If you've noticed more new neighbors in the past couple years, there is good reason.- Property and home sales in Grant County have jumped during that time, due in part to an influx of people from Central Oregon and other areas.
"We're just extremely busy," said Jerry Franklin, owner of Century 21 Franklin Realty. "We're having a hard time even keeping up."
A realtor since 1979, Franklin said that the market has been increasing over the past six years.- However, over the past two years, interest has picked up dramatically.-
"(It) used to be the real estate business would die November and you went through probably March with very little activity.- In the past two years here, we've just coasted right through those areas of time without a hitch," Franklin said.- "We've continued to stay busy."
The market has changed somewhat during that time, Franklin said, due to people leaving Central Oregon because of the tremendous population increases there in the past 20 years.
"A lot of the old-timers there have lost their quality of life (and) are looking for new territory where they don't have to put up with a lot of traffic, the things that come along with that type of growth," he said.
Not all the newcomers are from Central Oregon.
"We've sold property to people out of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, (but) not as much California as people might think," said Franklin.- "We're finding them moving to other parts of Oregon, but not necessarily here."
Maurice Kimball, a broker for Coldwell-Banker Realty in John Day, is seeing the same thing.-
"They're from larger metro areas, and they want a simpler lifestyle.- The old-timers who lived in Bend and Redmond in the 1960s, no longer want to live in Bend or Redmond," he said.-
He is seeing interest from people in Nevada, Colorado and the East Coast, among other places.
Most of the demand is occurring outside city limits, where people can buy some acreage.- The John Day area is where demand is the strongest, mostly in 5-acre parcels.- Kimball said that there currently isn't enough property on the market to satisfy the demand.- "No, not even close."
"We get a lot of relocation requests for relocation information," said Marlene Eccles, director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.- "I would say we get ten relocation requests (per month)."
Most of the requests are from people who are retired or receiving services from the state of Oregon.-
"I don't see a lot of family requests coming through," she said.-
The Grant County Planning Department issued 23 permits for partitioning of land in 2005, according to Hilary McNary, County planning director.- That represents nearly a 100 percent increase over previous years.- "Most were for smaller parcels - five acres, ten acres," she said.-
The permits were issued for land that is zoned rural residential, said McNary.- All the partitions were unrelated to Measure 37.
"We're seeing it throughout the whole county.- It's pretty spread out," said Franklin- "And most of the people who come in, say, have other incomes, or are retire-like folks.- So they're not dependant on jobs."-
"But what my hopes are, kind of like other areas, people come in and retire, and then they decide that this retirement isn't what I anticipated, and maybe start up a new business.- I know that happened in Bend, and helped create their higher growth.
"I don't see us being another Bend. I think we're remote enough where we're not going to have that, and I don't think we have to," Franklin said.-
Kimball sees a positive side to the population growth.-
"They will be creating jobs, because they will be demanding services," he said.- "You have to have a new economy.- You're going to need more nurses at the hospital, health care, all those things.- It's a whole new problem."
"The local business people are probably seeing the same thing we are, and I think it's kind of exciting to see some activity in the valley," said Franklin- "Being remote used to be a negative, now I think it's a positive.- I think we're far enough remote we're not going to have the large numbers."
The increased demand for property is also translating to higher property values for current homeowners.-
Lane Burton, Grant County assessor, is following the changes.-
"We are seeing an increase against assessed value," he said.- "Yet, the increase is not as much as one might think."
According to Burton, average rural property values in the John Day/Canyon City area increased 9 percent in 2005, compared to a 4 percent increase inside city limits.- That follows an increase of about 4 percent in 2003 and 2004 for both areas.-
In comparison, values inside John Day and Canyon City declined by 5 percent in 2002.-
Burton compared the sales against the real market value, as indicated by his office property records, to determine the percentage increase.- However, he said, "We're always a year behind."
The growth isn't limited to Grant County.- The real estate market has picked up all over Eastern Oregon, including Baker City, Pendleton and Burns.-
"Enterprise is already there," Kimball said.-