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Home and land sales booming

Chris Spakely (front) and Mike Caling of Camano Island’s JH Contracting work to nail down the frame of a wall in a new housing development being built on Katydid Court in Holmes Harbor. Real estate brokers say property values are rising considerably in Holmes Harbor, with people buying as much open property and new homes as available.  - Stephen Mercer
Chris Spakely (front) and Mike Caling of Camano Island’s JH Contracting work to nail down the frame of a wall in a new housing development being built on Katydid Court in Holmes Harbor. Real estate brokers say property values are rising considerably in Holmes Harbor, with people buying as much open property and new homes as available.
— image credit: Stephen Mercer

In the last year, many people from all over the country came to Whidbey Island to fulfill the American dream of owning their own home. Or in some cases, two homes.

According to brokers from Coldwell Banker Tara Properties at Bayview and Whidbey Pacific Realty in Clinton, home and property sales on South Whidbey are at a decade-long high. Marchele Hatchner, manager of Coldwell Banker Tara Properties in Bayview, said 176 homes and 107 parcels of land have been sold on South Whidbey in the last six months. The island brokers said the average home price has been ranging from $250,000 to $280,000.

In addition, she said, the sale of 67 homes and 94 parcels are pending financial approval from creditors and banks. Another 123 homes and 120 pieces of land remain on the market.

This six-month trend reflects a strong year for home sales in 2004.

But in comparison to many suburban communities, where people move because of a new job, homeowners seem to be seeking something different on South Whidbey.

A second home, solid investment, low long-term interest rates and privacy are some of the reasons, according to Regnar Kearton, a broker for Whidbey Pacific Realty. He said home buyers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months on new homes and property.

Most new home sales are vacation homes, said Grady Vaughan, a Tara Properties sales associate. Retirees compose the next largest group followed by people buying land for future development. Kearton at Whidbey Pacific said more retirees buy homes at his Clinton office than any other groups.

He has also noticed the upswing in second home purchases.

“The big phenomenon is that not only are houses selling, but they are not being sold to residents,” he said.

The long-term investment potential of real estate also draws people to Whidbey Island, Kearton said. Kearton and Vaughan said certain South Whidbey schools, such as the Whidbey Island Waldorf School, draw people to the island as well.

Hatchner at Coldwell banker said home buyers mainly move to Whidbey Island for a chance to live near Puget Sound, even if it is only part time.

“Mostly they want the view,” she said.

Plenty to offer

In his experience, Kearton said many people buying homes come from the mid west, East Coast and California. He said people mainly move to South Whidbey for three reasons.

“Safety, security and tranquility is probably the holy triangle,” he said.

Many buyers want large pieces of open space for their dream homes and do not mind spending $300,000 to $500,000 to buy this land. A case in point, a 2 1/2-acre lot at the intersection of Bush Point and Mutiny Bay roads recently sold for $240,000, Vaughan said.

Lots like this are readily available on South Whidbey as Island County’s land use plan does not allow the subdivision of land below 5 or 10 acres on much of South Whidbey.

Real estate professionals not that a relative shortage of property for sale and a high demand for the real estate pushes prices up on South Whidbey. This can be seen in action in at least one fast-growing South Whidbey development. In Holmes Harbor, said Grady Vaughan, a particular lot was listed at $59,000 this month. Several years ago, the same lot would have been priced at $18,000, he said. Even with all the success in home sales of late, local realtors say this seller-friendly market will not last forever.

Kearton said factors such as rising interest rates will eventually slow the market.

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