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MailTribune.com
  • Our Opinion: Take it easy

    Resurgent home prices are good news, but the valley doesn't need a new bubble
  • The rebounding real estate market in Ashland and elsewhere in Jackson County is good news — but it also is cause for twinge of apprehension.
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  • The rebounding real estate market in Ashland and elsewhere in Jackson County is good news — but it also is cause for twinge of apprehension.
    It was just six years ago that the overinflated housing market resoundingly collapsed, sent home values plummeting and forced some owners into foreclosure. The Great Recession was much more complicated than just a market collapse, of course, involving exotic investment schemes, unethical conduct on the part of mortgage issuers and irresponsible decisions by home buyers who got in over their heads with adjustable-rate mortgages and other gimmicks.
    Southern Oregon was one of the harder hit markets in the state, as prices here had soared far higher than they should have. Many residents lots their homes to foreclosure, and many others who didn't are still under water on their mortgages, owing more than their homes are worth.
    For the latter group who are still in their homes and current on their payments, the prospect of regaining at least some of the equity they lost is good news indeed. But in an area where wages tend to lag behind other parts of the state, high housing prices are a hardship on working families who don't earn enough to qualify for a mortgage.
    Real estate brokers report the median home price — half of houses for sale are above that figure and half below — in Ashland has risen nearly $100,000 in the past three years, to $363,000. Prices in Medford reportedly are on the upswing, too — even in the $450,000-$600,000 range.
    Real estate professionals say this recovery is the result of rising values in markets that feed ours — primarily in the Bay Area, where homeowners who were unable to sell since the crash have seen values rebound. That's not necessarily all good, as residents will recall who were here when red-hot markets in California brought "equity millionaires" north. The result was a bidding war that pushed home prices beyond the reach of many local buyers.
    Brokers say it's not only Bay Area retirees who are buying in Ashland — that young couples, some with small children, are venturing into the Ashland market.
    That's welcome news, not least for the Ashland School District, which has been squeezed by declining enrollments because families with school-age children were priced out of the market and bought elsewhere.
    We hope the euphoria of a market recovery doesn't produce the irrational exuberance that swelled the bubble that preceded the recent recession.
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