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Jackson County home sales show gain

Ashland leads the way, but Medford sales aren't so hot

Mail Tribune

Compared to the first two months of 2000, the start of 2002 could pass for a boom time in Jackson County home sales.

But contrasted with last year, January and February looked rather ordinary.

A total of 126 single-family homes were sold last month, pushing the total to 273 for the year. That's substantially ahead of the 190 sold two years ago, but only three more than a similar period in 2001.

But 2000 proved to be the hottest year on record and chugged right through the second quarter of 2001 before declining in the third and fourth quarters.

So even a — percent upturn in the number of units sold is a positive, but hardly a harbinger of what's to come.

"Things are not hot right now, but they're not bad," said Medford appraiser Roy Wright, who compiles a monthly listing of house sales.

"The best thing I saw was that Ashland showed an increase in sales. When things start getting better, they get better in Ashland first."

Southern Oregon's most expensive city saw 18 houses sold, two more than February 2001. The average price was $277,278 for those 18 houses, a 10 percent jump.

"Ashland leads the way because there is more big money down there and it comes from the outside," Wright says. "There are more second-home owners in Ashland than any place I've seen.

"Most any city has 65 percent of its houses owner-occupied. When you get to Ashland, 65 percent is occupied by renters. I don't know if it's because it's a college town or what. A lot of people come through Ashland when they're watching plays and in one day fall in love with the place. The people buy a place and decide they're going to retire in five years. So it becomes a rental."

There is a residual effect to the absentee ownership. With so many rental units available in Ashland, it's not a landlord's market.

"The rents in Ashland are no higher than Medford, but the property is worth more," Wright says. "So the people who own the houses are not renting out with the idea of making money."

Wright reports that urban houses in the county sold for an average of $167,639 and contained 1,564 square feet of living space. The median price dropped from $146,000 to $143,770.

"There haven't been a lot of high-end sales over $400,000, other than Ashland," Wright said. "The $150,000 to $200,000 range is the best place to be and where most of the activity is right now."

To the north, Central Point and Eagle Point continue to be hotbeds of activity as well.

Central Point has seen 52 units change hands, up 30 percent from last year. The average price rose 2 percent to $156,570. Medford sales have been sluggish, trailing last year's turnover by 6 percent. The average east Medford sale was $165,797, and it was $115,201 on the west side.

Eagle Point is in the third year of a growth spurt in which housing sales have advanced by 50 percent annually.

"In most areas, new homes account for 18 percent of sales," Wright says. "In Eagle Point, they account for 50 percent."

In the first two months of 2001, 14 of the 27 sales were new homes and six of 15 sold this year are new. Wright says sales figures for new homes are skewed when buyers obtain their houses directly from builders.

"Only the lot sales are recorded in that case," he says.

While the average price dropped from $159,700 to $155,300 in the first two months of this year, the median price increased from $130,500 to $132,000 and sale prices ranged from $75,000 for an 800-square-foot residence to $306,900 for a 2,439-square-foot place on Eagle Point Golf Course.

The Phoenix-Talent market has been locked in the doldrums of late, but with Talent ending its building moratorium in February, Wright predicted an active spring and summer.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

Jackson County home sales show gain