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Home sales fuel optimism.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

On the surface, it looks as if Lane County home sales figures for 2010 didn't change much from 2009, according to figures released Tuesday by the Regional Multiple Listing Service.

Overall sales volume was $702 million in 2010, up nearly 5 percent from 2009. Closed sales were up 1.8 percent from 2009, but pending sales dropped 1.1 percent, and the median sales price fell 2.1 percent to $195,800.

What's lost in this year-end overview are the widely divergent characters of different neighborhoods and of different price points in the local housing market, several real estate brokers said.

"What I'm finding is there's such a range of micromarkets in our market," said Marcia Edwards, a broker with Prudential Real Estate Professionals in Eugene.

For example, looking only at residential properties in Eugene and Springfield, the inventory of homes for sale - the time it would take to deplete the existing inventory if no listings were added - was 29 weeks (about six months) for houses priced at $250,000 and below as of Dec. 31, she said.

But the inventory was 238 weeks (about 4 1/2 years) for houses priced at more than $750,000, Edwards said.

The lower-priced end of Lane County's housing market was the most active segment through the first half of the year, thanks to a federal home buyers' tax credit program, which wound down in the spring.

"This is a funny year - a bit of anomaly - because we kind of bought confidence when we had that home buyer tax credit," Edwards said. "We created pretty healthy demand through June in the under $250,000 market."

In Eugene and Springfield, 72 percent of the houses sold in 2010 were priced at under $250,000, she said.

Nearly a quarter of the home sales in Eugene-Springfield last year were distress sales - short sales or bank-owned, Edwards said.

Despite the continued challenges, several brokers said they see encouraging signs in 2011.

Kim Heddinger, owner of Golden Realty and president of the Eugene Association of Realtors, said she thinks the market is starting to stabilize.

That's especially encouraging, she said, because "I think we're getting stronger on our own accord" - without the federal tax credits goosing demand.

Heddinger said she doesn't think any sales records will be broken in 2011, but it will be a good year for buyers and sellers alike.

"As long as (sellers) price their property correctly they'll have the buyers out there who want to buy," she said.

As for the drop in the median sales price in 2010, "I think it's another good sign that we're starting to get through this mess," Heddinger said.

Celeste Schmorde, a broker with Windermere Real Estate, and an Oregon Association of Realtors director, said she's encouraged "to see there's more movement in more markets."

"Last year a lot of us were having to advise our clients that not much is happening above $250,000," she said. "Whereas this year we can be a little more encouraging with clients in all price points."

2010 SALES

Closed sales: 3,017, up 1.8 percent from 2009

Pending sales: 3,085, down 1.1 percent from 2009

Median price: $195,800, down 2.1 percent from '09

New listings: 6,501, up 7.5 percent from 2009.

Inventory in months: 8.1 months in December 2010, up from 7.1 months in December 2009
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Title Annotation:Business; 2010 was no banner year, but in analyzing sales, local real estate agents see a market that's healthy in spots
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 18, 2011
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