Living on the Rogue

Answering questions about riverfront property

Q: How has removal of the dams at Gold Ray and Savage Rapids altered perception of property on the Rogue River?

A: People's perception hasn't changed. But the river is moving faster, and in Grants Pass it has drastically changed the waterfront. It used to be like a big lake, and now the river is running through faster, and the docks are farther back. Land is not moving in general right now, and prices have gone down.

Lee Davidson of RE/MAX Ideal Brokers in Grants Pass has been selling real estate in the Rogue Valley since 1988 and has lived on the Rogue River since 2000. She is principal broker/manager of RE/MAX in Grants Pass.

Q: What characteristics set riverfront property apart from typical real estate?

A: There is only so much property and only so much land you can build on because of flood plains. In recent months, I know some people have lost wells in the Gold Ray Estates (near Gold Hill). Some people lost trees when the river changed, and they weren't getting the same water as before.

Q: Does it take a certain amount of savvy when buying riverfront property?

A: I would say the agents do most of the homework for their clients. Most buyers don't run down to county offices and do research; they depend on agents who usually do that for them. You have to know whether you are in the 500- or 1,000-year flood plain and what the wells are doing in the area. Some people get drinking water right from the river and have to put in systems. There are always zoning issues and restrictions. Other than that, it's a wonderful place to live.

Q: What are the qualities that attract people to riverfront property?

A: They're not making any more of it. The tranquility sets it apart; the ambiance is very peaceful. You don't have neighbors right behind you. You've got people across the river, and it's fun to watch rafters and kayakers go by. You don't hear the neighbors' phone ring. You've got that wonderful river and the sound of it, and you don't have a fence. It's more private.

Q: Have some properties held value more than others?

A: Everything has gone down. We were going up 30 percent per year, and it couldn't continue. You don't see very many foreclosures and short sales on the river, but there are a few. I think the reason is a lot of people paid cash for their homes. A lot of retired people live on the river; they sold their California homes and had cash to buy. If you ask a person where they want to be, they will say they want to be close to town with a little bit of acreage. They get excited when they hear about property on the Rogue River. They tend to stay longer because most of them are older. They usually get their home and stay there until they are ready to go into assisted-living care. I can think of several neighbors on the river over the years who stayed into their 90s.

Q: What kind of people buy on the Rogue?

A: Most of the people who live on the river have not lived on a river in the past. It's gorgeous to live on the river, and many of them like to be out fishing. It's something they like to do on the water.

Q: When the market recovers, will riverfront property rise rapidly?

A: It will go up faster than houses in town or other rural property. That's primarily because it is less than 1 percent of the property. A lot of it depends on when the houses were built and condition. I've seen people buy river property with a house they thought had no value, tore it down and put up new houses. I've seen others where they fix it up. There are still a few bare lots, but very few.

Q: What are the primary water sources for riverfront property owners?

A: All along the river you have wells, I can't think of any property that doesn't have wells. When they go dry, you go deeper, have water delivered or get permission to pump water from the river.

Q: How many riverfront houses are for sale between Shady Cove and Grants Pass?

A: In early May, there were fewer properties for sale than at the height of the market. People held on to their property because they thought it was going to keep going up 30 percent every year. The price range for the property is between $135,000 and $795,000. There are still a few properties from back in the 1930s, when there were a lot of little fishing cabins. Today there are still some little cabins, and then there are the big ones.

Reach Mail Tribune business editor Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.


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