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Autumn home sales were hotter this year

Whether it's because of creeping mortgage rates or buyers' desire to lock up a house before competitors price them out of the market, local houses are selling at a faster rate.

Between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, the pace of existing-home sales in Jackson County picked up 8.4 percent from a similar period in 2015. At the same time, new-home deals grew 10.5 percent, and that doesn't take into account builder sales not fed through the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service.

While inventory of existing houses plunged 16 percent below where it was a year ago at the start of December, the county's median sales price for the preceding three months pegged up 11.1 percent from a year ago to $250,000.

After years of warnings, mortgage rates indeed are trending up.

Rogue Valley Association of Realtors spokesman Colin Mullane said buyers are beginning to take hits because they didn't lock in rates. Previously, they avoided locks because rates tended to drop during the escrow period.

"Typically, you don't see buyers flipping the switch until they've seen rates go up three-eighths or a quarter point," Mullane said. "Much more aggressive increases, or decreases, tend to create a panic effect. Buyers are concerned right now, hoping rates come down. But it's certainly not to the point where it is driving the market."

Sagging inventories maintained heat on the market as mild fall weather induced buyers to explore. But even with colder temperatures pouring into the Rogue Valley, local real estate agents suggest the winter action could be pretty good.

It's counter-intuitive to think winter is prime time to sell a house, but Krissy MacLauchlan, a Coldwell Banker Pro West Real Estate agent, suggested that's the case.

"People think that houses show better in the spring when the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping," MacLauchlan said. "But if you wait till spring, you will be competing against 30 other properties."

MacLauchlan said out-of-state buyers and people who got caught in a financial vice after buying houses in 2006 are in the mix.

"The people who bought right before the end are starting to come around, needing bigger houses," she said. "They're able to sell $200,000 houses for $350,000."

The 725 homes dealt through SOMLS during the past three months sold in an average of 41 days — two fewer than a year ago. Even houses that might have largely been ignored for one reason or another that are priced at less than $300,000 might get attention now.

"A house may sit for 60 days with nothing, and then three people come along with multiple offers," MacLauchlan said.

At the same time, buyer fatigue can set in if they repeatedly get out-flanked by competitors.

"A lot of people have a rough time when every home they are interested in is sold within a day or sometimes mere hours," said Brittany Sackett of Windermere/Van Vleet and Associates in Medford.

— 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