Numbers don't lie - local real estate is improving

Nancy Kendall found a home she couldn't resist this past spring.

She paid less than $230,000 for the 1,600-square-foot house off Rosser Street which has everything she was looking for: appealing landscaping, great location and the perfect size.

"The size of this house is just right for one or two people," she said. "Everything was more to my taste."

Kendall is one of the more than 2,700 people who bought a home in the community this past year, according to data from the Prescott Area Association of Realtors. The association's data for 2011 gives an interesting view of the year and sets the stage for a gradually improving real estate market.

Realtors sold 1,278 homes in Prescott, 918 homes in Prescott Valley and 214 homes in Dewey-Humboldt. Listed homes sat on the market for an average of 168 days in Prescott, 117 days in Prescott Valley, 134 days in Chino Valley and 130 days in Dewey Humboldt.

The average list and sold prices also fell in the four communities from 2010.

Pete Weaver, board member/ treasurer for the association, said 2011 was a year of "stabilization" for the local market.

"We've turned the corner in my opinion on the trend that we've had for the last three or four years," he said. "We're now staged for (a) modest recovery moving forward."

Weaver cites a number of factors such as low interest rates, a declining inventory of homes, a drop in the average days on the market and a dip in distressed sales as factors in an upbeat market outlook.

Sales for 2011 rose nearly 9 percent from 2010, and the portion of distressed property sales of total sales fell from 51 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2011, according to Weaver.

"That's a good direction to be going," he said.

The reason a low number of distressed sales is a boon is that they pull market prices down.

The average days listed homes of all price ranges sat on the market fell about 3.5 percent to an average of 144 days for 2011. Weaver said the average sales price fell about 5.5 percent from 2010 to 2011.

"The good news is (prices) stabilized in 2011," he said.

Weaver said less than a year's worth of homes is available on the market. That's a big change from just a couple of years ago when the market had about two years' worth of inventory waiting for real estate agents to sell.

"That's much, much healthier than we had been," he said. "That's a huge shift from the unhealthiness we had a few years ago to where we are today."

The manager of a local real estate office in Prescott echoed Weaver's outlook.

Jorge Velasco, manager of the Keller Williams Check Realty office in Prescott, believes buyers have more confidence and there is less concern that the sky is falling.

"There are a lot of variables trending toward a modest housing recovery," he said.

The market is moving closer to a sellers' market as the amount of existing inventory slides to the six-month mark, according to Velasco.

While he wonders how long the local real estate market will sit at the bottom, Velasco is forecasting the market will grow 1 to 4 percent over the next few years.

"Slowly things are normalizing; the variables are showing that," he said.

Weaver believes 2012 will bring modestly improving sales, a continuing dip in distressed property sales and stabilizing or slight increases in prices.

"Everything is pointing to a more positive market in 2012," he said.