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Home prices on rise in Ariz.

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2013 10:45 am

Did you buy your home before 2005?

Congratulations. It likely is finally worth as much as you paid for it — if you don’t factor in inflation.

New figures last week from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show home prices in Arizona ticked up by 5.1 percent between the first and second quarters of the year. That now translates to a boost of more than 18 percent from a year earlier.

That puts the prices, as measured by the agency’s index, at about where they were in the first quarter of 2004.

But the report also shows that those who jumped into the market in the middle of the bubble still have a long way to go to break even.

Worst off are those who bought at the top which, according to the FHFA, was the second quarter of 2006 for Arizona. On average, the prices being commanded now are nearly 32 percent below where they were at that time.

Even those who thought they were getting in as prices dropped in 2008 are still underwater, price-wise, to the tune of 17 percent.

So who’s best off?

Obviously, anyone who has been a long-term owner is seeing a price recovery.

Owned since the same time in 1998? Odds are your property is worth 62 percent more now, in constant dollars, than it was when you bought it.

As to the post-bubble environment, the report shows the best time to have taken the plunge was two years ago when home prices in Arizona bottomed out. Since then, prices, on average, are up statewide by about 34 percent.

Arizona, among the hardest hit of all the states, continues to outperform the rest of the nation in rate of recovery. Its one-year gain of 18.3 percent compares with just 7.2 percent nationally, ranking Arizona third in the country.

Nevada, also hard hit, topped the list with a 22.8 percent year-over-year increase, followed by California at 19.1 percent.

But Andrew Leventis, the agency’s principal economist, said all signs show a strong recovery pretty much throughout the country. He said this is the eighth consecutive quarter where the index measuring home prices has increased.

“The housing market experienced one of its strongest quarters since the boom in the middle of the last decade,” Leventis said in a prepared statement.

The report comes as interest rates for home mortgages is starting to rise. But Michael Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said the effect of all that will be “a lot less than most people think,” at least in the long run.

“What tends to happen is that you get a little bump in sales immediately afterwards for all the people who decide to close quickly to avoid any further increase,” he said. Orr said that has been borne out with an uptick in sales and closings in July.

“I think you’ll then get a little bit of a hold in August and September,” he continued, at least in part because of the July jump. “But by the time you get to October it’ll be all over and we’ll be back to normal.”

Orr also said he’s not concerned that higher interest rates will leave many people locked out of the market.

He said interest rates — and the ultimate monthly cost to borrowers — is only part of the decision-making process for lenders to decide whether to provide someone with a mortgage. The other, Orr said, is the lending standards.

Orr said most lenders tightened their standards in the wake of the bust in the real estate bubble, one that left many of them with properties worth less than what was owed. But he said that is likely to change.

“What lenders are going to do is get fed up with not having as many loans to process, because that’s how they make their money,” he said.

“They’ll start getting less strict,” Orr said. “We’re already seeing a few signs of that.”

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