The Jackson County real estate market witnessed something it hadn't seen in years during the first three months of 2012 — a rise in the median sales price for existing single-family residences.
Figures compiled by the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service revealed a 3.2 percent increase in the median price to $145,900, led by the Upper Rogue region and west Medford, from Jan. 1 through March 31. It was the first year-over-year increase over a three-month period since August 2007.
"I think there has been some pent-up demand with people on the sidelines wanting to buy, but not too soon for fear it might go down further," said Mike Towery, branch manager at iMortgage in Medford. "Now, the consensus is that prices are stabilizing, and they don't want to miss the boat. With the low prices and low interest rates, it's my opinion we're in a sweet spot where both are at or near decade-lows."
The pace of activity jumped 14.5 percent during the first quarter, as well, with 481 homes exchanging hands, up from 420. Turnover time appeared to hasten, as well, with the average days on market for sold property decreasing to 77 from 101. There was a rare nudge in new construction sales as well, with new homes being bought in seven of the 11 SOMLS zones.
While the median for the past three months is 43.1 percent below the $256,500 level enjoyed five years ago, there are signs that this isn't a one-time bump.
March's countywide median was $150,000, up from $135,160 a year ago. The inventory of existing houses on the market has plunged 28.3 percent over the past year to 1,130, with 55 fewer dwellings than were listed a month ago.
A lot of real estate agents are asking themselves if a three-month trend during the winter is for real, said Ron Galbreath of Keller Williams Realty in Medford.
"Is it pseudo bottom?" he wondered. "A lot of people on the street see a shadow inventory coming, but I don't see it. It seems to be a perfect storm, so I'm pinching myself."
Five of the 11 reporting zones saw increased medians: Shady Cove/Trail by 20.3 percent; Eagle Point by 9.1 percent; west Medford by 7 percent; Talent by 4.8 percent; and Central Point by 2.7 percent.
Foreclosed properties, which have dominated sales in recent times, made up 43.7 percent of the transactions at a median of $126,235. Short sales accounted for the 19.1 percent at a median price of $141,500, while the other 37 percent were standard sales at a median price of $173,750.
While the lower end of the market continues to be more active, there is some action at the high end.
"Last year, we saw a lot of people who just wanted to buy a house," Towery said. "Now we're seeing people selling a home and trading up, the kind of things we saw historically."
Towery said someone with a credit score of 720 or better and 20 percent down could qualify for a conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgage up to $417,000 at 3.875 percent, with the annual percentage rate of 4.055 percent.
Lenders, he said, have the ability to add to or improve the pricing of a loan based on credit scores, occupancy and the amount of down payments.
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email email@example.com.