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Local home buyers have more to choose from

But even with inventoriesgrowing and time-on-marketlonger, prices continue to rise

It could be the season for Rogue Valley home buyers this spring and summer ' if they can afford the prices.

With more and more houses coming on the market, there will be plenty of choices for well-heeled buyers aided by reasonably attractive mortgage rates. Even as inventory has stacked up, sale prices in many local markets continue to post double-digit increases ' as much as 50 percent higher than the same time a year ago.

Less than a year ago, buyers scrambled to submit offers before someone else snapped up lower-end property. On Wednesday, the local inventory of houses for sale was 153 percent above where it was a year ago, according to figures compiled by Medford appraiser Roy Wright.

For real estate agents such as Rick Harris, that's a welcome change of pace.

There have been times in the last couple of years where a buyer would ask to see a place with this, this and this and we'd say 'Great here are two things that meet that,' said Harris, who oversees the Coldwell Banker Pro West Real Estate office in Ashland. Things are coming to more of a balance because we have had a very limited inventory.

— The deluge of for-sale signs combined with weak activity softened prices in Ashland and west Medford in February, but on the whole Jackson County single-family residence prices rose 18 percent. The median price home sale rose to &

36;273,950 last month from &

36;231,225 a year earlier. The number of transactions declined by 21.6 percent.

New house transfers slumped 22 percent, but even then the price on 73 sales rose 9.7 percent.

Ashland transactions fell by 50 percent in the first two months of the year with February's median price for eight sales declining by &

36;4,900 to &

36;340,000.

Buyers are taking a wait-and-see attitude, Harris said. Interest rates crept up a tiny bit, but I haven't heard much talk of a slow-down.

After four years where activity didn't tail off much in the winter, he said the market is more recognizable.

A flat market is normal during the winter months, Harris said.

Although it took two weeks longer for homes to sell than a year ago, east Medford saw a 17 percent rise in its median sales price to &

36;304,950. It was the only urban area to report more sales last month than in February 2005.

West Medford's median sale price was &

36;215,000, up 2 percent, but the pace was off 34 percent.

Central Point deals plummeted by more than 37 percent, but homes sold for a median of &

36;260,875, a 43 percent climb.

Eagle Point's median price has taken wild swings in the past year. In January, the year-over median price change was 2 percent (a median of &

36;332,400). The February median for an equal number of sales (11) was &

36;435,000, up 47 percent from 12 months earlier.

People are still looking for places in those lower median price places, Harris says. But Southern Oregon is still very popular. People are making phone calls checking Web sites and asking for information.

The Phoenix-Talent market was slower than most places, but saw the median sale price climb to &

36;273,950, up 50.8 percent from last year.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail Local home buyers have more to choose from"business@mailtribune.com.