After a "perfect storm" over the past five years, the Jackson County housing market is struggling to its feet and giving sellers reason for optimism.
Property values are slowly going up as inventories shrink and the market runs out of cheap deals on foreclosed houses, said Colin Mullane of Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service.
The median price of existing houses that sold over the past three months went up 27.5 percent — to $218,900 — compared with the same period last year.
The reason the median zoomed up from $196,000 a year ago is that distressed properties on the bottom rungs of the market have mostly been sold now, Mullane said.
A year ago, he said, "there were a lot of cheap, crazy deals," and you could pick up a west Medford house for as little as $60,000 — and one in White City in the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
"Those are gone. There was a huge choice last year. There aren't as many foreclosures now," he said. "We've moved through the distressed inventory, and last winter we started seeing consistent demand. Now we're seeing pressure on pricing."
The median is the middle value of the market, Mullane notes, "and when you remove lower-priced homes, the median automatically goes up. It means buyers have to buy in the higher price ranges, which they are able to do because mortgage rates today are 3.25 percent."
Foreclosed properties are down to about 11 percent of the inventory now, compared to 60 percent in January 2012, he says. In addition, higher-end homes are beginning to trickle onto the market and get offers, Mullane adds.
"We're seeing homes in Ashland from $500,000 to $2.2 million. We haven't seen them on the market in a long time. People are putting them back on the market and getting offers. It's going back to a more normalized level."
"What the numbers tell me," says SOMLS President Adam Bogle of Coldwell Banker in Ashland, "is that the market is recovering, and there aren't a lot of houses on the market. Only 27.6 percent of houses are distressed, so that's helping the recovery."
So, is the value of your home going up?
"Probably," says Mullane. "It's mostly because the deals are going away. We now are getting multiple offers on any home that's priced well."
In the past year, normally pricey Ashland has begun showing movement in all price ranges, he says, and the same is happening in most areas of the county.
The hardest range in Ashland for buyers is $200,000 to $300,000, because "sellers are aware the market is recovering and they probably want to wait a couple years. They don't feel the timing is right yet."
Because of the shrinking number of distressed properties, overall sales dropped 15.6 percent in the past three months, with 445 properties changing hands compared with 527 during the same period a year ago, said Mullane.
Houses are selling faster this year in Jackson County, with an average of 62 days on the market compared with 82 days last year.
Normal sales in the past three months accounted for 71.7 percent of transactions, with a median price of $225,000.
Bank-owned properties comprised 11.2 percent of sales, while short sales made up 16.4 percent of the market.
"It's a healthier market than we've had in many years," Mullane said. "It seems the mood is a lot happier. There's more confidence with the housing market and the economy as a whole."
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at email@example.com.