Introducing Patie Millen and her team at the Patie Millen Group, a boutique real estate firm located in downtown Ashland, Oregon. Now in her 30th year of service, Patie and her team are positioned as some of Southern Oregon´s top producers. What does this mean for her clients? Excellence in customer service, market insights, insider knowledge and a rich experience of how real estate really works here in Southern Oregon. Please join me now in reading Patie Millen´s annual Real Estate Update interview.
Patie, welcome back and thanks for taking time to catch up with our community in your annual LocalsGuide Interview.
Hi Shields, always a delight to be here and share my thoughts with you and our community about what is going on in the real estate industry and provide a personal update.
Patie, we always talk numbers when we do our interviews together, so let’s talk about them now. To begin with, we all know the market is down from its peak in 2022, but where are we now?
Well, we have all been through a lot of changes over the past few years and 2022 was no different. A different tempo, especially at the end of summer, wide shifts in rising interest rates, slowing buyer activity as rates rose, especially noticeable beginning in mid-August. We went from one market to a completely different market almost overnight. We are still in a lower inventory market although inventory counts have been rising lately. I think that is mostly because of the low buyer activity with fewer homes selling. But now that we are into 2023 sellers are calling us to put their homes on the market, so that will bring more inventory to market as well. The high appreciation rates for home prices that we saw over the past two years have now slowed, although prices are not coming down by much. However, that can be reflected differently in the various price categories.
We can no longer look at the numbers the way we have in the past because the sold market of more than 4 months ago is irrelevant. We are no longer in that market. It is the active market and the sold data from mid-August, and really since October forward that counts, that is when this new market emerged. If we look at Ashland local sales volume for December 2022, where only 21 homes sold, sales were down 55% over December 2021 and if you go back to the last normal market of 2019, December 2022 sales are still down by 53%. That is due to low inventory and higher rates. If you want to sell, it could be a good opportunity if you have a nice property offered at market price. Buyers need more choices and I think by March inventory will increase as will sales activity. We are already seeing that changing tempo.
What are your biggest concerns as we move into 2023-24, and with these concerns, what are the biggest opportunities you see?
In almost every economy people are always buying and selling real estate. Today the market is slower but the very active market with strong price appreciation lasted a long time. More than 10 years. Things go in cycles.
There is a lot to keep our eye on right now. We have the possibility of a recession which many feel has already started, especially in the housing market. Recent massive layoffs in tech and finance, although those folks are finding job replacements quickly. Inflation, rising interest rates, what the Fed will do, employment numbers, folks ending their forbearance situations, political division, global conflict, and Elon taking over Twitter… kidding, not kidding.
And with all that going on I don’t feel heavily concerned. Things need to simmer down. Inflation is slowly coming down but not near the 2% the Fed is targeting. We don’t think rates will rise as quickly as they did over summer and fall but we will get a few more increases. If prices come down, homeowners will still have experienced huge price gains over the past several years and they should be fine and retain a good chunk of their gains. Lower or stabilized prices will allow new buyers into the market. There are a lot of people out there that deserve to own a home and who want to own a home and sellers have dominated the market for a long time. We have now entered a balanced market between sellers and buyers, buyers will now have their opportunity time. Kudos to the lenders that are promoting innovative programs that greatly benefit buyers. There are some great loans available that are completely new to the market.
Our team has seen renewed market activity beginning the first week of January. We had been talking with clients and prospective buyers over the fall and winter who had stated after the first of the year they would put their plans into action. That is happening now. We are in contact with a lot of buyers locally and from outside of the area who are making appointments to begin visiting and for consults in the next 4-to-8-weeks. We feel the tempo will be slower than it has in springs past, but the past few springs were crazy and wild with fast markets, so that is okay. We can see clearly that the activity is there and taken on a new momentum just in the past several weeks.
In 2021 our team was rated #16 in Oregon for small real estate teams and for the past several years, we have been in the top 3 for sales in Ashland. Ashland is only a portion of our sales; we serve most areas of Jackson County and areas of Grants Pass. To be entering a steadier, more stable market than the frenzy of the past two years feels right. It is a healthy pace, and it is the new reality. It will change again but right now we are breathing more evenly and that is a good thing. Buyers can be more methodical about their home purchases and sellers can be more balanced in how they work with buyers. It feels like a good situation to me.
Patie, as an expert in what you do, what questions are you asking yourself right now and what are you telling your clients?
I am paying very close attention on many fronts. I always do. I read the top real estate reports from those who I respect every morning, who often have differing opinions. I keep my eye on the markets, watch what the big boys and gals are doing and closely monitor the local data. I spot trends early and determine what they mean in terms of our positioning, our clients positioning, actions we may need to take, etc. When to pull in the reins and when to let them out.
I want buyers and sellers to know that this has been a confusing market. We have not seen this market before, and the experts are conflicted as stated. Most people only buy a home every 7-10 years and for each of those cycles the industry and the market have usually changed so dramatically that nothing is familiar. No one is expected to know how to do this unless they do it every day. That is where we come in.
I and my team are always happy to sit down with you, learn about your situation, explore what you want to create and offer our expertise, suggestions, recommendations and collaborate with you to find the ideal path forward, a plan that feels right to you in every way and on your timing.
