By Peter Corbett
The Republic | azcentral.com
Phoenix led the nation in improving housing prices among 33 metro areas in a study released this week by ZipRealty LLC.
Median home prices in Phoenix in 2012 were up 29 percent over the previous year. That is well above the 11 percent increase nationally, based on data from the Multiple Listing Service.
“The metro areas that suffered the most during the real-estate downturn — south Florida and Phoenix — exhibited the greatest improvement recently,” said Jamie Wilson, senior president of technology for ZipRealty, a national brokerage based in Emeryville, Calif.
Phoenix’s median home price of $145,000 in 2012 was up from $112,329 the previous year, and the number of days a home was on the market dropped to 24.8, from 42.5.
Scottsdale’s median price of $320,000 was up $45,000, or 16 percent, and the days on the market dropped to 35.9, from 52.9.
“Some of the areas coming back the strongest were the hardest hit,” said Dan Leboffe,ZipRealty director of agent development.
That includes El Mirage, Buckeye and Maricopa, he said.
Lanny Baker, Zip Realty chief executive, said a number of institutional investors bought portfolios of properties in the Valley and that has made it more difficult for consumers to compete for homes, especially with a declining inventory.
But those investors have moved on from Phoenix to places like Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., where they can still buy houses for $75,000, he said.
“We’ll see some of those properties come back on the market in the not-toodistant future,” Baker said of Valley homes owned by institutional investors. The returns on investment have been good and the investment groups are not going to like the “joys of property management,” he said.
Meanwhile, new-home construction has ramped up in response to consumers who could not compete with investors and cash buyers for affordable homes, Leboffe said.
Builders have restarted projects that stalled in the recession and are buying land for new communities, he said.
Another factor in the improving housing market is a decline in distressed property sales.
In Scottsdale, short sales and foreclosures accounted for 26 percent of the transactions in 2012, down 20 percentage points from a year earlier.
Half the transactions were distressed properties in Phoenix last year, down from 72 percent in 2011.
Baker said he is concerned about the mobility of homeowners who refinanced at low interest rates.
“Are they unlikely to move down the road?” he said. “How deeply rooted are you if you have 3 percent mortgage rates.”