Housing market ‘still in recovery mode’

Home sales in Santa Fe city and county dropped about 27 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, leading JoAnne Vigil Coppler, president of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, to remark that real-estate sales in Santa Fe “are still in a recovery mode. Who knows? We may be here awhile. … We’re not going back to the 2005-2006 sales level any time soon.”

Coppler spoke at a recent quarterly meeting of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, an event attended by real-estate sales people, a banker, a city planning official, local media and others.

Coppler also noted that single-family home sales slowed in the fourth quarter of 2010 more so than in the last quarter of 2009. But, she said, “Condominium and townhome sales showed a modest increase, perhaps the first signs of the return of the second-home market.”

The data indicate sales of condos and townhomes came to 76 in the fourth quarter of 2010, compared with 60 in the final quarter of 2009.

Sales of single-family homes in the city in the final quarter of 2010 came in at 114, compared with 143 for the same period in 2009. That’s a decline of about 25 percent.

In the county, 113 homes were sold in the last quarter of 2010, compared to 131 for the same period in 2009. That’s a decline of about 16 percent.

As it has been in recent quarters, the median sales price for a city home was weak in the last three months of 2010 compared with the same period in 2009. The price was down from $329,500 to $297,000 — an 11 percent decrease.

But in Santa Fe County, the median sales price in the fourth quarter of 2010 was $420,000, compared with $350,000 for the fourth quarter last year. That’s a 20 percent increase.

Would-be buyers are spending more time looking at houses and agents are reporting more listings — both signs of renewed buyer interest in Santa Fe, Coppler said.

Patrick Thomas, an agent with Rancho Viejo Realty, said the sluggish market is also because out-of-state buyers, who make up 60 percent of the buyers at Rancho Viejo, aren’t moving to Santa Fe as frequently as they used to.

“They’re waiting to sell their homes,” Thomas said.

Looking ahead, Santa Fe real-estate blogger Alan Ball adds, “Almost none of the predictions calls for a banner year in 2011.”

“We look realistically at a flat year for sales, possibly ranging upward to increases of 5 percent above this year. A 5 percent increase would be an accelerating recovery… and that against very strong headwinds.”

Also speaking at the meeting was Leroy Baca of Century Bank, who pointed out that rates on mortgages were less than 5 percent for a 30-year loan. That compares with an average rate of 8.7 percent over the last 30 years.

Baca said the problem with getting a loan these days, both for the bank and the borrower, is that “we have to document everything.”

Reed Liming of the city’s Long-Range Planning Division said new home construction in the city was at 184 in 2010, compared with 180 in 2009, which represented a 40-year low.

In the unincorporated area, the number of new homes built dropped from 130 in 2009 to 70 last year, Liming said.

Contact Bob Quick at bobquick@sfnewmexican.com.

QUARTERLY HOME SALES IN SANTA FE CITY AND COUNTY

2008 2009 2010

1st 241 177 205

2nd 240 214 227

3rd 305 275 232

4th 237 274 227

Total: 1023 940 891

Source: Bob Quick : The New Mexican

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