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What Obama’s Re-Election Means for Housing

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Election Day has come and gone and regardless of who you voted for, there will be consequences on the domestic housing market.  This article is courtesy of Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia.com.

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Refinancing, new mortgage regulations, and the mortgage interest deduction all won on Tuesday. But the best shot at more principal reductions might have been lost.

Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, both candidates were short on specifics about their housing policy, to put it very kindly. They ignored housing in the debates and acted as if the housing crisis were over. Neither their actions nor their policy statements gave a clear idea of what they might do about housing. But what the candidates DIDN’T do or say helps draw out the differences between what housing policy will look like during Obama’s second term and what housing policy would have looked like with a Romney administration. Here’s what Obama’s re-election means for housing:

1.  The refinancing push continues. The Obama Administration has made it easier for homeowners to refinance at today’s low mortgage rates and plans to make refinancing available to even more borrowers. Refinancing is economic stimulus since it gives homeowners with mortgages more spending money, but it doesn’t help most people on the verge of losing their homes. Although refinancing has been a priority for Obama, Romney made no mention of refinancing in his housing plan – despite strong support for refinancing from one of his economic advisors.

 2.  New mortgage regulations are coming. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established by the Dodd-Frank Act, will set new mortgage standards by January 2013. These standards will define which mortgages are judged to be beyond a borrower’s ability to repay and would therefore trigger legal and financial implications for lenders. These standards, yet to be established, will need to strike a delicate balance between protecting consumers from high-risk loans and giving lenders the incentive to expand mortgage credit. Romney blamed Dodd-Frank for holding back mortgage lending, pledging to “repeal and replace” it. But with Obama’s re-election, Dodd-Frank–and the coming mortgage regulations–is a reality.

 3.  The mortgage interest deduction lives to fight another day.Romney proposed capping overall income tax itemized deductions at $25,000, which would have, in effect, reduced the mortgage interest deduction (which accounts for 35% of the value of total itemized deductions) even for many middle-income taxpayers. Obama, in contrast, is open to cutting the mortgage interest deduction only for the wealthy. Even if deeply cutting deductions finds bipartisan agreement in Congress–and it might–Obama is likely to resist gutting the mortgage interest deduction. Why? The ten states that benefit most from the mortgage-interest-deduction ALL voted for Obama on Tuesday (see table below). The average household in an Obama-voting state claims 66% more for the mortgage interest deduction than the average household in a Romney-voting state. If Obama takes a swing at the mortgage interest deduction, he’ll be hurting his supporters and putting his fellow Democrats in a tough political spot.

 

States with the Most Mortgage Interest Deducted Per Household
# State Average Amount Deducted, $*
1 Maryland $5,920
2 California $5,718
3 Virginia $5,100
4 Hawaii $5,009
5 New Jersey $4,890
6 Connecticut $4,739
7 Colorado $4,625
8 Washington $4,610
9 District Of Columbia $4,581
10 Massachusetts $4,490
* Average amount of mortgage interest deduction claimed per household. Includes households who do not itemize. National average = $3,343.

 

4.  A chance for principal reductions may have been lost. In his housing plan, Romney called for more “shared appreciation” loan modifications. This means that a borrower would get a reduction in their unpaid principal balance but would have to share some of the upside with whoever took the hit for the principal reduction if the home’s value appreciates. Shared-appreciation loan modifications reduce a borrower’s incentive to strategically fall behind on their payments in order to get a principal reduction. This “moral hazard” problem was one reason why many Republicans and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, resisted the Obama Administration’s call for more principal reductions earlier this year. Shared-appreciation loan modifications are an approach to principal reductions that Democrats, Republicans, and even a financial regulator could all learn to love. It would be a shame if this approach to keeping more people in their homes goes down in defeat.

Via Jed Kolko, Chief Economist – Trulia.com

Trilogy at Vistancia to Open New Neighborhood

November 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Trilogy at Vistancia remains my favorite active adult community in the Valley.  When I do a walk-through of a new home in Trilogy, I’m consistently impressed with the quality of construction.  With many builders, I leave a walk-through looking like a blue-tape blizzard has blown through, due to so many quality control issues.  I’ve done walk-throughs with Shea Homes where we haven’t even torn one strip from the blue tape roll.  Just amazing!

Equally impressive are Trilogy customer support and onsite staff.  They’re helpful to my buyers and responsive to needs after close of escrow.  Every time I accompany them on a tour of Trilogy’s amenities, I learn something new.

As an obvious fan of Trilogy at Vistancia, I was pleased to receive the following email from one of the Sales Staff notifying me of a new parcel release:

I hope this email finds you well.  I wanted to give you a quick update on our Trilogy at Vistancia community in Peoria Arizona.  I am very excited to share we are days away from opening our next neighborhood Desert Bloom aka Parcel C-12.   This quaint neighborhood will have approximately 99 home sites and will be released in phases.  The first phase we will release home sites 1582 through 1622.  Please let me know if you have a client who you think may have an interest – if so, highlight the specific lot of interest and I will be more than happy to provide more information!

