The Cromford Report – Daily Observations December 2017

    December 29 – Supply, or rather the lack of it, is the big issue in the Greater Phoenix market below $1 million. It was already low 12 months ago, but in some areas it has dropped dramatically since then. Here is a table comparing the days of inventory under $1 million (excluding UCB and CCBS listings) in December 2017 with December 2016:

    City Days of Inventory Dec 2017 Days of Inventory Dec 2016 Notes on Change
    Apache Junction
    Arizona City
    very low supply but higher than last year
    Casa Grande
    Cave Creek
    extremely low supply
    very low supply
    El Mirage
    extremely low supply
    Fountain Hills
    one of the few areas where inventory has risen
    extremely low supply
    very low supply
    Gold Canyon
    huge collapse in supply since 2016
    very low supply
    Litchfield Park
    very low supply
    New River
    Paradise Valley
    Queen Creek
    Rio Verde
    Sun City
    very low supply
    Sun City West
    very low supply
    Sun Lakes
    very low supply
    low supply but higher than last year
    one of the few areas where inventory has risen
    extremely low supply

    I would say anything below 50 is unusually low and below 40 is extremely low. Chandler and Gilbert are struggling with a supply crisis. Tempe and Mesa are not far behind them. Transaction volumes are dropping due to a lack of homes to buy.

    For the Southeast Valley, we are no longer in territory where the market is guaranteed to be well-behaved. Unless we see a major increase in supply, prices may have to rise rapidly to get the imbalance between supply and demand back to within normal limits.

    For the Northwest Valley, things are approaching the extremes of the Southeast but are not there yet.

    For the Northeast and Southwest Valley, times are good for sellers under $1 million, but have not reached the unusual levels of supply shortage that we are seeing elsewhere.

    Phoenix has dropped from 64 to 57 days over the past year and may very well drop below 50 during 2018.

    For buyers who cannot stand the pressure, outer locations like Wickenburg, Rio Verde, Carefree, Eloy, New River, Fountain Hills and Wittmann offer the best chance of having your offer taken seriously.

    2018 is likely to be a very interesting year to watch the market. Supply cannot keep dropping without limit.

    December 28 – It does not normally get too exciting in the housing market around Christmas, but the latest table of Cromford® Market Index numbers shows us a market that is quickly changing to become even more extreme. Several cities have seen supply dropping unusually fast in December.

    14 out of 17 cities saw the balance move in favor of sellers and buyers are in real trouble in many areas. Yes we will see more listings arrive in January but not enough to compensate for the huge supply deficit that has built up, especially in the southeast and northwest areas.

    Glendale, Tempe and Chandler are the big movers over the past month with Chandler exceeding the 200 mark for the first time since 2013. Just behind these we have Gilbert, Mesa, Surprise, Avondale, Phoenix, Peoria and Cave Creek all advancing by 7% or more.

    Buckeye improved for sellers by 3% meaning we now have no large cities with a CMI below 120.

    The excitement is not confined to the large cities. We have El Mirage now over 300 and Anthem and Apache Junction over 200. At 123.8, Sun City is the lowest CMI among the secondary cities.

    There really is no place a regular buyer can go to find a balanced market anymore.

    December 27 – The latest S&P/Case-Shiller® Home Price Index® data was published yesterday and covers sales closed between August and October 2017.

    The month to month change for the 20 cities that Case-Shiller identifies separately was:

    1. San Francisco – up 1.16%
    2. Las Vegas – up 0.99%
    3. Tampa – up 0.59%
    4. Charlotte – up 0.48%
    5. New York – up 0.38%
    6. Dallas – up 0.36%
    7. Phoenix – up 0.28%
    8. Detroit – up 0.21%
    9. Los Angeles – up 0.21%
    10. Denver – up 0.10%
    11. Washington – up 0.06%
    12. San Diego – up 0.01%
    13. Miami – down 0.07%
    14. Minneapolis – down 0.07%
    15. Seattle – down 0.07%
    16. Atlanta – down 0.13%
    17. Cleveland – down 0.18%
    18. Boston – down 0.22%
    19. Portland – down 0.30%
    20. Chicago – down 0.55%

    We note that 7 of the 20 lost ground between September and October, but this is a common seasonal pattern. Last year, 7 cities also lost ground, but not the same ones as in 2017. Looking stronger than last year at this time are:

    • Los Angeles
    • San Francisco
    • Denver
    • Washington
    • Chicago
    • Detroit
    • Charlotte
    • Las Vegas
    • New York

    In 7th place, Phoenix was slightly ahead of the national gain of 0.16% for the month, but last year it managed a healthier 0.36%. Pricing was not very impressive for Phoenix between August and October, but November was exceptionally strong. We should see that strength start to show up in the Case-Shiller numbers published at the end of January.

