Tax credits boost home sales in county 16.7%

Sales of Jackson County homes soared again in April as buyers scrambled to take advantage of tax credits that expired at the end of the month.

For the three-month period ending April 30, Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported 433 single-family residences exchanged hands, compared to 371 for the same period in 2009, a 16.7 percent increase. The median sales price continued its downward spiral countywide, with a decline of 15.4 percent to $164,900 from $195,000 a year ago.

Distressed properties — foreclosures, bank-owned houses, short sales and such — accounted for 49 percent of the existing home sales and also led to the price decline. The median price of bank-owned properties was $132,750, while short sales came in at $155,000 for the reporting period. Other transactions showed a median price of $198,900.

The May 1 inventory of homes on the market declined 8.8 percent to 2,019. That number is likely to rise, said Rogue Valley Association of Realtors spokesman Colin Mullane.

"There has been a lot of activity in the lower price ranges," Mullane said. "But when the tax credit goes away, the activity is going to move toward the higher end of the market and median prices will go up. If a seller sees the median price increasing, the misconception will be that the market is recovered. They will put their houses on the market when home values haven't really increased; it's just been a shift in the market."

Preliminary SOMLS figures show homes under contract jumped more than 50 percent in April compared with 2009.

West Medford and White City proved most resistant to declining prices during the period. West Medford's median price fell 5.6 percent to $125,000, while White City's median slipped 3 percent to $137,675.

"The reason we didn't see a dramatic drop in west Medford and White City was because they saw a more precipitous drop early on (in the cycle) because of a much higher proportion of distress sales," Mullane said.

Those markets are among the few that are seeing new home sales.

"White City and west Medford are more buildable areas than Ashland or Talent right now," Mullane said. "If one builder lost a tract to foreclosure, it might have been picked up by another builder. If you buy the lot at the right price, you can build a home at the right price. Then those houses will move."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

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