by Mike Wilson for the Bulletin Special Projects

Through June 2017, the median sales price for residences on one acre or less ran $226,000 — 26 percent higher than the comparable data point from the second quarter of 2016

“Hot” and “thriving” are often used to describe the real estate market in Bend — with good reason. But if Bend is hot, what does that make La Pine?

Statistics through the third quarter of 2017 show the La Pine real estate market with a median sales price that, year over year, rose considerably more than Bend in the first nine months of this year. Moreover, there’s evidence that the demand in La Pine could remain at a fevered pitch.

“It has been pretty strong these last few years,” said Lisa A. Tavares, managing principal broker and co-owner of La Pine Realty. “It’s definitely a seller’s market right now.”

Data from the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® show that, through the first nine months of the year, the median sales price of a non-manufactured home in La Pine on a lot of less than one acre was $223,000. Compared with the same time frame from 2016, that’s a 17.4 percent increase.

Now look at sales figures from Bend over the same time. The year-to-date median sales price through the end of September was $399,000. Year-over-year, that represents a 10.9 percent increase.

The median price is that at which half of the homes that were sold went for more and half went for less. The median is commonly used instead of the average, which can be skewed by a relatively small number of high-dollar transactions.

It’s worth noting that the third-quarter year-to-date median sales price for La Pine actually represents a decline from the second-quarter figures. Through June 2017, the median sales price for residences on one acre or less ran $226,000 — 26 percent higher than the comparable data point from the second quarter of 2016.

“Most sellers are getting their asking price or just under,” Tavares said.

Another often-scrutinized data point — average days on market — adds evidence that the residential market in La Pine is humming. Through September, that year-to-date figure stood at 119 days for La Pine. For Bend, just to compare, it was 128 days.

“If something’s nice and clean, it doesn’t stay on the market long,” Tavares said. “The minute it comes on, if it’s clean, it’s gone.”

This year’s sales figures continue an upward trend for the La Pine market. Eighty homes on lots of less than one acre were sold through September. That’s more than 35 percent higher than the volume to that point in 2016 — which itself experienced an increase of 23 percent more sales through the same part of the year as in the year prior.

On lots of more than one acre, the pace of residential sales is essentially unchanged from last year (102 in 2017 compared to 103 in 2016), but the median price rose 13.6 percent, from $225,000 to $255,500.

For manufactured homes, the year-to-date median sales price on lots of less than one acre ($157,000) was up 17 percent year-over year. For manufactured homes on lots of greater than one acre, the median was $170,000, representing a 13 percent increase.

Tavares said La Pine has an inventory of about three and a half months (inventory represents how long it would take to sell all the homes on the market given the current pace of sales. Six months is commonly used as the dividing line between a buyer’s and a seller’s market).

She said a sizable component of home buyers in La Pine are retirees moving from wetter climates, such as the Willamette Valley.

“They’ve lived there [Willamette Valley] all their lives. They’re tired of the dreariness. Now they want to come here and fish and hunt and live in the sunshine. They’re coming here and buying,” said Tavares.

Developers are also recognizing the allure of La Pine. Huntington Meadows, a product of Arbor Builders, offers homes at about $205,000 and below. New Era Homes has been building in La Pine, Tavares said. Pahlisch Homes, the muscle behind well-known neighborhoods in Bend, is developing Crescent Creek in La Pine. The 74-home development will entail one- and two-story Craftsman and Northwest style homes.

“As they build houses, they’ve been selling them off pretty quickly,” Tavares said, referring to Crescent Creek and adding that Pahlisch also will build on a private lot.

“If you buy a lot, they’ll build you a home,” said Tavares, who was installed this month as the La Pine director of COAR. “Which I think is huge.”

Tavares said a majority of homes in La Pine are owner-occupied and the demand for rentals is strong.

“People come into our office every day looking for rentals,” she said. “And we don’t do them. It’s hard to get a rental.”

A key component to the housing market, of course, is the job market. Tavares said that five years ago, a substantial proportion of La Pine residents worked in Bend or Sunriver. Job opportunities in La Pine itself have been improving lately, she said.

She points to the presence of the Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree as examples of the increasing amenities La Pine offers. Dollar General is expected to open an outlet in town, she said. St. Charles’ family care clinic, originally scheduled for opening in fall 2017, is now expected to open its doors in spring 2018.

“In the next five years, it’s going to be amazing,” Tavares said. “We’re going to grow a lot.”