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Lakeside Idaho City Is America's Hottest Housing Market in New WSJ/Realtor.com Index

04/27/2021 | 03:44am EDT

By Nicole Friedman | Photographs by Rajah Bose for The Wall Street Journal

The picturesque lakeside city of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, tops the list of the country's hottest emerging housing markets, according to a new ranking launched Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Market Index identifies the top metro areas for home buyers seeking an appreciating housing market and appealing lifestyle amenities.

After Coeur d'Alene, the top metro areas in the ranking are Austin, Texas, Springfield, Ohio, and Billings, Mont. Spokane, Wash., just across the state border from Coeur d'Alene, ranks fifth.

Buyers from other Western states are moving to northern Idaho in droves, seeking a more rural and less expensive place to live, said Kristen Johnson, a real-estate agent at Century 21 Beutler & Associates in Coeur d'Alene. Workers able to work remotely are also choosing to relocate, she said.

"Even though it's a city, it's definitely got those small town values," said Erin Evans, who moved in December to Coeur d'Alene from Forest Grove, Ore., after her husband Will got a job at a nearby hospital. "People are friendly. Right now, I'm looking out my window and I see my neighbor's kids playing outside. You feel that it's a little more safe."

They bought a three-bedroom house in November that includes a downstairs apartment, which they plan to rent out for extra income.

The median sales price in the Coeur d'Alene region rose in March to $476,900, up 47% from a year earlier, according to the Coeur d'Alene Association of Realtors. Finding a home to buy in the metro area of about 166,000 is getting tougher: Inventory of homes for sale shrank by 71% to just 337 homes. That amounts to less than a month's supply.

"That's not enough to go around -- therefore, every listing gets 30 offers," Ms. Johnson said. "Since the pandemic, our market has been crazy."

About 70% of page views on Coeur d'Alene property listings came from outside the state in the first quarter, up from about 66% a year earlier, according to Realtor.com. The top metro areas for interest in Coeur d'Alene listings were Seattle, Spokane and Los Angeles.

News Corp, parent of The Wall Street Journal, operates Realtor.com.

Some buyers have been drawn to Coeur d'Alene's more relaxed Covid-19-related restrictions, said Lea Williams, associate broker at Tomlinson Sotheby's International Realty in Coeur d'Alene. Students in Coeur d'Alene public schools have been able to attend school in person at least part-time all year, according to a spokesman for the school district.

The Panhandle Health District lifted a mask mandate for five counties in northern Idaho last month, and Coeur d'Alene's school board voted this month to lift its mask requirement for students and staff.

Kootenai County, where Coeur d'Alene is based, had 105.6 Covid-19 cases per 1,000 people as of April 19, in the top half of counties in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

Coeur d'Alene is also a popular second-home and luxury market owing to the area's natural beauty and access to outdoor activities, such as skiing and water sports.

That has helped boost the number of high-end sales. In the first two months of the year, 67 homes in the area sold for $1 million and above, up from 12 sales in that price range in the first two months of 2020, Ms. Williams said.

There are downsides to the runup in housing prices, especially for locals who may struggle to compete with out-of-state buyers who have higher budgets. New residents who recently sold homes in more expensive markets such as Seattle and Los Angeles are often able to buy homes in Coeur d'Alene in cash. That threatens to price out some professionals the city needs.

"It will prove increasingly difficult to attract teachers to our school district if they cannot find reasonably priced housing here," said Scott Maben, spokesman for Coeur d'Alene Public Schools. "We are greatly concerned."

The Wall Street Journal/Realtor.com Emerging Housing Market Index ranks the 300 biggest metro areas in the U.S. In addition to housing-market indicators, the index incorporates economic and lifestyle data, including unemployment rate, wages, commute time and small-business loans. Coeur d'Alene had a 4.3% unemployment rate in February, compared with 6% nationally, and average weekly wages of $824 in the third quarter of 2020, compared with $1,173 nationally.

Home prices in the top 10 markets in the index have risen 27% on average in the past year, outpacing a 14% nationwide rise, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.

The 10 top areas in the index also had a higher proportion of their home-shopping traffic come from buyers outside those metro areas, compared with the market as a whole, Ms. Hale said.

"Home buyers are broadening their search horizons in a way they haven't before," she said.

Write to Nicole Friedman at nicole.friedman@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-27-21 0544ET

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