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Home prices and sales remain steady due to a low inventory regionally and other factors

PMG FILE PHOTO - Home prices in Wilsonville remain steady, though sales in Frog Pond West have been slow going according to local real estate agents.

In some respects — especially unemployment figures — the COVID-19 pandemic has already wrought more economic devastation than the Great Recession in the late aughts.

But the downturn hasn't spread as potently to all aspects of the economy. The Great Recession, caused by a housing market bubble and risky mortgage lending, led real estate prices in the Wilsonville area to plummet and some agencies to fold. That hasn't been the case this time around.

In fact, the average price of a home in Wilsonville has fallen a bit during the pandemic (about $13,000 since February), but is still holding steady and is up from where it was a year ago, according to data from Zillow. And a couple local real estate agents interviewed by the Pamplin Media Group said they haven't had any trouble marketing homes recently. For instance, Andy Green, founder of Green Group Real Estate, said half of homes listed sell within one week and the other half sell in about a month.

"Housing has remained very strong because the foundation of the housing market coming into this was so strong," Green said. "All the indicators were there. It didn't change that much going through this."

Still, the situation looked precarious back in early spring. Debi Laue, a Wilsonville resident and real estate agent, said listings "fell off the mountain top" toward the end of March. But she said things began to pick back up again in April and that they've been relatively normal since then.

"At first it came back faster than expected," Laue said. "We were surprised by how busy we were in April and May. By June, it's old hat. We're super busy like we always have been this time of year."

Laue said the overall inventory of housing remains very low in the Portland metro area. In turn, homes that are put up for sale are in high demand.

"I have friends that have been competing with 17 other buyers on a house," Green said. "I haven't seen that in Wilsonville but there are 4-5 offers on property between McMinnville and Wilsonville."

Low inventory in the Portland metro area has been an ongoing trend for years that is widely believed to have contributed to rising housing prices. Even during this economic downturn, buyers can't capitalize on lower prices.

"My advice for any buyer is always: The time is never going to be right. The people who wait to time the market end up losing out on opportunities," Green said.

Historically low mortgage interest rates have also contributed to the high levels of housing market activity, both Green and Laue said.

"Interest rates are fabulous. That's part of what's pushing things. They're super low and they're steady," Laue said. "You can get a really good 30-year fixed rate mortgage for less than 3.5% right now, which is shocking."

One change from normal times, Green said, is that he's only showing homes to serious buyers to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Buyers have to be preapproved and sign waivers, and Green is asking them more pointed questions to make sure they have done their due diligence like viewing the virtual tour.

"We're dealing with more serious buyers than ever before," he said, adding that he's also showing more homes than he did at the onset of the pandemic.

One trend Laue has noticed is that both cheaper (under $500,000) and more expensive properties (over $1 million) with considerable acreage have sold well, whereas homes that cost between those numbers haven't been as popular. And Laue said some people are moving to the suburbs due to the pandemic and "social unrest" in Portland.

"They are changing their mind about where they want to live," she said. "If they can afford something with a little land around it they're going for that."

In Wilsonville, Laue and Green said homes in Villebois are selling briskly whereas homes in the new Frog Pond West neighborhood are taking longer to leave the market. Green said establishing a new neighborhood can be challenging, while Laue surmised that the kinds of homes there aren't as popular right now compared to smaller, more affordable homes or more expensive homes with more acreage.

"I think sales are a little slower than I would have expected (at Frog Pond West) but the rest of Wilsonville is a strong market," Green said.

With the end to the pandemic nowhere in sight and unemployment figures remaining astronomical, there is ample uncertainty about how economic conditions will evolve. But Green is optimistic the housing market will be even stronger moving forward.

"If I'm considering today's market a good market, I think 12 months from now it has potential to be a really good market," he said.


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