Christie Ellis
Everardo Keeme

So here we are, December, again. As I get older it certainly seems to get here faster every year. I feel like I was just chatting with folks about what may happen in real estate in 2013. It turned out we had some interesting things happen here in our market. The year started off strong with lots of appreciation and a great demand from buyers. The buying frenzy continued through June until it sort of fell off a cliff in the summer. When we usually see the October pick up, the government shut down for three weeks and that changed the typical cycle for that time of year. We had a nice increase in buyer interest towards the end of the year and from what we can see now the spring season will be typical for our area.

What does 2014 look like? We have two things that we in real estate are paying attention to right now. The first is the unexpected drop of the U.S. Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan amount from $346,000 to $271,000 coming in January of 2014. This means that the majority of people who are using an FHA loan (one of the few loans people who have been through a short sale, foreclosure or bankruptcy can obtain the quickest) will need to reduce the price of the house they want to buy. Here is what that means to people shopping in Ahwatukee: there are 303 currently active single-family listings as of this writing. Of those 303, 73 are no longer an option, if the buyer wants to put down 3.5 percent, and doesn’t open a case file on a home by January. The FHA buyer can now only choose from 113 single-family homes in Ahwatukee. We will be watching to see how this affects the market here in Ahwatukee and what it does to prices.

The second thing we are focused on is DFA — The Dodd-Frank Act. In its 2,300 pages one of the rules is “The Ability to Repay” rule. This will affect a buyer’s buying power and will change seller carry backs. One of the simplest explanations I have read to help me understand how this DFA will work is written by Amy Swaney, Arizona regional manager with Citywide Home Loans. “The Ability to Repay (ATR) provision requires that all “creditors” make a good faith effort to determine a borrower’s ability to repay the loan.” This will require eight different underwriting factors, such as current or reasonably expected income or assets, employment status and debts, alimony and child support obligations. Even if you get a loan that has an adjustable arm, you have to show you can make the payments when the arm adjusts. It will also include several other qualifying factors. For the whole blog, visit

The second part to be aware of is something we don’t see often, but in today’s market is possible again — a seller carry back. When a seller has equity they have the ability to let the borrower use some of that equity and act as a bank. With DFA there will be provisions in allowing the seller to lend to the buyer. I highly recommend you use an attorney to be sure you are well protected if you decide to do a seller carry back. The Arizona Association of Realtors just created four new forms that will help with this type of payment/contract structure if you as a buyer or seller decide to move forward with a carry back.

Lastly, I mentioned this earlier, 2014 looks to be another great year for our home values appreciating. We are still in a shortage of inventory but with some buyers no longer available to buy the market is heading towards a better balance. Rosewood Homes at Desert Foothills and Chandler Boulevard will be starting pre-releases of their homes (all two stories, ranging from 1,700 to 2,400 square feet), with starting prices in the high $200’s, in February. Home construction has begun on Pecos Road and 17th Avenue for the new community by Lennar. There is no pricing information yet.

There are lots of wonderful things to look forward to in the year to come. I wish you and your family a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

• Christie Ellis, owner of United Brokers Group, is a real estate broker specializing in the Ahwatukee area. She is the author of “Real Estate Agent CEMETERY: How to Survive the Fears, Challenges, and Mistakes That Can Kill Your Real Estate Career.” Reach her at (480) 201-3575 or

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