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Fewer houses sold, but prices still up

Sales of existing homes in Jackson County cities dropped 10.5% compared to the number sold last year, but prices and inventory are up, according to the latest quarterly sales figures released by the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors.

Rising real estate prices may be a factor in the sales slowdown, said Matthew Gardner, chief economist with Windermere Real Estate, who tracks activity in nine western states and Hawaii.

“The prices are still up 5%. That’s a pretty robust increase in one year,” said Gardner. Prices have not seen that sort of increase in California, and Portland area prices are down a percent from where they were last year, he said. The 5% rate in Jackson County is 1% above the national price increase.

From June 1 through Aug. 31, 758 existing homes were sold compared to 847 in 2018. New home sales were up 13.6% to 92, while rural areas also showed an increase, up 13% to 187 for the three-month period.

The median price for existing homes in urban areas of Jackson County were up to $300,000, a 4.9% increase over the same three-month period in 2018, when they were at $286,000. Median price is the point where half of homes sold above that number and half were below.

“Many markets are starting to reach an affordability ceiling. There must also be a relationship between income and home price,” said Gardner. “There’s been a couple years of robust price growth, but we haven’t seen an equal increase in income. People are starting to believe the economy is starting to slow, so they tend to be more cautious when they are buying a new home.”

Offsetting higher prices are lower interest rates, said Gardner. A 30-year fixed mortgage recently dropped below 3.5%, the lowest rate in four years, he noted.

Ashland had the highest median price at $468,000, a 7% increase over the previous year. Jacksonville was second-highest at $425,000. The lowest median was $230,000 in Gold Hill and Rogue River. White City was second-lowest at $241,590, but it registered a 10.3% value increase from $219,000 in 2018.

East Medford saw the largest number of sales at 253, down 10 from 2018. Ashland was second with 107 sales, followed by Central Point at 90. Northwest Medford was the only area that saw increased sales numbers, with 29 units sold compared to 26 in 2018.

Days on the market increased from 35 to 40 this year for existing homes in urban areas. New homes were on the market 87 days versus 80 days in 2018, but rural homes sold more quickly, going from 97 days last year to 76 days in 2019.

On Aug. 31, there were 1,240 houses on market compared to 1,191 on the same date last year.

“It’s just taking a little bit longer. There’s more inventory, so there’s more competition,” said Scott Lewis with John L. Scott Real Estate.

Statistics compiled by Lewis show that during August 54% of the listings in Jackson County sold within the first 30 days, and they were at almost 99% of list price. Over the past three months, Lewis had multiple offers on five properties that he felt were appropriately priced.

The Rogue Valley may be experiencing a “dual market,” said Lewis. Above $500,000 it’s a buyers market, while below $500,000 it’s a sellers market.

“Anything in Ashland below $500,000 is in short supply,” said Lewis. “There is still a substantial inventory for people who can spend above $500,000.”

Median prices for new homes were down 2.4% to $349,900 compared to $358,642 a year earlier. Rural areas saw median prices go up 5.4% to $420,000 compared to $358,642 last year.

“We are not seeing enough (new homes) being built because of the cost,” said Gardner. “Land, labor, material and regulatory fees continue to be higher, as much as builders would like to be building.”

Pending sales for August were up 6%, and that increase will be reflected when figures for July through September come out, which might boost the sales figure by about four percent, Gardner suggested.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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