Area housing trend reversed

MCT graphic

Staff and wire reports

Clovis and Portales and the surrounding areas are seeing a somewhat different trend than the nation in the housing market.

The number of houses sold is down for the first three months of this year compared to 2007 — but the average price is up, according to Skip Overdier, managing broker for Coldwell Banker Colonial Real Estate.

From Jan. 1-March 25, 2007, 132 houses in the area sold for an average price of $118,731, he said. For the same period this year, 101 houses sold at an average price of $131,307, as compiled by the Clovis Multiple Listing Service.

Overdier said it seems upper-end houses are selling well, skewing the market higher, while lower-end houses aren’t selling.

Currently, 395 houses are on the market in the region, “a bit less than normal,” Overdier said. When the economy is doing well, as many as 450 houses have been up for sale.

He said there are fewer buyers and houses are staying on the market longer, but not inordinately.

Larry Rothwell, who is developing the Stonehaven Subdivision in north Clovis, said the national market hasn’t influenced sales in the subdivision.

“It’s not having any effect,” he said. Three lots have sold in the last week, and only eight of 89 lots remain for sale, Rothwell said.

The city of Clovis issued 122 building permits for new residences in 2007.

However, Clovis is not immune to foreclosures. Notices of foreclosure or foreclosure sales appear almost daily in the legal section of the Clovis News Journal classifieds.

Nationally, home prices plunged by record levels in January from a year ago, with almost no major cities immune from the spiraling market. Analysts worried that even the usually reliable spring selling season would fall flat.

The closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 cities fell nearly 11 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest drop in its two-decade history.

Prices were down about 20 percent in Las Vegas and Miami, both paying the price for especially rampant speculation and too much new construction during the housing boom. Fourteen other cities posted record declines in the Tuesday report.

The only bright spot was a 1.8 percent increase in Charlotte, N.C., where real estate agents say prices rose more modestly during the boom years and the regional economy is relatively strong.

Everywhere else, mounting foreclosures, falling consumer confidence and sellers slashing their asking prices are taking an increasing toll on the market.

Rising foreclosures have become the biggest factor driving prices lower, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi said.

There were already too many homes on the market, and foreclosures bring even more property — priced at a deep discount — into the mix. Zandi said while prices are still falling steeply, demand seems to have stabilized.

“The psychology of the market has completely shifted,” Zandi said. “Sellers do realize that homes are worth fundamentally less than they thought.”

Meanwhile, consumer confidence is spiraling down as buyers worry about tighter credit and the weaker job market. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that confidence sank to a five-year low in March.

On Wednesday, economists will watch a Commerce Department report on February new-home sales for any improvement in volume. Those figures are more forward-looking than existing-home sales.

Economists are already worried that the usually busy spring season could be in jeopardy.

“I wouldn’t be looking for a pattern of improvement until April, May or June,” said Brian Bethune, chief U.S. economist at Global Insight.

The vast majority of homes in the U.S. are not in danger of foreclosure. But the housing slump has raised concerns about a recession and has had ripple effects across the economy.

A separate survey Tuesday from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said home prices fell 3 percent in January from the same month last year. That index is calculated using mortgages of $417,000 or less that are bought or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.