Sales will commence on Saturday, November 17, 2012.  While I am not anticipating needing a drawing, you just never know.  So, should we have more than one individual interested in the same lot we will have a drawing for that specific lot to determine who has the first opportunity to purchase the home site.  If a drawing is necessary it will be held on Saturday morning, November 17th, 2012.  The party drawn who has the first opportunity to purchase that specific lot will have 4 hours to execute a purchase contract.  Should they fail to execute a purchase contract in the 4 hour window then the 2nd interested party will have the same 4 hours to execute and so on until the lot is sold.

I have included a copy of the new neighborhood map for Desert Bloom at Trilogy (Parcel C-12) below for your reference.  I also included a copy of the overall Trilogy community map so that you can see where this new neighborhood is located within Trilogy.  The location is spectacular – in the heart of the community and extremely close to the Kiva Club.  We saved the best for last – this will be your clients last opportunity to enjoy a new home in a premier location!!

Here’s an updated price list (remember — BASE PRICES ONLY — no lot premiums or personal upgrades):

 

A couple of important points to remember when you consider purchasing a new home.  Most importantly, don’t EVER contact a new home builder directly until your Realtor has registered you.  Otherwise, the builder will not allow you to work with your Buyer’s Agent.  Furthermore, the builder will require you to sign a disclosure that says you understand and agree that the builder’s agent ONLY represents the BUILDER, not you!

Read more in one of my previous posts about new home representation in Phoenix here.

For many considering Phoenix real estate, new homes are an attractive option.  Call or email if you have any questions at all!  I can help you evaluate new home subdivisions across the Valley and compare prices with resale homes in the same communities, which are often available.

Experts see home prices increasing in Phoenix

October 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Metro Phoenix home prices are expected to continue climbing during the next few years.

Housing analysts agree that demand for homes in the region is strong, and many don’t appear to be concerned about prices rising too fast and shutting the door on regular homebuyers or investors.

Several experts are looking for metro Phoenix home prices to climb more than 10 percent annually during the next three years.

“We think Phoenix home prices will appreciate 12 percent in 2013, 12 percent in 2014 and 10 percent in 2015,” said national housing analyst John Burns of Los Angeles.

He said the price increases will be driven by “boomerang” buyers who purchase after waiting three years — as required under new credit standards — following a foreclosure or short sale.

“Our major assumption is continued strong economic growth (for Phoenix) and low mortgage rates,” said Burns of John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

The Phoenix area’s median home price has jumped by 35 percent during the past year, boosting the number of sales by homeowners who are not facing foreclosure or a distressed sale. The price gains in recent months have been smaller than earlier this year.

Matt Widdows, CEO of HomeSmart, Arizona’s largest residential-real-estate brokerage, is also bullish on a further rebound in home prices.

“I would say that in the next five to seven years, we will see (home) prices back to levels we saw in 2005,” he said. “Many (Phoenix-area) homes dropped to one-third of their value in 2005, and I have no doubt that we will be right back to those levels.”

These might sound like aggressive forecasts, but even Arizona economist Elliott Pollack, whose forecasts are often conservative, recently projected Phoenix-area home prices would climb 50 percent by 2015-16.

Metro Phoenix’s median home price is currently $150,000, so it would have to increase at least 11 percent annually over the next four years to reach $225,000, a 50 percent increase.

In May 2005, the median existing-home price in metro Phoenix was $228,000.

Other analysts aren’t as bullish.

Mike Orr, an analyst with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, tracks home sales daily but never forecasts home prices more than a month out.

“At the moment, pricing pressure is upwards, but there is always the potential for prices to dip,” he said. His monthly report on prices is due out this week.

An unknown for the housing market is what the handful of large investors who are buying thousands of homes in metro Phoenix plan to do with them.

If they decide to sell around the same time, the supply of homes could jump, dampening prices.

That’s unlikely to happen, at least in the short term, industry experts say.

“We wouldn’t sell now,” said Justin Chang, a principal with one of the biggest residential investors in the country, Los Angeles-based Colony Capital. “We think (Phoenix) home prices will recover more.”

He said the company wants to create a real-estate investment trust next year and put its metro Phoenix rental homes in the trust, then sell shares to individual investors.

Mark Stark, CEO of Prudential Arizona Properties, believes the increase in home prices has slowed and the market has steadied.

“If additional price increases do happen, I feel they will be gradual,” Stark said. “We’re not looking at any dramatic pricing changes.”

Homebuilding in metro Phoenix was a dominant factor in the housing market until the crash. Many buyers once again are opting for new homes so they don’t have to compete in bidding wars for inexpensive existing houses.

New-home building has more than doubled this year, and the price of new houses is climbing.

“We originally forecast 10,000 permits for new homes this year, but we are going to go well past 11,000,” said Greg Burger, co-publisher of the Phoenix Housing Market Letter.

He said he expects the trend of rising new-home prices to continue for the next few years. The median price for a new Phoenix-area home is $222,000.

“Buyers waiting for the bottom of the market missed out months ago,” Orr said.

