Higher-priced homes selling in Bend

Sales of homes for $750,000 and up more than doubles since 2012

By Joseph Ditzler / The Bulletin / @josefditzler

Published Sep 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

A panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains spills through a cathedral-style arched window into a living room in a château on Northwest Starview Drive, on Awbrey Butte in Bend.

A rooftop-solar system creates radiant heat for the floors. A room with a built-in dog bath sits just off the mud room, adjacent to the neatly appointed room dedicated to fly tying. The 5,712-square-foot home is for sale at $1.45 million.

Mountain views, fairways, wrap-around decks and river frontage are the hallmarks of high-end custom homes in Bend. While home prices continue to rise, luxury homes priced at $750,000 or more are still a value when contrasted with properties in towns similar to Bend, real estate brokers said.

“Compare (Bend) to any comparable resort town and you will not find the pricing you find here,” said Kerry Planegger, who put his four-bedroom home on Northwest Duffy Drive on the market for $1.04 million, or $131 per square foot.

The average price per square-foot in Bend comes to $195, according to Zillow.com, the online real-estate information site; and $182, according to Trulia.com, another real-estate website. The Multiple Listing Service reported a median sales price of $166 per square foot in Bend in July.

In Boulder, Colorado, population 103,000, Zillow places the average home price per square-foot at $324; Trulia places it at $354. In Mammoth Lakes, California, a town with a tenth the population of Bend, average price per square-foot comes to $313, according to Zillow, and $228, according to Trulia.

Planegger’s real estate broker, Laura Blossey, of Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty, agreed that high-end real estate can be a steal at prices that in some cases fall below the cost to replace that home on the same lot.

“Bend is just downright inexpensive, compared to the feeder markets: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco,” she said.

The median price of a single-family home in the city climbed to $317,000 in July from a low of $166,000 in November 2011, and more homes, 523, sold in the $200,000-$250,000 price range in the year ending in July than from any other category.

Homes priced at $750,000 and above are also selling again, according to the Bratton Appraisal Group and the Central Oregon Multiple Listing Service.

Sixty-six homes priced at $750,000 and above sold in the 12 months from July 2013 to July 2014, 13 more than the preceding year and more than twice as many as sold in the year ending in July 2012. In the past 100 days, brokers have listed 39 properties with asking prices at or above $1 million, said broker Terry Skjersaa of Duke Warner Realty, in Bend.

High-end homes spend more days on market than less expensive properties, however, meaning the demand is low and property owners are holding out for their asking prices. Skjersaa calculated more than 20 months of inventory in homes in and around Bend listed at $1 million or more. Real estate brokers like to see four to six months of inventory, although the high-end market obeys its own dynamic.

Luxury homebuyers will wait for the right property; sellers, who sometimes own more than one property, often have no imperative to sell.

At Broken Top, the golf-course community on Bend’s west side, an unblemished ribbon of blacktop leads past manicured lawns, ponderosa pines and aspen trees to a contemporary style, two-story home of 3,730 square feet. Its 2-inch-thick front door opens into a living room, where floor-to-ceiling windows put the visitor nearly on a stretch of emerald green fairway outside.

The property owners, whom Blossey also represents, only live there three months out of the year, she said. They’re willing to wait for the buyer who meets their asking price, $1.8 million. Recent buyers have paid, on average, 94 percent of the asking price on homes listed for $1 million or more, Skjersaa said, basing his estimate on data from the Multiple Listing Service.

“I think the biggest thing that’s helped see the up-tick in the higher price range is other markets are loosening up and people being able to sell, and maybe fulfill their dreams and move to Bend,” he said.

Those feeder markets continue to supply newcomers with money to spare on high-end homes, he and other real estate brokers in Bend said. About half the buyers in the luxury home category, however, are locals looking to trade up from their existing homes into something custom built, with tree-screened privacy, vaulted ceilings and solid granite countertops.

“Many people are coming from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle, where a million doesn’t buy much, and the value that we have in Bend for that price is over the top,” said real estate broker Becky Breeze, of Bend.

Interested buyers run the gamut from high-tech entrepreneurs no longer tied to one location for business, or commuting back and forth between a career in a larger city and a home in Bend, to wealthy clients looking for a second home, she said.

Out-of-town buyers in any price range arrive most often with a list of properties they wish to see, rather than asking local agents to show them something with the amenities they desire, brokers said. Internet research is the rule, they said, although brokers sometimes pierce buyers’ misconceptions about the availability of, say, riverfront property within walking distance of downtown.

Brokers like Blossey, who have access to franchise partners in other cities, network with their counterparts in those feeder markets to find prospective buyers, and use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to advertise their listings.

“I have a huge stack of cards of Sotheby’s agents in other markets,” she said. “I went to three Sotheby’s offices in Los Angeles, and gave them an example of the homes in Bend. People were laughing; they couldn’t believe what you could buy here for ($1 million).”

Big-ticket homes in and around Bend range from 20-acre ranches to half-acre lots on Awbrey Butte, in Broken Top and elsewhere. Amenities, the backbone of the luxury home, range from wet bars to open floor plans to well-appointed kitchens.

Broker Cate Cushman of Bend Premier Real Estate listed William Todd’s home on Northwest Lakeside Place, north of downtown Bend, for sale at $1.8 million. It’s one of 89 homes for sale at or above $750,000 in July, according to the Bratton Appraisal Group.

Real estate brokers take sales figures for comparable properties, or “comps,” to establish the listing price for their clients’ properties. Cushman said the Todd property has few, if any, comps for its size and location so she partly relied on its unique setting to arrive at a price. Whoever buys the 4,050 square-foot home and its 0.9 acres will buy it for its 102 feet of property on a bluff overlooking the Deschutes River, she said.

Breeze represents the owner of a four-bedroom, 4,756 square-foot home on Northwest Morningwood Court, a rental that looks barely lived in, she said. The property last sold in July 2005 for about $200,000, according to Deschutes County property records. Today, it’s listed for $1.15 million.

“The market has made a nice comeback,” Breeze said. “It’s not skyrocketing by any stretch. Over the last three years, we’ve gotten rid of the short sales and repossessions in the area and we’re living normally again. The important thing is that people are able to sell where they’re living, pull that trigger that they would have liked to have pulled a long time ago, and move to our area.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com