Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Area property sales lagging


Area property sales – which slowly rebounded following the 2008 banking crisis – appear to be slumping.

Through Aug. 10, the Haines Borough saw only 27 properties change hands in 2012, compared to a total of 79 in 2011. About two-thirds of sales typically come during summer months, according to property agents.

The borough hasn’t issued a permit for construction of a new home since June 2010, said assistant assessor Dean Olsen. “Most of our permits are for additions, improvements to porches and decks, woodshed and garages,” Olsen said.

Borough records show property sales jumped from 66 to 135 in 2004, peaked at 141 in 2006 and tapered to 108 in 2008 before plummeting to 52 in 2009. With 74 sales, 2010 marked the start of a rebound.

Glenda Gilbert, a real estate licensee and lifelong resident, said she’s hoping for a late-season uptick. “In the last month, it’s started to wake up.” A rush typically occurs this time of year to get into a home before winter, she said.

“It’s been a late year. It was a late start because the snow was melting and we had a lot of snow to melt. It’s not going to be my best year,” she said. “But the sun comes out, and the buyers do, too.”

Gilbert said values are dropping for owners in a hurry to sell. “They’ll have to drop their price, but people who can wait, for the most part, can get their price.”

While the market for second homes by Lower 48 residents has disappeared, there is still interest in existing homes by residents and Alaskans from other parts of the state, Gilbert said.

Real estate broker Jim Studley said he believes the market reflects uncertainty.

“People are so concerned about the economy, they’re not doing much of anything. There are some sales of homes, but not many. But there’s lots of refinancing” as interest rates are low, Studley said.

“It’s very, very slow for new construction. People are taking what they have and fixing it up and remodeling,” he said, adding that the growing cost of new construction is also a factor.

He differed with Gilbert on the effect of sunny weather on sales. “On a sunny day, 25 people will come in (my office) and take flyers. In four or five years maybe one of those people will come back and buy something.”

Studley also said he didn’t feel that industries like mining and tourism bring new residents to town as much as it helps those living here. “It gives stability to people already living here. It gives them a good job or better pay.”

Studley said he was still hopeful for sales in August and September. “We’ve had the interest. It’s just been a very slow start.”

Gilbert said the bigger picture, including the town’s population trend, is harder to discern. “Thirty feet of snow makes people rethink their situations. People are leaving, but people are coming, too. But the school could tell better than I could. The school will know how it pans out.”

School officials are projecting about a 10 percent drop in enrollment districtwide, but acknowledge they have little information about families moving into town until the first day of class. Classes resume at the Haines School Tuesday.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, superintendent Michael Byer was projecting an enrollment of 283 students, down from about 305 at the start of school last year.