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PORTLAND The recovery in the Portland Metro area housing market is nearing pre-recession levels.

Even with very low inventory, sales are up overall. And despite interest rates climbing, the average sales price this year is $310,000, up 14 percent from this time last year.

A change in buying is coming from two fronts.

One front is made up of institutional buyers that buy 10 or more houses in the same year. They have been scooping up properties in the metro area.

The other front is made up of cash buyers. Nationally they account for nearly half of all sales. But in the metro area only three out of ten buyers are putting cash on the table.

This has helped reduce the number of foreclosures which are down 40 percent from last year.

As prices rise, one of the positive benefits is that people who have been under water on their mortgages are getting out from under that trap, said Brian Allen, President of Windermere Real Estate.

That s meant 35,000 homeowners in the Portland area are now coming up for air. Real estate agents continue to be busy after a slower than usual summer. Fall sales are now making up for that.

Agents have said this time of year is when only serious sellers and buyers are out.

Real estate experts anticipate continued improvement in the housing market. The hope for some is a more balanced market with five to seven months of inventory.

That would create a more level playing field for both sellers and buyers.

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