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Old 05-09-2006, 08:16 AM
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Post Houses staying on the market longer, selling for less

As more and more "For Sale" signs sprout up along with May flowers, Jackson County homebuyers are displaying temerity unseen in recent years.

For every four houses on the market this time last year, there are 11 for sale today. In west Medford, nearly four times as many homes are for sale than the same time last year, while Central Point and east Medford have three times as many on the market.

The growing number of houses on the market comes even as several high-end residential developments take shape.

"Buyers are asking for more as they feel the power of the pendulum swing to their side," says Ron Galbreath, a John L. Scott Real Estate agent. "They're asking for more for repairs, carpet and appliance allowances, and help on closing costs and down payments."

Bill Allen, principal broker at Keller Williams Realty on Court Street in Medford, says his agents have encountered more buyer-requested concessions as well.

"You can ask for the world," he says. "Whether the seller gives it up is another thing."

The tug of war has led to reduced prices and lengthy market times. But amid slumping sales, the county's year-over-year median price for a single-family residence climbed 17 percent in April.

April had 168 completed transactions, down from 321 in April 2005, according to figures compiled by Medford appraiser Roy Wright. The median residence sold for $280,000, up from $240,000 a year earlier. The median price represents the mid-point in sales, with an equal number of houses selling for more and less than that price.

Houses sold in April stayed on the market, on average, for 78 days, compared to 47 days last year.

"We've gone from where realtors were order takers, could take a house and wonder three days later why it hadn't sold, to 80 days on the market with price reductions," Galbreath says.

That trend will likely continue.

Citing Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service figures, Allen points to White City, where there were 12 residences listed in mid-April 2005 and 115, including new construction, last month.

"That right there should tell you it's a buyer's market," Allen says. "I think the median is higher because there are fewer buyers in the lower range right now."

While fewer than two years ago buyers were in a frenzy, making hurried offers on the few available houses, the sheer volume of listings has taken house-hunting from a 100-meter dash into a marathon.

"Buyers are able to look at more houses, because they have more time," Galbreath says.

One recently completed deal for a Bailey Avenue residence illustrates his point. Two months passed from the first time the eventual buyer made her first offer on the 1,580-square-foot house.

"In between her first and second offer, her agent told me she looked at 37 houses," Galbreath says. "She had seen so many houses that she didn't remember the first time she had seen it."

Before a string of offers and counter-offers ended with a selling price of $290,000, the house was on the market for 80 days. The home priced at $104,900 when it was built in 1996.

On Monday, the SOMLS site showed 25 new listings in the previous 24 hours, reduced prices on 25 others, eight sales and 12 pending sales. Two price increases were logged as well.

"If a house is priced wrong or something is wrong with it," Allen says. "Usually, the only thing you can do in real estate is adjust the price. If a house is still on the market after 30 days, then you're going to be making price adjustments. Then somewhere around 60 days you'll make another price adjustment. That's the historical norm."

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