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NW homes sales improve

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Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:00 am

According to real estate professionals, the last couple months have been good ones for the housing market in the Northwest Tucson region, with home sales showing an uptick in buyer activity.

In Northwest Tucson, which includes unincorporated Pima County, Marana and Oro Valley, sales were up 13 percent in 2011 over the same period in 2010, according to Kevin Kaplan, vice president of marketing and technology for Long Realty Company.

Kaplan said there were 3,228 closings in 2011 in Northwest Tucson, compared to 2,903 closings the previous year, a total of 11.5 percent in closed residential sales.

“A lot more buyers are purchasing homes than the year before, so that we’re close to the average in 2011 for the Northwest market,” Kaplan said.

That activity might be even better than it looks because home buying might be skewed during the first half of 2010 due to the federal home buyer tax credit that was offered at the time, Kaplan noted.

Kaplan believes one of the reasons why more buyers came in 2011 is because home prices came down. In December of 2011, the sold median price on a house in the Northwest was $159,000, he said. In December of 2010, it was $174,000.

“That’s down nearly nine percent in the price of an average home on the Northwest side,” Kaplan said.

Greg Hollman, regional vice president and Foothills branch manager for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, credits the uptick in sales in the Northwest in the last six months to investors who have entered the marketplace.

“Investors believe the bottom has come in the market and the time to buy is now,” Hollman said. “In some cases they can buy a home for less than it costs to build it.”

Hollman, who noted he currently has a group of investors looking to purchase 30 homes in the Northwest, also credits seller recognition of proper pricing as another reason for increased home sales.

“To some degree, sellers have come to terms with the fact of what their home is worth,” Hollman said. “It may be painful at times, but they are now willing to listen to the advice of agents. We can sell any home in Tucson if it’s priced correctly.”

Hollman said because loans are going through these days at under 4 percent interest, he’s seen an increase in “move-up buyers,” which are those individuals selling a smaller house in order to buy up into a larger one. 

“That element of the market had been stagnant, but it’s an encouraging sign to see it coming back,” he said.

Sue Cartun, designated broker and partner in Keller Williams, said the Northwest market has seen an uptick for most of the year, but particularly since last June.

“The Northwest leads the Tucson market in many ways,” Cartun said. “Especially in the REOs (real estate owned by a lender) and short sales.”

Cartun believes the impact of the number of foreclosures, bank-acquired properties and short sales have affected the prices of other houses on the market. But, the difference between the listing price on a house, and the price it sells at is getting much closer, she said.

“Sellers are becoming very realistic about pricing, which they need to be in this kind of market,” Cartun said. “And buyers are understanding that as the inventory of housing decreases, the need to make a realistic offer increases.”

Cartun put the list to sale price at between 97 and 98 percent, which she called “pretty tight.”

Kaplan, of Long Realty, noted the housing inventory on the Northwest side was constricting.

“As of the end of December, there were 1,332 residential properties for sale,” Kaplan said. “At the end of 2010, that figure was closer to 2,000.”

Kaplan said the Northwest side has the potential for an upswing in home sales.

“Inventory is shrinking considerably and buyer demand is up,” he said. “If buyer demand stays strong and there’s not a flood of new properties on the market, I think we will have seen the bottom of this market.”

Kaplan noted he’s also begun to see multiple offers and bidding wars on some properties in the Northwest.

Likewise, Hollman of Coldwell Banker, has seen multiple offers on some homes, mostly in the under-$300,000 range.

“In some cases, especially in the lower price ranges, there’s competition from investors, which has surprised some buyers,” Hollman said.

Because of increasing unit sales, Hollman still has a positive outlook for the 2012 housing market in the Northwest, because of increasing unit sales.

“We won’t see a return to the craziness of 2005 any day soon,” Hollman said. “But we should continue to see a market that is increasingly healthy.”

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