Clovis homes retain value in midst of struggling market

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Homes have retained their value in Clovis and new home construction continues despite dropping values around the nation, according to local lenders and officials.

Sharna Johnson

While the rest of the nation continues to struggle with home values at record lows, homes in Clovis appear to be retaining their value.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced the average homeowner now has 38 percent equity, down from 61 percent a decade ago. Also, the percentage of homes that Americans own is near its lowest point since World War II.

Curry County Tax Assessor Tim Lyman said Clovis’ home values haven’t dropped, despite recession and housing market collapse around the country.

“We’re in a bubble,” he said. “You can go to Lubbock, Texas, and buy as nice if not nicer a house for less money than you can in Clovis and it’s true almost everywhere. People just keep paying the price I guess.”

Lyman said his office has just finished valuations on properties in the county and its towns and villages.

Home and land prices have continued to climb alongside the costs associated with developing land, such as engineering, infrastructure and construction.

“Coupled with the growth and the shortage (of housing),” Lyman said property values in Clovis will stay high.

“The only way you’ll get the prices to stabilize here is to stop buying homes.”

As for rural development, where the cost of land has increased and the cost of a septic tank and well have to be factored in, Lyman said “It’s just become economically unfeasible to buy a lot out in the county.”

Normally, home equity rises as a mortgage is paid off. But home values have fallen dramatically since the bubble in prices burst in 2006. So many homeowners are losing equity even though the outstanding balance on the loan is getting smaller.

In 2010, the average new home in Clovis was valued at $213,000, a number that hasn’t changed much in three years, according to city-data.com.

In 2001, a new home in Clovis averaged $109,000.

“It’s all economics and those builders are in the business to make money,” Lyman said.

“It’s a sad situation that we’ve gotten into, but I don’t know how to fix it. You can’t expect a builder to slash his income — he’ll just go somewhere else.”

New homeowner filings seem to have slowed down some in recent months and Lyman said his office is not fielding as many calls from Realtors and home buyers as they have in the past, but he said it’s hard to gauge if that means the market has slowed.

The latest bleak snapshot of the national housing market came as mortgage rates hit a new a low for the year, falling below 4.5 percent for a 30-year fixed loan. Not even attractive rates have given any lift to the depressed housing industry.

The Fed report is based on data from the first quarter of this year. Another report last week found that home prices in large cities fell to 2002 levels.

Serving Clovis and Portales markets, Prime Source Mortgage owner Rebecca Reid-Carlyle said business has been steady.

With time, customers, lenders and mortgage professionals have worked out the kinks in the tighter lending that surfaced after the mortgage crisis, and everybody seems to be on the same page.

She said there are good deals out there for home buyers because the interest rates are low.

“Our market seems to be in a bubble. With our military base expanding we have a purchase-driven market. Our equities are not declining (while) most other areas in the country are in a declining situation, but we’re lucky,” she said.

Clovis Building Safety Director Pete Wilt said new home construction had slowed, which is typical in the winter months, but is picking back up.

For the first five months of the year, 46 new home permits were filed with the city.

“The new houses are steady; were not overbuilding by any means,” he said.

Commercial construction is still “very slow,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.