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The hot real estate market and steadily increasing home prices have resulted in more homes being listed at more than $1 million in the mid-Willamette Valley.

The number of residential properties in that category in Linn and Benton counties has more than doubled in the last 18 months to 25, according to data from the Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service.

But demand for premier houses is low, and it can take a year or two for many to sell, said local real estate experts.

“Over $1 million, it’s very few and far between in terms of sales in the valley. … Right now, we have a huge amount of inventory compared to sales,” said Hong Wolfe, principal broker and owner of Windermere Real Estate Willamette Valley.

The low seven figures might not mean much in other areas of the country with higher-priced real estate, said Dava Behrens, a broker at Coldwell Banker Valley Brokers.

But $1 million is still a lot of money around Albany and Corvallis, and there aren’t a lot of people who can afford such a purchase, Behrens added.

The real estate market between $800,000 and $1 million is far more robust, Wolfe said. And the closer houses are to the average price of about $400,000 in Corvallis, the faster homes sell, she added.

Catherine Fisher, managing broker and co-owner of Town & Country Realty, said in an interview last month that the market switches from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market right around the $600,000 mark.

“That’s because there are so many options,” she added.

Certainly, the luxury market in Corvallis and Albany is far different than “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” of course. Many of these homes can’t compare with lavish high rises in New York City or mansions in Beverly Hills that are featured on television shows.

Several of the listings above $1 million, and especially so in Linn County, have hundreds of acres of agricultural land and are working or hobby farms.

“A lot of times, on those huge parcels, the home is quite modest,” Behrens said. These properties hardly seem the stuff of “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

The real luxury homes are dream houses where residents did extensive remodels or built from scratch. “When it comes to selling, they would prefer not to leave that investment on the table,” Behrens said.

The homes can be loaded with custom features, which can be desirable. But those don’t always equal resale value, experts said.

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Fisher said that higher-end homes can be too heavily customized toward the original owner’s personality and tastes. “The new buyer might have different plans for the property,” Fisher said.

Fancy garages, kitchen upgrades and easy-to-tend gardens usually provide a boost, however, Wolfe said.

The people looking to buy luxury homes in mid-valley often are retirees or transplants from the Portland area or other states who have sold their houses — usually at much higher prices than the local market could support — and are looking for a simpler life in a small town. Sometimes, executives with a new local job will look for a lush house.

With a growing trend of high-tech employees or even business owners telecommuting from home, people can choose to live in an area with outdoor activities and a high quality of life instead of suffering through major metropolitan madness, Wolfe said.

“I’m seeing a lot of execs and business owners who can work anywhere in the nation who can come here,” she said.

Wolfe said that high-end home buyers, including retirees, don’t want any projects when they purchase a luxury house. “They don’t want to buy a $1 million home and have to tear out the carpet,” she said.

A mega-mansion, such as a house with more than 4,000 square feet, can actually be a drawback in the local market. People are gravitating toward reasonably sized houses that are easier to maintain and a better fit for empty-nesters, Wolfe said.

Something around 1,400 to 2,500 square feet, but with a rich feel and, perhaps, gorgeous views, is more likely to get an offer.

“It seems like large homes are out,” Wolfe said.

With retirees helping to drive the sale of high-end homes, houses with only one story tend to be more popular, as well.

Behrens agreed that people are looking to buy relatively smaller homes that are high quality and feel lush.

“There’s a tendency to appreciate cozy homes and simple living, less maintenance and energy expenditures,” she added.

After all, people looking to simplify their lives and move to the “country” might not want a mansion.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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