artistic depiction of housing price bubble

Are Eugene and Bend Headed for a Housing Bubble? Let’s Look at the Facts.

Housing markets, the stereotype goes, can be pretty volatile.

They can spend years climbing, climbing, climbing–and then, in just a short while, plummet back down to earth, creating quite a mess in the process.

We all remember 2008. For some of us, the memory is fresher than for others. We can tend to ask: when’s the next big crash coming?

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home in Eugene or Bend, you’ve probably followed the real estate news over the past few weeks. A growing number of voices have chimed in, proclaiming the impending burst of a national housing bubble.

For Bend and Eugene sellers, is there a reason to worry? For buyers or for those thinking of moving to Eugene or moving to Bend, is there a reason to look forward to lower prices in the near future?

It’s a complicated question that deserves more than a cursory answer. We’re not fortune tellers, nor are we economists. But we do strive to give our clients the very best advice available, which means keeping our finger firmly on the pulse of our local markets.

Our honest professional diagnosis: we’re confident that the Eugene and Bend markets will remain healthy at the very least through 2019, and likely beyond.

Comparing Eugene and Bend to the National Market

Locally, robust economic growth and quality of life have driven steady growth in Eugene and Bend’s housing markets over the past decade. While prices aren’t as low as buyers might wish, Eugene and Bend’s increases are relatively modest compared to to larger metropolitan centers on the West Coast.

There are indications that in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, prices have simply risen beyond what homeowners can afford and what lenders are willing to finance.

These cities have recently seen a marked increase in inventory, while home prices are clearly plateauing. Bloomberg reports that in June of 2018, Seattle’s inventory was up 24% compared to a year ago, while Portland’s inventory was up a striking 32%.

Mind you, these inventory increases basically represent an increase from “crazy-stupid-soul-crushingly-low” to “still pretty danged low.” Nationwide, there are some indicators of a cool-down, but reports of a full-fledged housing bubble are premature.

Why Nationwide Statistics Don’t Point to a Housing Bubble

It’s important, basically, to put nationwide statistics in context. Bloomberg’s report indicates that new home purchases have slowed to an eight-month low. Nationwide, housing inventory reached a low point in late 2017 and has risen steadily since then.

We’d argue, however, that these statistics are driven by the markets that experienced the most dramatic price increases, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland among them.

The economics are simple: when prices cross the threshold of what people can afford, homes will sit on the market longer. When homes sit on the market longer, buyers gain more leverage, and sellers drop prices until equilibrium is regained.

Healthy markets naturally feature some amount of give and take. Federal interest rates feature prominently in this dynamic.

After the Great Recession, the Federal Reserve dropped rates to a sixty-year low, and it’s only been in the past two years that rates have climbed significantly. When interest rates increase, buying power decreases, acting as a healthy corrective for markets that are growing too rapidly.

In other words, the market trends we’re seeing now are in no way indicative of a pending free-fall. 2008’s crash was caused by irresponsible lending practices and faulty economic policy. These factors simply aren’t at play in today’s market.

Envisioning doomsday scenarios is a popular past-time these days, but we don’t see any compelling reasons to fear the worst when it comes to the national housing market.

So, What About Eugene and Bend’s Housing Markets?

When it comes to Eugene and Bend’s markets, the question isn’t so much whether we’re in a housing bubble that is due to burst. The question, rather, is whether the market is due simply to cool off. Let’s look at the facts.

For June 2018, Eugene’s Register Guard reported that the median sale price for homes in Lane County was a record $297,000 for June 2018, up almost $30,000 from the previous year. Inventory, meanwhile, rose 0.1 percent from May, to 1.7 months.

That’s still insanely low, and herein lies the crux of the Eugene market’s persistent climb. Competition for available homes is still fierce enough that bidding wars and offers well above the listing price are still common.

Recently, we worked with a buyer who put in an offer on a home in the starter range (i.e., $200-250,000.) This was a modest 2 bed 1 bath home on the market for $219,000.

The listing agent indicated that the seller would review all offers a week after the listing was posted and would not accept offers prior to that date. After doing extensive research, our client decided to put in an offer well above list price. In fact, $16,000 higher.

At the time of submitting the offer, there were six in play, and our client did not win the lottery. The seller decided to accept an offer that had a very short closing period and all cash. This is a prime example of the fierce competition that still exists in our market here in Eugene.

Bend’s inventory isn’t much higher, lowering to 2.3 months as of the end of June after a modest increase through the spring. New constructions represent much of this inventory, and in Bend, these tend toward luxury homes.  June’s average sale price was a record $522,000.

There’s definitely some truth to the common notion that well-off Californians are relocating to Bend from even more expensive markets, driving local housing prices higher and higher. Eugene’s quality of life and robust economy also make it an increasingly attractive destination for people relocating from across the country.

The important takeaway: Eugene and Bend are strong seller’s markets. Nationwide trends notwithstanding, we see them remaining that way through 2019 at the very least.

So, if you’re a buyer, deciding to wait out the market puts you at risk of climbing interest rates, higher prices, and the possibility of even less properties to choose from.

For those looking at investment properties, we think both Eugene and Bend are solid choices.

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, be sure to read our article on Tips for Home Buyers in a Tight Real Estate Market. You can also contact us today about what you’re looking for, and we’ll get started on your home search right away.

Thinking of selling but not sure you can get enough to make it worth your while? Simply contact us and we’ll give you a free property valuation, no strings attached.

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