Monday, May 18, 2009

Phoenix Real Estate Market Showing Signs Of Life

The Phoenix real estate market was one of the hardest hit when the housing bubble popped, and it looks like it might be one of the first to rebound. Buyers are beginning to show heightened interested in the market, with one of the most attractive features being that buying is basically as cheap as renting. Typically when buying is cheaper than renting, people will buy — if they are able. However, with a tightened lending market, millions out of work and many with tarnished credit, the buyer pool is seemingly shrinking. Despite that, the Phoenix market appears to be on the right track, though, Tim Iacono cautions that this could be a small boom created by artificially low interest rates. Foreclosures are continuing to flood the market, and once interest rates go back up the new quasi-bubble could pop.

Evidence is mounting that when home prices tumble by more than 50 percent and the Fed keeps mortgage rates at freakishly low levels, people will buy houses. This report from the LA Times talks of a resurgence in home buying where prices have fallen the furthest.

After four years of renting because they were priced out of the real estate market, Jamia Jenkins and Scott Renshaw concluded the time had arrived for them to buy.

They saw that home prices had dropped so fast here -- faster than in any other big city in the nation -- that mortgage payments would be less than the $900 they paid in rent. The city is littered with foreclosed houses, so the couple figured they could easily snatch up something in the low $100,000s.

Three months later, they're still looking. They have submitted 13 offers and been overbid each time. "It's just pathetic," said Jenkins, 53. "Investors are going out there and outbidding everyone."
While many now cheer the arrival of a housing market bottom this year - more likely in real estate sales than in prices paid - you have to wonder what's going to happen in another year or two when long-term interest rates are much higher.

For example, at today's artificially low mortgage rates, you can get a 30-year loan of $170,000 for about $900, similar to what the couple above is planning. But at the far more typical rates of seven or eight percent, that payment moves up by one-third to about $1,200.

Stated another way, that same $900 payment only buys $130,000 worth of housing - not the $170,000 as indicated above - absent the freakishly low interest rates, something that is a near certainty in the years ahead.

Naturally, that doesn't stop people from buying, as the 2006 fever seems to have returned...
Phoenix's housing bust has turned into a quasi-boom, a sign that its market may have hit bottom and a sneak preview of what a national housing recovery could look like.

More homes are selling than at any time since 2006. Prices are slowly stabilizing. Buyers are once again finding themselves in frantic bidding wars -- only this time over foreclosed houses selling at deep discounts rather than ranch homes listing for vast sums.

"The free market is at work," said Shannon Hubbard, a real estate agent and blogger here. "Prices got driven down so much that people said, 'I'm going to come out and play.' "
IMAGE Home prices continue to plummet or tread water in much of the nation, but there have been tentative signs of life. Pending home sales rose 3.2% nationally in April, the second month of increases after a record low in January.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting in February identified Phoenix as "the most unique market in the nation," where affordability was better than at any time since 1981 and buying a house was once again cheaper than renting.
It should be an interesting summer as waves of new foreclosures battle waves of new buying interest from a bargain hunting public that is still fearful of more job losses.

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