Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported 745 sales of single-family residences in the final six months of last year, an increase of 20 percent over the first half of 2008.

To real estate agents who’ve seen a precipitous fall in the market over the past two years, the latest figures were good news.

“We weathered the storm, regardless of what happened,” said Colin Mullane, who heads up statistical research for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

Sales were fueled, in part, by declining values as the area’s median sales price dropped 13.5 percent during 2008.

One hopeful indicator the industry clung to last year was the declining supply of houses on the market, which slipped to 14 months from 16 months.

Does that portend good things for 2009?

As much as anyone involved in the industry or reliant on the housing industry would like to see those trends continue, there are enough external elements at play to prevent such assurances.

“We’re not quite back to where we were in 2007, but hopefully we’ve hit the bottom,” said Steve Blanton, chief executive officer of the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

He was quick to tell reporters at a Friday news conference he had no crystal ball.

Mullane said if demand continues at its present pace, it will eventually create upward pressure on prices that have spiraled down for the past three years.

“That’s if all things remain equal,” said Mullane, an agent for Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland. “We’re at 14 months supply and 10 months is considered a normal supply.”

If trends remain consistent, he thinks that plateau could be reached
by 2012.

“I’m hesitant to say anything earlier,” Mullane said. “If it did, I’d be pleasantly surprised.”

-- Greg Stiles