The real estate market in Blaine County has continued on a steady stride upward since the Great Recession, with some saying 2018 has been the strongest comeback year since the market crash in 2008. But while luxury homes are still plentiful in the valley, affordable housing remains lacking.
Between 2017 and 2018, prices have been stable and the market has been active with sales throughout the valley. While more units were sold in 2018 in Blaine County than any other year in the past decade, the median price of units in the county in 2018 was nearly identical to the prices in 2017, around $400,000, according to data provided by the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.
But according to Sun Valley Board of Realtors President Ned Burns, the inventory is limited in the range of $325,000 to $395,000 outside of the south valley. Bellevue’s median home price in 2018 was $303,000 and Carey’s was $215,000. That being said, Hailey remains on top with the largest number of residential units sold in the valley, at 222 in 2018, and a median home price of $345,000 in 2018.
Burns said there is still a “lack of inventory” that often influences buying decisions—limiting buyer options to two or three homes.
In terms of demographics, Burns said there does seem to be a stronger presence of new full-time residents moving in, either to retire or for a job opportunity. As in years past, Sun Valley and Ketchum generally attract the retirees and those with more spending power, while Hailey and Bellevue seem to offer more of what families are looking for in the housing markets.
In general, the market is healthy—but essentially for those who have money to spend. Burns said that if someone is looking to move to the valley but is in a stable housing situation where they are, they may wait from one to three years for something in the market to open up that fits what they’re looking for.
Overall, 2018 was “probably the strongest recovery year since the crash,” said Grace Summers, chief executive officer of the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.
In comparison to 2007, at the height of the economic boom, the housing market is still down, but Burns said growth has been stable overall since the last market dip in 2012 and there is optimism that over the next two to four years the market appreciation rate will teeter around 3 percent, though he acknowledged that it’s hard to predict.
According to Burns, 2012 was an oddball year in terms of bounce-back in the market, due to the “second ‘short sale’ wave,” of homeowners who couldn’t afford to pay their mortgage due to a jump in adjustable-rate mortgages that they could no longer afford. Burns said some homeowners fell out of the market immediately in 2008, but others held on, gritting their teeth and intending to remain homeowners. However, because of the way adjustable-rate mortgages work—low rates up front and higher rates when the adjustable rate kicks in—some homeowners who entered into adjustable-rate mortgages in 2007 and 2008 managed to hang on longer than most because they were still at a low rate.
Because of that, homes sold about five years after the Great Recession tended to be concentrated at the lower end of the market. In Blaine County, median home prices dropped between 2007 and 2009, followed by a very slow rise in 2010 and 2011, and then another significant drop in 2012, when the median home price in Ketchum dropped from just below $600,000 a year earlier to $290,000, according to the Sun Valley Board of Realtors. Since then, the market has once again leveled out, with general increases across the county. Even so, only Carey, Bellevue and Hailey are back around where they were in 2007.
In 2007, Hailey’s median home price (which includes single-family homes and condominiums) was $402,000; last year it was $345,000. Bellevue’s median home price was $345,000 in 2007 and last year was $303,000. Carey had a median home price of $224,000 in 2007 and was just below that at $215,000 last year. Ketchum’s median home price in 2007 was $1,542,000 and last year was still less than half that at $650,000. Sun Valley’s median home price was $1.9 million in 2007 and last year was far below that at $499,000.
According to Summers, Sun Valley’s median home price is pulled down by lower price points in condominium sales in Elkhorn versus condominium sales in Ketchum. In the Elkhorn area of Sun Valley, the median condo price was just under $300,000, with 67 condos sold in 2018. Ketchum’s median condo sale price was $452,000 and 74 condos were sold last year. In addition, Ketchum sees more single-family home sales, Summers said.
For those buying homes, Wood River Valley homes still cost less than those in other ski communities such as Vail and Aspen, Burns said.
“It’s still a tremendous value compared to other resort communities,” he said.
But for people who are renters and make below the area median income of $54,900, according to a 2018 data number from the Blaine County Housing Authority, housing options are limited.
According to the Housing Authority—whose goal is to promote various methods for providing housing at affordable sales prices and rental rates to people comprising the “local population,” according to its website—a person making 60 percent of the area median income, $32,950 in 2018, can afford a monthly housing cost of $824, 30 percent of their income. However, in 2018, the average advertised rent for a studio apartment in Ketchum was $1,104, more than a studio listed in Sun Valley ($965 in 2018), according to the Housing Authority, based on data from rentals advertised in the classified section of the Idaho Mountain Express.
Based on its analysis, in order for someone to live in a studio apartment in Ketchum, they would need to have an annual income of at least $44,168. In Hailey, things are slightly better, with an average studio rental in 2018 of $812, meaning someone would need a salary of $32,492 to spend a maximum of 30 percent of their income on rent. Even so, the inventory is limited, with only 12 studio apartments in Hailey advertised in the Idaho Mountain Express in 2018.
Looking ahead, Summers said many people will continue to move to the valley due to its “geographic prestige,” while many working people will continue to be priced out of the housing market with a diminishing inventory of affordable homes for first-time buyers.