Welcome to a deep dive into the heart of Southern Oregon’s real estate landscape. In this interview, I sit down with the esteemed local Realtor and broker, Patie Millen, to unravel the invaluable insights and current trends shaping our local real estate market. Southern Oregon, renowned for its scenic vistas, tight-knit community, and abundant nature, remains an unparalleled place to call home.
Today, we explore the crucial aspects that demand the attention of buyers, sellers, and investors navigating the Southern Oregon real estate terrain this year. With over 30 years of seasoned expertise, Patie Millen graciously takes us behind the scenes, providing a comprehensive perspective that goes beyond the surface. Get ready for a journey into the pulse of Southern Oregon real estate with Patie Millen as your guide.
Hi Patie, welcome back to LocalsGuide and thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.
Thank you, it is an important part of my practice to stay connected with our community via the LocalsGuide. Shields, you always do a great job bringing the community and businesses together.
Patie, to begin with can you please give us your full report on 2023 in review?
Yes, having navigated changing local markets for 30+ years, being in my chair is an interesting place. The 2023 market had a lot of abrupt changes. Starting in mid-August 2022 when interest rates darted up, we saw our market screech to a halt and buyers and sellers pause as we all tried to figure out the terrain. October 2022 when rates were at 7.9% and through about May of 2023 when rates declined to about 6.4%, the sales volume for most brokerages throughout Medford and Ashland was down about 53% and in some cases as high as 75%, from the same period in the prior year.
Low inventory, sellers staying put due to their low existing mortgage rates and a slim buyer pool stagnated by rising rates, the market flattened from what it had been for the preceding years. People are always buying and selling but the numbers were down significantly. So, although we remained quite busy, we had more time to evaluate systems, take personal time and decide how we want our lives to look. That is always a rich time.
Things move in cycles and as pros we knew to take immediate advantage of slower times before things ramp up again to demanding levels.
How are things looking as 2024 begins?
We are so early into the New Year, today is just January 15th, but the energy feels quite alive. A lot of buyers and sellers are reaching out and ready to go. They are starting to position for their entry into the market. After having so much of their life on hold, for so long, starting with the emergence of Covid in March 2020, which kept a lot of people on the sidelines, then the rate jumps which added a monetary reason to stay put, people are ready to get on with their lives. Our phones are ringing with buyers and sellers perched to get going. They are ready!
Patie, you have been in this business a long time, what part of the market have you come to expect and what parts are still surprising to you?
People will always be moving and making major housing and financial decisions. People are extremely busy in their lives and having strong representation they can rely on for their important real estate transactions, in a top, skilled and honest broker who gets the job done, regardless of the complexities, is paramount. That is what I do and that is what our team of brokers do. Our clients expect that of us, and we deliver.
I am at a great point in my career. I regularly solve very complex problems with effective solutions. I don’t get rattled by much, I just know what to do. Having sold about 1000 homes I have encountered so many situations, and I have learned from each transaction. It is actually a big deal to have that level of confidence in your representation of others.
So, I have come to expect complexities in transactions, it is the nature of the business, and I expect to quickly find smooth, effective and beneficial solutions.
Although I would not classify it as surprising, I would say that the interconnectedness of our globe and how that can now affect our local markets, decisions of buyers and sellers, home, land and material pricing, lender programs, title company systems and requirements and cyber, wire fraud and general land scam operations, requires being astute to these developments, and of how those around us are responding and repositioning.
Patie, what do you enjoy most about your day-to-day work in helping your clients?
I really enjoy it when clients have complete confidence in our abilities so that they can relax, do their daily lives, and let us lead the way. Once they have an understanding of how much we know, our knowledge level, that we are going to do all that we can to prevent them from ever making a real estate mistake, then I see them relax. I am not trying to brag ‘I am a big ole’ smarty pants,’ but if anyone has 32 years of experience doing something every day, of course their knowledge level will be extremely high.
Our clients turn things over to us, as we explain that we are always going to give them every upside and downside of a property, area, contract or situation so that they can make the most informed decisions, they get it and we form a bond. They often initially feel they need to know the process and how to navigate it. They need some awareness certainly, but we get paid for them to drop it in our laps. Giving control to another person can be difficult.
I believe the vast majority of our clients are very comfortable in letting go so we can do a great job for them. They chose us because they believe in our abilities. But the decisions that need to be made throughout the process are theirs. We make sure they are fully informed not only of what we propose, what we see and understand, but why. That process is very rewarding to me and the client achieves success.
