ASU – Market is still driven by foreclosures

by Ken Alltucker – Feb. 12, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Foreclosures remained a dominant force in the Phoenix area’s housing market in January, as foreclosures and resales of foreclosure homes accounted for two-thirds of existing-home transactions during the month, according to an Arizona State University report.

Even with brisk sales, a key to the housing market’s recovery remains creating new jobs, said Jay Butler, the report’s author.

“The whole thing is the return of the job market,” said Butler, associate professor of real estate at the W.P. Carey School of Business. “If the job market strengthens, that will create consumer confidence. Job growth is the key.”

Lenders foreclosed on about 3,500 homes in January, down from 4,060 foreclosures recorded in December.

Butler said it is too early to tell whether the monthly decline represents a slowdown of foreclosures, because some lenders imposed moratoriums on new foreclosures toward the end of last year.

About 4,200 detached existing-home sales closed in January, up from last January’s 3,600 sales.

Butler said the free fall of housing values from the boom years seems to be over, with the median sales price in January at $136,500, up $500 from January 2009. Still, prices were down slightly from $140,000 in December. The report also indicates that the condominium and townhouse market continued its struggles with 500 foreclosures in January, up from 280 during the year-earlier period.

ASU’s data tracks Maricopa County transactions, including sections of Pinal County that are considered parts of the Valley.

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