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Home sales are up in the Wood River Valley as city dwellers looking to relocate to a more sparsely populated place flock to the Sun Valley area, local real estate agents say.

The number of home sales pending in Blaine County in the first three weeks of June was 75 percent higher than it was at the same time last year, data from the Sun Valley Board of Realtors shows, after a drop in sales following COVID-19’s arrival in Idaho. As the number of new cases in Blaine County has flattened and Idaho businesses have reopened, local real estate brokers say they are now seeing an unusually high demand for land and homes, especially in the northern part of the valley.

“It kind of went from a fear to ‘I hope I don’t miss out,’” said Reid Sanborn, president of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors and an associate broker and partner at Engel & Völkers Sun Valley.

Ketchum has seen the largest boom, with 34 sales pending between June 1 and June 23—a 277 percent increase from the same timeframe in 2019. Sun Valley saw a 90 percent increase in pending sales, with 19 homes under contract, and Hailey experienced a 36 percent increase from last year.

Bellevue was the only town in the valley to see a slight decrease in pending sales compared to June 2019, with seven homes going under contract. But four sales were finalized during that period, an increase from the previous year.

“We are optimistic that the recent boom in homes going under contract points to a strong summer for real estate in the area,” said Grace Summers, CEO of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors, in a statement. “Other Mountain West states have seen similar increases in demand as current circumstances have increased the value of communities with access to outdoor recreation.”

Ketchum, Sun Valley and Hailey saw a drop across the board in the number of homes sold or pending sale from January through May this year compared to last year, with sales down about 30 percent overall.

Much of that decrease can likely be attributed to the arrival of COVID-19 in Blaine County in mid-March. In the first two months of the year, the market was strong, said Jed Gray, a broker with Sun Valley Associates. In March, when the first cases of the virus were confirmed in the Wood River Valley, sales “came to an expected stop.” In late May, when Idaho’s coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses began to lift, that changed.

“Earlier in [June], the sales seemed to outweigh the listings coming on,” Gray said. “And that’s a bit of an anomaly.”

Gray, who works primarily in Ketchum and Sun Valley, said he’s seen a flood of people coming from “major metropolitan areas” across the country, from California to Seattle to Florida to New York, over the past month. Some are seeking second homes; others are hoping to relocate entirely.

“I think there are a lot of people, if they have the capability to leave a major metropolitan area—not necessarily permanently but to find an escape in a resort community with more wide-open spaces—who are anxious and wanting to do that,” Gray said.

Demand for land, on which newcomers can build their own home, is also high, Gray and Sanborn said.

As offices across the country shift to remote work models for the foreseeable future, Sanborn said he has dealt with “a lot of younger families” seeking to relocate to the Wood River Valley. Gray, too, said he’s seen a younger crowd than usual looking to move to the area.

“For a while, Sun Valley was looking like it was turning into a major senior community,” Gray said. “We’re seeing younger people, people that can work remotely, being able to make a living here.”

Sanborn anticipates that the valley will continue to see an increase in people “seeking a break from big cities and the corporate office life” as remote work opportunities expand.

“I think we’re in a perfect position to kind of weather out the storm here with the virus,” Sanborn said. “Other people are seeing that opportunity as well.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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