Phoenix, one of the cities hit hardest by the housing collapse, has clearly risen from the ashes. According to the latest release of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, Phoenix had the biggest increase in house values from September 2011 to September 2012. Shrinking inventory and strong demand from investors could drive prices even higher in 2013.
Phoenix Housing Market Sees 20% Appreciation
The Case-Shiller report was released last week and contained data through September 2012. House values in the Phoenix metro area rose by 20.4% during the 12-month reporting period. No other city in Case-Shiller’s 20-city index came close to that.
According to DataQuick, the median sales price in the Phoenix metro area rose by more than 32% over the last year or so. The median price was $160,000 in October 2012, up from $121,000 a year earlier.
For-sale inventory dropped by 20% during the same 12-month period.
The million-dollar question is, what will home prices do in 2013? Will they level off or keep rising? The folks at Zillow are optimistic about this particular housing market. Back in July, they published a home-price forecast extending through June 2013. Phoenix topped the list with a forecast of 9.9% appreciation, the highest of 156 cities tracked by Zillow.
Double-Digit Gains in List Prices
Phoenix also made our list of 16 cities where asking prices have risen by double digits. From October 2011 to October 2012, the median list price in this housing market rose by 25%. That was the third highest increase out of 146 cities tracked by Realtor.com. Only Sacramento and Santa Barbara, California had larger year-over-year gains.
While Phoenix was one of the cities affected most by the housing crisis, it was also one of the first markets to turn the corner. We reported the first signs of recovery in the summer of 2011. It fell hard, hit ‘bottom’ early on, and rebounded faster than any other metro area.
Investors Squeeze Out Traditional Buyers
All-cash purchases accounted for 40% of Phoenix home sales in October, suggesting that investor activity is still high in the area. Many of the homes purchased by investors come back onto the market in the form of rentals. In some neighborhoods, more than 30% of the houses are rentals. We are seeing this trend across the entire metro area. For instance, in Glendale’s 85301 zip code, 32% of the houses and condos are now rental properties.
Investors have helped the Phoenix housing market overcome one of its biggest problems — inventory. They’ve been a driving force behind the price increases mentioned earlier. So in a sense, investor activity is good for the market. But it also makes life harder for regular home buyers, many of whom rely on mortgages for their purchases.
Mortgages bring uncertainty. They can fall through at any stage of the process, right up until the closing. This makes sellers nervous, whether they are banks or homeowners. So it’s hard for home buyers with mortgages to compete with all-cash offers from investors.
The Phoenix real estate market still has its share of problems. Approximately 45% of homeowners are still underwater in their mortgages. But we are seeing improvements in this area, as well. In the third quarter of this year, Phoenix had one of the largest quarterly declines in negative equity, among metropolitan areas. The number of underwater homeowners declined by 6.2% during that quarter.
The job market has also made strides over the last couple of years. Phoenix’s unemployment rate fell to 7.1% in September, down from a high of 12.2% in December 2010. If the area continues to add jobs, we could see even more demand for housing in 2013.
Brandon Cornett is a veteran real estate market analyst, reporter, and creator of the Home Buying Institute. He has been covering the U.S. real estate market for more than 15 years. About the author