Rise in median prices is promising trend

If the second half of 2012 is anything like the first half, Jackson County real estate agents could be exchanging high-fives.

Not that modestly rising median sales prices would necessarily signal a residential housing market recovery. But on the heels of six bad years, it would be a welcome respite and perhaps the harbinger of better things.

The Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service released its summary report for the first half of 2012 on Thursday. It showed a nearly 7 percent gain in the median price of existing single-family residences and an 11.6 percent increase in activity over the first six months of the year. The gains, coupled with a modest pickup in new construction, mean buyers have been willing to make offers, and sellers have pared previous losses and moved on.

Still, said Colin Mullane, an Ashland real estate agent who serves as spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors, it will take more than six solid months to prove this is a long-term reality. "Over time, the median can give you a feel for what's going on, and you can look back to where your highs and lows have been," Mullane said. "But short-term, it's not really going to tell you the value of your house."

After the long, precipitous drop from 2005 through 2011, the gains were welcome. "This isn't a reversal at this point, but we're going through a correction where we are gaining," he said.

This is a time when buyers should be more than merely pre-qualified to submit offers, but pre-authorized.

"If you're finding a house that is desirable, it's likely others are finding it desirable, too," Mullane said. "That's when you get multiple offers."

Over the past year, the biggest increases in area median sales prices have been in Shady Cove/Trail, at 46.8 percent, to $161,500; Eagle Point, 31.2 percent, to $181,000; and Jacksonville, 12.9 percent, to $293,500.

Even though Ashland's sales activity picked up 32 percent over the first half of the year, the median price sagged 6.9 percent because higher-end homes didn't move.

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

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