Riding the real estate wave<br>Market still strong despite struggling stock market<br>

While investors may be weary of the Dow, Verde Valley real estate is still holding on to the numbers.

Although overall sales totals show a decline in 2001, last week's Federal Reserve's reduction of the 30-year mortgage rates to 6.89 percent may stave off a slump in new and existing home sales.

According to Multiple Listing Service reports, a little more than $1.4 million separates both Upper and Lower Verde Valley sales totals from January and February of 2001 to last year's combined totals during the same period.

In the Upper Verde Valley, home sales contributed more than 84 percent of overall sales totaling slightly less than $4.8 million. Last year home sales in the Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Jerome, Cornville and surrounding areas made up more than 79 percent of overall sales which totaled more than $5.4 million.

Leading the pack in January and February were homes priced between $100,000 and $199,000 with little disparity between sales totals in this category from last year.

"That's always the best segment of our market," says Broker Phil Terbell of Professional Realty Group referring to the many young families and entry level homebuyers.

In the Lower Verde Valley, home sales in this category are currently depressed, off nearly $500,000 from last year's totals in the category. But it's not because homes in this range are not available throughout the valley, say local brokers.

"Most of the homes are in the $100,000 to $100,000 range," agrees Broker Paul Haywood of Century 21.

Lower the price below $100,000, and those homes would be a big seller says Haywood. But luckily for real estate agents as home prices increase, so do profits.

"There has been a tremendous change in the last 22 years," explains Haywood. "Nobody ever dreamed we would have the market we have today or else we would be rich and gone."

Like those property owners with residential lots for sale.

"We don't have as many lots as we used to, they're not available," says Terbell. "Most vacant land is purchased by builders and sold as finished goods."

In February and March residential lots brought in less than $80,000 in sales in the Upper Valley down from last year's reported $357,400 during the same period.

In contrast, the Camp Verde area continued it's robust lot sales.

Lower Verde Valley real estate totals boasted over $121,000 in January and February nearly identical to last year's sales of $120,500.

A similar trend, according to local real estate brokers, are city dwellers looking for a taste of country- but the more the better.

"We are seeing more potential buyers looking for larger pieces of property," Jackie Pagoto broker for Reality Executives. "It allows them that privacy factor that so many are searching for out of the metropolitan areas."

Acreage sales in January and February reflect the appeal of large parcel sales. In the Upper Valley more than $1.2 million was reported for acreage sales compared with last year's sales totals of $853,150. In contrast, scarce Camp Verde acreage brought in only $208,350 in sales during January and February of this year slightly lower than last year's $219,500 during the same period.

While the Commerce Department reports that new home sales are off 1.5 percent in the West in February, local brokers remain positive if not quite giddy about the 2001 Verde Valley real estate market.

"I think we're going to see a real healthy market as interest rates work into the economy," says Terbell. "We anticipate a continuing boost to the real estate market."

And if investors continue to be skeptical of the market's future gains,, real estate increases its popularity for those with a healthy disposable income.

"When the market starts making the wrong move we do see an increase in investing in real estate," explains Pagoto.

Terbell's already taking calls from investors looking towards the long term.

"We've seen them come back into the market to purchase commercial businesses or rental property," he says. "Real estate is a good investment over the long hall."

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