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Housing construction is heating up

Standing on an open hillside backed by scrub oak, Bryan Schlafke gazes into the valley below.

Trees are budding, bugs are buzzing, and the morning sun dances off the distant snow-capped peaks, signs of spring that mean Jackson County home buyers will soon be making the rounds.

A dearth of housing inventory, appreciation in existing home values and 4 percent mortgage rates have enticed builders to pick up the pace, albeit still restrained compared with 15 years ago.

"New construction took a hiatus in the late 2000s due to the crisis and the bust in the housing market," said Schlafke, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "Because of all the foreclosures and short sales, new construction also took a vacation here in Medford. But now that interest rates are still great, a lot of the foreclosures are gone and short sales are gone, building is back."

Schlafke is marketing Panorama Heights, an 18-lot subdivision spanning 4.54 acres off Cadet Drive in northeast Medford, where construction is expected to begin in July.

Plenty of other new houses are going up in nearby areas. Just in a narrow corridor paralleling East McAndrews Avenue, Hayden Homes is building starter houses off Berkeley Way, Pahlisch Homes' Bella Vista Heights development is rolling along above Foothill Road, and Sarich Construction's gated community, Innsbruck Ridge, is taking shape above Vista Pointe.

Figures compiled by Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service, which does not account for all new construction, indicated median new house prices rose 12.7 percent over the past year to $308,985 from $274,266, and are 67 percent higher than the $185,000 figure coming out of the recession.

Van Wey Homes anticipates pricing to begin the high $400,000 range at Panorama Heights.

"Especially with these nice, beautiful views of the valley," Schlafke said. "We expect a pretty robust amount of sales as soon as we get going and break ground. We're working on a Bend-like atmosphere, with the homes to blend into the hillside."

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SOMLS figures released Thursday show the median sales price for existing houses nudged up 6 percent year-over-year for a three-month period ending Feb. 29. The median grew to $221,500 from $209,000 a year ago.

The pace of sales grew 15.5 percent, with 491 units exchanging hands between Dec. 1 and Feb. 29, further depleting the available inventory. As of Monday, 786 houses were available through the SOMLS system in the county, down from 978 a year ago.

The median price for 117 rural home sales during the period was $315,000, essentially the same as a year ago.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.

Jackson County existing home sales by Mail Tribune