Source: The Arizona Republic, 10/28/2012

Phoenix metro becomes virtual investor’s housing market

October 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Buying sprees by billion-dollar hedge funds and real-estate investment firms have investors owning nearly 20 percent, or one out of every five, of the region’s single-family houses and condominiums, according to an Arizona Republic analysis of recent sales data.

That’s double the number of rentals considered normal in metro Phoenix in 2000, according to housing-market analysts.

Although it is too soon to gauge the impact of such a large increase in rental properties, the jump in investor-owned properties has the potential to change the character of neighborhoods, influence the options available to other homebuyers and ultimately alter the trajectory of the region’s housing recovery.

Since 2009, deep-pocketed buyers have snapped up tens of thousands of houses in all-cash deals, helping to stanch the bleeding in metro Phoenix’s real-estate market. Their purchases have driven up the region’s median home price 40 percent in the past year and significantly cut the supply of houses for sale.

While real-estate analysts laud investors for buying when others wouldn’t, analysts also express concern about the potential impact of so many buying in such a short time.

In Avondale’s 85323 ZIP code in the West Valley, with many relatively new, affordable homes, 32 percent of the houses are investor-owned rentals. That’s one of the highest rates for single-family homes in metro Phoenix.

In several other West Valley neighborhoods, more than 30 percent of all homes are rentals. About 32 percent of houses and condos in north Glendale ZIP code 85301 are rentals.

But the trend isn’t limited to the West Valley. In the East Valley, 30 percent of all homes in central Mesa’s 85210 ZIP code are owned by investors. And large swaths of the Valley’s core include ZIP codes where 25 percent or more of all residential properties are investor-owned.

Market analysts worry about investors’ impact on traditional buyers, who are finding it extraordinarily difficult this year to close a deal. Sellers, especially those of distressed properties and of homes priced below $150,000, often take the simpler route, accepting bids from investors paying cash instead of from traditional buyers who need to get a mortgage. Bidding wars on the moderately priced houses are the norm, and investors usually win.

What investors plan to do with nearly 225,000 homes they own in metro Phoenix is the multibillion-dollar question. When a handful of major investors, who together have purchased more than 10,000 Phoenix-area homes this year, decide to buy, sell or hold, their decisions will affect the rest of the market. Now, the majority of investors are renovating and renting out the properties. But if the big companies decide to take their profit in five to seven years and move on, real-estate insiders worry that a flood of houses back on the market could send prices spiraling down again.

“Investors helped stabilize Phoenix’s housing market,” said Mark Stapp, director of real-estate development for Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. “My concerns are that too many investors are treating Phoenix’s homes as a commodity, and not the area as a community.”

Who’s buying

Investors have purchased more than 30 percent of all single-family houses and condominiums sold this year, and their purchases have grown to an even bigger percentage of all sales in the past few months.

The type of investor has shifted dramatically this year, from small and large local investors to billion-dollar funds based in New York and Los Angeles. A Republic analysis of purchases, provided by real-estate data firm Information Market, found that in some areas of metro Phoenix, the most active three or four investors own more than half of the rentals.

The most prolific homebuyers are New York-based Blackstone Real Estate, Los Angeles-based Colony Capital and Scottsdale-based American Residential Properties. Those groups alone have purchased more than 3,000 houses in the area so far this year.

Local investor and real-estate agent Julie Bieganski is selling a 2,000-square-foot south Phoenix house for $82,000. The day the house went on the market in early October, a real-estate agent representing Tempe-based Treehouse Group made her a full-cash offer to buy the house “as is” for cash and close within 30 days. Treehouse is buying homes for Blackstone and other investors.

“According to the contract, the buyer has purchased 1,400 houses in Maricopa County in the past 90 days and plans to own the home and rent it out for five to seven years,” she said.

The investor-buying frenzy in metro Phoenix began with smaller investors like Bieganski with the cash to pick up a couple of houses as foreclosures peaked more than two years ago. With auctions running all day in front of the Maricopa County Courthouse, large out-of-state buyers’ interest in the market grew. As foreclosures slowed, many of these investors turned to short sales. But those deals must be lender-approved and take longer to close. Now, the biggest and richest of the investors have stepped in, often purchasing foreclosure houses previously bought by those earlier investors. Still bullish on the Phoenix market even as prices rise, these big investors sometimes buy one home at a time — and often 50 to 100 homes at once.

Next moves

Investors now own 225,000 homes, the same number of all homes typically found in a city the size of Glendale. Their profit-focused strategy is a key issue for everyone else with a stake in the housing market.

Because of the high demand for rental homes and relatively low prices to buy, most are making 5 to 10 percent annual returns on houses by leasing them to tenants. But investors don’t hold on to properties forever, and those that control hundreds or thousands of properties can have outsize impact. If too many big property-holders try to sell at the same time, it could lead to another drop in Valley home prices.

Large investors are guarded about strategies. Publicly traded companies such as Blackstone can’t talk about future plans because that violates shareholders’ rights. Many of the latest investors in the Phoenix market want to become publicly traded real-estate investment trusts to attract smaller investors looking to grab a stake in real estate.

