Real Estate Prices Holding Up in NW Oregon

by Erik Knoder

September 28, 2020

Home prices continue to rise in many cities across the nation. The widely quoted Case-Shiller Index of national home prices available from the St. Louis Federal Reserve showed a 4.3 percent increase over the year to June 2020. That was more growth than the year before. The index increased 2.1 percent since March 2020 when the pandemic began to have a significant effect in the U.S. This raises the question, how is the real estate market in Northwest Oregon? The answer is that most Northwest Oregon counties seem to be doing as well or better. Residential property average sales prices reported by RMLS in August 2020 rose 7.6 percent to $395,300 in the North Coast region (Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln counties combined), by 9.9 percent to $344,250 in Columbia County, and by 8.9 percent to $408,167 in Benton County(based on a 12-month moving average). It should be noted that Benton County reports few home sales to RMLS so the prices can vary quite widely from month to month.

The volume of homes sold as reported by the RMLS system has also held up pretty well in 2020. The North Coast region reported 1,161 closed sales for the year through August versus 1,139 sales for the same period in 2019. Columbia County had 557 sales through August 2020 versus 567 in 2019, and Benton County reported 116 sales through August 2020 versus 104 sales through August 2019. Not all realtors report sales to RMLS.
One drawback in using home sales to evaluate the real estate market is that the quality of houses sold each month is not consistent; one month may see more high-quality houses sold, the next month may see more low-quality houses being sold. One way around this problem is to use economic models to estimate values for all the residential property in an area. Zillow does this modeling and makes the data available on the company’s website. The chart below shows the smoothed, seasonally adjusted measure of the typical home value for each county. It reflects the typical value for homes in the 35th to 65th percentile range.
The Zillow estimates for the five counties in Northwest Oregon show that home values have surpassed their pre-Great Recession highs in all counties and hit new highs in 2020. Perhaps noteworthy is that the highest prices in Benton and Columbia counties occurred in May and January, respectively, and their prices have dipped a little since then. It is also interesting to note that Columbia County’s typical home prices generally have caught up to those in Clatsop and Tillamook counties over the past five years.

Many jobs, especially brokers, in the real estate industry are not covered by unemployment insurance and consequently aren’t reported to the Oregon Employment Department. The employment that is reported for real estate was about 20 jobs higher in 2020 than 2019 for the five Northwest Oregon counties as a region, but the individual counties varied. Comparing covered employment in real estate during March 2020 with March 2019, Benton County lost 15 jobs, Clatsop County’s employment was down 27 jobs, and Tillamook County shed 16 jobs. Columbia County added 3 jobs and Lincoln County gained 76 jobs.

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