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Old 03-02-2006, 07:53 PM
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Post Home inventory hits 2-year high

Three words say everything about the shape of Lane County's real estate market in January: selection, selection, selection.

Buyers had more choices in January than at any time in two years, as the county's inventory of active residential listings reached a 4.1-month supply at the current rate of sales, according to the monthly report from RMLS Inc., the Portland-based firm that provides multiple-listing services for Lane County.

Just a month earlier, the county's inventory had been sufficient to last only 2.5 months, and it reached an all-time low of 1.7 months last May.

"It's leveling off, as far as I'm concerned," said Cory Neu, president of the Eugene Association of Realtors and Eugene's representative to the RMLS board. "It used to be a pretty standard practice around here to get a six-month listing," Neu said. "Now, three to four months is kind of where it's at."

Neu said most of the increase in supply seems to be on the bottom end of the market, where investors are either building new entry-level homes or selling homes that previously served as rentals. The number of higher-end homes on the market has remained more stable, he said.

"But I'm definitely feeling, as the statistics say, that there is a larger inventory on the market right now," Neu said. "And that's really what's been driving our appreciation these last couple years, that very low inventory."

Despite the increasing supply, cost is one factor still working against some would-be home buyers. The median price of homes sold in January was $201,400 - 20.6 percent higher than the median price in January 2004.

However, the median price was at its lowest level since an all-time high of $209,900 was reached last August.

Neu said the gradual settling in prices is likely a reaction to expanding inventory. When more homes are on the market, asking prices are driven more by current listings and somewhat less by what previous sellers have gotten for their homes, he said.

"You've also got to take a look at your competition that's actively on the market," Neu said.

Home sales and construction have been been in a boom mode nationwide for the past two years due largely to mortgage interest rates that remained at historically low levels. Mortgage rates have risen nearly a full percentage point from their low point about a year ago, but apparently are not yet high enough to burst the housing market's bubble, as many have predicted. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is 5.75 percent, according to

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