Dropping inventory, stabilizing prices and a steady availability of distressed properties demonstrate that the metro Portland, Ore., area housing market is stabilizing, according to three leading real estate professionals who shared their perspectives with Inman News.

In Portland, lower-priced homes in good condition, especially those under $150,000, are going fast, said Portland-based brokers Brian Houston and Mike Rohrig. Houston, a broker with Coldwell Banker Seal Properties in Portland, noted that investors and flippers are prominent homebuyers at the moment.

Dropping inventory, stabilizing prices and a steady availability of distressed properties demonstrate that Central Oregon and the metro Portland, Ore., area housing markets are stabilizing, according to four leading real estate professionals who shared their perspectives with Inman News.

In Portland, lower-priced homes in good condition, especially those under $150,000, are going fast, said Portland-based brokers Brian Houston and Mike Rohrig. Houston, a broker with Coldwell Banker Seal in Portland, noted that investors and flippers are prominent homebuyers at the moment.

Central Oregon is seeing much the same trend, said Thesa Chambers, principal broker at Prudential NW Properties based in Bend, Ore. Activity among first-time homebuyers is "explosive," she said, with available homes in the lower price ranges are getting multiple offers.

In Portland, with rising gas prices, homebuyers are also looking for homes closer to the city center, Houston said.

Just across the Columbia River, in Vancouver, Wash., however, nondistressed, single-family homes that are priced well are the hot commodity, said Stephanie Baldwin, a real estate agent with the Chumbley Team at Real Living based in Vancouver, Wash.

It’s not all roses in the Rose City market, however. Baldwin says first-time homebuyers in her market, enticed by the lower prices of distressed homes, are facing extreme difficulty in closing deals because of their inherently fickle nature.

And Rohrig, a broker at Portland-based Park Place Real Estate, says there seems to be a tight-fisted lending atmosphere in the market, which makes it difficult for seemingly qualified borrowers to get loans.

Regardless, Baldwin, Houston and Rohrig say multiple offers, increases in home sales and upcreeping home prices have created an undeniable swell in their optimism for the Portland area’s housing market. Chambers has a similar outlook for the Central Oregon market; with low inventories and a slight recovery of the nondistressed market, things seem to be stabilizing, she said.

On Wednesday, June 6, Inman News is offering Agent Reboot, a one-day tech tune-up event for Portland, Ore.-area real estate agents. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland (more details).

Real Estate Market Stats: Vancouver, Wash.

# closed home sales (2011): 4,103
# closed home sales (2010): 3,853
% change closed sales (2010-11): 6.4%
# closed home sales (April 2012): 329
# closed home sales (April 2011): 363
% change closed sales (April 2012 vs. April 2011): -10.3%
Median sales price (most recently month available in 2012): $185,707
% change sales price (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): -1.6%
% share of distressed properties (most recent month available): 14.5%
% share of cash buyers (February 2012): 21.5%

Sources: RMLSweb. Data prepared and compiled by Stephanie Baldwin.

Q: Please define the market area that you work in (this is the market area you will be describing in the questions below):

BALDWIN: Greater Vancouver, Wash., area, which includes all of Vancouver, Camas and Washougal.

CHAMBERS: Bend, Ore. – residential properties only, excluding condos, townhouses and multi-family units.

HOUSTON: Portland, Ore., metro area, including Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

ROHRIG: Portland, Ore., metro area.

Q: Describe which types of properties are selling fastest in your market area:


Thesa Chambers

BALDWIN: Non-short-sale, single-family homes that are priced correctly.

CHAMBERS: Single-family homes under $200,000.

HOUSTON: Fixers for the investors/flippers. Homes in good to great condition, priced competitively.

ROHRIG: Homes priced under $150,000.

Q: Describe which types of properties are selling slowest in your market area:

BALDWIN: Vacant land, multifamily homes, short sales and luxury homes.

CHAMBERS: Single-family homes over $500,000.

HOUSTON: Homes in poor condition and luxury homes.

Q: Describe any changes in the demographics of buyers and sellers in your market area:

CHAMBERS: More first-time homebuyers and first-time, second-home buyers.

HOUSTON: With rising gas prices we are seeing more buyers looking to live closer to the center of Portland. Aging sellers looking to downsize and/or move to a retirement setting.

Q: Describe the level of activity among first-time buyers in your market area:


Stephanie Baldwin

BALDWIN: It’s so different. Some are excited to meet and begin, but then as we discuss getting preapproved, some are facing setbacks as they repair or build credit and the buying process becomes on-hold. Others have money to put down and are ready to find a home and make an offer now.

CHAMBERS: Explosive! It’s hard to get them into a home that does not have a multiple-offer situation.

HOUSTON: It’s picking back up. The job market is still soft, but a slight increase in consumer confidence is helping new buyers get into the market.

ROHRIG: Most well-priced entry-level homes get multiple offers in the first week. These are often the distressed homes.

