Jackson County's residential real estate market showed resilience during the second half of 2008.

Jackson County's residential real estate market showed resilience during the second half of 2008.

After a precipitous fall that accelerated through 2007 and into the first half of 2008, there was a noticeable bounce. Nearly 900 existing single-family residential units traded hands in the first half of 2007, but that number dropped to 764 transactions the next six months and then slid to 619 units the first half of 2008.

Then, despite the credit crunch, equity market upheavals and rising unemployment, Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported 745 sales in the final six months of last year."We weathered the storm, regardless of what happened," said Colin Mullane, who heads statistical research for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

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

One hopeful indicator in 2008 was the declining supply of houses on the market, which slipped to 14 months from 16 months.

"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 eventually will 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."

If the Obama administration's proposed stimulus packages have their desired effect, the market could revive earlier.

"If it fails," Mullane said. "It could be 2014. It's my gut feeling that the (housing) markets have experienced their greatest level of losses."

Investment dollars, a critical element that both contributed to the long run-up and rapid decline of local residential prices, have been purged to a point during the foreclosure blood-letting.

"If you can make the payments or even subsidize (the rental) a little, you can hold onto the investment property," Blanton said. "The value dropped so a lot of people couldn't refinance. It's really not the time to sell investment property. If people have been able to hang on so far, they should be able to continue."

Although there is no hard statistical data to indicate where the buyers are coming from, it appears the activity is more locally driven than from people moving into the area.

Mullane said a typical sales scenario would find property owners selling a Talent home and buying in Ashland.

"For sellers, it's better to buy back in the valley," Mullane said. "Even if they sold for less than what they hoped, they would make it up when they bought the next house."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.