Santa Fe Home, Condo Sales Improve

By Journal Staff on Thu, Oct 11, 2012By Mark Oswald

Are happy days here again for Santa Fe’s real estate market?

Maybe not like the times when home sales and prices were skyrocketing before the national housing crash, but the statistics are certainly looking better. According to the latest report by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, the number of house and condo sales in the Santa Fe area took a big jump in the most recent quarter.

House sales for July through September within the city limits and nearby county territory totalled 344 – up nearly 27 percent from the 270 sales for the same three months last year. And in town, the increase was higher – 199 sales this past quarter, or 31 percent more than the 152 houses sold in July-September 2011.

Area condo sales had the biggest bump. There were 106 condos sold for the quarter – a whopping 80 percent jump from the 59 sold for the period last year.

Year to date, home and condo sales combined are up 19.3 percent over the first nine months of 2011, to a total of 1,188.

“They’re wonderful,” Victoria Murphy, the Realtors association’s president-elect, said of the new numbers.

Murphy said the increases are probably a combination of low prices, at least compared to the days of the housing boom leading up to 2007, and a more positive outlook on the economy.

“I think it’s a combination of both that the prices have stabilized and the fact that interest rates have remained low, and we’re not hearing all the negativity on homes or anything else, which I think is good,” Murphy, of Santa Fe Properties, said.

Easier financing for condos has helped open up that market, she said. Lending regulations have been relaxed for units owned by developers, she said, and getting loans in general for condos has also become easier.

“It just shows what happens when that loosens up a bit,” she said.

The median housing price in the Santa Fe area is now about $300,000, when condos are factored in – a huge drop from pre-crash levels of more than $400,000 and about as low as homes have been in the City Different since 2005.

Consequently, Santa Fe’s “housing affordability index” – a measurement that compares the area’s median household income to what’s needed to purchase a house at the median price – is at a record high, the Realtors reported.

An index of 100 means median income matches what’s needed to buy a median-priced home. Anything less than 100 indicates prices are higher than most people can pay.

Santa Fe had never achieved an affordability index of 100 until the middle of 2009, well after the housing crash. But the index is now at 111, meaning the median income is 111 percent of what a buyer needs to qualify to buy a $300,000 home at prevailing interest rates.

The Realtors reported that the Santa Fe-area median single-family house price for the third quarter was $328,125, down just slightly from last year, and the median condo price was $265,000, up from $255,000 for the same quarter of 2011. The median is not an average – it’s the level at which there are an equal number of sales above and below.

Murphy said housing prices are doing better nationwide and in states hit hardest by the crash like Florida and Arizona. New Mexico and Santa Fe should follow the upward trend, she said.

“I would anticipate that our prices will start to go up slightly by next summer,” she said. But she said that with prices stabilizing, there likely won’t be a dramatic increase.

Inventory drops

The inventory of homes for sale in and around Santa Fe has dropped precipitously, by nearly 42 percent. At this time last year there were 2,589 units on the market and now there are just 1,507.

Murphy said the numbers in this category may start to increase as owners who took a hit when prices fell, and therefore stayed out of the market, see prices stabilizing, decide there won’t be any huge increases soon and put their homes up for sale.

New listings were down for the quarter, to 662 from 704 for the period last year. Pending sales also dropped a bit, from 359 for the third quarter last year to 347 this year.