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Phoenix housing market quiets down for end of year

Mike Orr
December 12, 2013

The Phoenix-area housing market is quietly ending the year, with a drop in demand and activity. A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University provides the latest data for Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of October:

• The median single-family-home price was up 27 percent, to $200,000, since last October, but price increases are slowing down.

• Demand is rapidly dropping and the supply of homes available for sale is quickly rising.

• First-time home buyers, especially those under 30, are showing little interest in getting into the market.

Phoenix-area home prices have been going up since they hit a low point in September 2011. The median single-family-home price went up an incredible 71 percent from October 2011 to October 2013. It rose 27 percent – from $157,000 to $200,000 – from just last October to this October. Realtors will note the average price per square foot went up about 24 percent year-over-year. The median townhouse/condo price rose 27 percent, to $119,900.

However, the report’s author says the market has been cooling since July and will continue to lose momentum.

“I anticipate sales will be way down in November and through the holidays, when some people even take their homes off the market until late January,” says Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We also anticipate a much slower rate of price appreciation in 2014 than the furious pace we have witnessed over the last two years.”

Conditions are getting better for buyers and worse for sellers, as the supply of homes available for sale has been rising fast. The Phoenix area had 40 percent more active listings (those not under contract) this Nov. 1 than last Nov. 1. At the same time, demand has been plummeting. The amount of single-family-home sales activity dropped 19 percent from last October to this October.

Orr believes supply will exceed demand before the end of the year, even though supply is still 15 to 20 percent below what would be considered normal. He blames the sudden weakness partly on poor consumer sentiment, including concern over the recent government shutdown. He also notes census numbers showing fewer households are forming, as some young adults stay with their parents and others show little interest in leaving their rentals to buy a home.

“When you ask people under 30 whether they want to buy a home, they’re not planning on it like past generations,” explains Orr. “Also, demand for starter homes is limited by the difficulty of first-time home buyers in qualifying for loans. Plus, less than 3 percent of the new homes sold in Maricopa County in October were priced below $150,000, so new entry-level homes are getting very scarce.”

Investors and out-of-state buyers are also losing interest in the Phoenix area. The percentage of residential properties purchased by investors has dropped from the peak of 39.7 percent in July 2012 down to 22.6 percent this October. The percentage of Maricopa County homes sold to out-of-state buyers was down from 20.1 last October to 16.4 this October. That’s the lowest percentage since January 2009.

The luxury home market continues to gain ground, with the stock market booming and the growing availability of jumbo loans. Sales of single-family homes priced above $500,000 grew 34 percent from last October to this October. At the same time, sales of lower-end homes priced below $150,000 fell by almost half – 49 percent.

Cheap homes are hard to find as foreclosure levels continue to drop. The number of completed foreclosures fell about 64 percent from October 2012 to this October. The number of foreclosure starts – owners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days – dropped 50 percent at the same time.

Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed and downloaded at A podcast with more analysis from Orr is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at