County home sales climb, prices fall

Sales of Jackson County homes jumped 17.7 percent for the first half of 2010, while the median price tumbled 13.2 percent to $165,000. During the same period, 70 new homes were sold.

The numbers, gathered by the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service, reflected trends reported monthly by the organization.

Even after the April 30 expiration of the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers, the normal home-buying season is likely to keep the market active, said a Rogue Valley Association of Realtors spokesman.

"This is typically the busiest part of the season, and we hope that the momentum will continue to the early part of the fall," said Colin Mullane, owner of Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland.

Buyers originally had to have their deals closed by June 30 to receive the tax credit, but the government extended that period until Sept. 30 because loan processes were frequently taking more time than in the past. Mullane said about 40 local transactions were still in the escrow process three weeks ago.

"As the median price goes up, we can expect the volume to fall between 5 percent and 10 percent, month-to-month," Mullane said. "That shouldn't be confused with home values going up. That will happen over time."

Of the 1,077 Jackson County homes that went into default, 336 owners avoided foreclosure during 2009, Mullane noted. Although 1,352 home loans went into default during the first six months of this year, 548 loans were reworked to avoid foreclosure.

"People are finding better ways to stay in their homes," he said.

Nonetheless, foreclosure sales accounted for 35.4 percent of the transactions during the first six months of this year, following national trends. Within the county, however, the range swayed widely from 9 percent in Ashland to 54.4 percent in White City.

The median sales price for the county's normal house transactions was $200,000, in sharp contrast to the $135,000 median for bank-owned foreclosures and $160,000 for short sales.

The so-called shadow inventories in many markets — banked-owned houses that are held off the market to keep from adding further downward price pressure — may not be as big of a factor here, according to early research by the SOMLS staff.

Medford accounted for 40 of the 70 new houses sold in the first half of the year, and so far in July builders have applied for 11 single-family residential permits. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, the city granted 114 residential building permits.

"Part of that is building costs," Mullane said. "Lots are just a lot more affordable. Some that were selling for $350,000 to $400,000 are $200,000 now."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail

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