Fires, pandemic rapidly changing the Jackson Co. housing crisis

JACKSON CO., Or.- The limited housing options in the Rogue Valley have only shrunk more since the Almeda and South Obenchain fires displaced thousands in September.

The housing demand is shaking up the market for both buyers and sellers. It’s no surprise that there are more buyers than there are sellers in the Rogue Valley but how people are buying is changing the housing market in the Rogue Valley itself.

“We just have way more buyers than we do sellers,” said realtor Steve Thomas of EXP Realty. He says 2020 has been a roller coaster of a year for real estate in southern Oregon- but the ride is far from over.

“We’re still getting them into properties but we’ve had to be very creative and aggressive and trying just everything we can do to get them in,” Thomas said.

While demand for housing in the Rogue Valley is nothing new, the Almeda and South Obenchain fires displaces hundreds of households, putting more strain on the inventory.

According to Thomas, it’s a seller’s market, with a 14 percent price increase over the last two months.  He says homes in the area are on the market for barely a week before offers come flooding in.

“Five to fifteen offers on anything under 350 [thousand dollars]. Everything under 350 [thousand dollars] just seems to be so hot that it doesn’t last more than three or five days, and that’s because they’re waiting for all the offers to pile up,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean buyers aren’t benefiting. Because of the fires, he says some displaced victims are able to buy instead of renting or look at larger homes.

“Even people that are coming from mobile home parks, they’re able to buy. So they’re getting enough insurance money to get a good down payment and they have a decent amount of cash to work with,” Thomas said.

To make competitive offers, Thomas says buyers are waiving inspections, buying sight unseen, and even paying more than the listed price because of low interest rates.

These changes are driving up average market price and continuing the difficult buying cycle.

According to Alice Lema with John L. Scott Realty, this unique market situation isn’t just because of the fires.

“We started the year with a shortage. And then we had the corona and that created a side effect here in southern Oregon, and then we had the fires and it just exacerbated an already difficult situation,” she said.

Lema says the pandemic and fires are changing how people are buying.

“They need bigger houses. Well they are also working from home and homeschooling and so all of the sudden a three bedroom doesn’t work- you need a four or five bedroom or you need a home with a big lot like this one so you can add on,” Lema explained.

As fire victims look toward long term options, both realtors say the market is struggling to keep up.

“The buyers need homes. They’re living in motels, they’re living in trailers, we really need homes to list,” Thomas said.

According to Alice Lema, this time last year there were about 1,000 available listings. Now, there are barely three hundred.

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