    The year over year table looks like this:

    1. Seattle – up 12.7%
    2. Las Vegas – up 10.2%
    3. San Diego – up 8.1%
    4. San Francisco – up 7.7%
    5. Denver – up 7.2%
    6. Detroit – up 7.1%
    7. Dallas – up 7.1%
    8. Portland – up 7.1%
    9. Boston – up 6.9%
    10. Tampa – up 6.9%
    11. Los Angeles – up 6.5%
    12. Charlotte – up 6.4%
    13. Phoenix – up 6.0%
    14. New York – up 5.9%
    15. Minneapolis – up 5.4%
    16. Atlanta – up 5.0%
    17. Cleveland – up 4.7%
    18. Miami – up 4.4%
    19. Chicago – up 4.1%
    20. Washington – up 3.1%

    The national figure was 6.2% so Phoenix was very close to this national average for the year Oct 2016 – Oct 2017.

    December 26 – In the Cromford® Public section of the site we include a fascinating chart that allows us to look at all closed transactions and compare pricing between the different transaction types, such as

    • how new home price per sq ft compares with re-sales
    • how MLS transactions compare with non-MLS normal sales
    • how investor flip pricing compares with normal sales

    When we look at the whole Greater Phoenix market and the annual average $/SF in November we see that the hierarchy is much as you would expect:

    1. New homes $159.11
    2. Normal MLS sales $151.94
    3. Investor flips $133.68
    4. Normal non-MLS sales $129.00
    5. Short sales $121.76
    6. Bank sales $117.33
    7. Pre-foreclosures $114.23
    8. GSE REO sales $109.37
    9. Trustee sales $102.33
    10. HUD sales $97.46

    Agents will be delighted to see that sales through the MLS sell for a much higher average $/SF than sales outside the MLS. However this is primarily because we are looking at the the whole market and MLS sales tend to include far more high-end homes than the other categories. New homes also sell for a much higher price per sq. ft. at the extreme upper price points.

    If we restrict our chart to the mid-range from $250,000 to $500,000 we get a completely transformed picture:

    1. Investor flips $152.71
    2. Normal MLS sales $149.57
    3. Normal non-MLS sales $145.81
    4. New homes $145.35
    5. HUD sales $138.65 (very small sample)
    6. GSE REO sales $132.34
    7. Short sales $127.03
    8. Pre-foreclosures $126.79
    9. Bank sales $122.07
    10. Trustee sales $121.81

    Normal MLS sales still out-perform normal sales that did not go through the MLS, but the difference is less than 3%.

    What may be surprising to many is that the investor flips are selling for the highest price per sq. ft. and that this has been largely true since 2014 for this crucial mid-range segment. Those professional fix and flippers really seem to have got their act together. Remember that that they rarely enter the market over $1 million so are at a disadvantage if we look at the chart for the whole market.

    It may also be surprising to find that new homes sell for a lower average price per sq. ft. than normal re-sales and that this has been true since at least 2012. This can partly be explained by the fact that the majority of new homes are further out than re-sales and homes that are further from the center of the valley tend to sell for lower prices on average. The gap between new home $/SF and normal non-MLS homes has narrowed over the past 18 months within the $250,000 to $500,000 price range.

    December 22 – We are almost at the end of the year and year-to-date sales through ARMLS are up sharply for all price ranges over $200,000:

    Price Range Sales YTD % Change
    Under $200K 30,001 down 12%
    $200K – $250K 18,706 up 17%
    $250K – $300K 13,209 up 16%
    $300K – $500K 20,725 up 21%
    $500K – $800K 5,467 up 23%
    $800K – $1M 1,090 up 21%
    $1M – $2M 1,166 up 21%
    Over $2M 354 up 23%

    Under $200K the market is constrained by the short supply, but it still managed to be the most significant price range for unit sales.

