Clark County housing market still on upswing

Nov. sees slight uptick over 2012 as slow season begins

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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The local housing market continued to show annual improvement in November, despite a month-to-month cool-down indicating the industry's slowest time of the year has arrived.

Portland-based RMLS reported 439 closed sales in November, up by a slight 2.6 percent over the 428 houses sold in the same month a year ago, but down by 14.6 percent from October. Home prices, meanwhile, continued to rise in November, which showed the median price — half sold for more, half for less — increased by 10.6 percent to $225,000. It compared with a median of $203,500 during the same month last year. November's median was just 2.4 percent higher than October's median of $219,700.

The month-to-month drop in sales occurs naturally as the holidays approach, said Mike Lamb, a Vancouver real estate broker with Windermere Real Estate/Stellar Group.

"Usually right after the holidays it will start to pick up again and build steam through the spring. That's been the pattern for as long as I've been in the business," said Lamb, whose real estate career spans more than 33 years.

He anticipates few challenges in the 2014 home-selling season.

"I guess there's a sense we could see interest rates go higher, but they are still low enough for that not to be a huge issue," Lamb said.

Mortgage rates are expected to continue marching upward as lenders face higher mortgage fees that will get passed on to consumers, according to Bankrate.com. The online banking publication reported the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.55 percent this week, according to a national survey of large lenders. One year ago, that rate stood at 3.52 percent. Four weeks ago, it was 4.48 percent.

Lamb said buyers can sense rates inching higher, which creates more urgency. As spring approaches, he expects to see more prospective buyers trying to get ahead of rising rates and home prices.

"Prices are improving, the sentiment is good and I'm optimistic," Lamb said. "I think it's a sign they (homebuyers) feel their jobs are more secure, greater consumer confidence, and all of the above."