, Coeur d'Alene's market, even with rising prices, is enjoying a robust time. The www.npr.org article notes people just aren't moving as much as they used to, that people are tending to stay in the same place.
"That’s quite the contrary in North Idaho," said Cooper, an independent broker with Select Brokers LLC. "We're seeing lots of in-migration."
The downfall, however, is the lack of homes in that much-desired "sweet spot." And that's part of what's driving up the price.
"In our current market, there are extremely low months of inventory, up to the price point of nearly $600,000," said Jennifer Smock, a managing broker with Windermere Coeur d'Alene Realty. "It is common to have multiple offers on properties, and for homes to sell at a higher price than list.
"It is a difficult market for buyers currently," she continued. "Many first-time home buyers are having to compete with numerous other buyers only to get out-bid in a pricing war. Sellers are hesitant to put their homes on the market until they have a suitable replacement under contract."
She said agents are experiencing issues with homes not appraising for the value that the buyer and seller agreed upon.
"Many times a buyer is willing to pay more for the home, but the appraisal does not support it," she said.
The lack of affordable inventory casts a shadow on home-buying for those of humble incomes, young families and Millennials.
"I’m not an economist, but what I see with my own kids and customers is there’s a tremendous student loan debt that delays them from having children and building a life,” Cooper said. "The houses just aren’t there for them."
The June 2017 market had 18 percent fewer houses for sale from Benewah to Boundary counties than it did last year. Cooper said if another 200 houses in that "sweet spot" were available, they'd be gone in a month.
Another piece of the lack of inventory puzzle, Cooper conjectures, is that builders can’t keep up with the demand. During the recession, many older people who would have moved into something smaller or a home better to age in realized they couldn’t get enough funds from their existing home, so they’ve made their homes more accessible so they could age in place. That means the homes families of the past would be moving into are continuing to be occupied by aging owners.
“I see it from time to time as I practice my trade,” said Cooper, who has spent 14 years in the industry. “It’s back to Economics 101. It’s supply and demand."
Although the market may not be as accessible for those just starting out, the people who are moving in and throughout the area are keeping agents on their toes.
"It’s wonderful,” Cooper said. “It’s busy, but it’s manageable. It’s not like it was during the feeding frenzy between 2003 and 2007. It’s much more manageable, largely because there’s not as much inventory available and it’s harder to get loans, so that’s kind of stabilizing things. I’m juggling clients, which is a wonderful problem to have, but it’s not really a problem. Back in ’05 it was a serious problem."
Cooper said the National Association of Realtors predict this trend to last until at least 2020. And he's not too concerned about it taking a nosedive anytime soon because he's not seeing the risk that was previously involved.
"People were lying about how much they earned to buy a house, and they didn’t have to prove anything. They were known as no-documentation-needed loans," he said. “As a result, there’s been a lot of legislation adding more layers to the financial institutions, so the loans that are being issued now are being issued to people who are credit-worthy."
Coldwell Banker sales associate Joel Elgee, who has also been in the business 14 years, said while market conditions are quite favorable now, he doesn't view it as "going nuts." He said waterfront prices have actually gone down since 2015, an indicator that things are recovering but not completely recovered.
"Our classic market conditions are still at play here," he said. "We're coming from the bottom up, so it has a completely different feel (than the housing bubble years) ... There are certain price ranges that are on fire, but that's a fairly limited window."
Overall, a good piece of advice for those looking to be active in the market is — know where you're going to move before you sell, because it's a competitive market out there.
"Real estate brought us out of the Great Depression and it’s taking us out of the Great Recession,” Cooper said. “It’s just taking longer than anyone anticipated nationally.
“But in North Idaho, we appear to be ahead of the game."
Keeping tabs on the market
The Multiple Listing Service, provided by the Coeur d’Alene Association of Realtors, is a handy tool for understanding the housing market in Kootenai County. It can be found at www.cdarealtors.com. According to the MLS, as of May 2017:
1,133 homes were sold, year to date, in Kootenai County. That’s a 1 percent increase from May 2016.
The median home price was $241,000, a 15 percent increase from May 2016.
2,528 residential listings were active, an 11 percent decrease from last year.
94 days was the average time on the market, a 3 percent decrease from 2016.