Metro Phoenix home prices should hold steady this month but dip in December, according to the latest index from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.
The region’s median home price is projected to be $120,000 for November and then slip to $117,000 next month based on the home sales under contract tracked by the ARMLS Pending Price Index. If the median price falls below $119,000 next month, it will be a new 10-year low for the Valley and signal a double dip in prices.
The index is forecasting that Phoenix’s median will climb back to $120,000 in January but then drop to $105,000 in February. But the index is less accurate for months farther out. Many home sales that will close in February haven’t yet been negotiated.
Foreclosure resales and short sales are pulling down metro Phoenix’s housing values. In October, almost 65 percent of all the home sales in the area were foreclosures and short sales. But that number is down from September, when those distressed home sales made up a record 74 percent of all closings.
Growth think tank
Urban Land Arizona has a new executive director. Deb Sydenham has taken over for George Bosworth, a real-estate veteran who had led the group since 1996.
Sydenham was previously deputy director of P3 Initiatives at Arizona Department of Transportation. In that position, she was involved in building the state’s program to use public-private partnerships to work on Arizona’s transportation needs. Before that, she led community development and planning for the Arizona Department of Commerce.
Urban Land Arizona recently received a $25,000 grant to help support its Livable Phoenix project, which is working on promoting communities along the Metro light-rail system. Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute awarded the grant to ULI Arizona.
Nominations for the group’s Arizona Smart Growth Award and Smart Growth Legacy Award are being taken at arizona.uli.org/Awards.aspx until Dec. 13.
by Catherine Reagor The Arizona Republic Nov. 17, 2010 12:00 AM
When the new City Council is seated in January, the future of Scottsdale’s skyline will be in its hands.
Council members Wayne Ecton and Marg Nelssen will depart, and newly elected Linda Milhaven and Dennis Robbins will begin their terms.
The council will face a growing number of rezoning proposals that call for greater building heights within the downtown area, spurred by the downtown infill-incentive district and plan. The district allows buildings of up to 150 feet north of the Arizona Canal and surrounding the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center.
Gray Development Group is seeking approval for a two-building, luxury apartment complex near Camelback and Scottsdale roads, with at least one building close to 150 feet tall. That would match the AmTrust Bank building at 69th Street and Camelback Road.
The Blue Sky proposal has since been scaled back to a maximum height of 133 feet. The council has yet to consider the plan because of legal protests filed by surrounding property owners.
Other projects calling for greater heights in the downtown area have been filed with the city.
One calls for increasing the maximum height from 36 to 90 feet at Scottsdale Road and Angus Drive. Another proposes raising the maximum height from 36 to 65 feet on Scottsdale Road just south of the Arizona Canal.
Meanwhile, the owner of the Scottsdale Waterfront wants the final phases to include a building nearly 150 feet in height. The Waterfront is located in its own infill-incentive district.
“It’s all up to the council,” said Dan Symer, senior city planner, referring to those requests prompted by the downtown infill-incentive district.
“They can ask for additional heights and densities, and intensities,” he said of developers. “The community wanted a case-by-case analysis done. And if at the end of the day the council doesn’t agree that it’s a good application, it will deny it. Or if they think it is a good application, they will approve it. It all comes down to the (applicant) convincing the council.”
Defining council’s vision
Councilman Ron McCullagh would like the council to determine its vision for the city before considering proposals that would alter the skyline.
“The things that are being proposed right now pursuant to the infill-incentive district really aren’t relative, they’re extreme in their scale relative to the things around them,” he said. “And when you have that kind of a difference between what is proposed and what was ever contemplated, then you have really a difference in vision, not just a difference in policy and not just an issue of design or height.”
Councilman Bob Littlefield not only is against greater heights in the downtown area, but would like the council to eliminate the infill-incentive district and plan.
“I’m opposed to greater heights and density . . . because it’s inconsistent with what voters said they want downtown Scottsdale to look like,” he said. “It’s not downtown Tempe or downtown Phoenix, and to allow (greater heights and density) will simply make it look like those other towns.”
Nelssen has made it clear that she is opposed to greater heights and density in the downtown area. She also thinks Blue Sky is too high and dense, and that the project is not scaled correctly for the size of the parcel and the area.
Ecton hasn’t taken an official stand on building heights.
“We have to take into consideration both sides of the issue,” he said.
Chamber: Downtown evolving
A 2008 voters attitude study commissioned by the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce showed 46 percent of respondents agreed that “to provide open space, parks and a people-friendly environment downtown, it is appropriate for the city to allow greater heights in return for a smaller building footprint so those amenities can be provided.” Thirty percent of respondents disagreed with the assertion.
According to chamber President and CEO Rick Kidder, there is “very strong” community support for greater building heights in the periphery surrounding downtown’s neighborhoods.
“We would be loathed to see height in the unique districts of downtown that make downtown so special,” he said. “But we also recognize that the periphery is emerging as an urban area . . . and is attracting young professionals and bringing in new talent. We need to provide housing options for that talent.”
Milhaven and Robbins would favor greater heights under the right circumstances and in the right locations.
“If you look at the downtown plan, it talks about having more people living downtown and I completely agree,” Milhaven said. “And all those areas they’re talking about are either on empty lots or on the edge. The historic part of downtown, I don’t see (where) there would be any changes there.”
Robbins said many people want to make sure Scottsdale maintains its character and doesn’t end up looking like Tempe or Phoenix.
“But I also think there are some places where height would work,” he said. “You certainly want to have increased activity and vibrancy throughout our downtown, and yet you don’t want to have a negative impact on those already here. So you have to be careful in how you allow certain things to happen.”
by Edward Gately The Arizona Republic Nov. 16, 2010 09:13 AM
Low home-resale volume in October may be further evidence that faith in homeownership has declined in the Phoenix area, according to one Arizona State University analyst.
Sales of existing detached single-family homes usually taper off when the mercury falls each year, said ASU associate professor of real estate Jay Butler, but a significant decline in activity from the previous October supports the theory that many would-be homebuyers have lost confidence, though perhaps temporarily, in the benefits of owning a house.
The decline is at least partly the result of misgivings about homeownership, mortgages, lenders and the way foreclosures are carried out, he said.
“We keep getting hit with things like procedural errors in foreclosure . . . basically just enhancing people’s disbelief in the system,” said Butler, of ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
Maricopa County home-resale activity in October declined by about 24 percent compared with a year earlier, according to Butler’s most recent monthly housing report, issued Monday.
There were 4,695 existing-home sales recorded in October, the report said, down from 6,140 sales in October 2009. Resale volume also decreased slightly from September, in which 4,895 sales were recorded in the county.
The median sale price in October for existing homes remained steady from the previous month at $135,000, according to the report. It was down just slightly from the median price of $140,000 in October 2009.
Given the negative reports about some lenders’ rapid foreclosure-processing methods, a national moratorium on foreclosure resales by Bank of America, and a pessimistic outlook on employment, Butler said he expects the median home price to drop even further than he had anticipated previously.
“Hopefully better,” he said about the housing market’s near future, “but I’m not convinced.”
Foreclosure activity in October was down from the previous month, Butler’s report said. There were about 3,400 foreclosures recorded in October, compared with 4,100 in September and 3,800 in October 2009.
Butler said the decrease could be due to fewer high-end-home foreclosures, but he concluded that lenders simply were delaying some of them because of the weak demand for such homes.
Foreclosures continued to account for about two-thirds of all housing-market transactions, Butler said, split about equally between new foreclosures and the resale of recently foreclosed-on homes.
by J. Craig Anderson The Arizona Republic Nov. 15, 2010 04:42 PM