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Has Jacksonville real estate hit a wall? Don't count on it

Perhaps the biggest surprise contained in the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service's report for the first half of 2017 came from Jacksonville.

Jackson County's median sales price for existing homes jumped 11.2 percent in the first six months of the year, the number of days on the market declined, and Medford's four neighborhood regions saw median prices more than double over the past five years.

In Jacksonville, however, prices barely budged, showing less than 1 percent change from the first six months of 2016, with a median sales figure of $372,500.

Embracing its Old West persona since Hollywood used the relic of the Gold Rush days as a backdrop for "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" in the early 1970s, Jacksonville carved out an upscale niche, surpassed in Jackson County only by Ashland.

While Ashland's median price rose 10.4 percent — and 60.7 percent over past five years — Jacksonville spun its wheels. The $372,500 median through the first six months remained second only to Ashland's $425,000 figure, but it is only 26.9 percent higher than in 2012.

Lest you think there are bargains to be had, look a little deeper.

Just 26 deals closed between Jan. 1 and June 30 in Jacksonville, the fewest of any of the 13 SOMLS urban zones in the county.

"Because the sample size is so small, you can have large swings based on the types of places being sold," said Colin Mullane, of Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland and spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

It turns out that three townhouses in the $285,000 range were sold during the period.

"We put condos in the same report as our residential sales," Mullane said. "You throw those three sales in the mix, and it creates a picture that may not be realistic."

The bottom line, he said, is don't expect to find bargains in Jacksonville.

"If somebody looks at the numbers and thinks I can afford $375,000, let's go look in Jacksonville — good luck," Mullane said.

While property in the Upper Rogue communities of Shady Cove and Trail, and downstream in Gold Hill and Rogue River, lagged this year, those areas have had considerable appreciation over the past five years. Also, the average deal took 39 days from listing to pending, compared to 45 a year ago.

The pressure on prices is fueled as much by cash buyers as anything.

"When we went through the downturn, the people moving here with money went away," Mullane said. "The influx has returned."

When a buyer pays cash, the property immediately becomes a comparable sale for appraisers. That helps set a benchmark for another sale that might not have appraised for the agreed price, Mullane said.

"If we weren't getting buyers from Seattle, the Bay Area or Los Angeles, Ashland prices would look absolutely different. But because they're coming in from markets with even more aggressive pricing, they're not intimidated by the prices as much," he said.

The largest gain from 2016 to 2017 was in White City, where there was a 20.3 percent uptick in the median sale price to $196,500 from $163,400. East Medford, which accounts for about 1 in 4 sales countywide, saw a 13.1 percent gain in the median to $289,450.

— 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.