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MailTribune.com
  • White City draws first-time buyers, investors

    Prices are climbing there as lower-cost homes in the county become harder to find
  • This time last year, houses built in White City within the past decade sat languishing.
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  • This time last year, houses built in White City within the past decade sat languishing.
    Some of them had belonged to families whose paychecks disappeared or to investors who couldn't cover monthly mortgage payments with rent checks.
    Whatever the reason, houses that had sold when new for $115,000 to $130,000 or more were selling for $80,000.
    "Rentals weren't being taken care of if an investor lost the property," said Alice Lema, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "So it was doubly ill-maintained. There were a lot of side effects there if someone lost a job, had cancer or their partner no longer lived in the household and the remaining person was no longer able to take care of the home."
    While property values are not exactly soaring, those bargain-basement deals are no longer available.
    For the three-month period ending July 31, the median price for single-family residences in White City was $115,100 — close to half the median level during the peak of the market six years ago.
    Nonetheless, the prices were in keeping with the generally rising median marks occurring much of this year.
    The pace of sales grew 13.2 percent in May through July, versus a similar period in 2011, and 592 houses exchanged hands from May through July, compared with 523 last year. The median sales price for the county rose 10 percent to $165,000 from $150,000 a year ago, while time on the market declined to 65 days from 95 in 2011.
    "Buyers have to buy more expensive homes than they did last year," said Colin Mullane, spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors. "Obviously there is just a different type of property available, because the individual property values haven't gone up 29 percent."
    While White City remains a notable exception, non-distressed existing home sales overtook foreclosures and short sales in Jackson County during May, June and July.
    Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service figures showed normal transactions accounted for 52 percent of housing sales during that period at a median price of $205,000. Foreclosures, sold by lenders, accounted for 31 percent of the deals at a median price of $132,000, and short sales covered 17 percent of the activity at a median of $139,325.
    "It's been a year-and-a-half since we've seen traditional sales make up the majority of sales," Mullane said. "It dropped to 40 percent in January of 2011 and has hovered for 18 months. We're always happy to see traditional sales come up like that."
    With a new law kicking in last month requiring lenders who annually foreclose on more than 250 properties in the state to offer mediation, the pace of foreclosures will slow for a while, Mullane said.
    As a result, at least for the short term, there will be fewer distressed houses appearing on the market, he said.
    "I'm thinking inventories will tighten up for the next six to nine months," he said. "That will keep the traditional sales figure artificially over the 50 percent level for a while."
    White City's median price — rivaled by Gold Hill and Rogue River — has been more attractive for first-time buyers and investors during recent months, Lema said, because other areas were running out of low-cost inventory.
    "There's still a lot of newer construction, and you can get a three-bed, two-bath house with a two-car garage for a lot less than you would pay in Medford or Eagle Point," she said. "The affordability and lack of inventories — along with the general feeling we're at, or past, the bottom of the market — are all part of it."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.
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