    December 21 – The Cromford® Market Index table for the single-family markets in the 17 largest cities:

    There are only 5 of the 17 cities showing any deterioration and only one of these (Paradise Valley) made a significant move over the past month.

    The remaining 12 cities are improving for sellers, which means things are getting even tougher for buyers. Several cities made major moves, mainly caused by supply dropping still further below normal:

    1. Glendale
    2. Cave Creek
    3. Tempe
    4. Chandler
    5. Peoria
    6. Surprise

    The 3 largest Southeast Valley cities are still holding the top 3 spots but Surprise and Glendale are making an effort to catch up.

    December 20 – I have just been studying the deeds recorded for single-family homes in Paradise Valley over the past 3 months and there are some interesting changes going on.

    1. New home sales volume has risen dramatically – 11 closings versus 4 last year
    2. The average $/SF for these 11 new homes was more than 50% higher than the average $/SF for the 89 resales over the same period.
    3. The $/SF for new homes keeps rising while that for re-sales is slowly declining.
    4. 3 of the new homes had very small lot sizes for Paradise Valley – around 13,000 sq. ft.

    The premium for new homes in Paradise Valley over re-sale pricing is now the highest I have ever seen.

    December 19 – It would be great if the number of new listings was on an increasing trend to give some relief to exasperated buyers. However this is not what we are seeing. The third quarter is nearly over and we have had 1% fewer new listings added to ARMLS than in the same period in 2016.

    This is a change for the worse (for buyers). During the third quarter we saw 2% more listings than in 2016. During the second quarter there was a slight increase of just over 1% and in the first quarter an increase of only 0.6%. So for the first 9 months of 2017 it looked as though we were seeing a small trend in favor of additional listings. The fourth quarter has reversed that trend and it is making the supply shortage even more pronounced. All this is good news for sellers, but not those at the top of the market.

    The other unfortunate effect is that we are getting extremely few listings at the low-end of the market and too many at the top-end of the market. The luxury market is very susceptible to fashion changes and the switch in demand away from Tuscan style towards Contemporary styles has left many sellers with homes that are considered “in need of modernization” by luxury buyers even though they are not very old and in good working order. This means the very high-end new home market, which can deliver the latest fashion, is much more healthy than the high-end re-sale market. The gap in pricing per square foot between a new luxury home and a re-sale luxury home is as wide as we have ever seen. At the same time the gap in pricing between the low-end and the high-end re-sale home is closing, because low-end homes are appreciating quickly while high-end re-sale homes are either barely appreciating or even depreciating a little. This could be regarded as an ongoing correction because during the crash from 2006 through 2011 low-end home lost value much more dramatically than high-end homes creating the biggest differential we have ever seen. At the moment the bounce back for the low-end still has a long way to run.

    December 18 – Our friend Jim Belfiore specializes in new home data analysis, especially during the construction phase and first closing. If you ever need information on the new home market then Jim is a great source as he collects information that is simply not available elsewhere by visiting the individual sales offices for each developer’s subdivision. In January each year he publishes a document that summarizes the Greater Phoenix new home market and we assist by providing an annual summary of the re-sale market for comparison. This is for single-family homes purchased through a normal transaction (no short sales, REOs, etc.).

    The segmentation for this analysis uses Jim`s customized definition of 60 market areas. The top performing areas for annual appreciation between Dec 2016 and Dec 2017 were:

    1. Sky Harbor South (85040) 12.8%
    2. El Mirage (85335) 12.5%
    3. Southeast Glendale (85301) 11.6%
    4. Downtown Phoenix (85003, 85004, 85007) 10.6%
    5. Coolidge / Florence (85128, 85132, 85191) 10.5%
    6. North Surprise (85387) 10.3%
    7. Casa Grande (85122, 85193, 85194) 9.5%
    8. West Phoenix (85043) 9.4%
    9. Apache Junction (85119, 85120) 9.4%
    10. I-10 and I-17 (85009, 85015, 85017, 85019, 85031, 85033, 85035) 9.1%

    We note that Pinal County makes a very strong showing in this top ten list, given its small share of the overall market.