Do you have any special success stories that come to mind from the past 12 months?
I do! First, our brokerage has grown. We are a smaller brokerage but well known for our successful results and for being honest, smart, and kind. Each of our brokers have those qualities and I am grateful to be working with such a great group of human beings. Together we sold 116 properties for a combined volume of $54,000,000 in what was a very tough market.
We worked with many clients who were ready to stop being landlords and no longer operate their investment property portfolios after doing so for decades. I consider it a success to have partnered with them in closing that chapter and getting their properties sold for them so they can enjoy their lives with more travel, recreation and experiencing things they always wanted to do.
Due to the interest rates, many of these clients carried the financing for the buyers since they were not exchanging for new replacement properties and that made exciting opportunities for the buyers and a new chapter in life for the sellers.
I know you offer white glove concierge service to all of your clients. Please tell us more about what this entails.
One of our secret treasures is Patty Davis. Patty is our office manager, and she is a go-getter. She has a keen eye for design, and she is an all-around capable woman with a heart of gold. Patty often manages getting our listings ready for market. She knows what needs to be done to polish a home prior to the marketing photos being taken. She makes specific recommendations, coordinates the workers on behalf of the seller, if staging is needed, she makes the arrangements and fine tunes it, she monitors who is doing what and when. We have quite a number of clients that live in other states, remote towns or overseas. We provide services that give them confidence that we will serve them and plan on their behalf to have their property fully prepped. There are so many services that we provide, an interested client should inquire to find out more about how we can help with their situation. We do not bear the cost for all of the services, but we take it on, manage it and handle it. Our clients love receiving that premium service, it frees them to live their daily lives without going in a million different directions.
I think you needed heavy-duty brown garden gloves when you were helping me to sell our rural property several years ago. We were in remote Spain when I received a text from the man who was cutting the grass. The window to the house was broken. I called Patie up and she and Allie Dickson bravely went over to inspect the house. What they discovered NOBODY could have expected. Needless to say, Patie and her team went above and beyond to get the job done.
Oh my gosh! That was memorable. It was really unnerving to get to your property and see a large window blown out. We slowly opened the door and were shocked to see huge droppings the size of a football everywhere. On the lovely, staged furnishings, the floors, the railings etc.
How did it get on the railings up that high? Mounds everywhere! Allie went upstairs and yelled out, it’s a huge turkey! It was massive and came about up to my waist. We tried to corral it down the stairs and out of the home, but the poor bird was traumatized and super skittish. I made an executive decision (see how those business skills come in handy) to call a critter removal service. Even he said “that is one massive turkey!”
Worst part was the cost for getting the turkey removed was over $200 and then… as soon as the poor creature was released it was discovered the next day feet up in the front yard just before the final home inspection. Rob saved the day there.
Oh right! I forgot! The critter guy got him out of the house but wouldn’t take him off of the property. The turkey was still alive when he left. I wasn’t there as it was hours after we initially discovered the turkey. The next day we got a call that there was a huge poor dead turkey at the entry to the home. My husband Rob had to scoot over there and get the turkey and dispose of it. Such a weird sad situation.
Patie, I ask this question every year, but what are the best things that sellers need to be doing at this point to get ready for selling their homes this year?
If sellers are planning on selling later this year, they need to get their exterior photos in the spring. Sometimes they are planning to sell in late summer or fall and depending on fire season, smoke, brown landscaping etc,. you want to get your photos when spring is in full bloom and the trees are leafed out. It is really important.
The other thing sellers can do is watch the market, know your market position and do not over-price. I had dear friend clients a few years ago and they called me and said we are ready to put our house on the market again. I usually spend at least 1 ½ hours preparing a price evaluation, sometimes longer. I said, “Okay, are we going to do your price or my price?” – they had tried to sell in the previous 2 market seasons. They asked me what I meant. These were great people and I could be frank with them. I said, “Well the past 2 years I have spent several hours evaluating your market price and you disregard it and always tell me the price you want to ask. If we are going to do that again this year, I would like to not spend time pricing your home.” They said, “We will call you back.” They called and said, “We looked, we have never done your price.” I said, I know!” They said, “Okay, we will do your price.” We had it sold in 2 weeks! So, price it right!