Colony said it plans to keep most of its metro Phoenix homes as rentals for five to seven years. The company is planning to go public next year. “We started looking at investing in housing a year ago. There’s a real opportunity to renovate homes and lease them to people who need them,” said Justin Chang, principal of Colony Capital and acting CEO of Colony American Homes. “We like what we have bought in Phoenix and the value there.”

American Residential also has a long-term buy and hold strategy. “We are not in business to flip real estate. American Residential hasn’t sold one of the 1,000 houses it has purchased in Phoenix since 2008,” said Steve Schmitz, CEO and founder of the firm. “We are in the business of providing nice, clean housing to families.”

Mike Orr, who analyzes real-estate information for ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, is another market analyst with concerns about the investor influx. “We don’t know their plans. They don’t want their competitors to know their plans. But they clearly have a lot of money to spend.”

The rental market

In Avondale ZIP code 85323, Liz Moad, who said she has owned her home there for three years, pointed across the street and said, “This house has had four families move in and out in the last two years.”

Empty houses that had been foreclosed on and auctioned are now rentals, said Chris Sammons, who said he has owned his home there for five years.

“Definitely you don’t want to see them just sitting there empty,” Sammons said.

“Probably within the last month there’s been half a dozen different houses where the ‘for rent’ signs have come up.”

“I think eventually when the economy picks up more, you are going to have more people that will take the next step to actually owning their own home,” he said.

Renter demand so far has kept up with the number of investor-home purchases in metro Phoenix, mostly because there are now more potential tenants. In addition to the typical renter who can’t afford to purchase a home, and newcomers moving to Arizona from out of state, former homeowners who lost houses to foreclosure must rent to rebuild their credit. Then there are the prospective homebuyers who are getting outbid by investors. Finally, there is a new group of people who can afford to buy but choose to rent.

A record 3,500 leases a month for rental homes in the Valley were signed in June, July and August, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service. Houses in the best locations often draw competing offers.

“We were astounded by the rental market here,” said Mara Lewis, who relocated to Phoenix from Wisconsin. “Not only the up-front fees, and the methods by which they had to be paid (cashier’s checks), but the rules for what a (rental) house has to have here is very lax. We had to purchase our own washer and dryer.”

She and her husband own rental properties in Wisconsin and chose to rent here instead of buying. Lewis leased through a real-estate agency and isn’t sure who owns the house.

Jennifer Taylor said she moved out of a north Phoenix condominium because most of the units in the building were owned by different investors, and the maintenance varied by condo, as did the type of tenant. “The neighbors were messy, and I always had my stuff vandalized,” said Taylor, who recently moved to a central Phoenix condo. “Now I know my landlord, and the issues I had since moving in were all fixed that same week.”

Forecast for future

Before the boom, investors owned 8 to 10 percent of metro Phoenix’s houses. The current rate of 18.2 percent is double that. The shift is so new that it’s difficult to predict what might happen.

Stapp said, “A valid concern is whether people will want to buy homes in neighborhoods where there are the most rentals. We don’t know yet.”

But market analysts offer some scenarios.

The best-case scenario is for investors to hold onto houses for at least a few years and slowly sell to regular buyers before home prices soar. It wouldn’t have too large of a negative impact on the market if one major investor sold all of its homes as long as other major investors continued to hold on and lease out their properties until the supply of houses stabilizes again, market analysts said. Then there’s the worst-case scenario: Home prices continue to climb, and all of the major investors want to lock in their return and try to sell at once.

“It was good when all of the investors came into metro Phoenix and bought when no one else was buying,” said Orr, an early investor himself. “But it might be time for investors to take a rest, and let regular buyers have a chance.”

Source: Arizona Republic. Includes information from data reporter Matthew Dempsey and 12 News reporter Melissa Blasius.

Phoenix builders acquiring lots – anticipate continued market recovery

September 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As further evidence that the Phoenix real estate market is in full recovery, many homebuilders are aggressively expanding their land holdings in anticipation of continued recovery.

As noted in the Arizona Republic, Taylor Morrison Homes of Arizona, for example, has already purchased 700 lots in 2012,  has contracts on 1,000 more, and is seeking additional opportunities in Maricopa County.

The builder has communities under construction in the East Valley, but the current focus is on North Valley locations, such as Lone Mountain, Vistancia, Terramar, and parts of Scottsdale.

Charlie Enochs, Division President of Taylor Morrison Arizona, expects the builder to build twice as many homes in 2012 as it did in 2011.

Taylor Morrison isn’t alone.  The City of Scottsdale recently reported a 52% increase in building permits issued over the previous fiscal year.

The uptick in construction activity is a function of resale inventory scarcity, frustration over short sale logistics and waiting periods, and aggressive incentives offered by homebuilders.

From my perspective, it’s refreshing to drive through new home subdivisions and see and hear the hustle and bustle of construction.  For a few years, construction came to a virtual halt.  In fact, in some parts of the Valley you can still see skeletons of subdivisions abandoned mid-build, victims of the housing bust and weak economy.

