By Ray Linker
Observer Staff Writer
This time of year, we see a jump in new listings, said Betty Driggers of ERA Driggers and Associates, the La Grande real estate firm which has the highest number of listings in Union County.
People list their homes for sale at this time because its the end of the school year and they want to move to another location or job or just want to move up to a bigger house.
But this year we are seeing a lot of vacant houses, people have just moved, gone some place else, Driggers said.
Ive seen more vacant houses in the Multiple Listing Service.
She said MLS had 27 vacant houses listed this week in La Grande and Island City.
The addition of new manufactured homes going into such areas around North Columbia Street and at Eagle Cap Estates between 18th and 20th streets add housing units to the market, she said.Its a seasonal market right now, but I think people are getting their houses on the market hoping to sell with the low interest rates now. You can buy a house cheaper than you can rent.
Its still a buyers market compared to last year when the seller could be in control, Driggers said. Seventy-five percent of the time now youll see the buyers asking the seller to pay the closing costs.
The average time to sell a house priced right is 165 days now, compared to about 90 days in good years in the past.
This is a little high, Driggers said.
Lower prime interest rates trimmed for the fifth time this year on Wednesday probably wont boost home sales because they are tied to long-term activity, national observers said. But they cant hurt either, Driggers said.
Now is a good time to buy; the existing interest rates make it affordable.
Roger Goodman of Century 21 Eagle Cap Realty said that instead of calling it a buyers or sellers market, he would characterize it as an active market. I dont see much of a difference in the number of listings now than about this time last year.
When I started 30 years ago, the interest rates were at 9-1/2 to 9-3/4 percent, and now at about 7-1/4 percent theyre pretty attractive historically.
Driggers said some loans are being made at 6.875 percent.
Goodman has posted 46 properties on his Web site. They range in price from a $17,000 manufactured home to a house listed for $238,500.
Driggers said for homes priced correctly for the market, the best sellers are those in the $85,000 to $110,000 range with three bedrooms, two baths and a garage.
From there, there is a jump to the $180,000-to-$220,000 range which seem to sell quickly.
And people nowadays are smart enough to know they might as well have a newer house.
Location is definitely a factor, she said.
Its a plus if theyre looking in La Grande. If the price is the key for the buyer, then that supercedes location unless they have to be in La Grande. People are willing to look elsewhere if price is their main concern.
She said rising gas prices could push some people looking for a home back into La Grande.
Some homes are still priced too high to sell right away or to sell at the listed price.
If the house is priced to the market, the seller can expect to get that price. But if its a little overpriced, the buyer will come in with a low-ball offer. I have five low-ball offers sitting on my desk right now.
ERA Driggers is the top lister in the county of residential real estate. The 64 single family homes listed on the firms Web site total $8.8 million in price. The range is from $27,500 to $400,000.
On the lillyrealestate.com Web site, there are listings for 228 single-family homes in Union County ranging from $30,000 to $360,000, with an average price of $108,074 of the houses sold between January 2000 and April 2001.
The same Web site, which has reports from several local real estate brokers, lists 174 homes that sold in La Grande during the same period, with the average price being $108,310.
Some people are searching the Internet before turning to a real estate agent. Several of the 10 local firms post some of their listings.
Ranch-N-Homes list includes a 3,488-square-foot home with outbuildings at $234,000. It also lists a 1,246-foot home for $109,000.
Coldwell Banker Lester Real Estate also has a Web site.