    The worst performing areas for appreciation were:

    1. North Scottsdale (85255, 85259, 85262, 85266) -0.1%
    2. New River (85087) 0.8%
    3. Fountain Hills (85268) 1.0%
    4. South Tempe (85284) 1.7%
    5. Gold Canyon (85118) 2.1%
    6. Paradise Valley (85253) 2.4%
    7. North Buckeye (85396) 2.5%
    8. Ahwatukee (85044, 85045, 85048) 2.5%
    9. Cave Creek / Carefree (85331, 85377) 3.0%
    10. NE Phoenix (85050, 85054) 3.1%

    This table is dominated by the Northeast Valley and the South Tempe and Ahwatukee area.

    The above numbers reflect the re-sale market, not the new home market since 90% of new home sales do not go through the ARMLS database.

    December 16 – It is easy to get complacent about the low inventory and assume that this is somehow the “new normal”. The long term decline in active listings just keeps going and we have now reached the point where days of inventory is the lowest we have seen for week 50 since 2004 (at the height of the bubble). The inventory figure for all areas & types including UCB and CCBS listings is just 82. Normal is between 120 and 150. If we extract the UCB and CCBS listings the number drops to 69. Even this low number understates the situation because it includes out of area listings and luxury homes, which remain in good supply.

    To try to get a handle on what life is like in the regular market, let us focus on homes priced at under $500,000 in Greater Phoenix. The inventory for this segment is 52 days. If we use $250,000 as the price limit we have just under 40 days of inventory. These are not normal readings and we start to wonder how low can these numbers go.

    We encourage you to use the Days of Inventory Tableau chart and the weekly Flash chart to examine how out-of-line the current situation is.

    December 15 – Once again we are looking at the Cromford® Market Index for the single-family markets in the 17 largest cities:

    We see 4 exceptions, but 13 of the cities are improving for sellers with a reduction in supply as the common cause.

    Although the 3 at the top are all in the Southeast Valley, the Northwest Valley has had a good month with Glendale, Surprise and Peoria all improving by 8% or more.

    The situation for buyers is more difficult than it was at this point last year. Only in the luxury market sector are there sufficient homes for sale to satisfy demand.

    December 14 – While prices continue to rise for the bulk of the market, things are rather different for luxury homes, especially re-sales (as opposed to new builds).

    At price levels over $2 million, the small number of sales makes measurement tricky, so we tend to focus on long term averages. The 12-month average sales price per square foot for homes over $2 million looks like this.

    During the period April 2016 to April 2017, pricing for the high-end seemed to making some progress after a slow slide that started in June 2015. However pricing has been weakening again since June 2017 and despite strong sales volumes the average for November 2017 was lower than the figure for August 2014.

    The picture looks particularly troubling for the “big 3” ZIP codes – 85253, 85255 and 85262 which tend to dominate sales over $2 million. The chart for them looks like this:

    Prices remained flat to slightly higher between August 2014 and April 2017 but the last 5 months look suspiciously like capitulation.

    December 13 – Here are the top 20 ZIP codes in Maricopa County for purchases by in-state buyers. In other words they attract the least interest from out-of-state buyers. To show that this is not necessarily a disadvantage many of these ZIP codes have seen higher than average appreciation over the last few years.

    The percentage number given in the table is the percentage of purchases by out-of-state buyers.

    1. Apache Junction 85120 – 4%
    2. Phoenix 85034 – 4%
    3. Phoenix 85009 – 5%
    4. Phoenix 85033 – 5%
    5. Phoenix 85019 – 5%
    6. Phoenix 85031 – 6%
    7. Gila Bend 85337 – 6%
    8. Phoenix 85017 – 6%
    9. Phoenix 85027 – 6%
    10. Youngtown 85363 – 6%
    11. Phoenix 85043 – 6%
    12. Mesa 85204 – 7%
    13. Phoenix 85051 – 7%
    14. Phoenix 85035 – 7%
    15. Mesa 85202 – 7%
    16. Glendale 85303 – 8%
    17. Phoenix 85006 – 8%
    18. Glendale 85306 – 8%
    19. Mesa 85213 – 8%
    20. Phoenix 85029 – 8%

    This table includes many of the fastest appreciating parts of the valley and most of them are at the more affordable end of the market. One exception is Mesa 85213 which is one the more expensive and desirable ZIP codes in Mesa, yet seems to be little known to people from out-of-state. Part of the Citrus Sub-Area, 85213 includes many million dollar homes on large lots, but is often overlooked by luxury buyers because it is not as well known as Scottsdale, Paradise Valley or Fountain Hills.