 

2009 – Home Builders Abandoned Communities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today – New Home Construction is Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considering a new home in Phoenix or Scottsdale?  I have helped many buyers save money by representing them on their new home purchases.  In fact, purchasing a new home without dedicated Realtor representation can cost you big time!

For more information on how a Realtor can help you buy a new home, read this posting.

Justin Interviewed by The Globe and Mail: In hard-hit cities like Phoenix, the home market rises

August 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

When it rains, it pours.

Though I’m not featured as prominently (or with a photo!) as I was in my recent interview with the Phoenix Business Journal, I was contacted out of the blue by The Globe and Mail (Toronto, ON) to comment on rising investor participation in the Greater Phoenix real estate market.  Pleasant surprises like this are uncommon and I am privileged by the opportunity.  I do not advertise in either publication, so this was truly “earned media coverage.”

Read the full article here or below.  They saved the best comments for last…  😉

In hard-hit cities like Phoenix, the home market rises

By PAUL WALDIE

Foreclosures are down and bidding wars are back as U.S. real estate begins to bounce back in areas like Arizona, Miami and southern California

The Phoenix real estate market is suddenly experiencing something it hasn’t seen in years: Bidding wars.

Phoenix used to represent just about the worst of the U.S. housing market, with suburbs full of empty homes and foreclosures running so high that investors gathered like vultures at the county courthouse to snap up distressed properties.

But like its namesake, Phoenix’s housing market is rising. Foreclosures have dropped 20 per cent in the past year and the median house price has climbed about 25 per cent, making the city one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. But perhaps the most telling sign of a recovery is the return of heated bidding that has been a long time coming for agents like Maureen Porter.

“A good house in a good neighbourhood will go on the market for two days and they’ll already have five or 10 offers,” Ms. Porter said. “When I started my business [four years ago]there were around 56,000 homes for sale in Maricopa County [which includes Phoenix] Now there’s about 12,000 homes for sale.”

Ms. Porter said she recently took two clients from Vancouver to look at a 70-lot housing development in Goodyear, a community outside Phoenix.

“It was all dirt, there were maybe two homes built,” Ms. Porter recalled. “We walked into the presentation centre and everything but two lots were sold out.”

The housing market is showing signs of life across the U.S., with existing home sales and the median price up about 10 per cent year-over-year, hitting levels not seen since the summer of 2010. Sales and prices have been rising steadily for months, proof that the long-suffering real estate sector may have finally turned the corner. Buyers are returning thanks to an improved employment picture, record-low mortgage rates and near-bottom prices.

Housing is a critical component to the U.S. economy and improvements in the sector usually lead to a boost in consumer confidence, employment and spending. All of which is good news for the Canadian economy, as well.

The real impact of the recovery can be seen in places like Phoenix, Miami and southern California, which were among the hardest hit during the recession. The supply of homes for sale has dropped in all three locations as banks move quickly to unload troubled properties, often through “short sales” where mortgage holders get permission from lenders to sell their property for less than the amount owed. Banks often prefer short sales to foreclosures because they are a faster way to deal with borrowers.

In Miami, the median price is up 15 per cent from a year ago and the occupancy rates in downtown condominiums is 94 per cent. Southern California has a four-month supply of homes for sale, roughly two months less than what is considered a healthy market, and foreclosure sales have reached a four-year low.

Phoenix offers some of the most dramatic evidence of the turnaround. This is a city where house prices fell by up to 50 per cent during the recession and people walked away from their homes in droves, leaving vast stretches of empty neighbourhoods. Today the number of homes listed for sale has dropped by 64 per cent in the last year and foreclosures have fallen by 20 per cent. The market has tightened up so much that prices are jumping 5 per cent each month and buyers are competing fiercely for just about anything that’s available.

“We’ve now got a fully fledged buying frenzy going on while people try to buy something before they miss the boat,” said Michael Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at Arizona State University.

Last week there were roughly 12,000 homes listed for sale across the city. That compared to more than 50,000 around the same time last year.

Despite the current boom, the market still has a long way to go. The median price is now about $135,000 (U.S.). That’s still well below the peak in 2006, when it reached $265,000, and it puts prices at about the same level as in 2000. And although the number of existing homes sold in April across the country rose to an annualized rate of 4.6 million, economists say a healthy U.S. housing market would see almost 6 million sales of existing homes a year.

Much of the activity is also being driven by outsiders, many from Canada, eager to snap up investments. In Phoenix, the number of “investor flips,” people who buy houses and then re-sell them quickly for a profit, has increased 31 per cent year-over-year, according to Mr. Orr.

But with prices rising quickly, good deals are harder to find. Three years ago, dozens of investors lined the steps of the courthouse in downtown Phoenix to bid on foreclosed properties, many going for well below $100,000. This week only a handful of bidders showed up for the auction and just four houses sold.

“The days of getting a property under $125,000 are slim to nil,” said Diane Olson, a real estate agent who caters largely to Canadians.

The question for many agents like Justin Lombard is whether this is a blip or a real recovery. He is cautiously optimistic.

