Healthy housing market shows Ketchikan’s resilience

A view of Ketchikan from the top of the Edmonds Street stairs. (Photo courtesy of the state)

Like many industries in the city, the story of Ketchikan’s housing market is closely tied to the shutdown of Ketchikan Pulp Company in 1997.

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Gateway City Realty broker Bill Bolling said the local market is quite healthy now. He said the robust local economy is in part due to the closing of the mill.

“If there was any silver lining in the loss of our mill, it was the diversification of our economy,” Bolling said.

Ketchikan’s economy suffered in the years following the shuttering of the mill. The Great Recession of the late aughts affected Ketchikan just like it did the rest of the country. But the city bounced back, and so did the housing market.

“And then somewhere around 2012, 2013, things seemed to change for us, so far as activity and the number of sales, and prices started rising again,” Bolling said.

Bolling said real estate companies have seen Ketchikan become more of a seller’s market in recent years.

“There’s not a lot of product out there for people to look at or buy,” Bolling said. “And so, it’s a macro-economic love affair. There’s a lot of demand and not as much supply.”

Mary Wanzer, a broker for Coastal Real Estate Group, agreed.

“We’re seeing homes going on the market and selling within two or three days and getting multiple offers,” Wanzer said.

The average price of a single-family home in Ketchikan in 2016 was about $320,000. This is more than the national average price, which in June 2016 sat just above $290,000.

“It stayed the same for quite awhile, but I’d say definitely in the last three years, the average home price has increased,” Wanzer said. “Probably five to 10 percent in the last year would be my guess, without actually looking at all the data.”

Wanzer said companies are seeing more people coming to Ketchikan and building new houses.

“What we are seeing are [sic] more new construction,” Wanzer said. “So we’re seeing build-outs in areas like Emerald Forest, Ravenwood, White Rock. So we’re getting new construction, so more of a housing development that we haven’t seen in the past.”

Bolling attributed the market’s strength to the people of Ketchikan.

“Ketchikan has really been, kinda, this little engine that could,” Bolling said. “And people here are tough. I mean, I think I’ve seen more businesses opened up since the mill shut down in Ketchikan than I remember ever opening up before. So, I think people have a good spirit here, and they have a can-do attitude, and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.”

Wanzer added that people of all kinds come to live in Ketchikan – people with the Coast Guard, the Forest Service and the hospital, especially. And they all need a place to live.