We’re finally there. Metro Phoenix home prices are back to the record hit in 2006.
Actually, the Valley's median home price soared past the previous record to reach $268,000 in June, according to the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service's latest research.
The previous record median price was about $265,000, set in June 2006, Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service data show.
The housing crash and the Great Recession started in 2007. Phoenix-area home prices hit bottom in September 2011, when the median plummeted to about $120,000.
Housing analysts are still a bit subdued about the Valley's home-price recovery, partly because it took more than a decade, and the bust was so painful.
Also, higher prices mean it's tougher for first-time buyers to afford a home. That can slow the housing market and the Valley's growth.
"It's 12 years later, and the Valley's housing market is in a much better and different place that it was when prices were this high before," said Tom Ruff, housing analyst with The Information Market, owned by ARMLS.
Ruff and Cromford Report founder and housing analyst Mike Orr accurately called the peak and the bottom for metro Phoenix's housing market using pending sales, foreclosures and other key indicators.
"It's been a long and often unpleasant ride," Orr recently said about the roller-coaster ride of the Valley's housing market since 2005.
Bad memories for homeowners
If you owned a Phoenix-area home during the past 15 years, you understand why the long-awaited recovery of home prices is something to celebrate.
If you are new to the Valley and didn't live in an area when prices crashed, let me share a few bad memories.
- Because of speculators and bad mortgages with outrageous costs backed by Wall Street, foreclosures in metro Phoenix soared from about 100 a month in 2006 to 4,500 in 2011.
- More than half of all homeowners were underwater, meaning they owed more than their house was worth.
- Homeowners, angry they couldn't get government-backed loan modifications while Wall Street and banks got bailouts, walked away from Valley houses in record numbers.
- Some national housing analysts said it would be 20 to 25 years before metro Phoenix home prices recovered.
A look at how the market has recovered.
- Valley foreclosures are down to less than 150 a month.
- Less than 5 percent of all metro-Phoenix homeowners are underwater.
- Home prices are back to the peak, but not because they climbed 50 percent in a year like 2005-2006. Phoenix-area home values have been ticking up 5 percent to 8 percent a year for the past few years.
This isn’t a boom
In June, my column "Phoenix home prices keep climbing, but no bubble in sight," drew a tweet from a longtime Valley resident showing his disbelief.
"Heard that one before," tweeted @RobbieSherwood, a former reporter and communications director for the Phoenix mayor who is now with the Arizona House of Representatives Democratic Caucus.
I understand his doubt. Many of us who lived through the crash get nervous when we see prices back up, and homes selling so fast they spark bidding wars.
But the differences between 2005-2006 and now are many. Mostly affordable homes priced below $400,000 in popular neighborhoods are drawing multiple bids quickly now.
Again, that's not good for metro Phoenix's housing affordability, but the forecast for prices could mean the problem won't worsen during the next year.
No housing bust in sight
None of the experts are forecasting another big drop in Valley home values anytime soon.
But Tina Tamboer, senior housing analyst with Cromford, expects home prices to appreciate much more slowly and potentially flatten out this year.
She said Phoenix-area home prices could even dip next year, but only slightly.
Christa Lawcock of Realty Executives said some homeowners seeing rising prices are talking to her about selling now and renting to cash out at the peak to avoid a housing crash.
"That makes no sense," said Lawcock, a central Phoenix real-estate agent who navigated the boom, bust and now recovery for many buyers and sellers. "Rents are near record highs and probably more than some of their mortgages. They aren't going to find big bargains on homes, even if prices dip a bit.
"We all got beat up by the crash, and now we need to not freak out and make bad decisions when the market is back," she said. "Please, this isn't another boom/bust."