Community Property Type Price Min Price Max Beds Baths

Northwest Valley Home Values Jump Off the Charts

Northwest Valley Home Values Jump Off the Charts

3/4/2006

NW home values jump off the charts

A handful of West Valley cities, including Glendale, were near the front of the pack during the region’s real estate run-up of 2005.

Six of the top 10 Maricopa County communities that saw the biggest home-value percentage gains last year were in the West Valley, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of Information Market home-sales data from January through December 2005.

Sun City West’s median home prices shot up 48.1 percent to $266,500, while Waddell’s rose 52.7 percent to $420,000. The only Valley community that saw a bigger jump was Rio Verde, at 53.7 percent.

Other West Valley cities cracking the top 10 were Avondale, Litchfield Park, Goodyear and Glendale.

Glendale saw its 2005 overall median home value, which encompasses both new and resale homes, rise to $237,000, a 43.6 percent increase over the previous year.

Surprise’s rose to $245,273, a 38.2 percent increase.

Despite last year’s surge, housing experts said the market has begun to level out, putting buyers back in the driver’s seat. Last year, some homes traded hands even before they hit the market. Today, homes are staying on the market anywhere from 60 to 90 days.

“We’ve gone back to the normal market (we had) just before the big investor craze hit us,” said Jack Stevens, Peoria branch manager for Windermere Real Estate. “It’s turning back toward a buyer’s market, with more negotiations and more seller givebacks.”

A large part of the market’s return to normalcy has to do with who is doing the selling and who is doing the buying, said Jay Butler, director of the Arizona Real Estate Center at Arizona State University.

Investors, whose buying sprees helped drive home prices to record levels last year, typically had little concern for the quality of the home they were purchasing, the surrounding neighborhood or the local school district, Butler said.

But as investors begin to cash in, average home buyers are getting a chance to take a closer look at things like the age of the home, neighborhood crime rates and school test scores.

“It’s a more cautious buyer,” Butler said.

While the flattening of home prices is a welcome reprieve for many first-time home buyers, cost has become a relative matter for others.

Bill and Ann Thrasher moved from tony Dana Point, Calif., to Surprise just two months ago. The couple concede they bought their home when real estate was at a record high, but they haven’t lost any sleep over it.

“Even though we got in at the height of it, it was still a bargain,” said Ann Thrasher, who worked with her husband at a drinking-water company before they retired.

The Thrashers sold their Southern California condominium, just minutes from the beach, for $650,000. They then bought a three-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot home in Surprise for half that amount, trading in the Pacific Ocean for a backyard swimming pool.

“It was an economic move,” Bill said. “The area is affordable, it is clean and it looks like goods and services will be on the upswing here.”

Windermere’s Stevens, who oversees 32 real estate agents, said his office has received numerous inquiries from potential home buyers looking to move to the West Valley.

So what’s drawing them? Entertainment venues, such as Glendale Arena and the new Cardinals Stadium, and plans for stores and restaurants along the future Loop 303 freeway, Stevens said.

Butler warns that the region’s biggest challenge will be getting roads, freeways and other infrastructure in place to keep up with the West Valley’s population boom.

Attracting major employers to the west side also will be critical.

“Most people buy homes for their family,” Butler said. “But if you’re driving an hour each way to work, that’s 10 hours a week. How much time are you really spending with your family?”

Last year, median home values rose more than 40 percent in Avondale, El Mirage, Goodyear, Litchfield Park and Youngtown.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Scottsdale saw its median home price rise 41.7 percent, to $570,400, while Carefree’s figure reached $735,000, a 27.8 percent increase.

Median home prices in Mesa stood at $229,400, up 37.5 percent. And Phoenix’s median price was $225,000, a 35.2 percent rise.

Many West Valley residents said they simply rode the real estate wave that swept through the greater Phoenix area last year.

Tony Tan, his wife and two kids moved from the Seattle suburb of Issaquah to Glendale two years ago. They purchased a four-bedroom home in the Arrowhead neighborhood for $250,000. Today, homes in the neighborhood are selling for about $470,000.

“I didn’t do anything,” said Tan, an equity analyst. “It’s totally mind-boggling.”

By Scott Wong, Arizona Republic, March 4, 2006

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