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Real estate markets still lag

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By Harold Morgan

Aztec has New Mexico’s most affordable four-bedroom, two-bath homes. In real estate lingo, “most affordable” means “cheapest.”
Four-bedroom, two-bath homes cost an average of $178,850 in Aztec. Nationally there are 527 real estate markets with cheaper, er, more affordable homes.
The nation’s lowest priced four-bedroom, two-bath homes are in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where the price is $60,820. All these homes are single-family detached homes, as opposed to condominiums or townhouses. As shorthand, I’ll call them FB/2B homes.
Corrales, the pure of soul suburb surrounded by Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, claims New Mexico’s most expensive FB/2B homes with an average of $649,861. Though only 101 markets nationally offer more expensive homes than Corrales, central New Mexico’s bucolic ‘burb isn’t close to competing for national top-dollar honors. Newport Beach, Calif., claims the title with FB/2B homes averaging $2.54 million.
All this good stuff comes from the national arm of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. Coldwell calls it the Home Listing Report. See http://hlr.coldwellbanker.com/PressRelease.html.
Markets included in the survey had at least 10 FB/2B properties. The homes were listed between September 2010 and March 2011. Find the New Mexico listings at: http://hlr.coldwellbanker.com/us2011/NewMexico.html.
The report covers 2,319 markets, about a 10-fold expansion from previous years, Coldwell said. The 17 New Mexico markets include eight in metro Albuquerque. Besides Aztec, the others, in increasing order of home price, are Roswell, Las Cruces, Gallup, Alamogordo, Clovis, Farmington, Ruidoso and Santa Fe.  See www.capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for all the prices and rankings.
The prices in the Coldwell report bear no necessary relation to prices in the entire local market. Homes sold during April through the San Juan County Board of Realtors, for example, had a median price of $163,500, according to the Realtors Association of New Mexico (www.nmrealtor.com).
Median means half the homes sold for more than $163,500 and half sold for less. That median price was down 11 percent since April 2009. April sales through the Ruidoso-Lincoln County Board of Realtors had a $204,500 median. Ruidoso’s median price is up 15 percent from April 2009.
Real estate markets everywhere are dealing with the results from President Obama’s first-time home buyer tax credit that ended April 30, 2010. Such programs may well increase sales in one time period, but only through borrowing sales from a later period.
Home sales got the spring 2010 artificial stimulus, only to decline this spring. The administration’s “cash for clunkers” program worked the same way. Auto sales increased, then dropped. The net effect was pretty much zero, with much time wasted on hoopla.
For metro Albuquerque, it’s way, way premature to suggest anything positive is happening. Even so, a few glimmers appeared in the May sales report from the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors.
The numbers of sales have climbed during 2011. Part of the increase is seasonal. People look for homes during warm months. Albuquerque sales are down from 2010’s false improvement.
A more important Albuquerque comparison is with 2009. For pending and closed sales, all five months of 2011 show nice increases from 2009.
This happiness doesn’t mean health. The real estate equation is: more people equal more jobs equal more home sales.
New Mexico’s private sector added 600 jobs between April 2010 and April 2011. The 600 figure is small enough to be a rounding error. Overall, the state lost 2,600 jobs, thanks to a 3,200-job drop in government employment.
Year over year, Albuquerque lost 6,300 jobs and Las Cruces, 1,100. Santa Fe added 900 jobs with 100 more in Farmington.
Our state economy may be better in the sense of being less bad. But our state economy and the local real estate markets remain far from real improvement.

Harold Morgan
© New Mexico News Services 2011