“We’ve seen such steady progress in the way of inventory absorption that I’d be really surprised if we took a big backward step,” he said. “We hit bottom a long time ago. It’s just that a lot of people didn’t realize it because our bottom was so bad.”

Phoenix Area Real Estate “Shadow Inventory” – Fact or Fiction?

August 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

There are few absolute certainties when it comes to Phoenix real estate, and the debate about the so-called “shadow inventory” is no exception.  If you’re not aware of that term, it refers to real estate that the banks have already acquired via foreclosure and are holding onto for the perfect moment to dump them back on the market.

Many real estate aficionados believe that the shadow inventory is not only going to quell our current market recovery, but is actually going to lead to a double-dip housing bust.

The truth will only be borne out in time, as it is impossible to accurately determine numbers of properties being held across all the different lending institutions, as well as the status of negotiations with existing homeowners in default.

A number of details seem to indicate that the Phoenix area housing market won’t be subject to a shadow inventory effect.

  • Mike Orr, real estate analyst at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business, recently reported, “There is still no sign of any significant new supply of homes coming onto the market, and those who anticipate a flood of bank-owned ‘shadow inventory’ are likely to be very disappointed.
  • The Mortgage Bankers’ Association reported last week that Arizona’s mortgage delinquency rate fell from 6.5% to 6.2% since the start of 2012, placing Arizona 35th in the nation in delinquency rates.
  • Filing of Notices of Trustee Sales in Maricopa County fell again to 3,219 in July 2012.  It was 4,328 in May and 3,711 in June.
  • Bank owned sales as a percentage of total monthly sales has also fallen steadily, despite a very tight inventory supply.  Here’s a graphic from R.L. Brown Reports that illustrates the trend:

At the moment, most indicators point towards the fact that there will not be a shadow inventory dump in the Greater Phoenix housing market, but only time will tell.  If the banks are holding significant inventory, with a 25% rise in the median sales price in the last 12 months and continued tight inventory levels, now would be a good time to start selling it off.

 

What do you think?  Are we going to see a shadow inventory release in the upcoming months?

Phoenix Real Estate Sellers Get Their Cocky Back

May 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Competitive Phoenix Real Estate Market Inspires Insanity

As more and more local property owners clue in to the state of today’s frenzied market, we’re starting to see some of the crazy cockiness that sellers exhibited in the mid-2000’s during the height of the boom.

Yes, our market is looking better for sellers than it has for 6-7 years, but I’m not yet convinced that some of today’s tactics are justified…if they ever are.

Here are some of my ‘favorites,’ if you can call them that.

“We’re not considering any offers that are less than asking price.”

Yep, I recently showed a property in Chandler where the Listing Agents had been instructed by their seller to not even present any offers below asking price…which was 20% over market value.  I’ve been around the block.  I understand that there are opportunists who are willing to try and capitalize on extreme market conditions.  However, this was short-sighted.  After years of negative media, excessive inventory, and fire sales, most Phoenix real estate buyers aren’t yet accustomed to the idea that they can’t at least negotiate a few thousand dollars off the asking price.  Even the savviest of buyers who are in tune with today’s aggressive conditions aren’t prepared to pay 20% over market value.  As for the sellers, if they want 20% over fair market value, that’s completely their prerogative.  However, they should ask 21% over market value so they can at least give the appearance of negotiating.

 

“Buyers Must Waive All Contingencies in the Contract After 15 Days”

This is a flashback to the “good ol’ days” that I’ve even used myself.  Unfortunately, today’s market is different than even that of 6-7 years ago.  Lending guidelines have become tighter and HOAs are less cooperative than ever with delivering docs in the contractual timeline…among other issues.  In short, my job as a Buyer’s Agent is to advise my clients of the risks of accepting this condition.  It’s up to them to determine whether or not the potential reward is worth the risk.  Personally, I wouldn’t do it today because too many things can go sideways in a transaction that one can’t foresee or prevent.

 

“Showings only at 2pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays”

Seriously.  I called a Listing Agent today to confirm availability on a property and she said her clients only allow showings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2pm.  Not 1:45.  Not 2:30.  2pm.  I explained to her that my clients were only in town on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and were going to make a decision while they’re here.  Too bad, she said.  Wow!  If she was advocating her client’s interests, she would have called them and explained the extenuating circumstances and allowed them to decide whether or not to allow the showing.

As Phoenix real estate continues to sell at a torrid pace, I expect to see more unique terms and conditions from sellers that show they’ve indeed gotten their cocky back

Phoenix Real Estate Market Tops in Rising Prices

April 28, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Phoenix real estate is in full recovery.

The excerpt below was posted by Inman News on Thursday, and it calls attention to the top 10 US markets (among 146 anaylzed) for median price increases.  The Phoenix, AZ real estate market topped the list with a 23.5% increase in median home prices from March 2011.

