Jay Butler of Realty Studies at ASU came out with his Phoenix area residential real estate sales and median price numbers for February 2009. Realty Studies is associated with the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus (although they are apparently going to become part of the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU).

Greater Phoenix home sales usually start to rebound in February. January is typically the slowest month of the year for home sales (closings) reflecting reduced house hunting during the December holidays. Home sales in Phoenix usually take off in March (data available in mid-April). The strength of home sales in March is a pretty good barometer of how the rest of the year will play out.

Phoenix Median Home Price – Non-Foreclosures

February 2009: $133,000
February 2008: $230,000

From January to February the median home price fell $3,000. Last year the median home price fell $13,000 over the same period. The decline in the downward momentum in Phoenix home prices suggests the market as a whole may be approaching a bottom. But it’s only one month. March sales will be key.

Phoenix Number of Homes Sold – Non-Foreclosures

February 2009: 4,215
February 2008: 2,690

The number of homes sold in February in Greater Phoenix INCREASED 57% over February 2008.

When the higher number of sales eventually brings down the high inventory of homes for sale to “normal” levels, the fall in the median home price should stop. I expect prices in a few zip codes in Greater Phoenix to start leveling off. We will know a lot more about the strength of this rebound in Phoenix home sales by mid-April.

Actually, “rebound” is the wrong word. I don’t expect a bounce. I expect to see prices in some areas to stop falling. Once we see prices in a few areas approaching bottom, and that information becomes known by the general public, we will see a lot of money sitting on the sidelines come into residential real estate.

[By the way, I just got a phone call from an excitable Californian who before she flitted off wanted to make an immediate offer on a house she had never seen. Muy deja vu 2005. The buyer psychology is changing.]