Researcher says Phoenix housing market still weak

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- An Arizona State University real estate researcher says the Phoenix area's housing market remains weak and likely won't see a significant boost until sometime next year.
 
A report by the director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business says the area has been experiencing sluggish demand and low sales activity for more than 14 months.
 
According to center Director Mike Orr, demand still shows little sign of recovery, with single-family-home sales down 7 percent as of September from a year earlier.
 
Orr says one area of strong activity is in multi-family housing. That's because the rental market is hot due to fewer people buying homes.

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PRESS RELEASE

W. P. CAREY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Phoenix-area Housing Market in Low Gear until Next Year

Monthly Report Provides Latest Insight

TEMPE, Ariz. (Nov. 12, 2014) — The Phoenix-area housing market is unlikely to see a significant boost until next year. That’s according to the latest monthly report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Here are the highlights of the new report on Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of September:

  • The median single-family-home sales price was up 5 percent from last September, but that’s largely just because fewer sales are clustered at the bottom end of the market, not because individual home prices are rising much.
  • The area has been experiencing sluggish demand and low sales activity for more than 14 months.
  • Because there are fewer people buying, the rental market is hot, with both rents and construction permits for new multi-family housing rising.

After the housing crash, Phoenix-area home prices shot up from September 2011 to last summer. This year, prices leveled off and then rose somewhat. The median single-family-home price went up 5 percent from last September to this September – from $198,997 to $209,900. Realtors will note the average price per square foot rose 7 percent. The median townhome/condo price went up 15 percent.

However, the report’s author says the median increases happened primarily just because fewer sales are now clustered at the lower end of the market, with fewer foreclosures and short sales available. Only luxury homes above $2 million are seeing stronger-than-normal demand. Overall, the number of single-family-home sales is down 7 percent from last September to this September.

“Demand has been much weaker since July 2013 and still shows little sign of recovery,” 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. “Supply is also fairly limited. We anticipate pricing will continue to move sideways over the next few months, and a significant increase in demand will be required to change things.”

Investors are unlikely to bring that increase in demand. They’ve largely lost interest in the Phoenix area, now that better bargains can be found in other parts of the country with more foreclosures. Investors accounted for only 14.4 percent of residential-property purchases in September -- way down from the peak of 39.7 percent in July 2012.

“To get the market back to what we would consider normal will require a major recovery in demand from local first-time home buyers,” explains Orr. “The last quarter of the year is rarely one in which first-time home buyer demand takes off without some unusual stimulus, so it looks as though our hopes for a livelier market will have to rest on a stronger start to 2015.”

Orr says if lenders decide to lower their standards for home loans, then that might create some additional demand next year. Many people who went through foreclosure in 2008 will be allowed to enter the market again, after spending the required seven years in the credit “penalty box.”

Until then, the rental-home market is red hot, with fast turnover and a constrained supply of rental homes available. The Phoenix area has already seen a 5.7 percent boost in rents over the past 12 months. Construction permits to build new multi-family housing to meet the demand are also on a strong upward trend.

Those wanting more Phoenix-area housing data can subscribe to Orr’s monthly reports at www.wpcarey.asu.edu/realtyreports. The premium site includes statistics, charts, graphs and the ability to focus in on specific aspects of the market. More analysis is also available at the W. P. Carey School of Business “Research and Ideas” website at http://research.wpcarey.asu.edu.