Housing woes not affecting Clovis

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Home prices in Clovis rose 9.3 percent in 2008.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Local and state marketers are optimistic the housing crisis gripping the nation is not likely to affect New Mexico, and could possibly miss Clovis.

According to numbers released Tuesday from the Realtors Association of New Mexico, the average single-family home price in the state rose to $194,114.09 for the first quarter of 2008. That’s up 2 percent from the 2007 price of $190,247.88.

Compare that to the S&P’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which tracked an average 13 percent fall in home prices in 20 cities across the country.

Home prices in Clovis rose 9.3 percent, from $119,568 in the first quarter of 2007 to $130,746 for 2008.

“Our market is very strong compared to the national trend,” said Wes Graham, a Realtor and owner of ReMax in Clovis. “Our dollar volume has increased even though the units are flat.”

Pat Pipkin, president of the state Realtors group, said New Mexico is seldom on the cutting edge of housing trends, so anything that happens nationwide happens much later in New Mexico, and with fewer extremes.

“All real estate is local,” said Pipkin, a Santa Fe Realtor. “Even though it’s important to know those national figures, you need to keep them in perspective.”

Clovis’ perspective has what Graham considers an insignificant drop in first-quarter sales — 127 in 2007, 123 in 2008 — and few local buyers who took out risky subprime loans.

“We have very little subprime lending, so our market is very strong right now,” said Graham, who also noted a low foreclosure rate and a lack of buyers purchasing purely for profit.

The drop in personnel from the mission transition at Cannon Air Force Base has had a minimal impact for two reasons, Graham said, growth in Clovis not related to the military helped fill some vacant houses, and a halt in construction when Cannon was placed on a base closure list in 2005 kept new homes from entering the market.

Graham guessed the housing crunch will affect New Mexico, but he thinks most of the brunt will be felt by the state’s metro areas and resort communities.

The statistics back him. Overall unit sales in 18 surveyed New Mexico cities and counties show a drop of 1,206 unit sales (from 4,361 to 3,155), and Albuquerque and Las Cruces account for roughly 1,000 of that drop.

Pipkin said whatever housing conditions may exist, a person who owns a home for the average time period of a decade usually makes a healthy profit.

“It’s turning more into a buyer’s market,” Pipkin said. “The good news for buyers is they’re going to have some choices.”