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RIVERFRONT SQEEZE

Increasing demand and a shortage of property along the Rogue are creating a ...

RIVERFRONT SQUEEZE

SHADY COVE

-- When Gary Lee wants to take a ride on the wild side in his 95 mile-an-hour boat, he stays at his home on the delta in California's San Joaquin Valley.

— — — — A last river — development for the Shady Cove area?

Angler's Cove may be one of the Last — river developments in the city.

Realtor Mike Malepsy is developing a — seven-acre subdivision across the river from Bel Di's restaurant.

Angler's Cove has six half-acre — riverfront parcels starting at $135,000 per lot and nine off-river — lots from $45,000 and up, says Malepsy, the developer.

Angler's Cove was built around a 1940s — homestead that Malepsy had restored and incorporated into the — subdivision.

One of the 15 planned — non-riverfront homes is already up and has a sales price of $213,900. — Builder Stan Harris constructed on speculation an 1,880-square-foot, — three-bedroom house. It has maple floors in the kitchen and entry, — maple cabinets, vaulted ceilings, tile — floors in both bathrooms, a covered deck, RV parking and river rock — accents.

We have 10 river properties — available in Shady Cove, about a two year's supply, and once they are — gone, I don't know where we will get much more, Malepsy says.

And outside the city limits, he — estimates there are only six rural properties that can be developed — for sale in the Upper Rogue area. — —

But when he's in the mood for a picnic with friends and a 3-mile-an-hour float in a drift boat, he comes to his home on the Rogue River.

We've always lived on the water, and we've always had high-performance boats, said Lee, who owns structural steel companies in California. But up here on the Rogue, we enjoy the beautiful scenery and the view. We love the water. It's calming.

Lee owns the highest priced home in Shady Cove, a two-story log cabin-style house with 1,000 square feet of decking and a long, green lawn that extends to the banks of the Rogue River. He purchased the home on 1.5 acres for nearly $500,000 this year.

He represents a growing number of buyers with cash who want to live along the Rogue River. The demand for riverfront property is driving up prices and creating a shortage of vacant, buildable land, real estate agents say.

Ten years ago, we were selling vacant riverfront property for $50,000 a parcel and today we're selling it for $125,000 a parcel, says Mike Malepsy, owner of Trails End Real Estate in Shady Cove. He has sold more riverfront property between Lost Creek Lake and Gold Hill than any other agent.

Across the county, the average riverfront home was listed for $206,645 this month, compared to an average listing price of $144,809 in September 1997, Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service data shows.

The average riverfront lot lists for $81,496, compared to $58,631 in September 1997, according to the MLS.

Everybody's first choice is living along the Rogue, says Nancy Bradley, owner of Bradley Realty and a real estate agent in the city of Rogue River for 15 years.

If they can't afford to live along the Rogue, then they would like to live along a year-round creek. Anything with water is their first choice.

Her listings include slow-moving property in the six-mile lake portion of the Rogue that's affected by Savage Rapids Dam, which is scheduled to be removed. Homeowners in this stretch enjoy water skiing in their back yards. Because of the dam's uncertain future, however, it took three years to sell an older home on half an acre for $120,000, well below the assessed value, Bradley says.

If the dam is taken out, most of the properties will have their recreational use cut in half, Bradley says. They could have as much as 100 to 150 feet of mud and rocks.

One of the listings in Shady Cove is owned by Woody Sherwood, 76, and his wife, Jean, 75, who moved to Medford earlier this year to be close to medical services. They are selling a 1940s-era 1,950-square-foot home for $269,900. It is situated on 1.4 wooded acres.

The Park Drive home is an example of another trend among Upper Rogue river properties: older homes that stay on the market for 18 months or more, longer than the seller expects, because buyers want new homes.

Eventually, we may get to the point when the inventory of vacant land will all be developed. These older homes will be sold, torn down and a brand-new home will go up, Malepsy says.

Buying a waterfront lot with an outdated home, demolishing it and replacing it with a custom house long has been a trend in the Seattle area, says Mark Barber, a Seattle builder who moved to the Rogue Valley eight years ago. A Shady Cove river dweller himself,

Barber will build two new river homes this winter priced between $230,000 and $300,000, including one for Los Angeles retirees and one for Oregon Coast residents who want a second home in Shady Cove.

Rogue River lots are getting to be a premium, but in comparison to areas where people are moving from, they are a bargain, Barber says. People are moving from areas where waterfront property is untouchable.

River property buyers looking for profit create another factor in driving up values. Trails End Real Estate sold 1.5 acres on Maple Drive to a buyer who divided it, built a road and sold three parcels five years later to make a healthy profit.

Speculation, people buying bare land for investment, causes property not to turn over quickly because the buyer doesn't mind if it sits on the market awhile, Malepsy says.

But river property sales also are driven by life cycles, such as Woody and Jean Sherwood's move to Medford.

Our typical buyer is a retiring person 55 to 60 years old, in good shape, athletic, who wants to hunt, fish and live in the country, Malepsy says. They buy an acre, live here five to 10 years, then reach 65 or 70 and they make a decision that it's too much land to take care of. They move to a smaller place in Shady Cove or move to Medford to be closer to hospitals.

While there are risks to living on the river -- the possibility of a devastating flood, for example -- riverfront residents don't leave the water because they are tired of it, says Malepsy, who lives with his family on a river home near Shady Cove.

He loves winter on the river, when the swollen water displays its power, just as much as he does summer, when diving osprey and hunting eagles glide around the river's bend.

The enjoyment you get from watching the river far outweighs any risk.