Both Phoenix-area home prices and the number of homes available for sale are slowly inching up. A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University reveals the numbers for Maricopa and Pinal Counties, as of August:
> The median single-family home price went up from $149,000 in July to $150,000 in August — about 1 percent.
> The median price is up by more than one-third (about 34 percent) from last August.
Supply of available homes for sale finally went slightly up in most areas of the Valley, but overall, low supply continues to limit market activity.
“Overall prices reached a low point in September 2011 and have risen sharply since then,” says the report’s author, Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We’re experiencing a normal summer slowdown, and I expect prices to continue their advance as we move into cooler months.”
The median single-family home price in the Phoenix area went up about 0.7 percent, from $149,000 in July to $150,000 in August. The current median is 33.7 percent higher than last August, when it was $112,205. Realtors will also note the average price per square foot is up 24.6 percent from last August.
Sales activity has been relatively slow, due to the traditional summer lull in the market and the limited number of homes for sale in the area. Still, there was a small bump up in available supply.
“Supply increased 3 percent from July to August, but the inventory of homes for sale remains well below the average for the last 10 years,” says Orr. “The number of active single-family homes without an existing contract was just over 10,000 for the greater Phoenix area as of Sept. 1, and 77 percent of those homes were priced above $150,000. That inventory should last only about 27 days. At least it’s up from the low of just 15 days of inventory in May.”
Average buyers have to compete for relatively few homes priced under $250,000. They face multiple bids, including those from investors who can offer all cash and no appraisal required. The situation is moderately improving, though. Orr says, as prices go up, more people are becoming willing to sell their homes. He believes supply recently moved higher in about 80 percent of the Valley, especially the outlying areas.
“August home sales were up 3.6 percent from July,” says Orr. “However, activity was still down 9.2 percent from August of last year. The reduction is primarily due to a huge decline in distressed sales: short sales and sales of homes that recently went through a foreclosure. Also, the number of bank-owned homes sold in August was down a huge 78 percent from last August.”
Foreclosure starts – homeowners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days – went down 2.5 percent from July to August. Foreclosure starts are down almost 38 percent from last August. Still, Orr says this number is about 2.3 times normal for a typical month in the Valley. The number of completed foreclosures in August was down 22 percent from last August.
Investors continue to play a key role in the Phoenix area housing market. Almost 36 percent of the homes sold in Maricopa County in August went to investors. That’s up from 28 percent last August. More than half of the homes sold this August for $150,000 or less went to all-cash buyers.
“Some large investment companies have been buying homes in bulk from other investment companies,” explains Orr. “They are clearly frustrated by the difficulty of acquiring large numbers of homes through normal channels. Most of the properties are being used as rentals for tenants who have lost their former homes to foreclosure or through a short sale. In greater Phoenix, we have never seen so many single-family homes used as rental accommodation, and it will be interesting to see how elastic the demand is over the coming year.”
Many average buyers are turning to new-home sales, given the difficulty of getting a bargain resale. New-home sales went up 55 percent from August to August, and some developers are starting to cap sales to conserve lots. The number of active subdivisions is down 18 percent since the beginning of the year, and about 63 percent of those currently active are expected to sell out within 12 months.
Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/finance/real-estate/upload/FullReport201209.pdf. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com/index.cfm?cid=13.