    December 12 – So far in 2017 16% of the recorded home sales in Maricopa County have been to out of state buyers and 84% to buyers with a mailing address inside Arizona.

    The top 20 ZIP codes for purchases by out of state buyers are as follows:

    1. Aguila 85320 – 50%
    2. Scottsdale 85262 – 48%
    3. Carefree 85377 – 45%
    4. Scottsdale 85266 – 38%
    5. Rio Verde 85263 – 37%
    6. Arlington 85322 – 36%
    7. Surprise 85374 – 35%
    8. Morristown 85342 – 33%
    9. Sun City West 85345 – 32%
    10. Scottsdale 85255 – 31%
    11. Surprise 85387 – 31%
    12. Buckeye 85396 – 31%
    13. Phoenix 85054 – 30%
    14. Wickenburg 85390 – 30%
    15. Fountain Hills 85268 – 29%
    16. Goodyear 85395 – 29%
    17. Fort McDowell – 29%
    18. Sun Lakes 85248 – 27%
    19. Mesa 85215 – 25%
    20. Scottsdale 85251 – 25%

    This list is dominated by locations that are on the outer edges of the conurbation. Several of the locations that are top of this list have seen weak pricing compared with the rest of the valley. One of the reasons for this is that migration into Arizona is weaker than it was during the 2000-2007 era. In 2004 we saw 30,564 purchases by out of state buyers. 2017 year to date is 16,443 with only December to go.

    The total sales count is lower and the percentage of sales going to out of state buyers has dropped from 20% to 16%.

    The flip side of this is that in-state demand has increased from 80% to 84%. Areas that appeal most to in-state buyers have seen stronger appreciation. We shall look at this list tomorrow.

    December 11 – After peaking on July 28 at 8.6% the appreciation rate for all areas & types went into a declining trend until November 9 when it bottomed out at 3.6%. It then changed course and over the last 5 weeks has risen sharply to reach between 7% and 7.5%. You can see this sudden change in the chart here. Such a rapid change in direction is quite unusual.

    The turn-around corresponded with a change in trend for cancellations too. These had been slowly rising during the summer and fall, but are now on a declining trend again, which can be seen here.

    December 8 – The preliminary numbers for Maricopa County recordings are in for November 2017.

    Total sales of single-family and condo units rose 5.7% over November 2016 to 8,720. Re-sales climbed 6.4% while new homes grew only 1.6%. This is is surprising as for the last couple of years growth in new home sales has been much stronger than re-sales. Both November 2016 and November 2017 had the same number of working days, so we do not have to make any adjustments.

    The overall median sales price was $255,000, up 6.3% from $240,000 a year ago. For new homes the median was $328,419, up 2.7% from $319,739. Re-sale median increased 8.0% to $243,000. This under-performance by new homes is easily explained since they do not really compete in the lowest end of the market. Much of the appreciation we see today is concentrated in the price ranges between $100,000 and $200,000. Only in very far-flung areas can you buy a new home in that price range. Hence new homes are not seeing as much appreciation as re-sales.

    December 7 – The Cromford® Market Index table for the single-family markets in the 17 largest cities continues to show an improving market for sellers (and a worsening one for buyers).

    Only 4 cities show a deteriorating situation for sellers, with Paradise Valley and Avondale in particular continuing their recent trend.

    The other 13 cities show at least some improvement, with top gainers being Surprise, Cave Creek, Glendale, Tempe & Peoria.

    There is a significant gap after the the top 3 Southeastern cities, but Surprise is making a concerted effort to join them.

    December 6 – We tend to think of Paradise Valley as an area where inventory is always high relative to sales rates. There were 9.9 months of inventory as of November 15, for example. However, it is all about the money. If you look exclusively at single-family homes under $1 million in Paradise Valley, there were only 1.9 months of inventory, lower than the Greater Phoenix average. There were 11 active (excluding UCB and CCBS) and the annual sales rate is 70.

