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Prices still rising but homes sales down vs previous year

SE Belmont house for sale

Home sales in the Portland area took a tumble in May compared with a year ago, though a thin supply of homes for sale means the market is still very competitive.

The Regional Multiple Listing Service reports 2,483 homes sold in May, a decline of 7.4 percent from a year earlier. The month is typically a busy one for closing deals, and sales were still up 15.9 percent from April.

It’s been an unsteady year for home sales, especially in its busiest months. March saw a 4 percent decline from a year earlier, and April saw only a small increase. To date, sales are down 0.9 percent in 2014 from last year.

Contracts to buy homes were up slightly from a year ago. Many of those sales will close in the next one to two months.



The decline may in part be tied to the relatively small number of homes for sale, which has frustrated would-be homebuyers and prompted bidding wars over some of the most desirable homes.

“What’s really going on here is we’re just not bringing the inventory to market to satisfy this demand,” said Tim Duy, a University of Oregon economist. “If there were more to sell, there’d be more sales.”


At April’s sales rate, it would only take 2.8 months to sell all 6,858 homes on the market. That measure of supply and demand is near its lowest point in years, suggesting the market remains extremely competitive for homebuyers. An inventory of less than six months indicates a seller’s market.

Homes that sell are still moving fast. The average home sold in April was on the market for 67 days from listing to closing, more than two weeks less than a year earlier.

“A properly priced property in today’s market, its going to fly off the shelf and you’re going to get multiple offers on it,” said Brian Houston, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Seal Properties in Portland.

Prices continue to rise. The median home price in May was $290,000, up 7.6 from a year ago and 3.6 percent from a month ago.

Those increases are slowing somewhat, but many economists and real estate observers had said they were rising too fast in the immediate rebound from the housing market and threatened to curb affordability for most potential buyers, especially if paired with a hike in mortgage rates.

The increases may also reflect more activity among higher-end houses and fewer bargains on homes in foreclosure.

More houses are coming on the market, which may begin to ease the inventory crunch and further cool prices. Homeowners newly listed more than 4,000 homes in May, 9 percent more than the same month a year ago. So far this year, though, listings are only up 2.7 percent.

— Elliot Njus

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