Q: Describe the level of activity in the luxury market in your area:

CHAMBERS: The luxury market is picking up speed; resorts are starting to see activity again and pricing seems to be stabilizing.

HOUSTON: There’s a slight increase, but it’s still slow to move higher-end properties.

Q: Describe recent trends with home prices, sales and inventory:

CHAMBERS: Very low inventory, creating multiple offers and price stabilization.

HOUSTON: Over the last three months inventory has decreased from 6.5 months in February to 4.7 months in April.

ROHRIG: Prices have stabilized and even gone up a bit, which is mainly due to low inventory. Distressed properties make up 29 percent of listings, but they account for 38 percent of the sales.

Real Estate Market Stats: Portland, Ore.

# closed home sales (2011): 19,682
# closed home sales (2010): 18,926
% change closed sales (2010-11): 3.8%
# closed home sales (latest month): 1822
# closed home sales (for recent month): 1611
% change closed sales (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 11.5%
Median sales price (most recently month available in 2012): $225,000
% change sales price (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 2.2%
% share of distressed properties (most recent month available): 32.1%
% share of cash buyers (February 2012): 21.4%

Source: RMLS Market Action. Data prepared and compiled by Brian Houston.

Q: Describe the current state of the distressed property market in the area:

CHAMBERS: Although distressed properties are still a large part of our market, they are not the only market. Buyers see the value in a traditional sale; many distressed properties sell very quickly, but they are not the only market now compared to a couple of years ago.

HOUSTON: There is still a steady flow of short sale and REO listings available.

Q: What worries you most about the current state of the market?


Brian Houston

BALDWIN: The lack of inventory for first-time homebuyers is a worry. Many of them are ready to purchase and close on their property in a reasonable time, so when I eliminate short sales from their home search, we don’t have as much to pick through. As you know, short sales provide a very uncertain close date and for many of our buyers, that makes short sales not the ideal product. Also, our median price for homes is so low that it’s hard to make a living selling homes.

CHAMBERS: Pocket neighborhoods will see a second crash; the low inventory and multiple offers will give sellers a false positive and buyers will be making offers on homes that do not appraise.

HOUSTON: The inventory of homes is at an all-time low and continues to decrease. Appraisals coming in lower than purchase price is becoming a problem.

ROHRIG: The difficulties with financing are troubling. I am hearing of people who seem qualified, but are unable to get a loan.

Real Estate Market Stats: Portland, Ore.

# closed home sales (2011): 19,682
# closed home sales (2010): 18,926
% change closed sales (2010-11): 10.3%
# closed home sales (latest month): 2,365
# closed home sales (for recent month): 2,005
% change closed sales (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 13.1%
Median sales price (most recently month available in 2012): $225,000
% change sales price (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 2.35%
% share of distressed properties (most recent month available): 38.9%
% share of cash buyers (February 2012): 21.4%

Source: RMLS. Data prepared and compiled by Mike Rohrig.

Q: What represents a sign of optimism and opportunity for the real estate market?

BALDWIN: As always, when we see multiple offers it makes us (as real estate brokers) feel like the market is booming again.

CHAMBERS: Cause for optimism is the trend of multiple offers and a logical pricing for the Central Oregon market. Banks seem to be more in line on many of the short sales. REO properties are not always the best deal where previously they were thought to be the only deal.

HOUSTON: Increases in home sales and cash buyers and a rising average sales price are causes for optimism.

ROHRIG: We have a low inventory and many reports of multiple offers.

Real Estate Market Stats: Bend, Ore.

# closed home sales (2011): 1,945
# closed home sales (2010): 1,903
% change closed sales (2010-11): 1.02%
# closed home sales(for most recent month or quarter available): 205
# closed home sales (for same month or quarter one year earlier): 158
% change closed sales (most recently month available in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 1.3%
Median sales price (most recently month available in 2012): $212,000
% change sales price (recent month in 2012 vs. same month in 2011): 1.01%
% share of distressed properties (most recent month available): 31%

Sources: MLS of Central Oregon. Data prepared and compiled by Thesa Chambers.

Q: Describe the overall economic health in your market area:


Mike Rohrig

CHAMBERS: The real estate market has seen a stabilization in Central Oregon and will see a few more bumps. Like our terrain, the market will have some ups and downs but it appears that the worse is over, for now.

HOUSTON: Unemployment is still high. Only medical and government sectors are seeing increases.

ROHRIG: Our unemployment rate is at 8 percent, which is down from a high of 11.2 percent in June 2009. Housing inventory is down, which has stabilized properties to a point, but short sales and bank-owned properties still put a lot of pressure on the average seller.

Stephanie Baldwin is a real estate agent with the Chumbley Team at Real Living. Thesa Chambers is a principal broker at Prudential NW Properties in Bend, Ore. Brian Houston is a broker with Coldwell Banker Seal. Mike Rohrig is a broker at Park Place Real Estate based in Portland, Ore.

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