It's been a long, hard road to recovery for metro Phoenix's boom-and-bust-battered housing market.
But some Valley neighborhoods are there — back to 2006 price levels, and higher. And other neighborhoods are very close.
As expected, millennial first-time homebuyers are propelling the recovery.
Metro Phoenix home prices are rising the fastest in many of its most affordable, centrally located neighborhoods, from downtown Phoenix to central Mesa, where young buyers want to live and can afford houses.
2017 was a good year for the housing recovery in the Phoenix area. Almost one-third of the Valley’s ZIP codes posted double-digit-percentage increases in prices last year, according to The Arizona Republic/azcentral Street Scout Home Values report.
Street Scout is azcentral's neighborhood and housing site that provides property valuations, home sales data, real estate news and listings.
But there is concern buyer demand for affordable homes is beginning to outpace the supply. And there's always worry in Arizona about the possibility of another housing bust when prices climb for a few years.
In nearly 30 Phoenix-area neighborhoods, prices have rebounded to 2006 levels or even higher, data from The Information Market shows.
Most of those areas still have median home prices below $300,000.
“Last year was a strong one for the Valley’s housing market, particularly the more affordable neighborhoods closer in,” said Tina Tamboer, senior housing analyst with the Cromford Report. “Only 2004, '05 and 2011 were better years for home sales, and those weren’t normal years.”
The housing boom inflated home prices and sales between 2004 and 2006, and then investors drove up sales as foreclosures climbed and prices plummeted from 2010 to 2012.
Home prices have doubled in many Phoenix-area neighborhoods since the bottom of the market. Besides the 30 ZIP codes where home prices have bounced back from the crash, values in another 40 neighborhoods are within 10 percent of recovering.
Fastest-growing home prices
Aysia Williams and Benjamin Hughes rented in downtown Phoenix’s historic Woodland district for about a year before deciding to buy their first home.
“We fell in love with the area, but saw prices and rents climbing fast,” Williams said. “We knew we wanted to buy, but there was a lot of competition for the houses we liked.”
Woodland is part of the 85007 ZIP code,one of central Phoenix's more affordable neighborhoods. The area, which has also attracted many investors, saw its overall median home price climb 10 percent to more than $192,000 in 2017. Sales in the area jumped nearly 20 percent last year.
Home prices in their neighborhood on the western side of downtown have rebounded from the crash and are almost 2 percent higher than they were in 2006.
“Aysia and Benjamin were so lucky and bought from their wonderful neighbor, who didn’t want to sell to an investor,” said Sherry Rampy, a downtown Phoenix real estate agent with HomeSmart.
The couple’s house, for which they paid less than $250,000 a few months ago, wasn’t even listed for sale.
“People talk about the gentrification of central Phoenix pricing too many first-time buyers out," Rampy said. “But more high-end home sales in the area help other more affordable areas like Woodland and Coronado improve, too.”
'First-time homebuyer market is exploding'
Stephanie Silva and Billy Horner moved to Chandler from Chicago for the warmth last March.
“We wanted to rent first to see if we liked the area and a 'shovel-free life,' " said Silva, who works in Tempe. Horner works in downtown Chandler.
The couple recently bought a home for under $275,000 in the central Mesa ZIP 85210, almost halfway between their jobs. Prices in the still-affordable neighborhood climbed 9 percent, and sales rose 38 percent last year.
Home values just rebounded back to 2006 levels in their neighborhood, where the median price is about $215,000.
“We are on a quiet, cozy block in a home with a pool and a yard,” Silva said. “So far, it is everything these Midwest transplants could ask for.”