There are several things you can do as a seller. You can have your home inspected, have your sewer line cleaned out, get your chimney or wood stove cleaned and inspected and have your HVAC serviced. Clean your windows and get moss off your roof. Have any little fixes done and freshen up the front entry to create the best first impression. If your entry isn’t dialed in, the buyers will closely scrutinize every little thing.
A seller should make sure they and their broker have shared market expectations, how much market time, know your competition, how far below asking are homes in your area selling or are they selling above asking? You have due diligence to do and have your broker work with you to get your plan in place. Depending on the type of property you have, it could sell quickly or it could have a very long market time. Know the expectations. We work with our clients closely on all of these things and we have people we can recommend to get the tasks done. Let us know how we can help you.
On the flipside, how can buyers be taking the next step to be in the right position for purchasing a great home this coming spring?
The best thing you can do as a buyer is to get really clear on what you want, have a list of needs and of wants. If you can find 85% of your ideal, you are doing great.
Communicate openly with your broker so that they know fully what you want in a home and what you do not want. The more information we have the better job we can do for you. If you are not paying cash and you are getting a loan, get pre-approved. In today’s market when you submit an offer, that preapproval letter or a verification of your purchase funds are expected to be included in the submission of your offer.
Start watching the market so that you understand pricing for the type of home you want to own. Ask us to prepare an initial list of properties for you. I understand you can look yourself online etc., but we may have access to off market properties including For Sale by Owner. Often, we will send a flier out to all agents with pictures of the type of home you want to find and ask if they have anything. This can be a great resource always, but especially in a low inventory market. We have had excellent success doing that.
Real estate investing takes time, thought and careful consideration. What are the key factors that you take into consideration when working with your clients with these needs?
Clients that are experienced investors most often have their own formulas that they want a property to meet. Those formulas vary by investor and the systems they use. I have a background as a financial controller, and I understand numbers and financial reports. Sometimes we will see agents who are calculating cap rates and other measurements of a property’s value incorrectly. They are not using established criteria and formulas that keep those values consistent across properties when they are marketing their listings, so that investors can quickly compare various investments. Make sure the numbers you are evaluating are correct and if you are unsure, reach out to us, we are always happy to help you.
The most important item is to buy the right property and to not only consider one month of income and cash flow. I see this all the time. A buyer will look at an investment property, the income, the expenses and net income and their debt service and say it doesn’t pencil. Don’t do that. It gives you a thimble of info in what should be a punch bowl. There are a lot of things to consider, and they should be looked at over 1, 3, 5 and 10 years. Only then can you establish the wealth building benefits of a property. You should consider income, vacancy factors, expenses, principal paydown on a loan, appreciation, depreciation, and tax write offs and equity build up at the end of each of those periods. Those items together tell the story.
Patie, you have always been a fast and first mover. Tell us about the technology and practices that you employ to keep you and your team at the top of their game?
I love technology and I investigate a lot of what is available so I can stay up on that. I think AI certainly has its place in managing routine tasks, but a strong business will always come down to personal service and the relationship you have with those you work with and the community.
The search site we offer to consumers is excellent and they call us to thank us for it. The address is www.OregonHomes.IO. It is updated every 10 minutes as the MLS data changes. It’s a free service and we have about 15,000 people that use it regularly. When they have a question on a property or neighborhood, they reach out, it lets us connect with them and help them through the process giving them experienced insight.
Often, we will run out and get a video for them or Facetime, call and give them the details we know that they cannot see online. We suggest similar properties and we send our listings to those that have a similar desired price range, we send monthly market reports for their areas of interest and other information we feel they will value.
Rates are settling down and buyers are moving forward with more confidence. Please say more about this.
We think we will have a very busy real estate year. We are already feeling momentum beginning and we are only in mid-January. There are some world situations that could impact consumer confidence, but right now it feels like a renewal, fresh and robust.
Today Fannie Mae revised their interest rate forecast for 2024 and they forecast rates will moderate nicely from early this year throughout 2024.
Patie, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Do you have any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
I want to wish everyone a very good, uplifting and peaceful 2024. There is so much that we navigate in our daily lives, I wish you much kindness and self-love and all that is good in our world for you and your loved ones. Be good to yourself.
Finally, also once again a big thank you for being a strong supporter to LocalsGuide and leader in our community.
My pleasure to be your friend, Shields, my honor.