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Up and down market causes lots of dramatic changes for homebuyers since COVID-19 hit

PMG FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Low supply and high prices are keeping many young homebuyers out of the Portland real estate market, according to Lake Oswego realtor Judy Adler.Even with mask wearing and social distancing, the Clackamas County real estate market heated up dramatically after the beginning of COVID-19 with home prices increasing significantly.

If you are one of the many in Clackamas County either buying or selling a home, the reinstated mandate as of Aug. 13 means you're back to wearing masks and social distancing when viewing or showing homes and attending open houses. COURTESY PHOTO: LISA BETTENDORF - Lisa Bettendor is the Oregon reviewing principal broker at Premiere Property Group, LLC.

At first, the lockdown in 2020 did hamper Clackamas County's real-estate activity, but in May, as soon as things began to open back up, the market came back stronger and faster.

"Inventory has consistently sold much more quickly than before COVID," said Jeff D. Wiren, president and managing principal broker with Premiere Property Group, LLC.

The market in the whole tri-county area has been a seller's market, with most properties selling over asking with multiple offers.

"Not only did we see first-time homebuyers looking to buy homes, we have seen an increase in families selling current homes to get larger homes. These families were looking for large homes with extra rooms for home offices, Zoom rooms and school rooms since most of the population was working from home and children were doing school online," said Lisa Bettendorf, Oregon reviewing principal broker at Premiere Property Group, LLC in Clackamas.

As soon as vacant homes required single showings or appointments, buyers have seen the lines of people waiting outside as competition. With increased competition among buyers and many sellers wanting offers on the first weekend, agents are showing homes immediately. Potential homebuyers are encouraged to make offers right away before a seller takes another tempting offer.

COURTESY PHOTO: LAURIE SONNENFELD - Laurie Sonnenfeld Oregon Principal Broker with Laurie Sonnenfeld Realty, Homes with Character.Ruth Ann Albro, a broker with Premiere Property Group, LLC., said that buyers who are willing to pay more than $600,000 could be more picky, but they were still more rushed this year, just with less competition.

"In the $400,000-600,000 range, those buyers experienced 'buyer fatigue' within a few months and 10-plus offers to compete with," Albro said. "I was helping buyers write multiple offers, one at a time, knowing the deadlines were a day or two apart so they wouldn't miss out on something that works for them."

Multiple agents have heard a concern from a lot of buyers about whether or not Oregon's current market is a bubble, and if home values will drop dramatically. Sellers have been happy with showings and less time on the market.

Wiren doesn't foresee a looming foreclosure boom like we saw in 2008, as long as employment rates remain healthy.

"This market is not the same as the market that we had in 2008, in which values plummeted 30-40% or more in many areas of Portland Metro," he said.

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF WIREN - Jeff Wiren is the Oregon principal broker at Premiere Property Group, LLC.Most property owners in Oregon have equity in their properties, Wiren said, and have made a down payment to obtain a fixed-rate mortgage.

"As interest rates rise, and when the foreclosure moratorium is lifted, we will likely see a moderate decrease in demand and slight increase in supply," he said. "That will be a healthy adjustment for our market. If prices continue to rise at the current rate of appreciation, my young adult children will struggle to be able to afford a modest home. This is true for many people, and the current rate of appreciation is not sustainable in my opinion. A shift to normalcy will be a positive change."

Laurie Sonnenfeld, a principal broker who works in Clackamas and Multnomah counties and lives in Clackamas, said the market here is "very hot," with more demand and supply of homes.

"Homes in Milwaukie, Gladstone, Oregon City, Lake Oswego and West Linn are selling very quickly, often in less than a week, if they are priced and presented attractively and if they have what buyers want," Sonnenfeld said.

Brokers are often seeing more than 10 offers, and sales prices can end up 5-10% over the asking price or more.

"Homes are also selling well in outlying areas, and so are homes on acreage," Sonnenfeld said.

According to the Regional Multiple Listing Service, Clackamas County had over 650 active listings, over 1,300 pending listings and over 720 properties that had closed within 30 days as of July 16. The inventory of homes dipped to its lowest level ever on record, and median home prices were $15,000 higher in May compared to April.

COURTESY PHOTO: RUTH ANN ALBRO - Ruth Ann Albro is an Oregon real estate broker with Premiere Property Group, LLC. "The days of 10 to 20 offers are in the past in my opinion. Most properly priced homes will still sell in the first week with one to three fantastic offers," said Bettendorf.

Buyers are simply tired of making multiple offers and basically getting beat up by the market, according to Bettendorf. Over the past few months buyers are getting more picky.

"We have been seeing a few price reductions and marginally increased market time in the past couple of weeks but the market still is strong, with limited inventory and low interest rates," said Sonnenfeld.

"I hope and predict the market will continue to be very strong over the next months/years. I predict inventory will go up slightly in 2022, and buyers will welcome this change. I predict the market will level off as inventory increases and we will not see that market crash as some people fear," said Bettendorf.

Sonnenfeld said as people move out of the inner city, for a variety of reasons, Clackamas County is being discovered by more people who want what it has to offer; larger lots, trees and rivers, outstanding outdoor recreation and a wide variety of homes and neighborhoods.

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