Entering the peak home selling-buying season, low inventory creating a 'hot' sellers' market

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A home for sale in Scappoose is one among a small inventory of available homes in Columbia County. Realtors say a lack of inventory is driving prices up.Columbia County’s real estate market has grown more competitive since last year and demand is reaching a peak, the Columbia County Board of Realtors reports.

Data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service indicates the average home sales price in the county rose 5.7 percent since this time last year, while inventory of available homes dropped by 36 percent, a news release from CCBR states.

At last glance, there were 161 homes on the market, with 82 pending sales, the report states. Columbia County’s average home sale price is $238,400.

Barry Murphy, a Realtor with John L. Scott and current president of the CCBR, touts the region’s close proximity to Portland and the adjacent Columbia River and mountain views as selling factors that appeal to newcomers, who’ve ventured out from areas in Multnomah and Washington counties to find more affordable property.

“The affordable [homes] used to be up and gone and went pretty fast,” Murphy explained. “We’ve been that way for a little over a year, maybe two years. But all the sudden even the higher end homes are going pretty fast. We’re being looked at, as a county, as a place to be.”

Murphy said 60 homes have sold for at least $400,000 over the past year. Many of those were sold at prices between $500,000 to $600,000. Even at higher prices, houses are only staying on the market for about 30 to 45 days, according to Murphy.

That indicates the county is experiencing a “hot” real estate market. It can be great for sellers, but buyers face higher prices and often end up competing with others for the same home.

“Do we have bidding wars? Yes we do,” Murphy says. “They’re pretty common, unless the price is pretty high. If we’re talking in the affordable [range], for sure. Probably half the time that happens.”

Developers have taken stock of the county’s low housing inventory, but it hasn’t picked up at a rate sufficient to meet housing demands.

Murphy predicts the housing market will become a little more stabilized once banks release additional foreclosed homes back on the market. There’s also the prospect for many homeowners who were “underwater” on their home—meaning the remaining balance on their home loan exceeded the market value of their property— to finally be able to sell their homes after years of depressed value.

Still, Murphy and other Realtors are itching for homeowners to sell. 

“As we move into the spring and summer months, we traditionally see more activity in the market,” Murphy stated. “Inventory is low and properties are in demand so now is a good time to list your home.”

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