A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal detailed what appears to be a blossoming recovery in the ravaged Phoenix housing market. What the Journal found was a bounce-back that is reshaping the Phoenix market in some fundamental ways and, as always, there are winners and losers.
Basically, the Phoenix market has hit bottom, and the real winners appear to be investors with the ready cash to snap up cheap properties and turn them into rentals — often renting houses back to underwater homeowners who couldn’t keep up with their payments. Foreign investors, particularly Canadians, have flocked to Phoenix to take advantage of favorable exchange rates and an economy left relatively untouched by the Great Recession.
First-time homebuyers have also found it a good time to enter the market, but have had to battle investors for choice properties, sometimes finding themselves caught in bidding wars.
As economic conditions have improved in the city — major employers are hiring again — and foreclosure inventories have dwindled, prices have stabilized, but they haven’t gone up.
For those who buy now, that’s a good thing — it’s hard to imagine their properties losing much more value. But for those who bought when the market was hot, it’s cold comfort. Many of those owners are underwater, and coming to grips with the idea that their homes may never reach anything close to their peak values. For them, it may be time to sell.
As delinquencies and foreclosures in the New York City area rise, there may be some valuable lessons to be learned from the shape Phoenix’s recover is taking. As owners realize that their properties may never recover peak value, maybe they start to question the wisdom of paying more for something than it’s worth. Investors and first-time buyers can track down plenty of deals in such a market. But long time owners may be left out of the party.