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More sales, but no change in residential housing median price

While the median sales price for an existing Jackson County home mirrored those of a year ago, the number of transactions picked up during the fall.

The county-wide median price for houses sold between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 was $205,000, the same as in 2013, according to figures compiled by Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service. During those three months, however, the number of sales jumped 9.6 percent to 546 from 498.

"At the beginning of the year, we didn't think we would see the increases we had been seeing," said Colin Mullane of Full Circle Real Estate and spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors. "We thought it would be more along the lines of the cost of living and this kind of bears that out. The fact the number of sales is up slightly is good."

The county's two high-end markets both saw substantial median increases, while there were double-digit declines in cities along the Rogue River. Ashland's median climbed 22.4 percent to $377,000 from $308,000, while Jacksonville climbed 13 percent to $259,250 from $229,500. During the three months ending Nov. 30, Gold Hill/Rogue River and Shady Cove/Trail regions saw declines of more than 22 percent. The median for Gold Hill/Rogue River slipped to $135,200 from $174,600. In Shady Cove/Trail the median slipped to $164,950 from $212,500.

Although Ashland's $389,000 November median price was more than $60,000 higher than a year ago and activity has picked up more than 10 percent, Mullane doesn't expect a huge surge in months to come.

"What I read into the recent sales is that there were more $370,000 homes on the market last year than this," he said. "The lower-priced inventory has dried up."

What may figure into sales in coming months, Mullane said, is the cessation of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve next year.

"We've had interest rates hovering in the high 3s and low 4s," he said. "With quantitative easing (the Fed buying U.S. securities) winding down, it should put upward pressure on interest rates."

The county-wide inventory of houses on the market grew 10 percent year-over-year on Nov. 30, with 1,160 units available.

"Three or four years ago you could drive around and see a house on every block in every price range," Mullane said. "That's firmly in the rear-view mirror."

Along with interest rates, a major factor in determining Southern Oregon property values is the strength of the California market.

Randy Unger, a broker with Sierra Real Estate who is licensed in both California and Oregon, has seen values in key Golden State markets stagnate during the past two years.

When California sellers looking to move to the Rogue Valley have to reduce their prices, it also alters what they consider when buying here.

"What I'm hearing from California agents is that they are getting more listings, sales have slowed and values softening," Unger said. "With the number of properties for sale going up, there's more competition."

The median price for a rural home in Jackson County was $290,000, also the same as a year ago, with 117 sales, down from 133 last year. 

In neighboring Josephine County, where prices have lagged behind Jackson County, the median price for existing residential properties rose 10.7 percent to $182,679 during the three-month period. A year ago the median price was $165,000.

Activity rose 13.9 percent between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30 to 123 home sales, up from 108.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.