The price of homes in Jackson County is up, and so is the number of houses on the market, with 15.3 percent more for sale than a year ago.

The price of homes in Jackson County is up, and so is the number of houses on the market, with 15.3 percent more for sale than a year ago.

The Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported additional houses on the market in 10 of 14 sales areas, led by Phoenix and southwest Medford on a percentage basis. At the beginning of the week, there were 1,025 listings, compared with 889 a year ago.

Rising inventory is expected heading into spring as buying picks up.

"The inventory is expanding, and that's a good thing, because we haven't had much," said Terry Rasmussen, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "That's going to give buyers more to choose from."

Even with double-digit inventory gains, Coldwell Bank Pro West Real Estate agent Liz Forster believes there are still too few options for buyers.

"I think (listing activity) is just typical for this time of the year," Forster said. "But it's not enough for me, I just don't think there's enough inventory. There are a lot of people just thinking about it, but a lot just not willing to jump."

The first-quarter median sales price for existing homes rose 4.2 percent over the first three months of 2013 to $187,500, up from $180,000. The median price for the month of March alone was $190,000. However, the pace of sales Jan. 1 through March 31 diminished 11.3 percent, with 345 houses exchanging hands, compared with 389 for a similar period in 2013.

The median price — in which half of the sales are for more and half for less — was up in every area but the Shady Cove/Trail region. Mostly upper-end homes sold in the Eagle Point area, where the median rose 60 percent to $239,950. West Medford ($105,000) and White City ($135,000) both saw the median sales price rise 35 percent.

Roy Wright, a local appraiser who has tracked the market since the 1970s, said buying might have stalled too early.

"I would like to have seen it get back closer to where it was in 2005 before it started cooling off," Wright said.

"Purchasing power can be controlled by interest rates and employment is still a factor; if you don't have a job you're not going to be buying a house."

Investors who fueled the market have backed off, but there has been relatively little new construction.

"When people who lost their houses went from owning to renting, it created a demand for rentals," Rasmussen said. "But our population has expanded and there hasn't been a lot of building in the last five years. Builders can't find land cheap enough to meet the demand."

Rasmussen said multiple offers are coming in on both ends of the market. He said a house near Old Stage Road that sold for $350,000 in 2001 sold for well over the $535,000 asking price.

A two-bedroom home in Medford, listed for $95,000, attracted plenty of interest.

"If you're in the $90,000 to $120,000 range, it's either junk or it evaporates," Rasmussen said. "Right now, there is a lot of activity in the $140,000 to $200,000 range."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, friend him on Facebook and read his blog at Edge.