Housing prices continue upward march

    New houses are under construction off East McAndrews Road in Medford. The median price of existing homes has jumped in communities across Jackson County. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

    The median sales price for existing single-family residences in Jackson County rose 9.2 percent year-over-year to $265,000 during the winter months.

    With the spring and summer house-buying season at hand, there's little to suggest the median won't edge higher.

    Even with inventory up 15.3 percent, new construction visible throughout the region and interest rates creeping up, there's relentless upward pressure.

    "The interesting thing to me is the number of cash sales we're seeing right now," said Terry Rasmussen, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate in Medford. "There are an amazing number of buyers taking the money out of their checking account."

    Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service figures show Ashland's median price between the period of Dec. 1-Feb. 28 was $414,950 — essentially flat year-over-year. But in February, the median was $465,000, more than 10 percent higher than February 2017's $420,000 figure.

    Northwest Medford's year-over-year median soared 25.1 percent to $225,000. The median price means half the houses sold cost more and half sold for less.

    "We're in a healthy, strong market," Rasmussen said. "If you were to go back to 2000 and graph 5 percent historical appreciation and overlap it with our big spike and the over-correction, we'd right where we are. There are a lot of things missing we saw in the bubble. People aren't buying multiple houses just to let them appreciate and flip; that's not going on.

    "We're not seeing the frenzy of craziness in the market we saw in 2005 and 2006. We're not seeing multiple offers on every property like we did then. You don't have banks throwing money out the window, everyone has to qualify; if they don't they're not buying."

    But the good times for sellers can be a hardship for potential buyers, who find themselves frozen out by rising values.

    There were only two urban markets in the county where the median sales price was less than $200,000: West Medford, at $187,000, and Gold Hill/Rogue River, at $193,500.

    Randy Unger of Sierra Real Estate in Central Point said as long as demand remains constant and inventory far below historical norms, prices will climb.

    "We used to carry 3,000 or 4,000 listings countywide," Unger said. "A lot of people at lower income levels and first-time buyers are priced out of the market, which is sad to say with rental vacancy at 1 percent and rents going sky high. Those particular individuals in low-paying jobs are struggling to take a breath, let alone buy something. If I don't have somebody that can afford more than $200,000, I just have to turn them away."

    The once plentiful fixer-upper foreclosures that allowed such buyers to get into a house are a rarity.

    "You can find a few things here and there that definitely need a lot of work," Unger said. "But they are not financeable."

    The pace of urban residential sales quickened with 22 percent more transactions between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28 — 603 transactions versus 494 a year earlier. Meanwhile, the surge for rural property spawned by the cannabis industry appears to have plateaued. As a result, the median price for rural houses declined 3.7 percent, dropping from $375,000 to $361,250.

    — 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.

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