Housing market scraping bottom

Deals harder to find, but market very affordable

Local real estate agents are beginning to see bottom in the local housing market. Prices, even for bank foreclosures have begun creeping up since late last year, as are the number of sales.

Local real estate agents are beginning to see bottom in the local housing market. Prices, even for bank foreclosures have begun creeping up since late last year, as are the number of sales.

VERDE VALLEY - In speculating on the local real estate market, Dan Mabery, broker for Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Cottonwood is now saying, "I am absolutely sure we might be at the bottom."

For the last two years, real estate agents, homeowners, homebuyers and those waiting on the sidelines have all wanted to know: When will the housing market bottom out?

Well, Mabery says, it has every appearance of doing so right now.

"It is a combination of factors that include the cost of a new home versus what resale houses are selling for, the difference between what it cost to buy versus rent, statistical trends and the fact that banks are lending once again," he says.

But, he cautions, there are many factors that could derail his theory.

"A lot of things can change locally, statewide or on a national basis," Mabery says, "Some said the odds of values going up this year were the same as finding Osama Bin Laden. Of course, that's right, we got him."

It's all about affordability.

"The affordability factor is probably better than it has been in decades. Someone can buy with very little down and in some cases no down and live in a house much cheaper than renting. We are reaching a point where the buying public is making a financial decision to own instead of rent once again," Mabery says.

He points out that the buying-versus-renting equation has also converged with a turn in the banking industry that is once again allowing people to get back into a home without all the pain and aggravation of just a few months ago.

"Banks are lending again. We are at a point where you don't need a credit score of 740 to qualify," Mabery says. "Lower unemployment and lower mortgage insurance premiums are paving the way."

The market in the upper valley saw a rise of about 4 percent in the last quarter, a statistical factor that Gary Thompson with Arizona Central Land and Home says he has seen in the lower end of the valley during the same period.

"Not dollar-wise but transaction-wise, we have had record-breaking months since last November," Thompson says. "And even though the market is still being driven to a large degree by bank pricing, prices are creeping up. We have seen about a 4 percent rise in prices even among the foreclosures."

For those still waiting on a screaming deal, Mabery suggest you also consider these factors.

"The inventory of deals is getting scarcer. The list of homes in pre-foreclosure is down 30 percent. We are hearing people who have been going to the foreclosure auctions the last couple of years say the deals aren't there any more," he says.

And, he says, there are factors that will always be in place.

"It also doesn't hurt us locally that every other place in the nation seems to be having weather problems. The same thing that has always given traction to the Verde Valley is still there. We have great weather."

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