    For homes between $1 million and $2 million, the number is closer to what you might expect, 7 months of inventory (based on 103 active and an annual sales rate of 177).

    For homes between $2 million and #3 million it stretches to 14.9 months (based on 87 active and an annual sales rate of 70).

    For homes between $3 million and $5 million it edges upward again to 17.1 months (based on 64 active and an annual sales rate of 45).

    Where it really gets eye-popping is for homes over $5 million. There are 114 months of inventory here – almost 10 years! This is based on having 38 active listings (excluding UCB and CCBS) and only 4 sales in the last year.

    December 5 – In October there were 926 multi-family units permitted, bringing the 12-month total to 9,746. The 2017 year to date count is 7,475, slightly ahead of 2016’s October YTD of 7,374. Last year, November and December were huge months for multi-family permits with 1,144 and 1,127 respectively.

    The multi-family boom shows no sign of easing up but it is spreading further afield. Initially building was confined to a corridor just a few miles wide, either side of Scottsdale Road and Rural Road. It was ironic that Rural Road was the center of high density urban development. Now we have Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, Goodyear, Chandler and Peoria all involved heavily while Scottsdale appears to have slowed down, possibly saturated by the large supply of expensive rental apartments built bet wen 2012 and 2016. Tempe remains very active and we now seeing large number of permits from other parts of Arizona, including Flagstaff and Prescott Valley. Tucson is conspicuous by its low level of multi-family permits.

    December 2 – The short and medium term outlook for the Greater Phoenix housing market is currently good. However in the past I have mentioned the exposure we have to falls in fertility rates and the consequent impact on long term demand. The latest data is not looking good at all. If you only care about the next 5 years or so, then you need not read on. But if you care about 2030 and beyond, you should be concerned.

    Arizona’s fertility rate is falling at the fastest rate ever seen and is dropping at the 4th fastest rate among the states of the USA. Wyoming has the fastest decline, followed by New Mexico. Utah is next, but Utah is starting from a position of having the highest fertility rate in the USA. I am confident readers can guess the reason for that. But even LDS mothers are having fewer children. With the current rate of decline the next generation of native Arizonans will be smaller than the present one and they will need fewer houses. We will be entirely dependent on inward migration to keep the housing demand healthy. But fertility rates are below replacement levels across the developed world, almost without exception. We are likely to see migration rates easing up due to low population growth overall. Mobility is on a clear downward trend across the country too.

    Between 1973 and 2007 the USA experienced rising fertility rates, but the last 10 years have undone that and 2018 looks almost certain to set a new low record below 1.75 live births per female.. Remember that 2.05 is the replacement rate (implying no natural in-place population growth).

    Most people are not taking this threat seriously at all, because it is insidious and hardly ever makes the news. But in the long term fertility decline can have a very negative effect on the economy. Fewer people usually means a smaller economy, especially if the fertility rate is dropping at an annual rate of almost 6%. This is what has happened in Arizona between 2015 and 2017 and the signs are that it is still accelerating. The impact will probably be felt in 2030-2040 when the small number of current infants come of age requiring fewer resources.

    If I am still around in 2030, don’t say I didn’t warn you. If I am not around, I won’t care anyway.

    December 1 – The Cromford® Market Index values for the single-family markets in the 17 largest cities appear in the table below:

    This is showing the improvement we expected with only 7 cities showing deterioration over the last month compared with 12 last week. 10 cities are improving for sellers, double the number last week.

    Paradise Valley and Avondale are the only 2 cities showing major moves backwards while Surprise and Tempe are showing the greatest improvement.


    © 2017 Cromford Associates LLC

    The data used to create the Cromford® Report is obtained from public records and obtained under license from the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service, Inc (ARMLS). Cromford Associates LLC and ARMLS expressly disclaim and make no representations or warranties of any kind, whether express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy of the data used or the merchantability or fitness for any particular purpose.


    This was my first time selling a house. I was worried about the whole process but then I was introduced to Chris. He took all the pressure off me with his expertise, knowledge of the industry, and his professionalism. Thank you Chris. – Brody M (client of Chris Nace)

    Contact Us Now

    Any questions, comments, or feedback