By Philip Haldiman, Editor-in-Chief | Dealmaker
What a difference three months can make.
Real estate consultant Jim Belfiore led off with that statement at this year’s first Market Update Presentation and Roundtable Discussion at the Biltmore Ritz-Carlton Thursday morning.
Some of the Valley’s top real estate professionals converged on the central Phoenix hotel to catch up on the Valley’s housing market during the first quarter of the year.
Befliore said it has improved in many ways in the last three months, particularly that the Metro Phoenix Area new home sales were 25 percent higher than one year ago.
“The mood is different in here than it was a few months ago,” Belfiore said. “Things are moving in the right direction, but we should proceed cautiously.”
The new home sales rate is up from 1.5 in January to 2.1 in March, according to a new report released by Belfiore Real Estate Consulting.
Belfiore said the rate could hit 3 sales per month by the end of the year. He said these numbers could go up if they are any reflection of the traffic that has been occurring in some sales offices.
In the west Valley, homebuilders achieved a high in potential traffic levels not experienced since early 2007 with 18 potential buyer parties weekly. In January, east Valley traffic was higher than in any January since 2007, while interest in the central & south waned from a year ago.
“We now have the highest number of potential buyers since January 2007, and it’s translating into sales,” Belfiore said.
But subdivision home sales are climbing slower, according to the report.
There are about 500 subdivisions now, compared to a low of 308 in November 2012.
However, communities have averaged only 2.6 sales in the last month, up from 2.0 a year ago, the report said.
So far this year 40 subdivisions have opened, 18 percent more than a year ago. Belfiore said demand has increased for new homes but is spread among more subdivisions, diluting the sales per subdivision rate.
He said too many builders are offering the same size homes in the same areas, but sales improve when unique communities in unique locations open.
“I highly recommend builders to take a look at where they are building,” Belfiore said. “And take a hard look at who your competitors are.”
He said the next four months will be an indicator of how much health returns to the market this year. One sign of health has been the roughly 61,400 jobs created from February to February, he said.
“This is significant. It’s fueling the improved market,” Belfiore said. “If this kind of growth continues it could transform the market.”
One of the highest selling submarkets in the first quarter was Williams Gateway North in Mesa, with two communities opening in March, each reporting more than 30 sales.
Mulberry by Blandford Homes opened March 7, with 44 sales after a number of people camped out to be the first in line for a new house.
But builder Jeff Blandford took the success with a healthy bit of skepticism.
“The sales in March we worked hard for. It was a great month,” Blandford said. “But remember January was not a good month, so we need to be careful.”