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MailTribune.com
  • Condos feel the squeeze

    Despite growing numbers of people wanting to downsize, this type of housing has never done well here, says Jackson County assessor
  • In July, 2005, investors bought The Meadow Wood apartment complex at 2101 Poplar Drive with the intention of converting its units into 85 condominiums.
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  • In July, 2005, investors bought The Meadow Wood apartment complex at 2101 Poplar Drive with the intention of converting its units into 85 condominiums.
    It seemed like a good idea at the time, with the median sales price of single-family residences in east Medford hovering around the $300,000 mark and fewer first-time buyers able to enter the market.
    In February 2006, the condominiums went on sale, priced between $139,900 and $159,900 for units ranging from 595 square feet to 946 square feet.
    Little more than two years later, the asking price for units once advertised for $152,000, has plummeted to $129,000.
    "The timing wasn't right," says Nanette Hall, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate in Medford. "The intention was to have families living there; we thought it was a good deal. But it didn't work out."
    Jackson County's 1,092 condos and 4,433 townhouses comprise 12 percent of the residential market, according to figures from the county assessor's office. But along with the rest of residential property, values have declined since 2005.
    In the past six months, 84 condo-type units were put on the market priced between $120,000 and $300,000. Of those listings, 63 remain active, 19 sold and two are pending. The median sales price was $240,000.
    "Condos have never done well here, even dating back to the 1970s," Jackson County Assessor Dan Ross says. "We've trying to isolate them and ratio them (for tax purposes) separately because we think they may be doing different than other properties."
    In Oregon, condominiums include the airspace and either the middle of the wall or outside the wall. The surrounding space and ground is shared in common with a homeowners association. Townhouse ownership includes some ground and the air along it as well as ground held in common with a homeowners association.
    "They're like everything else right now," says Rodney Goodman of Oregon Dream Homes. "Unfortunately, with all the foreclosures out there, people are going to need to reduce their prices. I showed a brand new one with about 1,400 square feet and the price has dropped to $199,000."
    Goodman says the present rule of thumb is to price condos and townhouses about 5 percent lower than a price produced by evaluation.
    Even so, builders have pressed forward with construction of new units.
    Once such project, Townhomes at Hillcrest Heights on Dunthorpe Drive, began taking shape last spring. Of the anticipated 43 units, 12 have been completed, five sold and one sale is pending.
    Units are priced from $249,900 to $279,900 and sized from 1,650 square feet to 2,150 square feet, with monthly maintenance and landscaping fees of $50.
    "It's a pretty reasonable price per square foot and for where they are located," says Bryan Schlafke of RE/MAX Realty Group in Medford. "There are certain amount of people wanting to downsize and townhomes are a great option. We're starting to get calls on them now. Sometimes it's tough to sell new construction during the winter because people see more mud than greenery."
    Long-established units are suffering as well.
    John L. Scott Real Estate agent Nancy Kenyon has kept an eye on Medford Estates on Eastwood Drive, where her mother lives, for the past 10 years. She's also been involved in a couple of transactions.
    "In that category, there's not as much appreciation as houses," Kenyon says. "I sold one there for $245,000 a year or two ago; the same kind of units are going for $199,000 now."
    In addition to condos and townhouses, there is a co-op category where owners buy shares of an apartment complex. The difference is that buyers have to pay cash up front because financing isn't available, says Raelynn Barker of Oregon Dream Homes. One such complex for 55-and-older residents is at Stevens Street and Royal Avenue in Medford, where water, garbage, sewer, property taxes and structural fire insurance (contents aren't covered), all behind secured gates, are covered in $320 monthly dues.
    "It works well for people wanting to be close to retailers and medical offices," Barker says. "Years ago there was a 14-year waiting list and then seven. Now there are five available."
    The price has gone down since the waiting list vanished. Units that once sold for between $75,000 to $80,000 now go for $5,000 less.
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.
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