Baker real estate bucks market trends

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

By LISA BRITTON

For the Baker City Herald

Housing market woes across the country just can't be compared to Baker City.

"Our market is so unique and nonstandard," said Andrew Bryan, who bought Baker City Realty in 2008.

Nationally, real estate troubles hit in 2008.

"We had about a year lag time," Bryan said.

And now, three years later, local Realtors are optimistic.

"We still have people looking, we still have people buying," said Marty Lien, a Realtor since 1989 who works for John J. Howard and Associates.

"It's fluctuated up and down over the years," she said. "I always have a positive attitude about the market."

(Notice the capital "R" in Realtor? That means the person belongs to

the National Association of Realtors and abides by a set code of ethics

and standards of practice.)

Numbers, provided by the Regional Multiple Listing Services (RMLS), tell the story.

At the end of November 2010, the number of closed sales in Baker County was 123.

For November 2011, that number was 122.

Remember 2008?

The RMLS recorded 215 closed sales at the end of December 2007, and then that dropped to 146 by December 2008.

It hasn't changed much since.

But the terms "foreclosure" and "short sale" come up often in local MLS

meetings. (A short sale happens when a homeowner owes more than the

house is worth and needs to sell quickly.)

"We probably get five requests a week," Mary Jo Grove said of foreclosures.

(The "we" she talks about is The Grove Team of Mary Jo, Jim Grove and Carla Smith with Nelson Real Estate.)

Grove estimates foreclosures are about 20 percent of the local market right now, maybe a bit less.

The total inventory - the number of "for sale" signs you see around town - has stayed fairly stable.

"We always have a lot of houses for sale," said Grove, who's been a Realtor since 1980.

Of course, these numbers vary by subcategory.

"The farm and ranch market has not seen much movement for three

years," Bryan said. "The under-$100,000 market keeps moving along."

Which, he said, makes it possible for families to move from renting to owning, or to a larger home.

"It's a great time to go from a two-bedroom to a three-bedroom," Bryan said.

Although house values have decreased in recent years, Grove said Baker

wasn't hit as hard as Boise and Bend where values dropped about 50

percent.

"Compared to that, it's just not that bad," she said. "Our prices never

go crazy-high and never go crazy-low. What we have going for a buyer is

prices are down and interest rates are cheap."

Rates are below 4 percent.

Grove remembers when a 14 percent variable interest rate was standard.

"It's mind-boggling how really good interest rates truly are," she said.

But getting financed is a bit tougher these days.

"It used to be you could make an offer, then get financed," Bryan said.

"Now you have to get pre-approved, all set, good-to-go before you put

an offer in."

But if you want to buy, now is the time.

"I think it is a great time to buy," Grove said. "And if people need to sell, if it's priced competitively, it'll sell."

As for potential buyers, Bryan said he's seen three main groups moving

to town: former military, lower-income individuals on Social Security

and artists.

"Those are the calls I'm fielding the most consistently," he said.

13114652
The Baker City Herald
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