This winter in Central Oregon is conjuring up memories of 1993 that go beyond the snow.
Old hands in real estate say that historic winter of 1993 pushed many people to pack up and leave, and they expect that the phenomenon will repeat this year.
“I do remember one of my sellers leaving a message when they were finally able to get out of their driveway,” said Carolyn Bostwick, president of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors and managing principal broker at Windermere Central Oregon Real Estate. “‘The key’s under the mat. We’ll call you when we get back to California.’”
Kevin Cole, who moved here in the fall from Salem, has heard similar stories from his co-workers at Mid Oregon Credit Union, where he is chief financial officer. The notion of more homes hitting the market is encouraging to him because he’ll be shopping for a house in the spring, and he knows the competition will be intense.
But there’s no way to verify the oft-repeated wisdom that more homes hit the market after a harsh winter.
The Central Oregon Association of Realtors doesn’t keep listings of data going back to the 1990s. The association does show the number of homes sold jumped 21 percent, from 662 in 1992 to 801 in 1993. That was likely because of an increase in new construction, plus a big wave of migration from California, said Josh Lehner, economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
“The demand to live in Bend and Oregon more broadly is very strong,” Lehner said. “The soon-to-be listed homes will sell.”
Bend could use some snow-fatigued sellers to bump up its housing inventory. In December, Bend had a two-month supply of single-family home listings, according to inventory data compiled by Beacon Appraisal Group owner Donnie Montagner. Inventory levels are usually at their lowest in winter, but Bend had less than a three-month supply throughout 2016. The highest point was 2.8 months from August through October.
A veteran of the moving business in Bend, Nancy Lynch, owner of Bend Storage & Transfer, said she “absolutely” expects an influx of calls for outbound moves this spring. That was the pattern in 1993, she recalled.
“As soon as the snow stopped, all the for-sale signs were up,” she said. “It was a busy, busy spring the following spring.”
Dana Bratton, owner of Bratton Appraisal Group, said home builders also changed their behavior after the winter of 1993. Previously there was no rush to make sure buildings were enclosed before winter, and construction continued throughout the season.
“The next fall, there was a flurry of appraisal activity,” Bratton said, as builders were rushing to get financing, pour foundations and construct roofs before the big snow.”
Of course, Bratton said, the winter of 1992-93 was an anomaly; a big snow didn’t materialize the following winter.
A total of 89.6 inches of snow fell between December 1992 and March 1993, according to the National Weather Service. Through January of that 1992-93 season, Bend received 61.5 inches of snow.
Bend is close to 1993 in terms of snowfall so far and has already exceeded the record for snow depth. The weather service recorded 24 inches of snowpack on Jan. 11, well above the previous record of 16 inches on Jan. 11, 1993.
People leave Central Oregon after average winters, just because they weren’t expecting any snow, or cold temperatures, Bratton said. “Some people get surprised,” he said. “Generally they’re moving from a nonsnowy climate.”
About 40 percent of Lynch’s business is people moving away from Bend, and weather is always among the reasons, she said. Usually it’s retirees who’ve decided they just can’t take any more cold winters, she said.
The trend seems stronger now, she said, and she believes it’s because fewer Central Oregon retirees are maintaining winter homes in warm climates.
“A lot of people want to be in one place,” she said. “Then they realize this isn’t the place.”
— Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-617-7860