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County's home sales slip 10 percent

But Central Point and Eagle Point are on course to surpass 2001 figures

Jackson County's housing market didn't pick up the head of steam some might hoped for in July, but wildfire smoke apparently has failed to dampen buyers' spirits.

Countywide, urban home sales declined 10.2 percent from July 2001 and overall turnover continues to lag 7 percent behind the first seven months of last year.

Nonetheless, there are hot spots of activity, and the average sales price of &

36;193,132 jumped both from last month's &

36;180,621 and last July's &

36;176,353. Central Point is on course for another record year as 40 houses changed hands, pushing the total for the year to 237, and putting it 19.7 percent ahead of last year's figures for the same time period; Central Point saw an all-time high of 350 homes sold last year.

Eagle Point is the only other city in the county on course to surpass 2001 sales, according to figures compiled by Medford appraiser Roy Wright. High-dollar Ashland is exactly even with its 231 sales through July of last year.

I thought the real estate market would be out of it right now, says Wright. It's not as bad as the stock market, but it doesn't seem to have any defined direction to it.

Wright surmises inventory ' lower than it was two years ago ' has something to do with the sluggish market. Available home inventory is down 43 percent in more affordable west Medford, down 19 percent overall in urban areas and off 12 percent for the county.

It could be we just didn't have the inventory to boost sales, Wright says.

The slowed pace could be the result of people hunkering down and playing it safe in their present houses during a relatively slow economic period. Refinancing remains torrid, keeping appraisers booked days ahead.

I don't think people are into taking a lot of risk right now, Wright says.

But apparently folks with an eye on Southern Oregon aren't easily fazed by smoke, inversions, record heat and other irritants.

Broker Garey Walruff of Bear Creek Properties was on his way to showing a half-million dollar property to a Seattle client Friday afternoon.

People understand that from time to time you have those situations, Walruff says. If someone is intending to move here because of work, they're not going to give up the job because it's a little smoky. We've had a few days where it hasn't been very comfortable, but for the most part it has kept pretty clear. Years from now we'll be talking about the summer of '02 and have something to talk about.

For the second straight month, east Medford homes sold for an average price of just over &

36;181,000; that's 4 percent higher than in 2001.

West Medford sales averaged just under &

36;122,000 in July, up 5 percent from last year.

Central Point's average sales price of &

36;161,460 jumped 8 percent over July 2001, which was 8 percent above the &

36;140,481 2000 figure.

The Phoenix-Talent area, expected to show increased activity with four new subdivisions going up in Talent, showed little activity in July. But that could change when houses are completed and sales are recorded. The average price for the market was up slightly to &

36;141,504.

Ashland's average sales price was &

36;286,548 ' up &

36;2,500 from last month and up &

36;24,280 from July 2001.

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