Anyone following the Phoenix real estate market (or my blog postings!) has recognized that the Phoenix housing market has been slowly strengthening in terms of inventory (supply) and unit sales (demand).  We just hadn’t experienced the price increases that are to be expected with the law of supply and demand.  Earlier this year we hit a point where ‘the market’ suddenly woke up and realized that dwindling inventory coupled with continued solid demand for Phoenix real estate has reached a critical level.  Now it’s a strong seller’s market in the sub-$300k segment.

Whether you’re a real estate investor, a first time home buyer, or a local Phoenician looking for a move-up home, now might be the time to capitalize on the upswing as Phoenix real estate continues its turn around.

Here’s an excerpt from the Inman News article:

 

Top 10 markets for rising list prices

Realtor.com finds list prices up nationwide in March

Editor’s note: Data from Realtor.com’s first-quarter real estate trend data report. The report analyzes data for 146 U.S. metros and includes single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops.

The spring homebuying season continues its brush with optimism with median list prices of homes for sale nationwide up 5.56 percent over the last year, according to Realtor.com data updated through March 2012. The jump to $189,900 brings the national median list price close to what it was two years ago.

Continuing a distressed-market turnaround trend, the Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz., metro took the No. 1 position on the list with a 23.5 percent jump from a year ago, to $179,000. The Miami metro made No. 2 on the list with a 22.27 percent list-price increase from a year ago, to $269,000. Both Phoenix and Miami were among the top 10 metros for year-over-year reductions in for-sale inventory, ranking No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.

Florida showed especially strong in median list-price growth in the last year, with five of the top 10 metros located in the Sunshine State. In addition to Miami, Punta Gorda made the list at No. 4 (17.5 percent), along with Daytona Beach (No. 8 at 15.47 percent), West Palm Beach-Boca Raton (No. 9 at 15.38 percent) and Naples (No. 10 at 15.38 percent).

Although they didn’t make the top 10 list, strong growth in median list prices in other Realtor.com-tracked Florida and Arizona metros like Fort Myers-Cape Coral (up 15.31 percent), the West-Ariz. rural statistical area (up 13.64 percent) and Fort Lauderdale (up 8.39 percent) suggest a bottom has formed in these hard-hit housing markets.

However, Realtor.com analysts noted that the large shadow inventory of potential foreclosures in these states could undermine this optimism and keep prices low as supply floods the market.

The Phoenix metro area has had a particularly notable shift in fortunes. In March 2011, it was No. 4 in the top 10 metros Realtor.com tracks for year-over-year median list-price declines. The median list price was down 14.2 percent from March 2010. List prices are a leading indicator, and may reflect optimism about a market that doesn’t always translate into actual sale prices.

The current median existing-home price in the Phoenix metro area is $124,500, less than half of the metro’s peak list price of $267,000, seen in the summer of 2006 at the height of the housing boom.

 

Source: Inman News, 4/26/12

Signs of Life in Phoenix Housing

April 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Here’s an understatement from Tom Lindmark at Wall St. Pit Global Market Insight on 4/19/12.  The author, perhaps not a resident of the Valley, seems to imply that our market isn’t as frenzied as is being reported.  While I understand that he’s making a point that he believes most of the activity is investor driven and pertains to the lower priced market segments, he’s missing the bigger picture.  You see, in any market, regardless of location or preference for buyers or sellers, the lower price points experience the greatest turnover for several obvious reasons, including first time home buyers, income distribution, financing regulations, and overall volume of available inventory.

It’s worth noting that during the housing boom, the median home price in the Greater Phoenix market only reached an all-time high of $264,800 in June 2006.  So one-half of all Phoenix real estate sales activity was under $265k and one-half of the sales activity was above that price.

It’s also worth noting that the record high number of units sold in a single year was 104,725 in 2005 (when the median sales price was even lower) and the second highest year was 2011 (last year), when 101,436 units were sold.  From a historical standpoint, nobody can dispute that more than 100,000 units sold represents a significant level in the Phoenix real estate market.

You see, sales activity levels are similar to what they were during a time that nobody disputed that our market was on fire.  Furthermore, the majority of sales activity occurred the same (sub-$250k) price point.

Having been a Realtor in Phoenix during the height of the Phoenix real estate market boom and having experienced the bust, my perception (validated by market facts) is that the dynamic is consistent with what we saw in 2005.  Furthermore, while lending guidelines have no doubt dampened the jumbo market, the best opportunities at all price points are selling fast and often with multiple offers received.

I don’t pretend to know how long the Greater Phoenix real estate market will remain this competitive or whether we’ll see another surge of foreclosures, as some predict.  However, nobody can deny that our market is extremely competitive right now…except perhaps those who aren’t making a living by working in it on a day-to-day basis.

Anyway, here’s the article.  What are your key take-aways?

Signs of Life in Phoenix Housing

What’s going on with Phoenix real estate. If you believe the realtor hype prices are going through the roof, supply is practically non-existent and buyers are trying to shove competitors aside to get what homes are available. As you might suspect the truth is a bit more nuanced.

