Ashland home sales dipped in November as the median price for existing local homes increased to $426,000, or 5.2 percent higher than the same month a year ago.




According to Medford-based Roy Wright Appraisal Service Inc., which compiles regional housing figures, the countywide housing picture is not as rosy.




Overall in Jackson County, existing single-family home prices were 7 percent below those of November 2006, with the median home price dipping to $240,000.




Nationally, home prices increased 1.8 percent for the third quarter of 2007, according to the House Price Index published last week by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.




Why is Ashland bucking the regional trend? Wright said the answer is simple.




"Ashland is a cultural oasis in the middle of southern redneck Oregon," Wright said, pointing to the university, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and streets lined with art galleries and fine restaurants.




In a telephone interview Wednesday, he added the median home price has dipped to $240,000, which has a silver lining. Wright said the median price for a home in the county is approaching the local median income, which for Jackson County is $52,700 for a family of four.




"Were getting very close to where the median income will afford the median home price," Wright said. "That is a real good thing."




Although the median home price in Ashland is considerably higher than the rest of the county, the median income there is about the same as in the rest of the county, Wright said.




Ashland's market attracts a different type of buyer, Wright said, where prices are driven upward by wealthy retirees moving to the city who can afford to buy expensive real estate.




"We're talking about people moving in with big down payments," Wright said.




Ron Fox, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc., said as the number of houses available on the market increases, prices in some parts of the county are indeed falling.




"If you're a buyer, it's now a good time to buy," said Fox, noting that current rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are lower now than in June 2006, when he purchased his East Medford home. "There is a lot of the availability in the market right now," Fox said.




As for the tide of foreclosures that has smeared the national housing picture, Jackson County in October had the second most foreclosure filings of any county in the state, said Daren Blomquist, a spokesman for Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc., which compiles foreclosure data.




In October, there were 103 foreclosure filings in Jackson County, a figure still "well below" the national average, Blomquist said.




covers government for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.