The best news Santa Fe Realtors have about 2009 is that it’s over.
The fourth-quarter median price for single-family homes sold in the city and county declined 9 percent to $335,000. But buoyed by a federal tax credit, the number of sales increased from a year ago by 16 percent to 274 in October, November and December. Still, the sales were less than half what they were in 2005, the decade peak.
In addition, the number of housing starts in the city of Santa Fe hit a 40-year low with 180 permits in 2009. Reed Liming, a planner with the city, said one has to go back to 1969 before finding new home construction starts at that level.
The number of agents who renewed their membership in the Santa Fe Association of Realtors declined 15 percent to 795 as of this month, said Lois Sury, the new association president, and the group has trimmed its budget to adjust. The nation has gone through an historic economic downturn — “one I’d rather read about in history books than live through again,” she said.
At the quarterly breakfast meeting Wednesday where the statistics were released, Sury said the housing market in Santa Fe has adjusted. The final sales price of a home was at 93 percent of the listing at the end of 2009, up from 80 percent a year ago — and that shows sellers have adjusted their expectations, she said.
“Affordability continues to improve, with more sales at the lower end of the market affecting the overall median price of homes,” Sury said.
Jane Trusty, an appraiser at the breakfast, called the first half of 2009 difficult, and with sluggish sales it was often hard to find comparable homes for valuation.
“We’re breathing quite a sigh of relief,” Trusty said. “What we found in the last two quarters is that things have stabilized quite a bit.”
The first half of 2009 saw stability in median sales prices — but agents say many homes were not being sold because sellers were not prepared for lower offers.
That was not the case in the third quarter, in which the median price of houses sold declined 20 percent. The just-ended quarter saw the median sales price in the unincorporated area drop 18 percent to $350,000 for single-family homes. Prices of sold homes in the city of Santa Fe fell 6 percent to $329,500. The median price in the city reached $470,000 at the end of 2005.
“Prices have reset,” Sury said.
Many sales under $500,000 are a result of the federal tax credit that was passed as part of the economic stimulus plan. The credit is now open to existing homeowners — but buyers must be under contract by April 30 to receive the money, up to $8,000 for new buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.
And it’s not just for move-up buyers. Sury is seeing longtime homeowners who want to downsize take advantage of the program to purchase something smaller, she said.
“It’s your tax money,” she said. “You might as well use it.”
Gary Miller, a mortgage specialist with Century Bank, said there is an upward trend in mortgage interest rates from Wednesday’s average of 5.2 percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan. That means the first quarter of 2010 brings a convergence of low prices, low borrowing costs and the tax credit. He tells potential buyers that it won’t last.
“It’s important to take action now,” he said.
For more information on the tax credit, go to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.co
FOURTH-QUARTER RESIDENTIAL SALES
Bruce Krasnow – The New Mexican