The pendulum is swinging.
The pace of existing single-family home sales in Jackson County declined 13.1 percent, year-over-year, while the inventory of houses on the market swelled by 23.7 percent, according to the latest figures compiled by the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service.
Slower sales and rising inventories generally apply downward pressure on prices, as do higher mortgage interest rates. Nonetheless, the median price for residences sold between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 increased 5.2 percent to $281,925, compared to a median of $267,900 during the same period in 2017.
“We’re seeing a shift in the market,” said Coldwell Banker Pro West Real Estate agent Ron Galbreath. “In the residential market as a whole, people looking to purchase are still looking for affordability. In my world, anything $300,000 and less seems to be selling and maybe with multiple offers. But property sellers are wanting the most the market will bear. If they are in the $400,000 and $500,000 price range, for them to sell we’re seeing the prices coming down.
“There are numerous reasons for the slowdown,” Galbreath said. “We’re not seeing an influx of people, and we think partially because of the fires and smoke, and everything else that’s been around here — not for a year, but over four years now.”
With rental vacancy rates less than 2 percent in the Rogue Valley, Galbreath said people wonder why they are paying $1,500 a month for rent, when they could purchase a $300,000 home for the same payment, while picking up a mortgage interest tax break.
“Problem is when we take them out to show them what they can buy, they get discouraged,” he said. “There is definitely an angst, because they know it would be better financially to purchase when it comes to their taxes. But they’re living more comfortably for the same dollar in a rental property.”
The places where first-time buyers won’t likely land remain the same. Jacksonville continued its upward surge with a median sales price soaring 42 percent to $545,000. Ashland’s median climbed 10 percent to $440,000, while east Medford — where activity was at the same level as last year — the median rose 6.4 percent to $305,750 from 287,250.
There were two regions — Central Point and Shady Cove/Trail — in the county that saw median declines during the period.
The median fell 13.4 percent year-over-year to $316,200 in the Upper Rogue area. Mike Malepsy, principal broker at Windermere Real Estate in Shady Cove, said wildfire smoke choked off summer sales and the conditions persisted well into the fall.
“We probably had 60 days of non activity during the prime time of the year. That really hurt us,” Malepsy said. “Now we’re entering into the holiday season, which is traditionally slow. It’s been an unfortunate set of circumstances for us. We were selling properties right along, but we just experienced a real lull with the fires.”
The unavailability of riverfront houses remains an issue, he said.
“A lot of people have been looking, but we’re not able to satisfy some buyers,” he said. “Especially on the river we don’t have a good inventory, because we sold most of that last season.”
The median price for a rural home was $381,000 for the three-month period, roughly the same as a year ago. But November activity indicated an upward trend.