To get some perspective on the market I pulled up the latest (Feb. 2012) report from Arizona State University’s business school. It paints a picture of a market on the mend, albeit in less than an organic mode, but one with wide price trends among the various sales components. Here are their headline observations:

Headlines:

• Overall single family home prices are now higher than 12 months ago:
o The median sales price is up 8.3% from $115,000 to $124,500
o Average price per square foot is up 4.1% from $81.07 to $84.36
• Pricing has moved higher since reaching a low point in September 2011
• Supply is down 42% compared with 12 months ago
• Monthly foreclosure starts rose in February 2012 but were still down 9% from February 2011
• Monthly foreclosures completions were down 52% from February 2011
• There has been a 72% reduction in the number of homes reverting to lenders at trustee sale
• Overall sales were 9% higher than in February 2011
• Single family home sales increased for
o New homes (up 26%)
o Normal re-sales (up 63%)
o Investor flips (up 71%)
o Short sales and pre-foreclosures (up 34%)
o HUD sales (up 9%)
o Third party purchases at trustee sale (up 15%)
• Single family home sales reduced for:
o Bank owned homes (down 40%)
o GSE (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, etc.) owned homes (down 58%)

As a point of clarification, all the comparisons in these bullet points are February 2012 to February 2011.

The number that I suspect jumped out at you is the 8.9% increase in the median sales price. Don’t start hyperventilating. Go to the article and you will find a couple of graphs that clarify the situation. You’re going to see that the sales price of new homes and normal resales in fact declined 2.2% and 22.2% respectively. Things aren’t quite coming up roses yet. The overall increase in sales price was driven by sales of foreclosed homes and investor flips, though to be fair the decline in normal resales is overstated due to the absence of sales at the higher end.

To put this another way, investors are crawling all over each other to get what for the time being is a dwindling supply of appropriate rental property and in the course of doing so are driving up prices. A few of them, probably the smart ones who got in early, are taking their money and running.

Nevertheless, the supply of homes for sale under $250,000 stood in February at a 25 day supply. You don’t have to be a student of real estate markets to understand that represents a considerable supply/demand imbalance. Assuming investor demand remains solid, an inordinate number of current investors don’t decide to cash in and organic demand builds, even slowly, it seems reasonable to expect Phoenix real estate prices to firm if not escalate.

Here is the summary from the ASU report:

After a slump during the third quarter of 2011, the Phoenix residential real estate market has improved significantly for sellers and a swift recovery is now well under way. Supply of single family and condo homes is now very low, interest rates are low, the economy is showing signs of life and prices are still very affordable
compared with salaries and rental rates. However the supply of homes is now so tight that buying one is ften quite a struggle, primarily due to the intense competition for the few homes available for sale. Public sentiment toward housing remains relatively poor but is now starting to improve as signs emerge that the worst of the housing crisis is over. Loans are still hard to come by and a financed buyer is usually at a distinct disadvantage when competing against a cash buyer who is prepared to waive their appraisal contingency.

With prices that have declined from their peak in June 2006 more than almost anywhere in the US, we still have a large number of homeowners with loans that exceed the market value of their home. Following the launch of HARP 2.0 and the recent settlement between the states and five large lenders,these homeowners may have more of an opportunity to refinance into low interest loans. This will not resolve their underwater condition, but perhaps it will reduce their monthly payments and allow them to feel less financial stress. At the moment the success of these programs remains to be proven.

Given that wholesale reductions in loan principals appear unlikely, the main mechanism available to solve underwater loan problems is for prices to rise. Overall prices have already improved by some 15% since September 2011 and are currently on a strong upward trend. However that trend is fueled mainly by the rise in the prices of lender owned properties, auctioned homes and flips. Normal re-sales and short sales have yet to really participate in the improving price movement. It will take many months of strong improvement for the negative equity problem to abate, and there is little chance of pricing achieving the heights of 2006 in the medium term. However we now have a severe supply/demand imbalance that favors sellers and sets us up for the possibility of a significant rise in pricing at the lower and middle sectors of the market in the immediate future.

For what they’re worth, some observations:

  • The significant amount of rental property acquired by investors over the past few years will probably constitute a shadow inventory for some years to come. As interest rates rise creating investments that are equal  or superior to their investment real estate, expect this class to look towards cashing out. Keep in mind that maintenance costs are going to increase as the properties age, so the overall return is probably going to decline.
  • The still disappointing level of new homeowner buyers is discouraging given the attractiveness of prices, escalating rents and extraordinary interest rates. I suspect this has something to do with fresh memories of the crash as well as less than stellar incomes. A lot of potential owners have jobs but they aren’t pulling in the incomes they enjoyed before things went south. Discretion for them is the watchword.
  • A truly organic market in which first time homeowners become move-up buyers and thus support the higher priced end of the market is probably years away. Consequently the upper end of the housing market will most likely suffer for some years to come.

It strikes me that the macro view hasn’t captured the dynamics of the Phoenix real estate market and I suspect that’s true of other real estate markets as well. The data tends to be too sketchy and dated to adequately reflect granular changes. To that end, one should probably be leery of reports that attempt to paint too dire a picture of the market generally as well as skeptical about the need of or utility of large government programs intended to “cure” housing.