The next affordable city is already too expensive
Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with no drama. This year it came back on the market and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen bids and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.
When Mr. Silbar got into the business, he said, his clients were “nurses and teachers,” and now they are business managers, engineers and other professionals. “What you can afford in Spokane has completely changed,” he said.
The typical Spokane area home is worth $411,000, according to Zillow. That’s still significantly cheaper than markets like the San Francisco Bay Area ($1.4 million), Los Angeles ($878,000), Seattle ($734,000), and Portland ($550,000). But it’s dizzying (and infuriating) for longtime residents.
Five years ago, a little more than half Spokane-area homes sold for less than $200,000 and about 70% of its working population could afford to buy a home, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. Today, less than 5% of homes – a few dozen a month – sell for less than $200,000, and less than 15% of the area’s working population can afford a home. A recent survey by Redfin, the real estate brokerage firm, showed that homebuyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a 23% higher budget than residents.
One of Mr. Silbar’s clients, Lindsey Simler, a 38-year-old nurse who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a house for around $300,000 but keeps losing because she doesn’t have enough money to compete. Spokane isn’t so competitive that it’s flooded with all-cash offers, like some higher-priced markets are. But prices have risen so quickly that many homes are being priced below their selling price, forcing buyers to pay higher down payments to cover the difference.
A dozen failed deals later, Ms Simler has decided to sit out the market for a while as the constant loss is so demoralizing. If the prices don’t calm down, she says, she’s considering becoming a travel nurse. With the healthcare workforce so depleted by Covid-19, traveling nursing pays much better and will hopefully save more for a down payment.
“I’m not at the point where I want to give up living in Spokane because I have family here and it feels like home,” she said. “But traveling nursing will be my next step if I haven’t been able to find a home.”