In many respects, 2016 was just the kind of year Jackson County real estate agents like.
Year-over-year sales activity grew modestly, turnaround time was faster and prices stayed within a sustainable range.
Existing single-family residential sales in urban areas grew 2 percent, median sales prices rose 6.6 percent to $239,900 countywide, and deals were struck within 43 days of houses going on the market.
"Looking at the statistics, there's a stark contrast to what people really think is happening," said Colin Mullane, spokesman for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors. "We're not seeing rapid and soaring prices, and the market won't tolerate it if prices pushed beyond what we saw."
A decade ago, Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service figures showed Jackson County was at an all-time high, with a median sales price of $259,000. By 2011, values had dropped more than 40 percent, with the median sales price hitting $147,500.
In 2016, Talent ($278,500) and Shady Cove/Trail ($214,500) were the only markets to surpass 2006 levels, while collectively the county median was 7.5 percent below high-water marks. During the past five years, northwest Medford ($197,500) and west Medford ($161,250) have seen more than 80 percent appreciation in their median prices.
"Every market favors buyers or sellers," Mullane said. "What we call a good market almost always benefits sellers, and we fear the buyers' market. I'm always happy when our median prices stay close to inflation. We're really close to getting back to where we were, and I think we'll get there in 2017 or 2018. I think inventory combined with interest rates will keep the median growth to 2 or 3 percent versus what we've seen over the past three or four years."
In 2011, there were nearly 3,800 homes on the market; today there are around 900.
"We're down 15 percent from a year ago, and that's creating more pressure on prices," said Mullane during a media presentation Thursday. "Maybe in 2017 we'll see traditional home sellers come back and create more of a balance."
Interest rates serve as a psychological lever, as well.
Mullane said there is pressure on buyers to act while mortgage interest rates remain in the 4 percent range.
"Four to 5 percent is reasonable," he said. "If it goes from 4 to 5 percent overnight, we have a problem. Buyers pull back, they have a knee-jerk reaction, and it takes them a while to get back in. If it gets to 5 percent over the next 18 months, we won't notice as much of a difference."
During the fourth quarter of 2016, median prices jumped 9.7 percent to $247,375 from $225,440 for the corresponding period in 2015.
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.