Shane O’Neill, Realtor Emeritus, Talks Housing in Spokane
by Sheila Julson
From sky-high interest rates during the mid-1980s to the Great Recession of 2008, Shane O’Neill has seen remarkable trends during his 43-year career in real estate. Yet through perseverance, ethics and solid customer service, O’Neill has weathered the whirlwinds of a profession that often experiences high turnover.
O’Neill, a real estate agent and Realtor Emeritus with Re/Max Inland Empire, started his career in April 1977, when he was in his 20s. His father was a broker and owned J. Pat O’Neill Realty. O’Neill considers his business a boutique real estate service, focusing on personalized service. His solid reputation among peers and clients has earned him a base of mostly repeat and referral customers. Through Re/Max, a full service real estate company, he’s also able to offering staging, consultation and organizational services.
During his four-plus decades in the profession, O’Neill has watched Spokane blossom. “The current state of affairs in Spokane real estate is very strong, and I don’t see it slowing down over the next decade,” he observes. Spokane’s unique blend of urban amenities and close proximity to nature and outdoor recreation are an attractive draw, along with homes that cost a fraction of those in Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
“We’re seeing millennials coming back to Spokane because of the high prices along the whole West Coast,” O’Neill says. “The average house there runs $700,000, but our median price in Spoke is about $260,000.” The area’s two new medical schools, specifically Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, is drawing students, teachers and staff. Amazon’s distribution center is also attracting new employees to Spokane.
The high demand for housing in Spokane has not come without challenges, O’Neill affirms. “What we need in Spokane is more affordable housing. We see that in customizing older buildings, like repurposed warehouses and several projects built out in the early 2000s, but we’re lagging behind the demand, and the supply is very short right now,” he notes. “There’s a historically low inventory of homes for sale based on the population growth. Contractors pulled in their reigns after the 2008 downturn and didn’t wrap it up quick enough to keep up with what’s now a high demand.”
O’Neill states that City of Spokane leaders are helping to ease challenges through more lenient lot specifications, allowing smaller homes to be built on narrower lots than previously allowed in the past. Sometimes, construction of two homes is permitted on one lot.
Homes in the $150,000 to $300,000 range are the hottest market right now, and O’Neill also sees “green” trends, such as people seeking energy efficient housing or smaller homes. “The green packages that new home construction is implementing are much more energy efficient than they were in the 1980s and 1990s, and a lot of that is due to green certification and builders using a high standard of insulation, caulking, high energy efficient furnaces, window packages and some solar. Also, the huge mega-mansions that were popular in the 1980s and 1990s are less popular now. People don’t want to make that big of an imprint on the world and want a simpler lifestyle.”
O’Neill keeps his finger on the pulse of the Spokane real estate market through staying active in the industry. After 40 years of continuous membership in the National Association of Realtors, he was bestowed Realtor Emeritus status. Other requirements of that designation include continuing education every two years, serving on ethics boards, and doing community service. O’Neill volunteers with Gonzaga Men’s basketball, Hoopfest, Bloomsday and Spokane Second Harvest Food Bank.
“My main rewards are the hundreds of people I’ve helped and developed relationships with,” he enthuses. “I love working with people and providing a service they need and a level of trust they can count on. I do something new every month, and it is exciting going to a closing with a first-time home buyer or helping someone downsize or settle up an estate.”
Shane O’Neill is located at Re/Max Inland Empire, 1311 N. Washington St., Ste. A, Spokane. For more information, call 509-499-0027 or visit http://tinyurl.com/y22yw8em.
Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.