Double-digit price increases, quick sales shift to a more ‘normal market’ in Salem
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Double-digit price increases, quick sales shift to a more ‘normal market’ in Salem

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Salem, ORIn a year’s time, the mad dash to buy houses is over. The Mid-Willamette Valley’s residential real estate market has cooled. Real estate agents say it’s still good times for the industry, but the numbers show the area is not immune from the national housing slump:

  • Sales have dropped 12 percent this year, according to June statistics from the Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service.
  • Home prices are rising but not nearly as fast as a year ago. The total average price for the area, including Marion, Polk, Linn and Benton counties, has risen about 6 percent this year. That compares to more than 16 percent from 2005 to 2006.

“A lot of people rushed into the market and bought, and that’s an extraordinary event,” said Peter Rogers, the president of Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, of 2005 and 2006.

Conditions today are similar to 2004, Rogers said, and it’s a return to a “good old-fashioned market.”

Byron Hendricks, the president of Prudential Real Estate Professionals in Salem, said 2007 is shaping-up to be a “normal market.” The Prudential office is enjoying its third-best year on record, he said.

So far, the slowdown in home sales has had no measurable effect on construction employment in Oregon.

Real estate industry observers say it’s shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. For June, about 6,325 houses were for sale in the Mid-Willamette Valley — or about 1,960 more than in June 2006.

“The buyer has a big choice, and it’s taking a bit longer to get sales,” said Gladys Blum, a real estate agent with Gladys Blum Group Real Estate Services in Salem.

Prices above $300,000 are common in new subdivisions. Some buyers, however, are willing to pay top-dollar to get their dream house.

Pam and Bob Martocci, retirees from Arizona, recently paid about $489,000 for their house in West Salem. The couple chose Salem primarily for its lifestyle, not its real estate prices. They wanted to live in a small city and be within easy driving distance of Portland, the beach and the mountains.

Be MICHAEL ROSE, Statesman Journal

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