Don't look now, but a $200,000 median sales price for Jackson County single-family residences is on the horizon.
The Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported Wednesday that the countywide median price on existing home sales from March 1 through May 31 rose 19.8 percent, to $185,750, while May alone saw a 26.9 percent jump to $190,000 from $149,750 a year ago.
"A year ago, we were saying the lower-price-range homes were going to lead us out, and that's what happened," said Colin Mullane, spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and an agent with Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland.
He said the county likely will see a $200,000 median price — perhaps later this summer — before rising interest rates dampen the market.
That's primarily driven by an inventory that is down 10 percent from a year ago, supported by mortgage interest rates that have edged up fractionally from recent lows. In Medford, the sales floor is between $100,000 and $200,000, while in Ashland, it's $200,000 to $300,000.
"If there is no lower-price-range inventory to sell, there is no lower-end market to keep the median down," Mullane said. "It's like if Walmart has milk for $1.99 and you go in and there is no milk, the lower price doesn't matter."
The average time on the market for homes that sold during the three months dropped to 62 days — the equivalent of two months — from 83 days a year ago, and new construction sold in two months rather than four months. "Interest rates are starting to creep up already," said Terry Rasmussen of John L. Scott Real Estate. "Right now they are spurring more activity — I'm running from appointment to appointment. The listings I'm getting now are gone in two to three weeks at the most and they are usually selling over the course of a weekend."
While SOMLS reported 522 sales of existing homes over a three-month period, it also showed new homes were beginning to make tracks. Much of the area's new construction doesn't go through SOMLS, so its new-home figures can be skewed. But year-over-year new houses sold through the system went for a median price of $228,675.
Adding to the rising median figure is a decline in distressed sales.
Normal transactions accounted for 75.1 percent of the county's sales, at a median price of $218,750. Short sales dropped to 16.3 percent of the activity, at a $127,000 median, while foreclosure deals fell to 7.7 percent of sales, at a median price of $123,950. "Last year at this time, distressed sales accounted for 56.6 percent of all home sales," said longtime residential real estate appraiser Roy Wright. "Distressed sales are at the lowest point in five years."
The 223 sales within incorporated areas during May represented the highest number in more than three years.
Mullane said the three- to four-month supply of houses mirrors what is occurring in Portland, Eugene and Bend. "We're benefitting from the out-of-town buyers, whose home values are back at the level they were before the bubble burst," he said. "They've got some equity back and the stock market is at an all-time high. They might be selling in a hotter market, and we're always six to eight months behind the Bay Area and other large metropolitan markets that feed our market."
Rasmussen anticipates sales to maintain a good pace and prices to rise through summer. "Up through the $300,000 range, we're seeing sales go pretty smoothly. I expect interest rates to gradually rise, but I don't anticipate a spike."