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Back to normal

The phrase "normal market" may sound dull to some, but to seasoned real estate agents, it's music to the ear.

Jackson County's single-family residential real estate market was about as close to normal as one could hope for in 2014, given the mess it was in five years ago. The median price for 2,072 sales was $208,600, an 8.1 percent gain from 2013's $193,000 figure. New home sales also fared well, with the median climbing 12.2 percent to $242,273 from $215,950.

Nearly 86 percent of existing home sales during 2014 were considered normal compared with distressed transactions — foreclosures and short sales — which characterized 60 percent of the 2011 deals.

"We saw a huge shift this year back toward the normal," said Colin Mullane, spokesman for Southern Oregon Multiple Listing service, during an annual review of home sales activity on Thursday. "What I imagine happening in 2015 is something similar to this trend where we get back to where we were at prior to the crisis, where the distress sales are less than 0.1 percent."

It was a year in which several stalled housing developments saw new action, and January has ushered in additional projects that were derailed when the housing bubble burst.

"Banks are putting foreclosures on the market at prices close to regular market," Mullane said. 

What hasn't returned to normal levels is inventory.

"We still have a shortage of homes relative to the number of buyers who are actively out there looking," he said. "Early signs in 2015 are saying that's going to continue. That's why you're seeing a very hot market in Jackson County."

Along with rising property values, more homes were selling in higher price ranges, Mullane said.

"Typically, the price ranges that are always aggressive in any market are the lowest prices," Mullane said. In Medford, the price shift has gone from $80,000 to $150,000 during the foreclosure period to the $100,000-to-$200,000 range, and leaped into the $200,000-to-$400,000 bracket in Ashland.

"In Jacksonville, east Medford and Ashland, you're seeing those $400,000, $500,000, $600,000, $800,000, $900,000 moving again where they didn't four or five years ago — and more of them."

West Medford, northwest Medford and White City all showed substantial median gains of about 20 percent. Phoenix tailed off at 5 percent, while the Upper Rogue area stumbled slightly as well. Water issues, particularly in the Shady Cove area, are sometimes considered deterrents to buyers.

"Riverfront property definitely goes to its own drummer," said Scott Lewis, president of the SOMLS board. "It would be beneficial if there was a cohesive water system in Shady Cove, but I don't think it's been a deal killer."

While the past year saw several delayed developments gain momentum, another long-planned one in east Medford is poised to change the view on land where cattle grazed a decade ago.

Hayden Homes is gearing up to build the 140-lot Berkeley Hills along Spring Street. The Redmond builder has been working the Candlewood subdivision off of Ross Lane. 

Taylor Grimes, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate, said prices have firmed to the point where developers now can recoup their investment dollars.

"The new construction market is going very strong and increasing rapidly — not just in Southern Oregon, but the entire Pacific Northwest," Grimes said. "The Rogue Valley (holds) a certain attraction for larger builders, especially within the current target markets for both mid-range and higher-end housing."

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.

Hayden Homes is gearing up to build the 140-lot Berkeley Hills along Spring Street in Medford. Real estate prices have firmed to the point where developers now can recoup their investment dollars, market watchers say. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch