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Curry County realtors ready for uptick in sales

Real estate agents throughout the county are hoping a nationwide uptick in home sales rubs off on them this summer — but so far, it’s a slow slog.

“We had a great winter,” said Kelly McClain, who works for Century 21 Agate Realty in Brookings. “We all are thinking this summer’s going to be huge. This could be the calm before the storm. And it’s not summer yet.”

Jackie Pratt, a principal broker at RE/MAX Realty and Ann MacLean of Blue Pacific Realty in Brookings agreed.

“I think things are going well,” Pratt said. “Prices are increasing ever so slightly; I think we’re going to have a great summer.”

“It’s been down for so long,” said MacLean, who has been in the business since 1989. “When things weren’t doing so well, we’d have an 8-by-10 piece of paper and maybe six to eight closings for the whole board of realtors. Now those are filling up the sheets, single-spaced. They barely fit on the page.”

Real estate numbers are fairly easy to come by: in number of sales, price per square foot or in certain neighborhoods. The easiest figures to obtain are in manufactured-home parks or planned neighborhoods with homes that were sold with a limited number of floor plans.

“You can look up what they sold this model for this year, and compare it to what that model sold for last year, so it went up whatever percent,” McClain  said. “That’s a definitive number.”

But in Brookings, there are no major builders — save the Borax development that has yet to break ground — and few houses are the same.

The best comparison McClain can make this year is with houses in the East Harris Heights neighborhood, where homes fall in the 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot range and are averaging about $225,000. Homes at that price-point are up about 15 percent, he said.

Inventory of residential units not in parks and priced at $200,000 or less are harder to come by in Curry County.

“There’s not a lot to pick from in that price range,” Pratt said. “They’re getting snapped up pretty quickly.”

Currently, there 381 homes and condominiums available county-wide at all asking prices. Only 73 however, have asking prices of less than $200,000, said Laurie Flynn, president of the Curry County Board of Realtors and owner of United Country Coastal Frontier Realty in Gold Beach.

“For this area, it’s a lot,” McClain said of the number of homes for sale. “And that’s where we’ve been sitting for a long, long time.”

Recent sales

Recent sales records show that, in April of last year, there were 27 real estate closings — homes, condos, manufactured homes, lots and commercial spaces — in the Brookings-Harbor area, McClain said. The highest sold at $1.05 million, another for $474,000 and two more properties for more than $300,000.

That compares with April of this year, in which there were 29 sales, including a $1.8 million commercial sale, a home that sold for $550,000 and five more homes that went for more than $300,000 apiece.

In May of 2013, 21 units sold, with the highest price being $280,000; this May, 26 units sold, with the highest being $425,000 and six sales over $280,000.

McClain and Pratt had differing opinions on the super-high-end market, however.

“When you reach that price point, when you’re (seeing) spending over $450,000, that’s the upper-middle class,” McClain said. “They buy homes when they feel confident, and now people are starting to feel more confident.”

Pratt said she’s seeing the opposite: buyers looking to downsize.

“As get older, you cannot take care of what you’ve got — you’ve got to downsize,” she said. “And a lot of people are moving here for a simpler, more laid-back way of life.”

McClain agreed, adding that he believes local agents should be seeing about a half-dozen sales of homes priced at $1 million and more, and that’s not happening.

“That’s a true mystery,” he said, adding that the county’s financial status could have something to do with a perceived reluctance to buy. “That’s got to have some negative impact on people’s decisions on where they’re going to live.”

Housing inventory is measured by the number of units on the market and how long things have been for sale. If realtors were selling 30 units a month, and 300 units were available, there would be a 10-month inventory — the average length of time something sits on the market before it sells.

But right now, Brookings has an 11-month inventory, which means one home is selling each month.

“I’d rather see that at four or six months,” McClain admitted. “To do that, we need to sell twice what we’re selling, or get half those homes off the market. That’s when we know we’re back to normal … things are priced right and everybody’s happy.”

He said he’s like to see the Borax development north of town break ground; currently its development permit has expired.

“That’s when we’d know we really were cranking,” he said. “But better times are coming. This summer we should see better sales. I can’t imagine seeing home prices dropping any more.”

Pratt said the Southern Oregon marketplace is, in part, driven by California’s, although Curry County is about a year behind.

“Part of it does have to do with the fantastic market in California,” MacLean said. “They have to sell before they can buy. We haven’t been this busy in six years.”

Pratt agreed.

“We’ve seen people from all over: a lot from California, Idaho — and three in the past week from Colorado,” she said. “People just get tired of the metropolitan areas. I feel our location and mild temperatures ... it’s just a real nice town, it’s slower paced. And people are friendly here; a lot of people who live here are transplants themselves, and are happy to be here.

“It’s just different here,” she added with a laugh. “In a good way.”

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