County's home sales continue rise

Jackson County real estate activity continued to pick up during the year's second quarter, and the prices of homes not in foreclosure were down only slightly from the same period a year earlier.

Figures compiled by Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service show second-quarter sales of existing single-family residences rose 37.3 percent in April through June from the same period in 2008.

The median sales price slipped to $187,000, nearly 17 percent below the same span in 2008 and 5.5 percent less than in 2004.

However, the median price for houses classed as traditional sales — those not in foreclosure or in some other way "distressed" — came in at $215,000, about 4 percent off the $225,000 median for the second quarter of 2008.

"There continues to be two markets in our area, as there is in many parts of the nation," said Steve Blanton, chief executive for both the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and SOMLS.

The distressed segment saw a median sales price of $161,500, while short sales came in at $174,900.

Randy Unger, owner of Sierra Real Estate in Medford, said his office has analyzed the amount of bank-owned foreclosures and short sales and determined they account for roughly a quarter of the available properties.

"The traditional seller accounts for 76 percent of the inventory, yet half of the buying is done in 24 percent of the market," Unger said. "They are going to go where they find the best deal and what they perceive to be a fair deal."

Even so, Unger said, buyers in a hurry won't likely pursue short sales — where the lender agrees to discount a loan balance.

"Most people don't want to go down that road and the simple fact is that most of those transactions aren't successful," Unger said. "Many buyers are frustrated and agents are frustrated with the process and tend to steer their clients toward other options. It takes so stinking long and if you're the first guinea pig to put in an offer when they're putting the file together it may take three months to get a response. You don't know if you truly have a transaction until you close it because there are a lot more moving parts."

Bob Gervais of Southern Oregon RE/MAX Ideal Brokers said the upper-middle market is stirring to life as well.

"We're seeing homes not on the foreclosures list starting to move because prices have come down so dramatically," Gervais said. "We're even seeing houses selling in the $300,000, $400,000 and $500,000 range, which we haven't seen in some time."

He said the two tiers of activity make it difficult for appraisers.

"The perception that a foreclosure is always a good deal is not true," Gervais said. "You're buying 'as is' and you get what you get."

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