Clark County's median home price rises for first time since ’07

Report suggests values may have finally hit bottom

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Home prices in Clark County could finally have hit bottom, a report issued Tuesday suggested.

For the first time in four and a half years, the median price of an existing home in the region inched higher in April compared with the same month a year earlier, according to RMLS, a Portland-based multiple-listing service.

The median price for a home was $190,000 last month, up 0.1 percent from April 2011, the service reported.

The median is the point at which half of all sales were for higher prices and half lower. Until last month, year-over-year median prices had not risen in Clark County since November 2007.

Area real estate experts have been anticipating the trend, although some caution that it is too soon to tell whether last month’s prices were a blip or the beginning of a trend.

“We’re only at one quarter. If we saw two quarters of (rising prices), I think you’d have a strong indication,” said Terry Wollam, a broker with Re/Max Equity Group in Vancouver.

He said issues that could hamper increasing home values include inflationary pressure and buyers sidelined by election year uncertainty, despite mortgage interest rates expected to remain historically low,

Wollam still foresees rising prices pushed by a decreasing supply of homes listed for sale as homebuyers purchase bank-owned foreclosures and short sales, a transaction in which the bank accepts an offer that is

less than the amount owed on the mortgage.

Foreclosures in Clark County have been declining for most of the past year, a sign that the area’s problem might be easing, according to RealtyTrac, a data service based in Irvine, Calif. Its most recent figures showed lenders issued 214 foreclosure-related notices in March, down 21 percent from the 272 issued in March 2011,

“As we go through the distressed properties, we’re seeing less inventory on the market,” Wollam said.

The RMLS reported that Clark County’s inventory of homes listed for sale declined to a 6.7-month supply in April, up from 6.4 months in February, but down 14 percent from April 2011. The number means it would take 6.7 months to sell the 2,679 houses listed for sale countywide if no new inventory was added.

The county’s inventory would have been lower if not for a significant number of listings comprised of new construction that hasn’t been built, according to the RMLS report.

“That puts more pressure on prices to increase,” Wollam said, since builders generally won’t be swayed on asking prices for new construction.

Despite higher median prices, closed sales actually declined, according to the RMLS, which reported 400 closed sales in April, down from 412 in March and down from 418 closed sales the same month last year.