Home prices in northwest Oregon hit new highs in 2020, continuing an almost decade-long climb.
According to an analysis by Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Erik Knoder, residential property average sales prices rose 14.5 percent to $425,300 last year in the region including Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln counties.
Prices rose by 9.4 percent to $359,292 in Columbia County and by 7.3 percent to $423,508 in Benton County, Knoder found, noting that Benton County reports few home sales to the Regional Multiple Listing Service, from which he obtained the figures.
The volume of sales also increased, Knoder found, with 1,960 closed home sales during 2020 in the three-county region that includes Lincoln, compared to 1,776 sales in 2019. Columbia County had 914 closed sales in 2020 versus 867 in 2019, and Benton County reported 189 sales, compared to 154 in 2019.
The economist wrote in an April 7 report, “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.”
Knoder used modeling data from online real estate marketplace Zillow to counter that problem, examining data reflecting 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 hit new highs in 2020 and that the rate of increase was high in the four smaller counties and a bit lower in Benton County,” Knoder wrote.
The price differences between counties also narrowed, Knoder said. “In early 2005, when data for all five counties were first available, the most expensive county, Benton, had prices that were about 44 percent higher than the lowest-price county, Lincoln. By 2020 that difference had dropped to 27 percent, and it seems to be headed even lower in 2021. Additional opportunities for remote work may be one factor causing that trend.”
Knoder also found that employment in the region’s real estate industry had risen overall by 11 percent, accounted for almost entirely by jobs added in Lincoln County between September 2019 and September 2020 — Lincoln County had the biggest increase in real estate employment, with 92 jobs added. All other counties in the region but one lost real estate jobs — Benton County lost 33 jobs, Clatsop County lost 40 jobs, and Tillamook County shed nine. Columbia County added a single real estate job.
The economist noted that many positions in the industry, such as brokers, are not typically covered by unemployment insurance and thus not reported to the Oregon Employment Department. The jobs reported added or lost were likely to be support and office staff for brokers or maintenance and cleaning staff for real estate rental agents.
“The global pandemic hammered many industries and led to massive unemployment, but homeowners are coming away with a big win,” Knoder wrote. “Home prices not only continued to rise in many cities across the nation, but they increased even more than in the previous year. The widely quoted Case-Shiller Index of national home prices available from the St. Louis Federal Reserve showed an 11.2 percent increase over the year to January 2021. That was nearly three times the growth rate of the year before.