What Halley’s Comet May Portend for Phoenix Real Estate

avatarthumbnail.jpgFor those of us of a certain age, it’s not difficult to remember the excitement surrounding the 1986 return of Halley’s Comet.

Every 76 years the comet makes its return, all the astronomy books told us, and those interested in such matters looked forward with great anticipation to the chance to view this marvel of our solar system, a rare bright comet destined to enchant those who gave upward.

Yeah, well, it didn’t exactly turn out that way. “Dud” would be an accurate if unkind description (assuming one can be unkind about a hunk of rock and ice), “disappointing” would be a little more gentle.

lspn_comet_halley1.jpg This little comet that couldn’t, or at least didn’t, came to mind as I was paying my bill for lunch today and was asked – what else – how business was going and how the market was doing.

Still feeling the flow of my fifth closing in seven weeks, it was easy to say business was good. And though one man’s “good” market is another man’s “terrible” market, the five-month surge in sales and drop in inventory has provided sufficient balance to most of the market that I cautiously said the market was doing okay.

“But all those foreclosures are coming,” I was told.

“We’ve been hearing that for five months and we haven’t seen them,” I replied. Or maybe we have seen that wave except it’s not a wave … it’s a ripple barely perceptible as lenders slowly move foreclosed properties onto the market so as not to drown the Phoenix real estate market in inventory.

You see, just as the agents believed comets and eclipses and music by T’Pau signaled the end of the known world, many see the “wave of foreclosures” as coming doom. (And for the record, I could be alone on T’Pau but I hope I’m not alone.)  There already is a certain level of mythology attached to these foreclosed homes.

Such as, the idea that there are thousands upon thousands of vacant homes that aren’t being put on the market. Are there some? Sure. Does anyone have a good handle on the figure? Not really. But I’m still seeing homes put back on the market following foreclosure in a month or less – not one-off situations, but an everyday happening.

I have little faith in Maricopa County record keeping … there’s one home in El Mirage that was scheduled for foreclosure last fall. The MLS records we receive through iMapp still list the date of the trustee’s sale. Yet the owners still are listed as owners of record. If I really was curious I suppose I could figure out what’s happening, but I’m content to chalk it up to human error on one side of the fence or the other.

The primary method I’ve seen of counting so-called “shadow” inventory is a running tally of homes that receive notices of trustee’s sale minus those that come on the market or are sold at a trustee’s sale. Which is well and good except there are multiple opportunities for the count to get corrupted to a larger or lesser degree.

Maybe there is a wave lurking around the corner. Maybe sales are being fueled by the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers, even though the anecdotal evidence shows many homes are being purchased by investors and/or foreign nationals. Maybe Halley’s Comet will come back in 2061 and put on the show we expected 23 years ago. It’s hard to say all the way around.

If nothing else, our celestial pal at least should provide some note of caution to elevating expectations to the level of facts prematurely.

[tags]Phoenix real estate[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.


  • John Wake 8 years ago

    Congrats on the Carnival win!

    About your post, although there may be a wave of Option-ARM foreclosures coming, I think it will be less than expected. If you were only making the minimum payment on your option-ARM, you triggered an early reset long ago. You’ve already been foreclosed on.

    Some ot the stronger option-ARM borrowers, those who have been making higher than minimum payments, may be about to handle the reset, especially because the Fed is trying to keep interest rates low to benefit those who are resetting.

    It’s weird that your cash register guy knows about this inside baseball about real estate at all!

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