By Elliot Njus

The Oregonian

Portland-area home sales picked up in February from a winter slump but remained cooler than the same time a year ago.

Nonetheless, real estate brokers say there are encouraging signs for the typically busy spring and summer.

Sales dropped 4.4 percent from a year earlier, according to new numbers from the Regional Multiple Listing Service, with 1,726 homes sold during the month. Another 2,200 homes were under a sale contract — a 5.5 percent decline from February 2018.

Prices rebounded from a decline recorded in January, the region’s first year-over-year drop in home prices in nearly seven years. The median sale price for February rose to $399,900, a 3.9 percent increase from a year earlier.

Homes spent nearly a week longer on the market than a year earlier. Homes sold in February were listed for an average of 75 days through the day the seller accepted an offer.

Fewer homes were listed for sale. RMLS reported 2,444 new listings in February, a 3.4 percent decline.

There were 4,579 active listings at the end of February. If sales continued at the same rate, it would take 2.7 months to sell all the homes on the market.

That kind of inventory traditionally indicates a seller’s market.

But after a hot streak that lasted several years, it’s the highest level the metro area has seen since 2015, and the wild market of 2016 and 2017 appears to be solidly in the rearview mirror.

Area real estate brokers, however, say early signs suggest a busy spring buying and selling season ahead. Viewings and open house attendance have picked up.

“Buyers are back out and hungry already,” said Dustin Miller, a broker with Windermere Realty Trust in Lake Oswego.

Adam Kaplan, a broker with John L. Scott Real Estate in Northeast Portland, said buyers are still finding themselves in bidding wars over homes priced below $500,000 — and particularly at price points within reach for first-time homebuyers.

“There are a lot of homes that are relatively overpriced. People are still expecting the same sort of appreciation they got three years ago,” Kaplan said.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a slowdown. Open houses at good price points are still bringing people through.”

Mortgage rates are providing a tailwind for the market. After spiking to nearly 5 percent in November, the average fixed rate for a 30-year mortgage has fallen to 4.3 percent, the lowest level since early 2018, according to the government-backed mortgage buyer Freddie Mac.

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