Home Sales Rise in Last Quarter of 2012, But Inventory Plunges

Bruce Krasnow | The New Mexican
Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 – 1/16/13

Lower prices are good news for Santa Fe homebuyers — unless, of course, there is nothing to buy.

At the end of 2012, for instance, the number of properties for sale declined 47 percent from a year earlier, according to the Santa Fe Association of Realtors’ fourth-quarter numbers released Wednesday.

“I’m still seeing a few sellers who want to sell but are not in touch with reality when I give them the comps,” said Victoria Murphy, a real estate agent with Santa Fe Properties and the president of the Realtors association. “I’ve spoken with them and show them the comparative analysis,” and they decide not to go forward, she said.

Suzanne Brandt with Coldwell Banker Trails West said buyers are reluctant to purchase homes that need a lot of work, so in some price ranges, there is just not a lot to show. “We’re at a very low point in terms of available inventory. In some price ranges, it’s very disappointing what you can find,” she said.

The same trend is going on around the United States as inventory levels of for-sale homes at the end of 2012 were down 17.3 percent from year-ago levels, reaching the lowest level in more than five years, according to Realtor.com.

“It’s been a buyers’ market for a while. Sellers have been reluctant to put their homes on the market,” Steve Berkowitz, chief executive of Move Inc., told the Realtor.com website. “As housing numbers roll out for January and February in the coming weeks, these will be notable to watch, because they’ll provide early clues about buyer traffic and sellers’ expectations, Berkowitz said.

Data from the Santa Fe association clearly indicate that the homes on the market are selling — with about 10 percent less time on the market than a year ago — and 2012 was the best year for total volume since 2007.

In the fourth quarter of 2012, overall sales in the city and county combined rose 20 percent from a year earlier — to 337 from 281. While the median price in the county rose 16 percent to $432,500, it dropped inside the city by 9.7 percent to $280,000. Closed sales were especially strong in Eldorado, which saw 44 homes sell in the fourth quarter, a 37 percent climb from 2011. The median price in Eldorado increased 13.8 percent to $338,425.

The shortage of homes and the paucity of new construction is probably contributing to more land sales, as well, with 54 vacant lot sales in the fourth quarter, up 50 percent from the 36 lots that sold a year earlier, according to the data.

Alan Ball, a broker with Keller Williams Santa Fe, said the inventory shortage will stop prices from falling further. It doesn’t mean 2013 will necessarily bring the price appreciation to Santa Fe that areas as California and the East Coast are seeing.

“With all of those sellers leaving the market, it keeps things somewhat balanced,” Ball said. “Buyers have waited and waited and waited, and have finally stepped in. Prices are done going down, and it’s not likely to get worse. Does that mean prices are going up? It’s impossible to say that with any basis in fact.”

“It’s great there were so many more sales last year,” Brandt added, “but looking forward, we need some more people to list their houses.”

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