Housing-market activity slowed in November with both existing-home sales and foreclosures in the Phoenix area at their lowest level in more than a year, according to an Arizona State University report issued Friday.
There were 4,750 single-family, detached-home resales in November in Maricopa County, down from 5,350 resales a year earlier, the report said.
The median sale price in November was $134,000, down $9,000 from the November 2009 median of $143,000.
Foreclosure activity also slowed, to 2,095 foreclosures in November from 2,985 foreclosures a year earlier.
The slowdown was expected, the combined result of a recurring seasonal slump in home sales and recently lifted moratoriums on foreclosure sales by mortgage lenders, said the report's author, Jay Butler, associate professor of real estate at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business.
The obvious influence of recent foreclosure bans and winter's typical market freeze only partly masks signs of a deeper market concern with potentially long-term effects, he said.
Thousands of residential real-estate investors are nervously awaiting the release of 2010 U.S. census data that will settle the question of whether Arizona's population is still growing, he said.
The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to publish that data in the next two months.
"There could be some gnashing of teeth come January or February," Butler said.
If the area's population has become stagnant, it could accelerate a shifting away of large-scale housing-investment firms from Arizona that Butler said already was under way.
Concerns that large segments of the Phoenix-area housing market have become saturated with rental homes already has spurred some investors to seek other opportunities in places such as the Midwest, he said.
The competition for residential tenants has intensified in recent months, Butler said, and holding on to existing renters has become more difficult.
Unless census figures reveal signs of growth, there is no reason to believe investors in rental homes would fare any better in 2011, he said.
"Without growth, you're just moving pieces around on the checkerboard," Butler said.
by J. Craig Anderson - Dec. 10, 2010 05:44 PM The Arizona Republic