- The state of the market -
With more than 30 years in the real estate industry, Marcia Kies knows there's just something good about coming home.
"Homeownership is the great American Dream," says the Hasson Company principal broker, who specializes in Lake Oswego and West Linn. "It's both an investment and a place you come home to every night."
In Lake Oswego and West Linn, the housing market is still going strong but starting to normalize, Kies says. The median home price in the area increased nearly 22 percent in January from last year, rising to $500,000 from $410,000 over the past 12 months, according to the most recent report from the Regional Multiple Listing Service.
Closed sales in January increased about 7 percent from a year ago.
Nine years into the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008, local real estate agents are expecting the region's housing market to see another successful year. Here are a few more trends they've identified for 2017.
Snow didn't freeze sales
While local real estate agents say January's snow and ice storms may have delayed homeowners who were planning to list their homes early in the year, sales have still been strong.
According to Justin Harnish, a real estate broker at Harnish Properties in Lake Oswego, the first quarter of the year traditionally "doesn't have a really rambunctious history," even without winter storms.
Harnish closed $105 million in sales in 2016 and $122 million the year before. With low inventory on the market right now, he expects sales numbers to trend slightly downward, but he predicts that the market will remain strong for the next 18 months.
"There's always the question of 'are we at the top, are we in a bubble?' and I think the answer is 'no,'" he says. "Lake Oswego and West Linn are still great places to move to, and we have great infrastructure for a strong, sound marketplace."
Out-of-state, international buyers abound
Broker Terry Sprague, who owns Luxe Platinum Properties in Lake Oswego — an affiliate of Christie's International Real Estate — agrees that buyers are seeing Lake Oswego and West Linn as great places to relocate.
"I think we're going to continue to see more international buyers and ... more out-of-state buyers," he says. Buyers who are relocating to Lake Oswego or West Linn tend to be more interested in large or lakeside properties, he says.
Sprague closed almost $123 million in sales in 2016 and he already has closed another $20 million so far in 2017. He's seeing more relocation buyers right now than this time last year — many of them come from California and New York. He's also had so many clients moving to the area from China that he hired a Chinese-speaking broker to assist with those sales.
Locals look to downsize
While out-of-state and international buyers are shopping for large properties, Sprague says many local retirees are looking to downsize to more manageable homes in walkable parts of town.
"There's a trend toward living in the city (and) being able to walk to things," he says. And in Lake Oswego, "Downtown is turning into what feels like a destination location."
With plenty of commerce nearby and community events such as the Saturday Market and the annual Christmas Tree Lighting, retirees who live downtown have easy access to just about everything they need, he says.
Kies says she's also noticed the downsizing trend. She works with a full gamut of buyers, from first-time homeowners to retirees looking for a home where they can age in place.
She says many of her buyers are worried that they won't be able to find what they want because of low supply, or that the market will appreciate so quickly that they won't be able to afford a home.
"The downsizing baby boomers selling big houses go into apartments because they're afraid they can't find the smaller house that they're looking for," she says.
Even so, she says, this is a good time for buyers, sellers and realtors to be in the marketplace.
"I like that it's not always a one-way street where sellers are totally dictating things, or where buyers are dictating things," she says. "It's more normal that you work to be fair and create a win-win."
Realtors vital as ever
With the increasing popularity of online real estate listing sites such as Redfin, Trulia and Zillow, homebuyers have more access to current market information than ever before. But local realtors agree that these sites are no replacement for a living, breathing realtor who is familiar with the area and connected to the community.
"Looking at houses on the internet is like buying a postcard and telling me you took the vacation," Kies says. "You need to engage an expert from the beginning."
Sprague says many sales happen before homes ever really hit the market. A well-connected broker will be familiar with the "shadow market" or "pocket listing" inventory, and can give buyers and sellers the upper hand with an early tip.
"There will continue to be trends in the real estate market that try to give the consumer access to doing real estate business with potentially less input from a real estate broker, (but) you really do yourself a disfavor by trying to save a few dollars," he says. "In a small community like Lake Oswego and West Linn, it's really essential to find a real estate broker who is in touch with that community."