July 5, 2011 (Shirley Allen)

Existing single-family home sales in Phoenix hit the highest level for the month of May in six years as investors purchased homes at near record levels according to real estate information provider DataQuick. But the high level of foreclosure sales continues to keep a lid on home prices.

A total of 9,837 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in the Maricopa-Pinal counties area in May. Sales were 0.8 percent higher than in April and 4.9 percent higher than May of 2010. It was the highest level of sales since 2007.

Existing single-family detached home sales were at their highest levels since 2005 and sales of existing condos were at their highest level since 2006. New home sales continued to suffer with sales levels at their lowest for a May in 14 years.

Cash buyers were responsible for 42 percent of the purchases in May, which was down from 44.5 percent in April, but up from 34.4 percent a year earlier. The record for cash purchases was in February 2011, when 48 percent of the sales were for cash.

The price that cash buyers are paying continues to decline as the median price paid by a cash buyer in May was $90,000, which is down from $91,900 in April and down from $112,9500 in May 2010.

Absentee buyers, usually investors and vacation home buyers, accounted for 45.3 percent of all homes sold in May and they paid a median average price of $101,000 during the month.

The overall median price paid for new and resale homes and condos in May was $120,000, which was the same as in April, but is down 13.7 percent from May of last year.

The current median price is at its lowest level since1998 and is 54.6 percent below the peak median price of $264,100 in June 2006.

Distressed sales represented 64 percent of the resale market in May as foreclosures accounted for 50.8 percent of the distressed sales and short sales accounted for 13.7 percent of the distressed sales.

Foreclosures fell 8.5 percent from April to May with lenders foreclosing on 4,832 single-family homes and condos last month. Foreclosures are up 5.6 percent compared to May of 2010.

Tags: DataQuick, existing home sales, Phoenix, distressed properties, resale homes, condos, cash buyers, investors, median price