County real estate prices jump 9.7%

The median price for the three months ending May 31 rose to $155,000

Jackson County residential real-estate prices bounced nearly 10 percent higher over the past three months compared to the same period last year.

The median price for existing single-family residences rose 9.7 percent for the three-month period ending May 31 — to $155,000 from $141,300.

Statistics compiled by the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service pointed to a modest increase in the pace of sales and declining inventories. It's the third consecutive month the county's rolling-quarter results have shown price gains after steady, sometimes-precipitous drops over the previous six years.

While many houses are worth a little more than half what they may have fetched at the height of the market, the latest numbers show the median price for existing houses countywide is 40 percent of the 2007 figure.

Could a trend be in the making?

"Had the market been going up for a period of time, would there be a negative spin if prices went down for three months?" asked Terry Rasmussen, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "When the market turns upward right now, the question becomes how long?"

Median prices rose in nine of the county's 11 reporting areas, with the Eagle Point market registering the biggest median gain, rising to $188,700 from $131,000.

"We're still dealing with all the people who sat on the sidelines waiting for the market to tumble," Rasmussen said. "We know there is pent-up demand, and that could go on for a year or so. There's absolutely a psychological element to this, just as in the stock market. If you are feeling good and confident, you start getting out and spending money. The market's not exploding, but it's definitely waking up, the market is stirring," he said. "People are alert to what's going on, taking advantage of market conditions."

While the pace of existing home sales lumbered along at just 3.1 percent above the spring of 2011, with 539 houses exchanging hands, the number of single-family residences on the market fell to 1,199 at the end of May, down 26 percent from a year ago.

"The Pacific Northwest as a whole has a low inventory of houses," Rasmussen said, noting Snohomish County near Seattle has an inventory of just more than two months and Portland has a three-month supply.

The turnaround time also fell to 81 days — less than three months — from 97 days.

"We're starting to see new construction pick up," Rasmussen said. "So all the signs are that we've hit bottom."

Rasmussen said diminished activity in lower-priced areas such as Rogue River and White City can be attributed to availability.

"In places like Rogue River and White City, we're looking for houses on the lower end," he said, noting a client recently had to pay $145,000 to land a 1,700-square-foot house listed at $135,000. "When you're talking about areas where there aren't so many sales, that shouldn't put pressure on prices. But the lack of inventory is putting more pressure on prices."

Traditional transactions made up 43.8 percent of the sales at a median price of $189,950. Distressed sales still weighed heavily, with foreclosures accounting for 37.8 percent of sales and a median price of $129,900. Short sales involved 18.2 percent of the deals at a median price of $148,000.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.


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