We work with homeowners in all price categories, investors with specific formulas for their income-producing properties, commercial offerings, ranches, land, and businesses. We work with people in all kinds of life’s joyous and difficult transitions. Our goal always is to make it easy for our client, to let them drop it in our lap as much as possible while we position and strive to attain the results most beneficial to them.
We just worked with a couple, past clients from about 10 years ago, who wanted to downsize. They were world travelers and held trainings and seminars across several continents for many years. They were collectors of many beautiful collectibles from their travels. Downsizing was an overwhelming process for them. They had some physical situations they were dealing with, and they needed support. We met with them and learned their concerns and thoughts. We worked with them for many months and helped coordinate the right people to assist them in determining which items they would take to their new home, what needed to be stored, what would be sold at an estate sale, how each of those categories of items would be stored in the meantime, who would move them, helped hire the workers for the move out cleaning and the yard maintenance. We coordinated for the right people to make repairs and perform pre-listing maintenance. Knowing they would put their home on the market in early spring, we had photos taken the previous spring so that their photos would not have the gray dreariness of winter lingering but would present instead the attractive riot of color of their yard in full bloom. This is what we do.
So, there is a lot more to what we do than the public may consider. We offer full concierge service and we have built our reputation on being responsive, accommodating, trustworthy and giving our clients the best service in the industry. So please, use our expertise, moving is daunting and we’re here to help.
As we move into February, what should we be thinking about either as buyers or sellers?
We know that buyers were on the sidelines when the rates began to rise; I understand that is a necessary decision for some. But unless inventory really increases by a lot, I don’t see prices coming down significantly. The forecasts are that appreciation will slow and could even be flat in 2023. Some experts predict prices could come down 10% and if there is a significant recession as much as 15% or 20% but most feel appreciation will be flat to minimal declines.
Nationally, prices went up 42% over the past 2 years. You cannot time the market. The experts cannot time the market, they cannot time the bottom, it is a disastrous thing to do. I have seen people lose a bundle trying to do that in the past. I was listening to a leader at Guild corporate, one of the largest lenders in the nation, and I agree with what he said. He felt that the Fed strategy to lower inflation has an 80-90% chance of working and if it does, rates will decline to 5% in spring and early summer. If inflation increases, then rates could go to 8% or 9%.
His point was that buyers should enter the market and lock in their monthly payment. You can’t do that when you rent. Get in the market and lock in your payment. If rates go up, congratulations, you are locked into a lower rate. If rates decline, you refinance. And since the refinance market has massively declined there will be some great deals out there to refinance. The lenders are being very accommodating.
For most of my adult life, rates were always between 6% and 11%. It was only over the past two years that we saw the historically low rates at 3%-4%. For a short time even in the high 2’s. That is not going to happen again. That was a gift, an anomaly. 6% is a normal interest rate. Get on with your lives.
I feel that people are starting to accept the new market and after being on hold for so long during Covid, they are ready to move forward with their plans. We are seeing that new energy beginning now at the start of the New Year.
That all makes sense and I appreciate the thought that you give to the different scenarios. It sounds like you are in a really great place in your life and career right now. Tell me about those aspects of your life.
Well thank you, yes, I am in a very good place as is our entire team. I went through some great exercises in patience last year with the supply chain holdups, etc. I was renovating and expanding our office space and it took a really long time. It turned out beautifully and we all love it. But it took a long time coming together. Once it did, we created an enhanced and incredibly professional team of highly experienced Realtors and several staff members. They are all very experienced professionals, savvy, knowledgeable, talented, kind, and good human beings. That is such a joy! Energy is everything and to be privileged to work in that environment with this group of people is very uplifting to me. I am highly grateful that this perfect team has been created. We each provide support to the whole and collaborate at a high level. This frees time for each of us and brings our personal lives into balance. I am finding more time for art, on the weekends and in the evenings, which I love. I am just completing an art studio, workout room and ping pong space…which I also love. So, a bit of time for some play, which has not really been the case in the past. I am excited about that.
This is a huge benefit for our clients as well. When life is balanced, creativity and innovation expand and everything in life gets better, more joy filled. We are the best versions of ourselves.
Experience, Experience, Experience. You just can’t take any shortcuts, can you?
No, you really cannot. Not in this industry. Real estate is one of the largest assets for many people. You must know what you are doing. Experience is everything. If you are entering the real estate market to buy or sell, do your homework. Ask your agent for a list of properties they have sold over the past 2 years. Ask the tough questions. Hire hard. Hire an experienced and excellent Realtor.
Speaking of experienced Realtors, I would like to thank our team and staff members for joining me in creating what I have envisioned for such a long time. A high-level group of professionals that give our clients an elevated, successful experience. Thank you to Rob Edwards, Allie Dickson, Eric Bonetti, Martin Huggins, Kathryn Gimbel, Jeffrey Nagel, Robynne Whitaker, Sherry Kittle, Kenny Taylor, our manager Patty Davis, and escrow wizard Lori Wetzel. You are the best!
Thank you also to the many wonderful lenders, title people, inspectors, repair people, stagers, photographers, and videographers who assist us in serving our clients at such a high level. We are grateful.