Buyers frustrated as housing market recovers

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- During a quick visit to the Valley Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he wanted to make it easier for qualified people to buy homes.

Accomplishing that would make prospective home buyers happy.

The housing recovery has left inventories low, prices much higher than during the housing dip and loans much harder to get. For qualified buyers who have been approved, competition for the limited inventory is fierce. 

“Frustrating, very frustrating,” said Melissa Miller, who has been trying to buy a home in Scottsdale for a year and a half. 

“I never thought this experience would take so long. I'm not someone who takes a long time to make a decision on a new home. I love being a homeowner, want to be one again… just waiting, that’s the frustration,” explained Miller.

The frustrations, however, are signs of a healthier housing market in Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs. Home values have risen 20 percent over a year ago and builders have started building again.

“Consumer confidence is up [and] our sales are up,” said David Garcia, vice president of land development and acquisitions for Shea Homes. “We've been very active in the last 12 to 18 months buying new pieces of land to construct new communities for families. Just last month we bought about $30 million worth of property.”

Shea Homes builds homes and communities mostly in the suburbs and has 200 homes currently under construction. Garcia said the growth isn’t a false bubble like the one before the crash. He believes builders have refocused on constructing only what the market can absorb right now rather than betting on assumed growth. 

The housing market has also affected the rental market. 

At the depth of the recession there were high levels of vacancy among rental properties. However, according to the Arizona Multihousing Association, occupancy is up over 90 percent Valley-wide and new construction is revving back up.

An interesting trend shows many people are no longer simply renting until they can afford to buy.

“Things changed during the recession and what we've discovered is renting is the new buying.  And people don't necessarily rent an apartment while waiting to buy a home,” said Tom Simplot, president of the AMA. “[People] have realized you can lose a lot of money buying a home.”

The positive rental news isn't necessarily good for renters. As supply dwindles and demand increases rental prices also go up. Simplot said rental incentives -- like a month of free rent offered on a year lease – have also dried up as landlords decreasingly need to entice new tenants.