Home prices march up in Jackson County

Sales fell this year as inventories of rural homes grew

Jackson County home sellers have had it good in 2013, with the median sales price marching relentlessly back to the $200,000 mark for the first time since the devastating real estate bubble hit seven years ago.

Even though the sales pace has slowed this fall, the median price for existing residences has continued its upward momentum.

Figures compiled by the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service show home sales fell 9.9 percent from Aug. 1 through Oct. 31, compared to the same quarter the previous year. There were 518 transactions in 2013, 575 during a similar period in 2012.

However, the countywide median price for the quarter came in at $208,250, up 19 percent from $175,000 in 2012.

"It's a seasonal adjustment," said Terry Rasmussen, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "Summer is over, people have settled into school and for a lot of them, their minds are on the holidays."

Any abnormal movement, Rasmussen said, will come from the investment community.

"If there is a blip by the end year it will be because there are investors who need to spend money before the end of the year," he said.

Inventories have grown 11.6 percent from a year ago to 1,129 houses listed in the SOMLS system as of Oct. 31. A significant chunk of the properties is rural. Rural residences have more acreage and come at a higher price, meaning they usually take longer to sell.

"When my clients are looking, it still feels like inventories are really tight," said Colin Mullane, spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and an agent with Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland. "Rural properties sit there longer."

Even though there were fewer sales, local residences sold faster than the corresponding three-month period in 2012, lasting 51 days on market, compared with 59 days.

"Rural markets recover slower than urban markets, and smaller urban markets recover slower than larger urban markets," Mullane said. "The San Francisco Bay Area has had a strong recovery and for a longer period than here, and that's fairly typical."

The underlying strength in the current recovering market shows up in October's median sales price of $215,000, compared to the $180,000 level a year earlier.

"If we kept up at the same pace we were seeing during the summer, we'd end up in another bubble," Rasmussen said.

"We needed to slow down a bit and let appreciation level off. What we've witnessed the past two years is a bounce off the bottom. We should expect to see the market appreciate 3 to 5 percent and that would be signs of a healthy market."

While distress sales haven't completely faded away, they comprise a shrinking percentage of the market.

In August, September and October, normal transactions accounted for 84.4 percent of sales at a median of $219,900. Short sales made up 9.7 percent of the deals at a median of $154,500, while foreclosed properties accounted for 4.4 percent of the transactions with a median price of $151,500.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

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