Home sales in Rim Country declined by one-third from last year's figures during the first five months of 2008, according to information compiled by the Central Arizona Board of Realtors.
Rim Country home prices and sales did register a seasonal jump in May, as consumers took advantage of a buyer's market. However, sales still remain far behind the same time last year.
From April to May, the number of homes sold in Central Arizona jumped 49 percent, according to the latest report from the Central Arizona Board of Realtors (CABR). In Payson, home sales rose 73 percent from April to May.
However, that month-to-month jump in sales partly reflects the season, since sales typically rise with the temperature, said real estate broker Cliff Potts. The 52 houses sold in May for an average price or $342,000 compares to the 79 homes sold last May, for an average price of $315,000.
Sales can vary dramatically from month to month without reflecting a systematic upturn in the market, given the small numbers of homes sold even in a good month, Potts noted.
The overall figures for the first five months of this year are more bleak when compared to 2005, which hit an all-time Rim Country high for home sales. Since the peak of the market in 2005, 2005, sales have declined by 65 percent.
"The market needed a correction, because it was insane in 2005," said CABR President Jesse Wallace.
Like the stock market, the real estate market is undergoing a period of adjustment, said Ray Pugel, broker for Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty. "The market overheated in 2005."
The Payson housing market is doing slightly better than the rest of central Arizona, with a 30 percent decrease in the number of homes sold in May 2008 compared to 2007. Central Arizona includes an area from Clear Creek/Happy Jack to the north, to Tonto Basin at the south point, Strawberry to the west and Christopher Creek to the east.
"Payson is a desirable place to live and we have always benefited from people who want to locate here," Potts said.
Current figures show homes are listed at prices 17 percent lower then they were in 2007. However, the average sales price in May was up 17 percent from April and the median sales price increased 27 percent.
Right now homes are selling at a discount compared with 2005, Pugel said.
Realtors agree that today offers a buyers' market.
"There has never been a better time to buy," Wallace said. There is a great selection of homes to choose from and interest rates are low.
"This is an unprecedented good time to buy, there are absolutely great bargains to garner out there," Potts said.
Homes, condos and lots all spent an average of 186 days on the market during the first six months of the year.
Curiously, upper end homes are selling faster than lower end homes because wealthy buyers have more discretionary money, Wallace said. Several large homes were sold in May.
Condos have been remaining on the market an average of about 17 days less than single family homes.
Pugel said he noticed the demand for condos has increased slightly in recent months.
He said perhaps the lower maintenance demands of condos attract seniors.