‘I don’t want to keep beating my head against a brick wall’: Local landlords sell properties, rent rising drastically

SPOKANE, Wash. — Some local landlords have gone over a year without rent and can’t keep up with stress and uncertainty that comes from maintaining rentals. Many are selling off properties they’ve owned for years, causing local rent to skyrocket for tenants.

Property values are on the rise in this booming city. In 2016, the median home price was $209,500. In 2020, it was $264,121. Now, it’s over $315,000. Local landlords have lost thousands of dollars during the eviction moratorium, and many see this time as a way to get off a sinking ship, selling off their rentals.

“We’re going to see more out of state investors taking over these properties, immediately moving these properties to market value, and that’s going to be a jump of hundred of dollars in many cases for tenants,” said Keith Kelley, a local landlord.

If someone else buys a rental, their mortgage will also be higher in this highly competitive market.

“Now, they’re buying it at the new rate and so if they’re not moving in and want to continue to be a landlord, of course the rent has to go up almost 40 or 50% for the business to even make sense,” said Daniel Klemme, the president of the Landlord Association of the Inland Northwest.

Another concern for rising rent comes down to large-scale investors having their eye on Spokane. They see how fast it’s growing and are buying up properties on the market and converting them to rentals for people moving in willing to pay more.

“We have all these people now wanting to move into Spokane from Seattle, Portland and California,” Kelley said. “It’s putting extra pressure on a market overburdened.”

Spokane has a housing shortage. The city doesn’t have enough homes to fill the demand for the amount of people moving in. The Spokane Association of Realtors says housing inventory is down 61% compared to last year. People who may be ready to buy and free up additional rental units can’t leave because the market is so competitive and homes are so expensive.

Kelley always thought he would be a landlord in the community. He has a passion for providing affordable housing. Even after the rent freeze was lifted, he hasn’t raised rent on any of his 100 tenants. Most pay under $700 to stay in one of his units, but he isn’t sure how long he’ll be able to stay in the business if more regulations and red tape make being a landlord too hard.

“If a landlord like me has to sell, those tenants aren’t going to find anything comparable to what they’re paying now, especially for the quality,” Kelley said. “I’m just looking at a lot of the changes being proposed at the state and local level and just thinking I don’t want to keep beating my head up against a brick wall on this stuff. It’s just extremely difficult.”