Jonathan J. Higuera

Housing: Two steps forward, one step back

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With “National Home Ownership Month” ending in June, it is a propos to deliver some housing news from our dear city and state. Unfortunately, the news has not been particularly rosy the last couple of years.

Let’s share the good news first. Arizona home prices experienced a better than average uptick in the most recent report on home prices. In fact, the median price of a home in the Phoenix area rose to $140,000 in April, a 25 percent increase from the year before, according to Arizona State University researchers.

Price increases could be related to the limited supply of homes for sale as well as an increase in the number of investors jumping back into the market.

On the down side, Phoenix ranked eighth in the nation in the percentage of homes with underwater mortgages in the first quarter of 2012. You probably know this, but, just in case, “underwater” means that you owe more on your house than what it could sell for. In fact, Phoenix and Atlanta essentially were in a dead heat when it came to the percent of home mortgages underwater, which is ironic considering that both were considered “boom towns” in the period immediately preceding the recession.

24/7 Wall Street assembled the ranking of the 100 largest housing markets in the U.S., using a first-quarter report published by Zillow. For the Phoenix market, the median home value was given as $ 128,000 and 430,500 mortgages were reported as underwater.

On the bright side, figures are showing improvement since the report was released, for both median home price and unemployment rate.

If you are wondering which city had the greatest number of underwater homes, look no farther than Las Vegas, which had a whopping 71 percent of upside-down homes.

In Las Vegas, home values fell 63 percent from the pre-recession peak, with more than 14 percent of all homes delinquent by 90 days or more. In comparison, Phoenix had a 54 percent decline in home values since the June 2007 peak.

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