Home sales in Jackson County slowest in years

August home sales haven't been this slow in Jackson County since 1998, just before the market began a record run-up for several years.

Just 160 single-family residences exchanged hands last month as the stagnant real estate market produced the fewest sales this year since February &

a month of winter sales doldrums rarely mentioned in the same breath as August in real estate figures.

According to figures compiled by Medford real estate appraiser Roy Wright, the county's average single-family residence sale price in 1998 was $139,725, less than 40 percent of this year's average of $348,623.

In 1998, just 139 homes sold in August. The following two years, that month produced sales of 227 and 226 homes as the market built up steam toward it's prolific early 2000s run. The 353 sales in August 2005, followed by an unusually high 350 sales in September of that year, marked the market's peak and the beginning of what has turned into a lengthy slide.

Single-family home sales haven't topped the 200 mark since August 2006, when 216 deals were reported. Meanwhile, the inventory of houses on the market grows with nearly 2,300 homes on the market, up 16 percent from a year ago.

"If the sellers are in a situation where they have to sell, the price is coming down and those are the ones the buyers are locking on to," said Ron Galbreath, a John L. Scott Real Estate agent. "The buyers are sifting through the inventory looking for the bargains and they're determining the values. For the four or five years before this, the sellers determined the price. Now the buyers have the hammer and they're popping it over the sellers' heads."The county's median sales price, half of the homes selling for more and half for less, stayed virtually unchanged at $268,650 in August. However, Wright reported the biggest cluster (41.4 percent) of sales during the first half of the year was in the $200,000-$299,999 range, nearly double the $300,000-$399,999 segment, which accounted for 21 percent of the activity.

Sandy Lighthall of Eastside Realty said real estate agents have forgotten some of the tools in their box in recent years.

"For the last three or four years, all you had to be was an order taker," he said. "The way things are you need to be listing 5 percent below market value. If your house is worth $300,000, you need to list it at $285,000 to sell."

Lighthall said sellers are running out of time to grab buyers' attention before they hunker down for the school year.

"People have to be very competitive to move their houses right now," he said. "After Sept. 10, people are pretty much situated for school."

With the exception of east Medford, prices dropped in all of the county's urban areas, Wright said.

The east Medford median rose to $293,250, up 9 percent, while activity lagged 18 percent from a year earlier.

"East Medford seems to be more in line with the rest of the state as sales were down, but median price has increased," Wright said.

He said sales activity in Portland through July was down 7 percent, while prices were up 8.7 percent year to date. In Lane County, home sales were down 4.5 percent and median price was up 10.3 percent year to date.

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