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Local real estate: ‘Sellers can ask anything — and get it’

While local home buyers are finding it harder to find places to their liking, the market continues to march to its own beat.

More existing Jackson County homes sold at a faster pace between Feb. 1 and April 30 than a year ago, Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service reported Thursday.

The median sales price for existing homes nudged up 6.5 percent to $269,900 as the pace of sales jumped 11.2 percent, and those properties sold in an average of 37 days, down from 40 a year ago.

Although there are 26 percent more homes on the market than this time a year ago and construction projects are scattered around the Rogue Valley, the selection may be less than optimal.

“There is still a considerable demand for housing,” said Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. “Because we’ve had low inventories, sellers can basically ask anything — and get it. Sellers have been very aggressive on their pricing, and at the same time, buyers are being more cautious because they are having a hard time finding the right thing.”

Indeed, nearly three in four potential buyers polled by Morning Consult for the National Association of Home Builders during the first quarter said they expected their search to get harder compared with 65 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017. Just 15 percent thought their search would get easier compared with 27 percent at the end of 2017.

The biggest jumps in local inventory are in Talent, the Upper Rogue and the two west Medford areas.

“Most markets around the country aren’t seeing anything like that,” Gardner said. “When you’re seeing an increase in the listings at the same time as price increases, that’s a market defined as balance. You’re not there yet, but heading in the right direction.”

Two factors that play in local prices — in-migration and interest rates — remain on the demand side.

Interest rates for 30-year mortgages are still in the 4 percent range and won’t likely crest 5 percent until 2019.

“We haven’t seen any influence of increasing mortgage rates contracting the market, which is good,” Gardner said.

Housing affordability in the Los Angeles and Bay Area markets is increasingly an issue, while job growth is slowing. But Puget Sound markets are still seeing new highs.

“At some point, the ratio of income versus housing prices becomes too high for people to meet their debt obligation,” Gardner said. “They move to where housing is more affordable.”

There is plenty of evidence the market will stay hot through the summer, said John L. Scott Real Estate agent Terry Rasmussen.

“The market is busier than last year because there is more economic confidence,” Rasmussen said. “I think you’re seeing that in all sectors of the economy.”

Just this week, Rasmussen sold a house outside Jacksonville to a buyer from California.

“A big chunk of it was cash, but there a little bit of a mortgage,” he said.

Rasmussen thinks it’s going to be another two or three years, however, before the market evens out for buyers.

“To a degree, yes, the market is changing,” he said. “But even though we’re up to three months of inventory from two, it’s still a sellers’ market.”

Although new construction sales often occur outside the SOMLS system, new home sales point to rising prices.

The median price for the past three months was $335,000, up 62.9 percent from the $290,000 figure in 2017.

The median price for 98 rural homes sold during the period grew 9.6 percent to $393,500 from $359,000.

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