Local housing prices see slight rise

Local housing prices inched up in August, offers came more quickly, and new starts sprang up even as interest rates edged higher.

On top of all that, Jackson County's single-family residence inventory reversed its more than five-year course as more homes went on the market than were sold last month.

"We're definitely heading in the right direction," said Clason Whitney of Coldwell Banker ProWest Real Estate in Medford.

The median price for an existing single-family residence rose 16.5 percent year-over-year, to $196,900 from $169,000, between June 1 and Aug. 31, according to figures compiled by Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service. The median sales price in August was $202,000, up from $200,000 in July.

For the first time in five years, however, the inventory of existing homes exceeded the supply from a year earlier. The 1,229 houses in the SOMLS system were 2.3 percent higher than a year ago.

"Sellers are coming back on the market because now they are able to get out from under their loans," Whitney said.

The pace of sales slowed during the period, but new construction may have contributed to the decline, with buyers wanting something they couldn't find for sale. During the three-month period, 573 residences sold, down 6.2 percent from the 611 exchanging hands during summer 2012.

The turnaround time for sellers shortened as houses were snapped up in an average of 43 days, down from 58 days a year ago.

Real estate agents sense a growing equilibrium between buyers and sellers.

"Anything decent under $135,000 is getting multiple offers," said Claudette Moore of Coldwell Banker ProWest Real Estate. "If it's in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, sellers are getting close to their asking price. But in the upper echelon, we're still seeing some low-ball offers."

Price and interest rate trends may continue through the fall, and there's a good chance inventory will grow. "I think we're going to continue seeing prices go up a bit as long as interest rates don't get too far out of whack," said Evan McArthur with the Atlas Group, a Medford real estate firm.

"I think we're going to see a lot of activity based on the growth in the area. People are starting to move back in from out of town and out of state. We're seeing sellers, who were on the fence, go ahead and list properties and get them sold."

McArthur traces the momentum to distant market activity, putting cash in the hands of buyers looking for a home in Southern Oregon.

"They're starting to move up here again," he said. "California prices are going up — not back to where we were in 2004 and 2005 — but they're selling their properties for a premium because they don't have any inventory there either, and then they're taking advantage of our prices."

New construction continued on its recent roll, with a 50 percent increase in the number of homes sold during the summer months and the median price growing 22.5 percent to $229,100 from $187,000. Most of the activity, according to SOMLS, was in Medford and White City.

Many of the county's new construction deals, however, are not reported to SOMLS.

Even with rising interest rates, Whitney expects new construction to hold its own in the coming months. "We were spoiled crazy by low interest rates for a while," Whitney said. "I don't think there is going to be too much of a push back in new construction because the inventory is so low. We're seeing new subdivisions going in, and we're seeing new construction starts stay steady."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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