New homes springing up in Phoenix

Like a lot of Western cities, Phoenix's housing market crumbled during the recession. But new home sales are up 35 percent from a year ago.

Kai Ryssdal: Recovery in any given housing market, of course, kind of depends on where the house is. Boston or, say, Arizona -- where foreclosures are down and sales of new homes are up.

From KJZZ in Phoenix, here's Peter O'Dowd.


Peter O'Dowd: Let's get down to street level, shall we? How 'bout Ravenswood Dr. in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert.

Ken Petereson: OK, so we're on a street as cement trucks are driving by.

Ken Peterson is a vice president for Shea Homes. And listen to this: air compressors and nail guns all around us.

Peterson: I love it. I absolutely love it. How could you not? The sound of generators running and people working, it warms my heart.

All this noise is a big deal because 2011 was Shea's worst year ever. Business is much better now. This development just sold out. Peterson says compared to last year Shea Homes increased sales by almost 60 percent in the Phoenix area. And it's recently opened, or has plans to open, about a half dozen new housing developments.

Mike Orr tracks the regional housing market at Arizona State University.

Mike Orr: We've been through a huge five years of misery.And so people are reluctant to believe it's really starting to end.

Orr's numbers show the city of Gilbert recorded more new home sales last March than any other type. More than existing homes. More than foreclosure sales. More than short sales. Orr says it's the first time that's happened since the market crashed.

Orr: And it's probably going to continue to get better. That feeds on itself. As people get more confident, they say if it's safe to buy a house maybe I should. And that just adds to the demand.

And that's a big reason why home prices are up 20 percent in the region compared to a year ago. Because prices were so low, investors started scooping up homes. Then regular buyers -- hungry to get into the market -- swallowed up even more. Orr says the supply of homes in the Phoenix market is now out of balance. And as a result, realtor Marian Nelson says her customers can't find what they want.

Marian Nelson: They're angry because they know they've missed the market. We're standing in line outside of the houses to show them.

In fact, Nelson worries these bidding wars are causing home prices to go up too fast. And when that happens, folks looking for the perfect used home, give up and buy a new one instead.

In Phoenix, I'm Peter O'Dowd for Marketplace.

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